Last Thursday night, we looked at three of the four chapters in 2Chronicles which document the reign of King Jehoshaphat over the nation of Judah. I decided to set this fourth chapter apart for a study all its own, for there is much contained within it that I believe the Lord wishes us to see tonight.
The Moabites and the Ammonites were long-time enemies of the Jews. These were the descendants of that terrible union between Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19). As for the Meunites, we don't know a lot about them, other than that they were from the area of Mount Seir (2Chr. 20:10).
These three armies had come from the east to attack Judah.
The first that King Jehoshaphat heard about this attack was when the armies were in Khats-ets-ONE Taw-MAWR, also known as Ane GEH-dee. They had come around or across the Dead Sea, and were on its western shore, less than 25 miles from Jerusalem.
Upon hearing this news, King Jehoshaphat was terrified.
When I put myself in his place, I have to realize that it is times like that when I am most liable to make wrong decisions. To act impulsively in the flesh. And it is because of that very thing that we need to have prepared ourselves. To lay a strong foundation of preparation.
- The musician must practice his piece until he can be petrified with stage fright and yet still perform.
- The soldier must work with his weapon until his accuracy is not affected by adrenaline.
- The Christian must practice righteousness until his very senses are trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14), so that he doesn't respond to surprise attacks in the wrong way.
King Jehoshaphat had laid a strong foundation of preparation. Remember that we saw in our last study that he'd sent the priests throughout Judah to teach the Word of God to the people. It is no wonder then, that not only the king, but all of Judah, gathered together to seek help from the Lord.
The people came to the temple, to the house of the Lord. People who are prepared with the Word of God will go to the House of God in times of crisis. This is one of the reasons for having a place like this. When Solomon dedicated this temple, he prayed,
2Chr. 6:24-25 "If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You have given to them and to their fathers.
He also prayed,
2Chr. 6:34-35 "When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way You shall send them, and they pray to You toward this city which You have chosen and the house which I have built for Your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
And so, whether we are attacked or defeated, the house of God is the place to go.
As King Jehoshaphat prays to the Lord, he makes mention that this enemy had previously been shown grace. As Moses was leading the Israelites from the wilderness wandering and towards the Promised Land, they were going north, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. They were going right through the territory of these nations.
The Lord had said to Moses as they were going through the wilderness of Moab,
Deut. 2:9 ..."Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession..."
Then, as they continued north, right next to the territory of the Ammonites, God told Moses,
Deut. 2:19 "When you come opposite the sons of Ammon, do not harass them nor provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession..."
Jehoshaphat says, "Lord, this is the reward, the repayment, that we are receiving from them."
It is important to remember that at this time, Jehoshaphat was great in the eyes of the world (2Chr. 17:12). We read in chapter 17 that he had been able to muster over a million men (2Chr. 17:14-18) in recent years.
This could have actually been a big problem. You see, many of the kings fell away from God after building large armies. Remember that...
2Chr. 12:1 When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the LORD.
This happens to believers all the time.
- When we're poor, we pray. But we get some money and suddenly we're saying, "Who is the Lord?" (Prov. 30:8-9).
- When business is bad, we're crying out to God for help. But the business gets bigger and more stable, we depend on the client list instead of the Lord.
- Ministries that start with only pennies and a lot of prayer turn into corporate entities that no longer seek God.
In other words, our strength can actually become our biggest weakness. But Jehoshaphat refuses to make that mistake. He will not put his trust in his large militia. Instead he prays, "We are powerless. Our eyes are on You."
Yakh-az-ee-ALE was a Levite, of the sons of Asaph. Remember that the sons of Asaph were the ones whom David had put in charge of the worship music and singing (1Chr. 25).
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Yakh-az-ee-ALE and he began to prophesy. The Lord was telling the people of Judah that He was going to fight for them. The following day, they would find and face the enemy, but would not fight them.
There are a lot of things packed into these verses of which we should take notice:
#1) Jehoshaphat bowed first. Parents often wonder why their children don't love the Lord the way we want them to. Why they don't worship with the intensity that we wish they had. Have you considered that they are looking to you for the example? Don't expect your kids to pray more than you do, or to be any more devoted to God than you are.
#2) In church today, we call the style of music we play, "Worship." But in fact, "worship" is a verb. And it is important to notice that worship happened (v.18) BEFORE the music started (v.19). They were bowing down, prostrating themselves before God. Saints, worship is much more than singing. Paul the apostle said that our spiritual service of worship is to present our whole selves, our lives and bodies, to Him (Rom. 12:1).
#3) Notice who was singing praise: They were Levites, from the Kohathite clan. But more specifically, they were the descendants of Korah. You may recall that Korah was the one who led the rebellion against Moses in the wilderness (Num. 16). He and everyone who stood with him were judged by God.
Num. 16:31-33 ...the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households ... So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them...
The Kohathites could have considered themselves second-rate citizens, not worthy to do any ministry of value. Yes, their kin had formerly been in rebellion, but now they are in fellowship and worship.
People often feel that their past hinders their ability to worship God, that discipline from God is a permanent separation from the people of God. Always remember that it was the Kohathites who stood up to praise.
The next day, they started to head out. But as they did, King Jehoshaphat told everyone, "Put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed."
Why did he do this? I believe it is because it was the next day. Yesterday had been a dynamic worship service, and God had spoken. But we have a tendency to wake up and doubt the spiritual nature of yesterday.
- God speaks powerfully on Sunday, but on Monday, we begin to doubt whether it was the Lord.
- On a Thursday night, we gather the courage to do what is right because we've been taught the Word of God. But somehow on Friday morning, we've lost that edge.
Jehoshaphat reminds the people, "Trust God, and trust his prophets. We're going to win this."
This was an odd troop configuration: lining up the singers before the soldiers? What was the king thinking? This must have given his military strategists a reason to wonder!
As soon as the singing and praise began, the Lord ambushed the enemy. They ended up fighting each other, destroying themselves.
Instead of seeing an army dressed for war, the people of Judah saw an army decimated by war. Every one of them was dead.
God had been specific and accurate. He had said of the enemy, "You will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle."
Not only did the Jews receive deliverance, but also the spoils of a war they did not have to fight. There was so much, it took three days to gather it all.
When they were done receiving the blessings that God had provided, they remembered to bless the Lord. That's why the valley was renamed "Ber-aw-KAW," "the Valley of Blessing."
I have found that there have been too many times in my life that God gave me blessings, but I failed to bless God in return. That sort of thankless, ungrateful behavior reminds me of Jesus' travels that took Him between Samaria and Galilee. It was there that He found ten lepers, all crying out for mercy.
Luke 17:14-17 When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?
A wonder if God would use this tonight to remind us of a blessing we've received recently, but failed to bless God in return.
As the people of Judah returned to Jerusalem, they once again sang praises. Notice this: they had worshiped before, during, and after the war.
- They believed the promises of God, and so they worshiped.
- They moved out with faith in God, and so they worshiped.
- They experienced the miraclulous deliverance and blessing of God, and so they worshiped.
Tell me, saints. When do you worship?
- Do you worship when you hear the Word, but then never move out in faith?
- Do you only worship after God has come through, having already delivered and blessed?
May we be a people who are known for the fact that we worship before, during, and after the war.
Lastly, we see the humanity of Jehoshaphat. He had a heart for God, but was not able to accomplish everything he wanted to do. Though he'd rid the land of idols, they were not all removed.
He also showed that he could make the same mistake twice. Even after the disastrous alliance with King Ahab of Israel, he again made the same mistake with Ahab's son Akh-az-YAW. This time, it was not an alliance of force, but an alliance of commerce. But God didn't let it happen. The ships were destroyed, and once again, a prophet was sent to rebuke Jehoshaphat.
Do we write Jehoshaphat off then, as a bad king. No. Once again, we see a man who makes mistakes, but is quick to repent. 1Kings 22 tells us that after the ships were broken,
1Kings 22:49 Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, "Let my servants go with your servants in the ships." But Jehoshaphat was not willing.
A second ungodly alliance was repented for after God's second rebuke.
Saints, remember that nobody's expecting a walk free of stumbling. But God is expecting a a heart that seeks after Him. If and when you do stumble, simply be quick to repent when rebuked by the Lord, and you're going to be all right.