We all face battles from time to time—it’s a universal human experience. Is there a battle you’re facing right now? An insecurity perhaps, or a lingering infirmity. Maybe it’s a personal tragedy, or opposition from a hostile world.
Three thousand years ago, God’s people faced their own battle. Victory came, but only after struggle. And it came in the most unlikely of ways. The lesson they first had to learn was this:
“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf.”
It’s the story of Jehoshaphat, found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.
The setting for the story is this: the tiny kingdom of Judah find themselves surrounded by not one, but three invading armies. From a human point of view, they’re about to get decimated.
Judah’s king at the time is Jehoshaphat. He’s in the middle of a 25-year reign. He’s a good king—a man of integrity, and a skilled diplomat. Most importantly, he is “deeply committed to the ways of the Lord”.
With armies about to wipe Judah off the map—in the face of great discouragement and defeat, Jehoshaphat does five things that change the game for God’s people.
These are five things we can do when nothing else is working, when we need our own But God moment.
1. Own Your Problem | v1-4
The first is to own your problem. It’s possible for weeks or even years to pass before we’re honest about our need for help. Human cultures reward performance and encourage us to hide our battles behind an “I’ve-got-it-together” facade.
Jehoshaphat dropped the facade. In verses 1-4, we read that “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.”
He owned his problem. He didn’t hide his fear and pretend everything was okay. He begged God for guidance, and wore his weakness in public.
If only you and I allowed ourselves to be that vulnerable. When’s the last time you shared your deepest fears with a friend? Or cried in public? Or healed a broken relationship with the word sorry? Or asked someone to pray for you?
You’re not weak if you admit weakness. Admitting weakness is actually what makes you strong. That’s what takes courage. That’s how you live from the heart. So own your problem, and be vulnerable, like Jehoshaphat was.
2. Lean Into God | v5-12
The second is to lean into God. Notice that Jehoshaphat doesn’t go to the pantry and binge. He doesn’t medicate himself with Netflix, a night out on the town, or a sinkhole of self-pity.
He goes to God. Read his prayer in verses 5-12. He begins by reflecting on how good God has been in the past, helping Israel take the promised land, and fight off their enemies, and build the temple.
What are the good deeds God has done in your life that you can recount? If you’ve grown up in Australia, you’ve probably got thousands you could list.
When we refocus our vision on the character and faithfulness of God, as Jehoshaphat did, it actually changes the way we view our circumstances. Our circumstances themselves may not change, but we can always choose to wipe our tears and lean into God for another day.
3. Trust His Promises | v13-17
The third is to trust His promises. The Bible is full of promises. Some have counted 8000 of them. That’s a lot of promises (and a lot of counting).
Here, in verses 13-17, God gives a promise through one of His people. He doesn’t use someone famous like Isaiah or Ezekiel. Instead, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man called Jahaziel, who we know almost nothing else about. This is what he says:
“Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
“Tomorrow, march out against them… But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
The timeless truths of Scripture, so full of God’s promises, are our sure foundation. But we also must be ready to trust His promises when they come as a word for the present moment. We even need to be ready to be the prophetic voice He uses.
Just think. Those powerful words, the battle is not yours but God’s, weren’t uttered by anyone famous. They came through a little person—Jahaziel—someone like you or me.
4. Choose To Worship | v18-21
The fourth is choose to worship. A prophet has given a rousing speech, but Judah is still on the brink of annihilation. Peasants have taken refuge inside Jerusalem’s walls. Invading armies close in. The people are terrified.
What do they do? In verses 18-21, they worship. Jehoshaphat bows low with his face to the ground. Then the whole nation joins him. Imagine the scene: hundreds of thousands prostrating themselves together before God.
Then three groups of worship leaders, who are probably scattered around, stand up and begin singing with a loud voice, praising God.
And as the story fast-forwards to the next day, King Jehoshaphat gives a Braveheart-like speech.
“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.”
They don’t sharpen their swords or conduct last-minute training for battle. Instead,
“the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising Him for His holy splendour, singing: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!’”
Remember that still, nothing has changed. They’re putting on their armour. The enemy draws near. Besides a prophecy, they have no reason to believe they’ll be alive by sundown. Yet they choose to worship.
“Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever.”
If Judah could worship God in the face of all this, will you worship God in the face of your battle? Will you stubbornly give God glory and declare His goodness over your life?
That’s what Judah did. And if you peek ahead, it says God came to their rescue “the very moment they began to sing and give praise”. Worship, in other words, was the key to their triumph.
5. Wait for Victory | v22-30
That leads to the final point, wait for victory. Judah’s victory was incredible. Verses 22-30 tell us that
“the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves…
“So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.”
Not only did Judah survive an imminent invasion. Not only did they survive it without swinging a sword. But we also read that it took them three days to collect the booty. They went home with more showbags than they could carry.
And the story ends with these words:
“So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”
You might be staring down a big army at the moment. But take heart, because victory is on the way. It might not feel like it right now, but as we see in the story of Jehoshaphat, God sometimes allows the odds to be stacked against His people so that He receives even more glory in the end.
When you’ve owned your problem, leaned into God, trusted His promises, and chosen to worship, there’s only one thing left to do. You need to wait for victory.
This is the hardest thing to do, because it doesn’t involve you at all. But that’s the point.
“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”