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Ed Miller has been a great influence in my life. In 1980 I was thirteen when we started attending Family Ministries in Bridgeville, Delaware, and shortly after that I met Ed and subsequently his family, and he shared the message of Christ. He shared the message in such a way that I was caught. There’s a title, it might be a Norman Grubb book, “Once Caught, No Escape”, and so it is. The Lord has ministered, as you know, many times through our brother, Ed. So, it’s kind of humbling and sort of a blessing to fill his shoes for one time slot here. As I’ve appreciated him sharing Christ in the Word, and specifically I choose the phrase, “in the word,” because he specifically goes to the Bible and reads the Bible, reads verses from the Bible, and shows you Christ in the Bible, that’s the most authoritative place to see the Lord. Because he’s done that, I see it as a great privilege to be able to do the same thing, and it’s only by God’s grace. Everyone knows, but I just need to say, that I’m the wrong material, I’m the wrong person, I’m not qualified. Usually when I make that lament, Ed says, “Well, that makes you qualified.” I can appreciate that. Having said all that, let’s go before the Lord in prayer, because if He doesn’t do this, I’m wasting your time.
Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for Your grace and Your mercy. We thank You for Your great faithfulness. So, Father, we lift up this time and this message, and we ask that You communicate far more than the words that are said. What we need is You, Yourself, Your light, Your Life, Your Person, and we know that You are far more interested in feeding Your sheep than we are in even seeing and hearing You. So, we ask, according to Your grace and according to Your great purpose, that You would overshadow the speaker, that You would overshadow the hearers, and that You would accomplish everything in Your perfect plan. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Concerning the 9/11 attackers, General Norman Schwarzkopf said this famous quote, and you probably recall it, “I believe that forgiving them is God’s function. Our job is to simply arrange the meeting.” I love that quote because it’s so succinct. It very clearly states that our military is going to take care of our enemy, and very shortly they will stand before God for their judgment. I’m reminded of the phrase, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It’s sort of in that statement. What he’s talking about is an arranged meeting, and this morning’s message is about a meeting that was arranged, the meeting between the insufficiency of man and the all-sufficiency of God. We’ll take the message from 2 Chronicles 17 & 20; the bulk of it comes from chapter 20, and the background is in chapter 17. It’s the story of King Jehoshaphat and the battle that took place at the wilderness of Tekoa.
In summary, and I’ll give you a quick Bible timeline, King Jehoshaphat was listed in the Bible as one of the good kings. Many of you know the Bible history. This is kind of like skipping a stone across a pond; we’re going to go quickly into Bible history. The story opens with Adam and moves quickly to Noah and the flood, and then God calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and says, “I’ll make a nation out of you.” From Abraham it moves on with a four-hundred-year skip to Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, and then a forty-year skip to Joshua who led them into the Promised Land. From Joshua moving forward it’s to King Saul, and then to David, and then Solomon, the three kings when it was still one nation. Then the kingdom divided after Solomon, with Israel and the ten tribes to the north, and with Judah and the two tribes to the south. We’re homing in on Judah. Judah had good kings and bad kings. The king we’re talking about this morning, Jehoshaphat, was one of the good kings, and was fourth in line after Solomon. So, you had Solomon, his son, another king, and then there was Asa, and Asa’s son is Jehoshaphat. We’re looking at about sixty-five years that had gone by since Solomon’s reign.
Jehoshaphat came to power, and looking at 2 Chronicles 17, the Bible tells us that Jehoshaphat, “Made his position over Israel firm.” So, reading from 2 Chronicle 17:1&2, “Jehoshaphat, his son, then became king in his place and made his position over Israel firm.” Here’s what he did, verse 2, “He placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities Ephraim which Asa, his father, had captured.” Further, the Bible tells us in Chronicles 17:5, “So, the Lord established the kingdom in his control, and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor.”
You might ask the question, “Why did God do that for Jehoshaphat?” I’m glad you asked the question, because I’m going to answer that. 2 Chronicles 17:3&4 give us the answer. Verse 3 says, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals.” Verse 4, “But sought the God of his father, and followed his commandments, and didn’t act as Israel did.” It’s almost like an anthem or a theme of a lot of my messages, the fact that everything that you have ever wanted, everything that drives any person is found in a personal, genuine, for-real relationship with the Lord Jesus. I can show you over and over in Scripture where it tells you plainly that this person set their heart to seek the Lord. Then you look at that person’s life, everywhere they turn there’s abundant blessings. It tells you, point blank, they set their heart to seek the Lord. So, that’s what we see with King Jehoshaphat. In fact, seeking the Lord wasn’t just a personal thing for him. He, as the leader of Judah said, “I need all of Judah to be seeking the Lord.” So, he actually appointed eleven men, and their names are recorded in 2 Chronicles 17, to go to every village in Judah and teach everyone the Word of God. So, it was a king-sponsored travelling Bible school throughout all of Judah to instruct them about the Lord.
We see in 2 Chronicles 17 that the Philistines sent gifts and sent silver. We see that the Arabians sent 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats. In addition to being well-established and well-fortified, and having garrisons in the villages, and all these things in the blessing of Lord, it also tells us that there were five military leaders, Adnah, Jehanan, Amasiah, Eliada and Jehozabad, which is a really cool name; if you have any grandsons coming along, you might want to promote that name, Jehozabad. Those five leaders had a total one million one hundred and sixty thousand soldiers, and it lists them as special, as elite forces. That is 1.16 million soldiers that’s in addition to what was already in the garrisons. So, this guy is tight; he’s good. That’s the backdrop for this morning’s story. That’s King Jehoshaphat, a good king who seeks the Lord, and he’s been established, and he has a huge military, and even the enemies are bringing stuff in because he’s that good.
We read in 2 Chronicles 20:1&2, “Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon together with some of the Meunites came to make war against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat saying, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea out of Aram, and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi).’” Commentators tell us that they were about fifteen to twenty miles away from the capital. There is a huge hoard of enemies. It was an enemy encampment that was in the land. King Jehoshaphat had 1.16 million extra special forces—green berets, navy seals, whatever their equivalent was back then. What was his response? Did he start a million-man march? No, the Bible tells us quite plainly that he was afraid. That was his response.
Before I go any further, we are going to pause the 2 Chronicles story because I want to make sure we’re on the same page when I talk about the Promised Land. I know if you’ve listened to Ed, and I probably don’t have to explain this to you. It’s one of the things I learned from him quite clearly. God has written His Bible in a way that it’s more than just stories; it’s more than just information. It’s more than archaeological history and historical facts. God has written every detail in the Bible in order to illustrate spiritual principles. One of those He’s illustrating is the Promised Land to illustrate certain points about our Christian living. We often hear the term Promise Land or Promised Land, and sometimes it goes by, and we don’t even think about it. We just know it’s the Promised Land.
It’s called the Promised Land because God promised Abraham, “I’m going to give this land, Canaan, to your descendants.” Specifically in Genesis 15:18 God speaking to Abraham says, “To your descendants I have given this land.” That’s a promise from the Almighty, full stop. It’s a Promised Land. God also gives them several descriptions of the Promised, and you’ll see how this relates to our spiritual life. Deuteronomy 6:10&11, “Then it will come about that when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers,” the Promised Land, “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you great and splendid cities that you didn’t build, houses full of goods that you didn’t fill, hewn cisterns which you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you didn’t plant.” So, there’s that description of the land that’s got all this stuff that you didn’t do a thing for. It’s waiting for you.
Deuteronomy 8:7-9, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains, and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley and vines, fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey, a land where you will eat food without scarcity in which you will not lack anything, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” Again, “This is the most magnificent land; it’s got everything you need.” You see how this relates to your Christian life. As the Jews were living in the Promised Land that had everything that they needed, so when you, believer, abide in Christ, you have everything you need for Life. I’m not just talking about breathing, inhaling and exhaling life and the cells living and dying and so on, that life. I’m talking about Life with a capital L. I’m talking about genuine, for real Life. Everything that the believer needs is in Christ. Just as the Jews lived in the land that was promised to them, when you live in Christ, when you abide in Christ—and this whole thing is accomplished by God’s promise, you being in Christ—when that happens, that’s that fullness. It’s true that in the history, in the story that we read in the book of Joshua, there’s a seven-year battle. Yes, God promised the land, but then it took a seven-year battle for them to possess the land. You abide in Christ, and it’s by God’s promise, and by God’s faithfulness, but there is a process, and it takes time. It can often be described as a battle.
Even in the seven-year history it’s a beautiful illustration of our Christian life, because what God was accomplishing in the battle, number one was the punishment of the sinful inhabitants of Canaan, and number two it was the expansion of the Jews in their relationship with God, because they had to obey His commands—you remember them walking around the city of Jericho seven times with the ark in the center, with many commands they had to follow—and they had to trust God for victory, because they were outnumbered and unskilled, and they had to also grow to be able to expand and fill the land. It’s the same thing in Christ. We have to obey. That’s step number one. I’m not being a legalist, but you have to obey because His way is right, and you’ve got to trust Him for victory because you and I both know that the ability for victory is not here, not in us. And we’ve got to grow large enough to possess the things. So, when something new opens up in our life by God moving in us, we have to expand into that.
I want to come back and say that the Jew living in the land is like you abiding in Christ; they had everything they needed, and you have everything you need. Peter told us the same thing in his second letter, 2 Peter 1:2&3, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that His divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and Godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” As we get ready to get back into our 2 Chronicles story, the Jews living in the land had everything, and you abiding in Christ have everything you need for the Christian life.
Let’s get back to the story in 2 Chronicles 20. In the history God has fulfilled His promise and Israel is living in the land. We see that there are three enemies that have come together for one specific purpose. We’ll see this later in the story, but that one specific purpose was to dispossess Israel, to take them out of the land. They didn’t come to steal, kill and destroy. They didn’t come to wreak havoc. They didn’t come to water down the culture. They didn’t come to provide distraction. They came with one express purpose, and that was to get them out of the land. If we bring it back into the picture, Jews living in the land having everything, and you abiding in Christ have everything. The purpose was to get them out of the land. What’s the enemy’s purpose when He attacks you? It’s to break you abiding in Christ.
You might say, “How can He separate me from Christ?” We know from Romans that there is no thing at all, not one thing ever anywhere that can separate you from the love of God, but abiding in Christ, there can be a break in you abiding in Christ. Is Christ still holding you? Absolutely! That’s not the point of this message, but we can go into the gospels where Jesus clearly says in John 6:39, “I will not lose any that the Father has given me.” So, He’s holding onto you. What I’m talking about is the fullness of that union with Christ. That’s what the enemy is coming against.
It’s interesting that we see that these enemy are listed as the sons of Moab, the sons of Ammon, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir. I’m not going to take the time to get into their background. We’ve got a whole lot of ground to cover this morning, and I’ve already skipped over really good stuff, but those three enemies have come together. To me I find it interesting that it’s three enemies because, well, there’s three groups that make up one enemy. I choose when I talk about the enemy to use the one-word, enemy, to talk about three groups, and they are the world, the flesh and the devil.
So, there is the world, and the world system, and the entire world system is antithetical to you as a believer; it’s antithetical to God. It is the spirit of antichrist; that is the whole world system. It’s one of the reasons that I value so much gathering with the saints, because the whole world system is going this way, and Christ and us in Him are going this way. It’s very difficult to swim against the current. “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” but it’s important that believers get together because we’re going in the opposite direction.
Then there’s the flesh. When Adam and Eve sinned, they went from being sinless to being sinners, and just like horses beget horses, and fish beget fish, sinners beget sinners, and you’re a sinner, not because of what you did, but because you are a descendant of Adam and Eve. You are born with a sin nature. Your bent, your wire, your focus and everything about you is, “I love sin.” We get some better training when we’re growing up. If our parents were skilled, like Cathi was very hard on the boys, and they are very well-mannered, but that is still dirty, rotten, sinful flesh, but it’s learned to have manners. Three enemies—the world, the flesh and the devil—our flesh is an enemy to God.
Then there’s the devil. Sometimes people will say, “Man, the devil is really after me today.” I understand where you are coming from. A more correct statement, if we want to split hairs and make me happy, would be that the enemy is after me today. It’s because the devil is not omnipresent. If he is in Hebron right now attacking some saint, then he’s not here this morning. He also doesn’t have to be here this morning for the enemy to cause a problem because your flesh is here, and the world system is in our head. So, the enemy is here even though it’s not Satan. The simple way to say it is, “I’m having an issue with the enemy this morning—the world, the flesh and the devil.”
So, back into our story, the purpose of the enemy is that one goal, and that is to separate you, or stop, prevent or to hinder you abiding in Christ. Sometimes when the enemy comes against us, we think that he’s trying to steal joy, or that the attack is shame, or sometimes the attack is fear, or it’s distraction or temptation, or maybe it’s condemnation and discouragement. Those are just means to his end, and the end is to separate you from that union with Christ.
Let’s look at Jehoshaphat’s response. We’ll go back to the story. We already saw his response because the Bible told us that he was afraid. He didn’t marshal his million-man army of special forces. 2 Chronicles 20:3 plainly says that Jehoshaphat was afraid. I want to pause there a moment because that’s a natural response, to see more enemy than you can handle come against you, or to put it in your context, that there are issues in your life that come up that are bigger than you. A normal, natural response is fear. The question is what did he do with that fear? And what will you do with that fear?
We see in 2 Chronicles 20:3 what he did. It says, “He turned his attention to seek the Lord.” He was afraid, but he turned his attention to seek the Lord. It’s important to understand that there are two parts to that. He turned his attention, and he sought the Lord. There’s a reason why there’s two parts. I’ve heard it described as gaze and glance. Whatever you gaze at in your life, that’s going to become huge. If you continue to gaze at the problem or whatever it is that is causing your fear, that thing is just going to get larger and larger and larger, and any other thing is just going to get smaller and smaller. What he did was that he turned his gaze from the enemy, and he sought the Lord, and now that he’s seeking the Lord, who he’s gazing at is larger and bigger and greater. He’s not enhancing God, there’s no enhancing the omnipotent, but his focus is now on the Lord, and now that problem is no big deal.
I can tell you that whatever comes in your life, God is faithful, and He’s promised to continue the work that He started, to bring it to completion, Philippians 1:6. He will bring you to completion, but if you choose while you are on the path to continue to gaze at the problem, “Woe is me, oh Lord help me,” He’s still going to bring you through, but where is your testimony? Where is your peace? Where is your joy? He’s still bringing you through, because He’s faithful, but if you turn your attention and seek the Lord, what happens to your joy? You know that He’s the One. What happens to your peace? What happens to the testimony that people see God’s faithfulness? He’s still bringing you, but now it’s a whole different story.
This is what goes on with Jehoshaphat. We see from the text in 2 Chronicles 20 that he proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. Very simply, for the sake of time, I won’t take the time to develop this, but fasting is going without a meal. You can tell by looking at me that I don’t do that. The principle here is that you are letting go of the normal, natural support. You’re letting go of your desire, and always in Scripture you’re going to see fasting connected with another word, prayer. So, prayer and fasting go together. Fasting is letting go of everything here, and it’s getting a hold of God in prayer; that’s fasting and praying. That’s exactly what takes place in this story.
In connection with that I love the Greek (I don’t know Greek, but I’ve been told by those who know Greek) in Hebrews 12:2 where we read this verse, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” the Greek for, “fixing our eyes on Jesus,” actually means, “off-looking”, looking away from something and looking unto Jesus. Isn’t that what we just described? He turned his attention away from and then unto. So, he is off-looking unto Jesus. In connection with that I want to read this poem that I came across. I didn’t write it and I don’t who did:
Eyes that are weary
And hearts that are sore,
Look off unto Jesus
And sorrow no more.
The light of His countenance
Shineth so bright,
That on earth as in heaven
There need be no night.
Looking off unto Jesus
My eyes cannot see,
The troubles and dangers
That throng around me.
They cannot be blinded
With sorrowful tears,
They cannot be shadowed
With unbelief and fears.
Looking off unto Jesus
My spirit is blessed.
In the world I have turmoil,
In Him I have rest.
The sea of my life
All around me may roar.
When I look unto Jesus
I hear it no more.
Looking off unto Jesus
I go not astray.
My eyes are on Him
And He shows me the way.
The path may seem dark
As He leads me along,
But following Jesus
I cannot go wrong.
Looking off unto Jesus
My heart cannot fear.
Its trembling is stilled
When I see Jesus near.
I know that His power
My safeguard will be,
“For why are you troubled?”
He sayeth unto me.
Looking off unto Jesus
Oh, may I be found,
When the waters of Jordan
Encompass me around.
Let them bear me away
In His presence to be.
‘Tis but seeing Him nearer
Whom I always see.
Then then shall I know
The full beauty and grace,
Of Jesus my Lord
When I stand face to face.
I shall know how His love
Went before me each day,
And wonder that ever
My eyes turned away.
What a precious truth this is, off looking unto Jesus, and that’s what we see here that King Jehoshaphat did. It is looking away from the insufficiency of man and looking at the all-sufficiency of God.
We’re breezing very quickly through chapter 20, but it tells us that he went to the court of Solomon’s temple, the court that had been rebuilt. There’s a great connection between the prayer that he prays in 2 Chronicles 20 and the dedication prayer and statements that were made when Solomon set up the temple. I don’t have time to get into that this morning. If you have some time, take some time and read that. So, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and he prayed. He let go of everything and he got hold of God; he off looked unto Jesus. Before I get to what happens next, I need to read what I believe is a key phrase that happens at the end of the prayer. 2 Chronicles 20:12, Jehoshaphat says, “Oh, our God, will you not judge them,” the enemies, “For we are powerless before this multitude who are coming against us,” and now this key phrase, “Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You?” We’d be pretty uncomfortable if we were in a great conflict and a national leader came on television and told the whole nation, “I don’t know what to do.” The difference is that this leader said, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Wouldn’t you like to have a national leader who says, “We don’t know what to do, but we are trusting God: our eyes are on the Lord,” a leader who would say to the whole nation to proclaim a fast and to seek the Lord Jesus?
He says that key phrase, “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on You.” This is that meeting that I was telling you about at the beginning of the message, the arranged meeting between the insufficiency of man and the all-sufficiency of God. What happens next is that God gives him a Word through a prophet. I want to be clear; the next thing that happens is that when you have these conflicts, and you off look away from the conflict, and you’re looking to the Lord, you are going to receive a Word from the Lord. There’s a lot that can be said about receiving a Word from the Lord. I’m not going to get into all the variables and all the different things. I’m just going to stand on the Word of God, the printed inerrant, the closed, done Scripture. God will speak to you through His Bible. That is the most authoritative place. I’m not saying that He doesn’t speak outside of Scripture. I’m just going to stand on the Scripture. He gives you a Word.
What He said we read in 2 Chronicles 20:15, “Listen all Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat, thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” Verse 16, “’Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they are going to come up by the ascent of Ziz and you’ll find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle. Station yourselves, stand, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, oh Judah and Jerusalem.’” And then He says again, “’Do not fear or be dismayed. Tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.’” So, very simply, don’t be afraid, it’s not your battle, tomorrow station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord, and then He reiterates at the end of that, “Don’t fear or be dismayed.”
When he says in that word that I am with you, this is a direct fulfillment of a word that was given to his father, King Asa. We read this in 2 Chronicles 15:1&2, this is God speaking through a prophet to King Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father, “Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah, the son of Oded, and he went out to Asa and said to him, ‘Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin, the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him, but if forsake Him, He will forsake you.” Clearly, Jehoshaphat’s whole life has been seeking the Lord. In a situation where they can’t win, he off looks unto Jesus and he’s seeking the Lord. God allows Him to find Him, and gives Him a word, and the word is, “I’m with you.” And God had said, “If you’re with Me, I’m with you. If you seek Me, I’ll let you find Me.”
God also tells them, “Don’t fear and don’t even feel dismay. Go out tomorrow.” Why is it that He says, “Go out tomorrow?” Is it just that it’s late in the day? Is it that God needs to rest up for the battle the next morning? No, it’s because you need to rest, because every move of God starts with you in a position of rest. You aren’t active; you’re at rest. I don’t mean that you aren’t doing anything, but there is a position of rest in our heart where we are trusting God, and we’re not fretting about it, and we’re not worried about it, because God has got this. He told us so in His Word; He gave me a Word. That’s why he says, “Tomorrow go out,” because you have to be settled, and you have to be at rest. In the picture, in the illustration God says, I’m reading between the lines, but He says, “First you have to go to bed, you have to rest, you have to take a nap.” I think that’s a great suggestion, to start everything with a nap.
Stop the fear, stop the dismay, because God has everything under control. Is He sovereign or not? It’s the kind of question you really need to answer. You can answer it philosophically and say, “Oh yes, He’s God in heaven, and He’s sovereign.” Okay, well if He’s God in heaven and Creator of everything and He’s sovereign why are you worried? Worry is kind of thinking that, “I don’t think God is going to get this right.” Really, do you really think that? I read a quote where one person said that worry is almost like a mild form of atheism, it’s almost like thinking that God doesn’t exist. If He exists and if He’s God and if He’s sovereign and if He’s in control, then why are you worried? It’s a normal response. If He’s in control, and if He’s promised, Romans 8:28, “He will cause everything to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” if He’s promised and if He’s able, able to create the whole thing with a Word…. Just like the fear is a natural response, and just like Jehoshaphat had the choice, “I’m afraid,” and he sees the enemy, what he did was he off looked unto Jesus. It’s the same thing with worry. You can live there, like people who live in fear and live in worry, or you can off look unto Jesus.
Martin Luther one time was going on and on about something that he was distraught about, so his wife changed her clothes and put on her best funeral garb, and when she came out, he looked at her and said, “Did somebody die? I didn’t know, I didn’t hear. I didn’t get the email.” She said, “Well, the way that you are acting, it’s as if God is dead.” So, we take the worry, and we’re going to trust the Lord.
This starts with the position of rest. There’s fear and worry and there’s off looking unto Jesus and being at rest, because He’s promised that He’s faithful and He’s able, and He’s willing and He loves you. He’s not against you; He’s for you. He is dead set against your flesh, and He will war against your flesh, but that’s a good thing because we don’t need any of that. Just to be clear, when the enemy seeks through whatever means to separate you from that union with Christ, from abiding with Christ, the answer is to abandon the world, fasting, off looking, letting go of, and seeking Jesus. In prayer seek the Lord, and what will happen is that the Lord will give you a Word.
What happened when he received the Word? We again look in 2 Chronicles 20:18-19, “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord worshipping the Lord.” Verse 19, “The Levites from the sons of the Kohahites from the sons of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a load voice.” They worshipped. Sometimes in worship on a Sunday morning when somebody gets loud, we get uncomfortable, “There goes brother so and so again getting loud. He’s a little crazy.” But they’re all in. These people knew that they were either going to be killed or exiled. That’s why they were afraid. Now they are no longer afraid because God has said, “You don’t even have to fight in this battle. You aren’t even going to lose a fingernail,” that’s not in the KJV but, “You don’t have to fight in this battle; there’s no loss. You don’t have to fight.” They are all in and they are rejoicing; they are all in, in their worship. In fact, I think their worship proves that they were at rest because they had gone from fear and worry into rest, because God had given them a word that He was going to take care of it, so their natural response to that was worship.
The next thing is they rested, and the next day they went out to battle, and we read that King Jehoshaphat did something that we don’t read anywhere that God told him to do. This was his plan; this is what he did. The Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 20 that he took the praise and worship team and put them in front of the army, and then sent the army out. That’s a lot of risk. Would you want to be on the praise and worship team? The guys with all the bows and arrows and heavy armament are behind you and the enemy is in front of you, and what do you have? “I have my voice, and I’m going to sing.” Again, this is all in; it’s a heart response that says, “I’m fully trusting Him because He gave me a Word that I won’t have to fight, I do have to show up and be there, He told me to go and station myself; He didn’t say to pop a bag of popcorn and watch the show.”
It’s a military term, to station yourselves and stand. It’s just like what we read in Ephesians 6 with the armor of God, and then it says, “Having done all, stand.” Nowhere in Ephesians 6 does it say to go fight. It doesn’t say to go and engage the enemy. It says to stand. That’s what God told them to do here, “Station yourselves and stand, and see the victory.” So, in the procession he puts the worship out in front, that is off looking unto Jesus; that is trusting Him. We read this in 2 Chronicles 20:20, “They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa, and when they went out Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me oh Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.’”
What he was telling them was two things: trust God, “Put your trust in the Lord your God,” and then he said to put their trust in His prophets. He’s not talking about trusting man. What he’s talking about is what the prophets had said and what the prophets say is the Word of God. So, what King Jehoshaphat was saying was, “Alright everybody, we’re going. Trust God and trust His Word.” Then the Bible records in verse 21, “When he consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, and they went out before the army and said, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”
I want to talk about two points from that verse. One, it says that he consulted with the people. That’s kind of a curious phrase. I don’t think he took an opinion poll. I don’t think he went out and said, “How many of you think we should go, and how many of you think we shouldn’t go? How many of you think we should try an envoy of peace first? Maybe we’ll do economic sanctions.” He wasn’t taking a poll. I think what he was doing when it says that he consulted with the people is very similar to what King David did when we read Psalm 43:5. These verses are almost identical, verses 43:5 and 42:11, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul, and why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” And from Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair, oh my soul, and why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” I think what David was doing there is what we need to do and what Jehoshaphat was doing with the folks that were there at that point, and it’s called, “Preach the gospel to yourself.”
There are times when we need to have a little counsel session with ourselves, a little consultation. We need to remember that there was a time when we were blind. There was a time when we were dead. There was a time when we were in bondage. There was a time when we were hell bound, and when many of us didn’t know that we were hell bound, but He set us free; He opened our eyes. He has us on a course for heaven, and He has promised, and He is able and He’s faithful and He loves us so much that He sent His Son, and His Son loved us so much that He became sin on our behalf. As we preach the gospel to ourselves again, that is that the King was consulting with the people, and reminding them of the goodness of God, that’s what I take that to mean. Then he sent out the praise team, as I mentioned earlier. What they were saying as they were going along was this phrase, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
What resonated in my heart when I read that phrase is that I remembered Psalm 136 which is called, “The Great Hallel”. You’ll remember that it’s the Psalm where there’s a line and then it says, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting,” another line, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting,” and then another line, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting,” and then another line, “For His lovingkindness…” and it goes on and on throughout that whole chapter, one line, and then, “For His lovingkindness…” One time I took and removed all of the obvious statements, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When you set that aside and look at the other lines, what you see is the creation, God as Creator, you see Israel being pulled out of Egypt and established as a nation, and you really see the whole history of God’s movements. In between the lines of what God did is this wonderful phrase, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” It’s God’s grace.
I think that’s what they were singing, but the Bible doesn’t tell us they were singing Psalm 136. What resonated in my heart was that’s what was going on. It’s just like the consultation with myself, being reminded, “You know what? He’s the Creator. You know what? He called me. You know what? He redeemed me. His lovingkindness is everlasting.” That’s what is being sung, I think, as they go forward.
This interesting thing happens. We look at 2 Chronicles 20:22, the military is going out with the praise and worship team at the front, and they are singing, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting,” and we read verse 22, “And when they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed,” those four little words, “So they were routed.” Basically, what happened is that two armies rose up against each other, wiped out one, and then killed the other army. All three armies fought against each other and killed each other. So, they were all dead. Verse 22 says, “When they began singing and praising, the Lord set an ambush.” Maybe that’s a precursor to the story we read in Acts where Paul and Silas were in prison, and it was the midnight hour. You recall the story. What were they doing? They were singing hymns and songs and praising God. What did God do? There was a great earthquake, and the prison doors sprang open. There are many preachers who will tell you, and they are right, that when we worship things happen in the spiritual realm. I’m not just talking about singing a praise song or singing a hymn; I’m talking about in the reality and the fullness of worship. When believers worship in reality, things happen in spiritual realm.
I want to bring about a caution here in the story, because while it is true that things happen in the spiritual realm when we worship, we have to be careful that we don’t connect the when and the why. Let me make that a little more clear. In the natural world, when I walk up to a light switch and I move it to the on position, the lights come on. The lights come on because I switched them on. So, when I move the switch, why the lights came on is because I moved the switch, and when I turned the light switch to the off position, the lights go off. So, the when and the why are connected. Why did they come on? It’s when I turned on the light switch.
A lot of times we think that when we do something, that’s why God did what He did. You’ll hear believers give a testimony that, “When I started tithing, God started blessing my income and my finances.” That may be true, that it happens simultaneously, but if the when and the why are connected, then you’re driving God. If you want to go buy a new car, then you just take five hundred to a thousand dollars and put it in the collection plate and now He’s going to bless you, and if you do that enough times, you then have enough money to buy a car. You’ve just made God your ATM. So, the when and the why are not connected always. Many times, they are, but they are not always connected.
You can look at it also in the negative. There are some people who say, “I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed, and I even fasted and I got other people to pray for my loved one, and yet God didn’t heal them. If the when and the why are connected, and He didn’t heal, why? It must be because I have insufficient faith. It must be my fault.” But the when and the why are not always connected. In this story these things happened simultaneously; they began worshipping and at the time they were worshipping God routed the enemy and caused them all to rise up and kill each other. But we have to be careful with the when and the why because the purpose was not just to get Israel to praise Him.
God told us in this story in 2 Chronicles 20 that the battle was not there’s; it was His battle. So, it didn’t really have anything to do with them praising. God works all things in all directions at all times, and so He’s working in each one of those people, just as He’s working in your life and mine, to bring about the place that we’re off looking unto Him, seeking Him, receiving a word from Him, and then being at rest, then the natural response to that is to worship Him because there’s this horrible situation, but He’s promised in His word, and I’m at rest, and therefore, I worship. He’s working on making that happen, but that’s not why He’s doing it. Turn the thing around and look at the Scripture where He says, “It’s My battle. It’s not your battle.” He’s got an issue with the enemy because the enemy is trying to separate you and me from abiding in Him. He’s got an issue with the enemy; He’s going to deal with the enemy, and meanwhile we’re worshipping, because He’s given us a Word, and we’re at rest.
Just a further comment on worship. A lot of times we look at worship, and we’re not wrong that when we’re in a gathering and praying together, that’s worship, and when we’re singing songs, that’s worship, but there’s another level to worship, and we read this in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, by view of the mercy of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” One of the translations, I don’t recall which one, says, “Which is your spiritually intelligent form of worship.” So, worship is more than singing a song, and it’s more than seeing a beautiful landscape or God’s creation and going, “Oh, God, You are so magnificent.” That’s worship. But your spiritually intelligent form of worship is what we read in Romans 12:1, “Presenting your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” In other words what that is, I’m alive, I am, I’m alive, but I’m dead; I’m not looking to Paul Greenlee for the supply to deal with the enemy, and I’m not looking to Paul Greenlee for satisfaction, for I’m off looking away from Paul Greenlee, off looking away from my own natural life, and I’m on looking, or gazing, fixing my eyes on Jesus.
So, your spiritually intelligent form of worship is off looking away from you, the world, the enemy, the flesh, the devil, off looking away from, dead to, and then alive unto Christ. It really is the exchanged life you’ve heard Brother Ed talk about so often. It is Thy life for mine in this, because with my life, this isn’t going to work. So, your spiritually intelligent form of worship is really the exchanged life; it’s really off looking unto Jesus, it’s really what we read in this story with King Jehoshaphat, letting go of this and worshipping Him because He’s got this under control.
For the sake of time, I’m going to skip over more of the story. It’s a wonderful, wonderful story. We read that when they arrived at the battle front, they looked out over the valley, and the three armies were stone cold dead. They didn’t have to raise a sword and didn’t have to dull a blade. In fact, not only did they not have to do anything, they didn’t have to kill anybody, swing a sword or anything, but the Bible tells us it took them three days to remove the spoil from the army and carry it home. God not only said, “It’s not your battle, I’ll take care of this, you don’t have to fight, I want you to stand, station yourselves and see what I’m going to do, but I’ve got something for you in this. In this thing I have a blessing so big you can’t even carry it; for three days you’ve got to be back and forth and back and forth carrying the blessing I have for you in My battle that’s not your battle.”
What a God, especially when you look at these Israelites and how stubborn and strong willed and what idiots they were! I can say that because I’m not talking about them; I’m talking about Paul Greenlee. What He did with them was that He said, “It’s not your battle, I’m going to make sure you stay in the land,” and He tells us saints, “It’s not your battle; I’m going to make sure that you abide in Christ.” And then He does the fighting for us and has such an abundant blessing for us in a battle that wasn’t even ours. What an amazing God!
So, in summary, in life we are either engaged in a conflict right now that’s bigger than we can imagine, or we just got out of one, or there’s one coming around the corner. It doesn’t matter because the response is still exactly the same as what we read in 2 Chronicles 20 where you are in Christ, and you are well-established in Christ, and you’ve got quite an army, but if you’re afraid, and if you have fear and worry, off look away from that and fix your eyes on Jesus. Seek the Lord, fast, let go of your supports in everything, and pray and seek the Lord, and He will give you a Word. You are going to find it in His Book. You will find a Word from the Lord for you, and then you rest. As you rest you will worship. As you worship, because it’s His battle and not your battle, because He has an agenda that He is keeping you abiding in Christ, He will win the battle, and He’s got a huge blessing for you, a huge blessing. Let’s pray.
Our heavenly Father, we’re so thankful to You for Your goodness to us. We’re so thankful for Your mercy. We’re so thankful that Your lovingkindness is everlasting. We are so thankful that You have opened our eyes to see You, that You have chosen every single one of us, and have drawn us into relationship with You, and that You are the One holding us, not us holding You, and that You are the One who has promised and is faithful. Now, Father, we commit to You this Word this morning, knowing that You have overshadowed the speaker and the hearers and that You are communicating, and we ask that You would help us to remember when we see the enemy coming against us, to follow Your Word, because we won’t know what to do, but help us to keep our eyes on You. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen
Song by Helen Howarth Lemmel:
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.