“Trusting God First” Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 20. 7-12-15 LMPC by Dr. J. Ben Sloan For video of this sermon, click here.
We have inherited many interesting names from the Bible- Mary and John are two of the most common names in the English language. Elizabeth, Peter, David, Adam, but Jehoshaphat is not one of the names we have adopted. The name Jehoshaphat in Hebrew means “The Lord is judge” and wherever he went it reminded people that we are accountable to God. There was a Looney Tune cartoon with one favorite line- “Well jumpin Jehoshaphat.” Jimmy Dorsey had a song about “Jumpin Jehosaphat” and the line probably came in English from the “Headless Horesman.” All this is trivia. I do not know that Jehoshaphat ever jumped. Jehoshaphat was a godly king of a relatively small and powerless nation. Jehoshaphat threw out the pagan idols in the land (2 Chr. 17) , and sought to have the people know the Law of Moses (2 Chr. 17:7-9). But under his leadership the land prospered and he established a fairer court system (2 Chr. 19). There is this amazing story of deliverance in the Bible that we have sometimes glossed over. Ahab had been the king of Israel and he had a large fortress city in Samaria and a huge army with chariots- but his army was virtually destroyed by Ben Hadad of Syria. Ahab recovered his army but he died. After his death some of the smaller kingdoms decided to invade the nation of Judah because it was vulnerable. Some of your eyes are starting to gloss over. This is not just a history lesson- this is a faith lesson that applies to you. The people of God were as good as dead- outnumbered 10:1- by what is described as a “vast army.” But God delivered them- and we have the same hope. Hear the Word of the Lord: After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. 2 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). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “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. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’10 “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. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 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.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. 14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “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. 16 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. 17 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.’ ” 18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 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.” 22 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. 27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. 29 The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. This story in the Bible reminds me of another. In 1799 Napoleon and his army had surrounded the little town of Feldkirk Austria and he wanted in. The people were ready to surrender. The bishop pointed out to the people that it was Easter and they should at least ring all the bells in every church in town in celebration of Easter. When Napolean’s army heard the bells ringing they thought the Austrian army had come and they left. When they had no help and no hope but God- their praise of God rescued them. There really is power in focusing on God and praising Him. It is the power to lift up your head and pull you out of the whirlpool of sadness that seems to be pulling you down deeper and deeper. I. TRUSTING GOD AGAINST THE ODDS- The odds here were strong against Jehoshaphat. He could not call on any other nation to help him- the enemies were too close and too numerous. There were three or four kingdoms who were common enemies of Judah- they gathered together. It would be like if North Korea, China, Russia, and ISIS all got together to invade us. His response was not to complain- not to worry. He didn’t stay in the walls though he was outnumbered. He chose instead to put the choir on the front lines- not to fight- but to sing and praise. He chose to trust God against the odds. There is always power in forgiveness and in praise. There is power in ringing out when things seem hopeless and helpless. To some, they embrace their fears and worries with hopelessness and say that we should all abandon hope. There is always hope with God. There is a hope that goes beyond our power and beyond our ability. I can remember going to see an older man in the Presbyterian Home. He could not remember his name or the name of his relatives- but he could remember some of the words to Amazing Grace. Singing that song- you could see his dim eyes light up- even then. God is greater than your financial problems. When you are weak- remember He is strong- and His grace is sufficient for you. This is the Gospel- we cannot save ourselves- but there is One who can- but we have to look to Him.
I. TRUSTING GOD THOUGH WE HAVE NO POWER- Jehosaphat’s prayer is a prayer we all need to make. We might as well admit that in and of ourselves we cannot accomplish much. But with God we can say to a mountain- move and it will move. His prayer is basically recognizing how helpless we are and how great God is. This is not a recognition that should come only in desperate times. We like to think of our abilities- our cell phones, our TVs, our advanced medicine, our advanced weapons. But without God it is all useless and just a shuffling around of dust. If you don’t have a meaning and a purpose to your life- what good is a cell phone? I can remember when Kay was told she had cancer in December 2006 we were given little hope- probably three months. It has been nine years- we have seen all three kids get out of college and get on their own. It has taught us every day is a gift. One day life will end. Our power here on earth will end. Our power, youth, strength, and life are temporary. Don’t waste it. Plug your life in to the power of God. Verse 12 says, “We have no power to face this vast army attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This is the situation for every believer. In ourselves, we have no power- no strength, no might in ourselves. The prophet’s advice to Jehoshaphat is always advice to us- do not be afraid or discouraged- in other words- don’t despair and give up on your God, your faith, your hope. For the battle is not yours- but God’s. Look, when you are standing up for God- when you are believing and doing the right thing- remember the battle is not yours- it is God’s. We are always in His hands. David faced Goliath in the strength of the Lord- the same strength that Jehoshaphat marched in- and our same strength today.
III. TRUSTING GOD SURPRISES US- Jehosaphat had no idea how this would happen. It was not like he sent out spies to stir one country’s army against the next. Sometimes the high walls against us are only sand. Illusion. The scripture says we should trust in God with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. We don’t have to know how everything is going to work out. But we are called to trust God no matter how sad life can get or how hard the circumstances. When we trust God and acknowledge Him in all our ways- asking for His help- He will direct our paths. There are very few instances of the army of Judah marching out like this- outnumbered but singing. They were not surprised that there was a vast army. They were surprised what happened to the vast army just by marching out in worship. The amazing thing is they were giving thanks to God before they even marched out. They had real confidence. They praised God that He was their savior even though he hadn’t saved them yet. What we focus on we magnify (Joel Osteen). We can focus on the problem or we can focus on the promise. We can focus on the little black dot on the large white board, or we can open our eyes to God and what He has done for us. If you take a penny and hold it right next to your eye, you can block out the sun. This is one reason why it is so important to know the scriptures- to know the promises available to you. David said, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever. I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” When you change your focus- it takes away doubt and gives you an expectant heart. This is what faith does. So Paul says, “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 on such things” (Phil. 4:8). Paul could write that from prison. Yet God changed the world through Paul and his writings. God is not obligated to do things just the way we expect, but He does obligate Himself to love us through the terrors and problems of life. The good thing is- life is full of surprises- it is mysterious- good and bad. But God is good and He will encounter us along the way. The people of Jehoshaphat probably could not imagine what happened. They could not imagine that their vast enemy would fight among themselves without their lifting a weapon. Paul says that God can do more than what you ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God can turn hate into hope. I think we saw that with what happened in South Carolina in the last month. The relatives of those who were shot could have focused on the evil—everyone else seemed to. Instead they focused on God and forgiveness. God can do that in your life- with your children- with your family. Do not give up- or give into thinking there is no hope and I can’t do anything about it. Jehoshaphat would have said- “I don’t know how it’s going to happen- but I’m trusting in you, Lord.”