You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.
2 Chronicles 20:17 (NIV)
Read: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Consider: King Jehoshaphat received news that a vast army was approaching, intent on conquering Judah and overrunning Jerusalem. We read: Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to enquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3). We can all relate to Jehoshaphat’s alarm on hearing the news, but he did not panic, nor did he immediately mobilise his army to face the threat. Instead he turned to the One who could help him. Notice that it was the king who took the initiative to seek help from God and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The whole nation came together under Jehoshaphat’s leadership to ‘… seek help from the Lord’ (20:4). Here was a king who willingly recognised his own limitations, together with the limitations of the nation. Jehoshaphat knew he was powerless against the approaching army and he openly said to God: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you (20:12). It takes great courage and composure to do what Jehoshaphat did in the face of such a situation.
When the king stood in front of the assembled nation, we are told what he said (20:5-12). However, when you read the passage, it is clear that it is addressed to God and is a prayer, rather than a speech. Jehoshaphat was willing to let the people see his own weakness, so as to reveal the power of God. The answer to his prayer came through Jahaziel, who relayed God’s answer to the king. We read: This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15). You can almost sense the relief that would have been felt by the king and the people of Judah. However, their relief might have been short-lived, as Jahaziel continued: ‘You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you …’ (20:17). This was to be the real test for the king and the people. They did the right thing by taking the matter before God and praying for his help, but they were unlikely to have been prepared for what God asked them to do.
Can you imagine how they might have felt being told to march out to face the enemy, to take up their positions and do nothing other than stand firm. Over the years I have thought about this a lot, particularly how those trained for battle would have been keen to take the battle to the enemy. But something incredible was about to happen. As the army left in the morning we are told that Jehoshaphat: ‘… appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness …’ (20:21). Picture the scene – the army marching along, not to the tune of a military band, but to the voices of those singing: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever’ (20:21). Most people reading today’s passage will concentrate their attention on the outcome, the victory over the invading army. The victory is indeed incredible, because through God’s intervention Jehoshaphat and his army did not have to fight at all. God caused such confusion amongst the invading army that they killed each other. Although the victory is purely God’s work, don’t lose sight of Jehoshaphat rightly taking the matter to God in prayer and also encouraging the people to do so. Praising God as they marched out to meet the enemy must also have been a great encouragement to the people who witnessed the army marching by.
What was the outcome of this victory? We read: The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side (2 Chronicles 20:29).
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Pray: Father, may we always seek your insight into any difficult situations we face. Help us to stand firm, trusting you for the outcome. Like Jehoshaphat and the Israelites, may we know the place of prayer and praise in our daily lives. Amen
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