2 Chronicles 17-20
The kingdom of Israel split into two parts around 930 BC. The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah.
Jehoshaphat was one of the kings of Judah. He ruled in Jerusalem. His reign began around 872 BC and lasted 25 years. The bible tells us that he was one of the few kings who followed after God.
1 Kings 22:42-43 – Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned 25 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. He walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord…
Jehoshaphat was a successful king, who built a very strong military. He put garrisons in numerous cities and he established store cities in case of war. 1 Chronicles 17:14-19 tells us that he had over a million mighty men of valor in his service.
Scripture also reveals that because he trusted in God and not in the might of his army, God blessed him. The nations surrounding Judah had a fear of the Lord and they would not attack her.
The Philistines (a long-time enemy of the Jews), not only refused to make war against Judah, but brought substantial tribute to Jehoshaphat.
Although Judah and Israel were enemies, Jehoshaphat eventually makes peace with Israel and the two nations join forces to attack common enemies such as Syria, Ammon and Moab.
As impressive as his military was, his true strength was found in his relationship with God. It is clear that this man served the Lord with all his might.
2 Chronicles 17: 6 – His [Jehoshaphat’s] heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
Let’s talk about the high places for a minute. In general, this refers to altars that were erected on hilltops for purposes of worship and sacrifice. While there were instances of these altars being dedicated to Jehovah, they were usually associated with false gods and wicked practices.
The high places were a constant source of temptation/sin to God’s people. These places of idolatry were often built up by the wicked kings and more or less tolerated by the more righteous kings; it seemed as though Judah and Israel could never fully stamp them out of existence. That is why it is so significant that Jehoshaphat was able to shut them down during his reign.
In addition, Jehoshaphat had a great desire to teach the people of Judah about the law of God. He sent priests and teachers throughout the nation to instruct the people in the ways of God.
2 Chronicles 17:7-9 – In the third year of his reign he sent his officials… and with them the Levites…and with the Levites the priests… and they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the Lord with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among of the people.
He also established a court system based on the law of God, so that justice would prevail in the land. I wish we had that today!
2 Chronicles 19:5-7 – He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. And he said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man, but for the Lord…let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes”.
That is not to say that Jehoshaphat was a perfect man. He made his share of wrong choices.
Do you remember hearing about a very wicked king named Ahab? Do you remember his equally wicked wife, Jezebel? They were two of the most evil rulers in the era of the biblical monarchs. Well, at one point Jehoshaphat had his daughter marry one of Ahab’s sons to cement a political bond between Judah and Israel. Because of this bond, he fought in a war as an ally of Ahab. Things did not go well for them – in fact, Ahab died in that particular battle!
Later on, he made another alliance with a wicked king named Ahaziah. The two of them built a number of ships for trade, but a prophet foretold that the ships would be destroyed because Jehoshaphat had entered into business with an evil man. Sure enough, he lost everything he had invested in that deal.
But all things considered, things were going very well for Jehoshaphat.
He excelled at leading the nation. The Lord gave him peace with other countries. His plans prospered. He had a good relationship with the Lord. He had wealth and respect. He was making a difference in his world by establishing a fair court system. He brought his generation closer to the Lord through a public teaching campaign.
I imagine that most of the citizens of Judah were happy to be living in such a peaceful, prosperous, righteous time (I know I would).
Our friend the king is busy doing good, seizing the day, serving God and doing what is right. Then, all of a sudden, this happens:
2 Chronicles 20:1-2 – After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Menunites 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 Hazazontamar (that is, Engedi)”.
All of a sudden, the good king is facing an unexpected, unprovoked enemy attack of epic proportions. This was not just some little skirmish. This was a full out war, with the very real possibility that Judah would cease to exist as a nation and all God’s people would be destroyed. (Not to mention the painful, humiliating death that waited specifically for Jehoshaphat).
2 Chronicles 20:3 – Then Jehoshaphat was afraid…
What do you think was going through the king’s mind at this point?
I bet one thing was all the horrible death and destruction that would be possible because of this attack.
I bet another thing was the universal thought ‘why me’ or ‘why would God allow this to happen’? These are both good questions that come to the minds of all Christians who face trying circumstances.
I bet he wondered ‘what am I going to do?’
It’s time to see what is truly down in Jehoshaphat’s heart of hearts… will he try to fight this battle in his own strength, trusting in his army or will he seek God for an answer?
2 Chronicles 20:3 – … and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
And so we find that Jehoshaphat does the thing that most true Christians do – he seeks the will of the Lord, believing that God will deliver him. 2 Chronicles 20:4-12 gives us the earnest, heartfelt, eloquent prayer that the Jehoshaphat prayed on behalf of the entire nation. It is too long to quote here, but please take time to read it!
As we would expect, God answered his prayer:
2 Chronicles 20:13-15 – Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives and their children. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah…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…”
God reassures his people that He is right there with them. He also gives them instructions; they are to muster the army, go out to battle, stand firm, hold their position and watch what God will do on their behalf (verses 16-17).
So, the next day the people get ready. But there was something unusual about the way this battle was fought. The battle was not led by the infantry or the archers or any of the trained soldiers. The Bible tells us that men in sacred robes went before the army singing praise to God. The Bible goes on to reveal that victory came during the praise!
2 Chronicles 20:22 – 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.
God had the enemies of Judah turn on one another, until all of them were destroyed. Then Judah went and collected all the plunder. Then they returned to Judah and held another giant praise session to thank God for what he had done.
Because of this great victory, God was glorified and known to all the other nations around Judah. What a great testimony – and what great lesson! It is a lesson, because the principles contained in this narrative still apply to us today.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and look at ourselves.
I think that you and I are probably a lot like Jehoshaphat. If you are living in America, you can count yourself as prosperous. You probably have a job that you like and you excel at it (if not, you at least have the opportunity to change it). You are probably at peace with those around you. Most likely you have the respect of your family, friends and coworkers.
I bet you already have a personal relationship with Jesus, and you are probably doing things to influence others for Christ. You may very well be part of an organization that is striving to bring justice to those who need it.
Like Jehoshaphat, you may have made a bad decision or two which resulted in some hardships, but overall can you say that things are pretty good? Can you see how blessed you are? Can you see the parallel between the ancient king and yourself?
Perhaps, like Jehoshaphat, you are facing a battle. One day you were serving God and doing your best in life, when an unexpected, unprovoked attack comes upon you. The attack has the potential to destroy you or someone you love.
Maybe the attack comes in the form of a sickness or a financial loss. Perhaps it comes in the form of an addiction or maybe your house is destroyed in a flood or wild fire. Regardless of what it is, the source of the attack is clear.
John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
- What went through your mind when the enemy attacked? Did fear come upon you as it did the good king?
- Did you think of all the horrible consequences that would be possible because of this attack?
- Did you wonder ‘why me’ or ‘why would God allow this to happen’?
- Did you ask yourself ‘what am I going to do’?
Although your first instinct might be to try and solve this problem yourself, I suggest you follow the pattern of king Jehoshaphat.
First, seek the Lord in prayer. Take your situation before God as the king did. Fast if you feel it is necessary. Create a time and an atmosphere where you can hear God speak to your heart. Jehoshaphat took action, but only after he had a word from God.
Then begin to praise and worship your heavenly Father for the victory!
Don’t praise based on your circumstances; praise God based on His goodness and power. Praise Him for his attributes and mercy. Praise him for his loving protection and provision. Praise him for all things!
The scripture tells us that God inhabits our praise. When we praise him, it is an open door for him to come into our situation and make changes.
In his book Destined for the Throne, author Paul Billheimer tells us “Praise and God’s presence are on the same wavelength: they attract one another. Though God is everywhere at once, He is not necessarily everywhere in benign influence. Where joyful, happy praise is expressed, God is powerfully and compassionately active.”
So, let me give you some Encouragement: When you pray, God hears you. God saw the faith of Jehoshaphat and he will see your faith too. When we trust in our Heavenly Father, we are never put to shame. He is all powerful, he loves you and he has your best interest in mind.
Let me give your some Relief: The battle belongs to the Lord, not to you! The pressure is off. Jehoshaphat stood in faith, then sent mighty praises to the God of Heaven. In turn, God moved on his behalf. God defeated the enemy that the king could not. The same is true for you. Offer mighty praises to God and let him fight for you.
Let me offer you some Strength: Stand firm upon the promises of God! Find a scripture that speaks to your situation and put your faith into it. Don’t give up – God wants your test to become a testimony, so stand strong. The battle may take longer than you thought, but God is working all things together for your good. You can make it through this trial victoriously, with God’s help!