The great-great-great-grandson of King David had just received word that a vast army was on its way. Hordes of Moabites and Ammonites (descendants of Lot’s two daughters) were bearing down on Jerusalem, intent on “making war against” him. King Jehoshaphat was facing great peril, so his first reaction was predictable … fear. But his next steps were not only surprising, but also worth studying. In fact, for present-day followers of Jesus, Jehoshaphat offers guidelines for “surviving perilous times.”
Jehoshaphat had assumed the throne as a 35-year-old, and ended up reigning in Jerusalem for 25 years. The events described in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 appear to occur toward the end of his life. During most of his reign, he had “walked in the ways of David” (17:3) and had “set his heart to seek God” (19:3). As a result, God allowed him to become wealthy and powerful (17:5). He had enjoyed peace (17:10), and even received tribute from some of Judah’s perennial enemies (17:11).
He was not perfect, though … he had some weak moments … made some poor decisions during his life … forged a few ungodly alliances … and now age-old adversaries were heading his way. Within the historical narrative of chapter 20, several imperatives may be found … let’s explore two in this post:
- Seek God
- Pray Intelligently
1. Seeking God (vv. 3-4) had been Jehoshaphat’s habitual practice (2 Chronicles 17:3-6; 18:4 & 19:3) . His forefather David had promised to his son Solomon, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)
A prophet had once warned Jehoshaphat’s father Asa that “…the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2)
At this defining moment of great peril and danger, Jehoshaphat “turned his attention to seek the Lord,” proclaimed a time of fasting throughout his kingdom, so that people came from all the cities of Judah and “gathered together to seek help from the Lord.”
As disciples who follow Jesus, we are not immune from trials, dangers and peril. Jehoshaphat provides an excellent starting point for our reactions.
2. Praying Intelligently (vv. 5-12) is a practice every follower of Jesus needs to improve. The common (expected?) response to someone in need … “I’ll pray for you” … can mean many different things, depending on our biblical understanding of prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He responded with very specific instructions (Luke 11:1-4 & Matthew 6:9-13).
At a time of great peril and uncertainty, Jehoshaphat “stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord” and led the people in a prayer that contained very specific elements … providing a sort of “template” for how we might also pray.
- v. 6 – He reminded God (and therefore the people) of His Covenant with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob (Exodus 33:1)
- v. 6 – He reminded God of His Sovereignty (Psalm 47:2, 8)
- v. 6 – He reminded God of His Power (Psalm 115:1-3)
- v. 7 – He reminded God of His Promises … to Abraham (Genesis 15:8) … to Moses (Exodus 23:20 & 33:2) … to Joshua (Josh. 23:9 & 24:12) … among others (Psalm 44:2-3 & Ps. 79 )
- v. 9 – He reminded God of His Word … to his great-great grandfather Solomon (1 Kings 8:22-53 & 2 Chronicles 6:14-42)
- v. 10 – He reminded God of “His-story” (Numbers 20:14-21 & Deuteronomy 2:2-9 )
- v. 11 – He reminded God of His Ownership … which would later be emphasized by the prophet Ezekiel (34:30-31)
Jehoshaphat then concludes his model prayer with a resounding climax in verse 12:
- “O, our God, will You not judge them? For 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.”
His great-great-great grandfather had prayed something similar in Psalm 141:8 – “For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.”
As followers of Jesus, we are exhorted to “…run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus …” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
When perilous times come our way, let’s do what Jehoshaphat did … Seek God and Pray Intelligently.
We may then rejoice with the psalmist in Psalm 136:23–24, 26 – “Who remembered us in our low estate, for His lovingkindness is everlasting; and has rescued us from our adversaries, for His lovingkindness is everlasting … Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Peace & Joy!
P.S. This blog post is actually the first half of a sermon I’ll be preaching next week in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia … the land of wonderful coffee beans! A crowd of 30,000 people are expected at an outdoor conference of church planters and their congregations! Your prayers are appreciated for a clear and effective communication of God’s truth.
Click on this link for a traditional Ethiopian benediction … something I hope to hear at the end of my message! … <https://youtu.be/lyxF_TA_tto>