It doesn’t take a theologian or psychologist to tell me that life is a series of battles – large and small, from within and without. No avoiding it. (Welcome to the party!) So I love that God left us examples of so many battle-tested warriors in the Bible to learn from.
As we continue the series on biblical worshipers, I can’t help but be blown away by the story of King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:1-24. It’s a story that lead me to ask many challenging questions about my own worship life, and one that inspired me to keep digging for more worship gold in God’s word. I think you’ll see what I mean! Get ready for the power of bowed-down, battle-bracing worship!
(Stick with me even if you know the story!)
This passage begins (v.1-4) with Jehoshaphat getting word that “a great multitude” was on their way to “make war” against him. And the first thing that Jehoshaphat did was acknowledge his fear, seek God, and proclaim a fast throughout Judah. And the people responded – coming from every town in Judah to seek help from the Lord together.
It’s hard to not point out what most kings would have done. Call together an army! (What would I have done? Run!)
So now King Jehoshaphat’s got all of Judah together – specifically, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord” (v.13). (Is your heart in your throat yet?) And he called upon God, saying,
“’O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. “Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? . . . we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You’” (v.6-7, 12).
I love how Jehoshaphat began his prayer by acknowledging who God was and proclaiming His power and might. He worshiped! He then continued his prayer by restating God’s promises, recounting God’s past faithfulness, and admitting his own powerlessness and lack of wisdom. He boldly proclaimed his trust in God, as he and Judah sought the Lord together in this time of crisis. Many lessons for us there!
Then God’s Spirit sent word through a prophet that “the battle is not yours, but God’s,” and gave them instructions on what to do when they go before this great enemy.
“‘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’” (v.14-17).
So then they went to prepare for battle. No? Then they probably came up with their own backup plan since this one didn’t sound very reasonable. Not that either? Ok, what happened next?
“Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord” (v.18).
What a powerful message and response. God says, “Do not fear. Trust Me.”
And their quick reply, “We trust You. We worship You.”
(Think about all that was going on – impending war, “go out, but don’t fight”, with little ones in their arms – and let that response sink in for a minute.)
Early the next morning, they left for the battleground. And as they prepared to go, Jehoshaphat stood before them again, and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld” (v.20).
(Stick with me, this is getting even better!)
As if this we didn’t have enough reason to be impressed by their faith already, then this happened.
“After consulting the people, 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’” (v.21).
Ok, I’ve sung on a lot of worship teams in my life, but I can totally see myself graciously asking if anyone wanted to take my place for this particular assignment. Right? I mean, I’m sure I’d feel the need to be generous right about then.
Of course, “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. . . . [the enemy] helped to destroy one another. . . . no one had escaped.” (v.22-24).
Let’s don’t move on too quickly – keep processing with me for a minute.
Receiving instructions like these and then following through with them are two very different things. They stepped out in faith and trusted God before any physical signs or understanding of the answer came.
There would have been so many barriers to standing weaponless in front of a multitude of warriors like that: fear, faithlessness, helplessness. (Wonder if the singers’ voices trembled at all.) But Jehoshaphat reminded his people when they got there to put their trust in the Lord and succeed.
And then the really cool part (to me)? The appointed worshipers facing the enemy lifted their voices to declare the lovingkindness of the Lord! I find it interesting that they weren’t singing about God’s strength and might – but about His love. His everlasting love!
The power of faith-filled worship is exhibited in an amazing way in this moment!
God knows that Satan fears the worship of God most of all. So when Judah went out before the army and proclaimed God’s lovingkindness, there couldn’t have been a more devastating assault on the approaching enemy!
This incredible story led me to ask myself several questions:
What if I worshiped God first in the midst of fear and tribulation?
What if I was more diligent to acknowledge who God was as the first step in my battles?
What if we were more bold to worship God together as we face battles in life?
Could God be waiting to do things on my behalf (even if on a much smaller scale) that I miss out on, because I don’t stop to acknowledge or worship Him first?
Am I missing out on seeing the power of being true worshiper?
Consider me officially challenged.
I’d love your thoughts on this incredible story. How does it challenge you?
What do the hard places of life find in me?
How “But God” Worship Changes Everything
“Who do you say that I am?”
Worshiping in the difficult place – an interview with Jon Curtis
10 ways to worship with a heart like David’s
Learning from the grace-fueled worship of Paul
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