“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12
Have you ever had times in life when you also uttered such words out of desperation? Was there a certain situation that made you feel helpless to do anything about it? Maybe it was during this pandemic, or you’ve had a personal struggle for years. Whichever it is, the truth remains that we all go through tough times and circumstances which overwhelm us and make us seem so powerless. But what do you do when that happens? What does a faithful follower of Christ do when bombarded by disturbing and messy events, like war or a pandemic, business failure, seemingly irreversible relationship conflicts, etc., that are way out of their control or comprehension? What does the Bible teach us?
The Old Testament is rich with stories of real people that show us what to do during such times. From Genesis to Malachi, we see recurring themes of overwhelming hardships followed by overwhelming deliverance. What then is the key to overcome such trials? Let’s take a look at a particular passage about King Jehoshaphat’s battle in 2 Chronicles 20.
The Righteous Will Still Face Troubles
Jehoshaphat was a righteous king. 2 Chronicles 17:3-6 says this about him, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had a great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.”
This is not to say that he was perfect but that he had devotion to the Lord, the kind that is manifested in his obedience to God’s ways. There were times he made some major decision failures but always he repented before the Lord. So, there are some of us who can relate to Jehoshaphat. We have been faithful to God and carefully obey him. We are involved in the ministry. But troubles still assail us. For every believer, this is a reality. In fact, this was one of the things assured by Christ, when He was about to go and fulfill His mission on the Cross: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33b).
Again and again, we are told that the Christian life is not a fail-safe life, nor is it a problem-free journey. And so it was true with Jehoshaphat. There came a time when the Moabites and the Ammonites were about to attack them with the Meunites. Mind you, this was not an easy task to get away from. Firstly, the army of these three tribes combined are presumably larger in number than that of Judah’s one million strong (17:14-19). Also, King Jehoshaphat’s last military expedition was a near-death experience for him. Lastly, the Lord specifically instructed Israel at the time when they were coming out of the wilderness to the Promised land to “not contend or harass” them as their land were given to Lot and Esau’s descendants (Deut. 2:4-19). But now they are attacking Judah. What was Jehoshaphat to do?
Alarmed but Not Panicked
It isn’t always a war that we might face, though. But there are observations on how King Jehoshaphat handled this battle at the time, and these we can still apply to our trials and testings today.
Notice how King Jehoshaphat’s attitude towards the situation affected his actions. He was alarmed but not panicked. He had every reason to panic as the enemy’s army was already marching towards them, ready for battle. But he didn’t panic or act worried. He wasn’t double-minded or faint-hearted on what to do either. Instead, he decided to make some outcome-changing action steps. Here are a few observations on what he resolved to do:
- Seek the Lord (vv.3-4). It was his immediate response to inquire of the Lord. It was first priority, not a plan B. Sometimes in our struggles, especially when they are of overwhelming proportions and very sudden, we forget the wisdom to seek God. But that was not Jehoshaphat’s recourse. He sought the Lord first. It was not only him but the people cooperated with him. They came to seek help from the Lord, too. It was a concerted effort and rightly so since it was their whole nation being attacked. It was not just the King who will suffer in its wake but all of the citizens of Judah is involved. In the struggles we might face again, may we never forget the wisdom to seek God and to get others’ help in seeking him. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but the counsel of the Lord will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
- Stand firm in the faith (vv.5-13). Prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is the evidence of dependence upon God. This is perhaps most notable in this passage: the king’s elaborate prayer. In the process of seeking the Lord, he prayed as proof of his faith and trust in God. Jehoshaphat knew who God was. He knew the kind of power and might that God has. All too well he knew that no one can stand against God. He knew of God’s promise to give these lands to the Israelites and he knew that God hears and delivers those who call on Him (vv.5-9). He focused on who God is. Then, he told God his problem (vv.10-12) and admitted his weakness before Him (v.12), not the other way around. Because we do have a tendency as fallen humans to magnify our problems and weaknesses first before bringing these certain circumstances to the Lord. To which practice God is most displeased. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). To stand firm in the faith, even when “we do not know what to do” (v.12a), we must focus on God, “our eyes are on you” (v.12b). The Christian is called to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV).
- Stay tuned to what God says (vv.14-19). Listen well to the voice of God, to His instructions. Getting the specific commands right ensures that we do our battles right. Jehoshaphat did not just pray and then rush out to the battlefield. He waited on God, which was demonstrated when he “bowed his head with his face to the ground… worshipping the Lord” (v18). They spent time worshipping the Lord simply for providing them an answer and a promise of deliverance. Stay tuned to God so you don’t miss out on anything that He wants to say. Read the Bible, for in it God has revealed Himself and His plans for our lives. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV). The Bible is the written word of God and it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
- Step out and act in obedience (vv.20-21). In the face of a great army, it is amazing that God only required the people of Judah to “go down”, to “station yourselves”, and then to “stand and see”. What is God saying? Again, His word through the prophet is very clear: “You need not fight in this battle” (v.17). We need not to expend so much both mentally and emotionally, or worry and be stressed so much on every battle – the challenges or difficulties – in our lives. When we know WHO holds the ultimate power in the battle, “For the battle is not yours but God’s” (v.15b) and who is on our side, “for the Lord is with you” (v.17c), we know that victory is already up ahead. See, the Lord even exhorted them to “not fear or be dismayed” (v.17c) as He will be on their side fighting for them. The people only need to take up their position in the Lord. To us who believe, the Apostle Paul has this in mind: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? We are already victorious in Christ! “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Jesus has already won every battle for us when He conquered the grave and rose from the dead. “Take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33c)!
See the Lord’s Deliverance
Faith and obedience are like two sides to a coin – you cannot separate one from the other. Because Jehoshaphat had faith in God in the face of an overwhelming battle about to ensue, he sought the Lord, he stood firm in that faith, carefully stayed attuned to what God said to him and then, he stepped out and accordingly acted in obedience even when he could not see the outcome yet. He himself witnessed the “salvation of the Lord” (vv.17, 24-25) on Judah’s behalf.
In the face of such overwhelming battles, let your faith show itself in your actions.
Shout God’s Praise in Victory
On that end, not only did the people of Judah experience overwhelming deliverance, they also took home with them ‘their spoil, they found much among them… more than they could carry” (v.25). There was joy in their hearts and they blessed the Lord (vv.26-27). Ultimately, our victories should point us to who brought us there, “for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies” (v.27b). Because Jehoshaphat resolved to seek the Lord foremost in his battle, the Lord was glorified in his actions and God’s fame spread throughout all the land. The nations had reverence for the One True God.
What battles are you facing today? Do you have a battle plan ready or are you still looking for someone to fight on your behalf? If you’re not sure, it is my prayer that you resolve to seek the Lord today and put your trust in the One who makes deliverance and victory possible – JESUS.