We often feel beset by powers and obstacles which seem insurmountable. At times it seems the world is against us. Have you ever felt that way?
King Jehoshaphat faced a literal overwhelming attack in Second Chronicles 20. An alliance of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir had invaded the frontiers of Judah and had advanced as far as En Gedi. In the face of this onslaught, “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 (vs 3-4).”
Jehoshaphat then called on God in the face of these combined enemies. This was the king’s general approach, and one which leaders and rulers should learn from. This godly leader was in the habit of seeking God’s guidance before entering into action!
The king then directly proclaims to God “[Your people] have lived in it [the promised land] and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘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 (vs 8-9).’”
So with, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah (vs 13-14). . . . ” This Levite and prophet then speaks God’s reply to Jehoshaphat’s appeal and profession of faith:
“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 seethe 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 (vs 15-17).’”
Jehoshaphat and the people then praised God! And next morning they went out to meet the enemy. This was not a fearful contingent, but one trusting in the word of the Lord. The king made his people’s advance obvious, but more importantly glorifying to God, as they advanced singing!
“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.” 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.” 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 (vs 19-22).”
The defeat, however, was not at the hand of the people of Judah! The victory was God’s doing. Look again at verse 22, “The Lord set ambushes . . . .” What’s more,
“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. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped (vs 23-24).”
The invading armies destroyed each other. Judah had nothing else to do but to gather the plunder. Victory was total. But the battle was the Lord’s.
The mechanism of this triumph is not spelled out for us. Did each army mistake each other for Judah in a similar fashion as Gideon’s defeats of the Midianites in Judges 7? Or was it a case that the alliance was shaky to start with? Remember the idea that “the enemy of my enemy, is my friend,” is a false reasoning. Did these ungodly people’s own self interests and selfishness undermine their cooperation to the point of mutual destruction. The detail of the answer may always be hidden from us, but one thing can be sure – God’s preservation of His people was shown in in the outcome.
So what lessons are to be learned? Firstly, the onslaughts of the world pale in the power of God. “If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” Secondly, in the face of adversity seek God as Jehoshaphat did, rather than attempt to do battle by our own strength. And finally, trust in God’s promises with praise and thanksgiving, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever,” as Judah did. And remember, the battle is not our own.