What event or situation is foremost in your mind today? Challenges are a normal part of life, but how we approach each of those circumstances says a lot about who we are and what we believe. There are active and passive approaches to almost anything that crosses our path. It can be challenging just to see through the “fog” of any given hurdle enough to come up with a plan of action. For Christians, the very first step should always be to seek God, no matter how trivial or overwhelming the challenge may seem.
My wife and I have read from 2 Chronicles the past two mornings and within that text is a very important message about seeking God first.
1) The problem:
After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)
2) The initial reaction
Then Jehoshaphat was afraid… (2 Chronicles 20:3)
3) The plan of action
… and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:3-4)
Jehoshaphat could have reacted to the immediacy of the threat with a calling up of the war council to develop an offensive or defensive strategy. Instead, he called together all of Israel to pray and fast. He sought the mercy and protection of the Lord and cast a vision for his people to do the same. He put his faith and hope in God rather than his own strength or that of his army.
4) God’s response
“And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17)
5) Jehoshaphat’s response
And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:20-21)
6) The result
And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. (2 Chronicles 20:22-23)
Jehoshaphat took the right first step by seeking the Lord, but he did not stop there. He not only listened to what God had said, he remained faithful, even in the face of almost sure destruction, and obeyed. As a result, his enemies never even approached his army. The enemies of Jehoshaphat destroyed themselves and all that was left for the people of Israel to do was to pick among the vast spoils of their vanquished foes.
“When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much.” (2 Chronicles 20:24-25)
There is no shortage of problems facing the people of earth today. Whether it be local, regional or global, there are ample troubles needing a solution. As individuals we cannot possibly tackle any of these challenges to a pleasing end, but by seeking God first, we can begin to rein in what at first seems impossible. When we first recognize that whatever faces us, whatever battle is ahead, belongs to the Lord, the plans to approach it become much clearer.
“And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
“There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. . . . Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:16, 18).
“Upon this rock of faith in Christ as divine Savior I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds)” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
“And God placed all things under [Christ's] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23)
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).