An Eternal Perspective
“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chron. 20:15-17
It’s amazing the situations people can find themselves in; and how people can get so stuck in some of the worst scenarios possible.
There are unbelievable circumstances, heartbreaks beyond imagination, and people are faced with some of the most incredible obstacles in life.
Whoever claimed that life is the shortest and straightest distance between two points lied to us! Life is challenging and difficult at best.
If nothing else, this series on Overcoming Difficulties has shown how life has always been full of surprises, challenges and difficulties.
Be it the trials of Job, the prison experiences of Paul, Peter’s crucible of fire or, as with this morning’s reading, Jehoshaphat’s overwhelming odds against him; the truth of matter is that life seldom turns out as expected. And what matters the most is not what is thrown at us, but how we respond to it!
Take a look at Jehoshaphat and notice once again the impossible situation God’s people can find themselves in.
The Impossible Situations of Life
“After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar.” (that is, En Gedi) 2 Chron. 20: 1-2
This was an absolutely desperate situation! The combined armies of the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites converged at a little-known place called En Gedi so as to attack a far smaller opponent, namely the children of Israel.
If you were to do the math you would see how the odds were stacked against them!
They should not have survived this anymore than Job should have survived his trials or Paul and Peter theirs.
The Bible is full of stories of people who should not have survived; and even here in our midst are people who should not have survived.
I am here to tell you that there are times when we are way over our head in a situation; and I am also here to tell you that some of these trials God actually allows as a test of our faith!
Certainly that was the case with Jehoshaphat. His enemies came about because they were not destroyed by God first time around.
“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance.” 2 Chron. 20:10-11
This never would have happened had they been taken out first round.
Here is what you need to know: There are times when God has not removed our enemy not only to test our faith, but also so that He can demonstrate his great power by providing deliverance for us.
Look at how severely their faith was put to the test. This was a desperate situation: “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do.” 2 Chron. 20:12
The odds were stacked against them. An enemy of epic proportions. The ultimate test. What they would do in light of this would say everything about their faith, values and who they were!
So notice what it says:
“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” 2 Chron. 20:3-4
Notice that they were alarmed. That’s ok. Elsewhere it says that they were fearful and dismayed. Again, these are all honest, normal human reactions. It’s what you do with these that matters.
In their case they took their troubles to the Lord. They inquired of the Lord and turned their hearts toward Him.
That’s the first thing they did. In their powerlessness they turned their hearts toward heaven. They did not grumble nor complain, they did not shake with fear nor run for the hills.
Instead they prayed fervently, earnestly and desperately.
In their prayer, they landed on aspects of God that helped them to overcome whatever was thrown at them:
1. God, the Sovereignist: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” 2 Chron. 20:6
God is sovereign. He rules over the trials that have come your way. The trials of life will not overwhelm you like a flood but are held in the palm of God’s hand. This they remembered in prayer: God, the sovereignist.
2. God, the Interventionist: “Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel…” 2 Chron. 20:7a
Not only is he sovereign but he also intervenes. He actually steps into our space and time and sets aside our natural laws and provides what we would call miracles.
Maybe you need a miracle today? Set aside your fears, turn your heart toward him and you will see the salvation and intervention of the Lord.
3. God, the Inheritance-giver: “…and give it (the land) forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” 2 Chron. 20:7b
This was their portion and land; this was God’s inheritance for them and they were not about to walk away from it.
In fact, they had turned their inheritance into an altar of the Lord and made it into a gigantic house of prayer:
“They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name.”
2 Chron. 20:8
Far from their inheritance becoming an idol, it became a place of prayer!
Their motives were right, their hearts were right and yet despite it all, calamity was at the front door.
Why? Because not only is God sovereignist, interventionist, inheritance-giver but He is also the test-maker!
4. God, the test-maker!
He will test your resolve to serve him despite the fact that all you ever wanted to do is serve and honor the Lord.
“See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
2 Chron. 20:11-12
There will come times in our lives when all of this will be tested and tried, sometimes even severely! This was the case with the children of Israel during the days of Jehoshaphat.
The Battle is the Lord’s!
As they stand firm in their trial and not run for the hills in defeat, notice what happens next: God responds and begins to speak through one of His prophets. ( 2 Chron. 20:15-17)
And as God speaks, it’s like this gush of words that flows from heaven. He speaks and speaks and speaks.
He speaks to them about whose battle this would be. He speaks about tomorrow as though it was today.
He provides direction as to their response. He assures them that this was not their battle to fight. He promises that they would see with their own eyes how they would be saved from this.
Most of all, he tells them not to be dismayed nor afraid!
They turn their hearts toward God in fervent prayer and God responds by speaking into their hearts about His perspective on this gigantic trial.
We need for God to speak like this in our times. We need to hear God’s Word in our circumstances. We need for him to speak into our lives so that we have clarity as to what we should do with the trials of our lives!
By the time God finished speaking, it was clear how this was going to end. Far from their defeat, their enemy would be utterly and completely destroyed:
“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.” 2 Chron. 20:22, 23
All they had to do is “put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established” (20:20), and sing God’s praises in a way never done before!
Not that they sang his praises after the battle was won, but as soon as God spoke to them they shouted their praises.
“Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
2 Chron. 20:21
Their response was far from fear and dismay, but one of faith. They responded by prayerful submission and exuberant praise while the enemy was still at the gate!
In fact, no sooner had they started to sing his praises and no sooner had they begun to magnify the name of Lord in their midst, that the Lord stepped in and neutralized the enemy at the gate!
That’s why it says: “When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir.”
2 Chron. 20:22
Notice the correlation between praising God and seeing the Lord step into their time and space. God set aside natural laws (that dictated the inevitable conclusion of their defeat at the hands of a superior army) and provided for them what we can only call a miracle!
What that points out is the necessity of us coming into a frame of mind that sees not the enemy at the gate but the Lord on the throne!
There will always be enemies at your gate; it is simply the nature of things! In this world you will always have trouble!
The only thing that can shift is your mind set, your outlook and how you see the trials and troubles that come your way.
So, are you defeated before it actually happens? Are you a victim and at the mercy of every trial that buffets you?
The key to your victory is your perspective.
Our Perspective is Key (20:20-24, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, 10:5)
They were not to be runners into the hills of defeat; they were not to be silent witnesses of a great victory, nor even soldiers in that victory, but praisers of God’s greatness and loving kindness.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for His loving kindness is everlasting.”
2 Chron. 20:21
The point is not how the enemy was defeated but that the enemy was defeated! Their role was to come into a spiritual space where they would give exuberant lavish praise to God, magnify His name and see His strength in their mind’s eye long before they would see it on a battle field.
To wrap this up, and to move it from Old Testament story to New Testament principles, let me suggest that the key to our victory is our spiritual perspective on the trials and struggles of life.
What do you see, this morning? What are you fixated on? Is all you see the bad things that have happened, or are you seeing God’s amazing power and strength in this world?
It’s all a matter of perspective! Do you see God the sovereignist, interventionist and inheritance-keeper or do you only see the enemy at the gate?
It wasn’t until the children of Israel looked away from what was at their gate and saw God’s sovereignty and power, his willingness to intervene, and his covenant to keep the inheritance for them, that the tide began to turn.
This shift of perspective not only released the word of the Lord into their situation and triggered a massive response of praise and adoration that magnified His name, but also was the catalyst for the Lord to destroy their enemy.
The same applies today for you and me. What space are you living in? Set your hearts on things above:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col. 3:1-2
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8
Think about how strong and mighty He is in battle! As you come into that space and as you magnify His name you too will stand amazed as you see what the Lord will do!
Scott Street MB Church invites you to write your reflections and thoughts about the weekly messages shared by lead Pastor Jurgen Rausch.