Today’s blog post was the second half of a sermon preached two weeks ago in Yirgachefe, Ethiopia … the land of premium coffee beans! The photo was my view of the crowd of 20,000+ folks who participated in the “25th Jubilee Anniversary Evangelism Movement Thanksgiving Conference” hosted by 242 indigenous Kale Hawet Churches. My good friend, Asfaw Bedecha, kindly translated for me into the local dialect. For those of you who prayed over this strategic ministry opportunity, thank you!
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Here’s a quick recap of what we discovered in a previous post of Part 1. The O.T. King Jehoshaphat was facing great peril. A massive army of historic enemies was bearing down on Jerusalem, intent on “making war against” him and the nation of Judah. The immediate reaction of this great-great-great-grandson of King David was predictable … fear. His next steps, however, are not only surprising, but also worth studying. For present-day followers of Jesus, Jehoshaphat offers guidelines for “surviving perilous times.”
Within the historical narrative of 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 Jehoshaphat presents a sort of template … or at least four principles … for surviving perilous times. We explored two in the previous post:
- Seeking God (vv. 3 – 4)
At this defining moment of great peril and danger, Jehoshaphat “turned his attention to seek the Lord” … then all the people of Judah followed his lead and “gathered together to seek help from the Lord.”
For present-day disciples of Jesus, Jehoshaphat provides an excellent starting point for facing trials, dangers and peril.
- Praying Intelligently (vv. 5 – 12)
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 an amazingly detailed prayer … a practice every follower of Jesus needs to improve.
- In his prayer he reminded God (and therefore the people) of His Covenant, His Sovereignty, His Power, His Promises, His Word, “His-story” and His Ownership.
Jehoshaphat then concluded 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.”
As followers of Jesus, we “…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.
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Jehoshaphat then did two more things that many praying disciples of Jesus fail to do … he prepared for victory and trusted wholeheartedly for the victory at hand.
- Preparing for Victory (vv. 13 – 17)
Verse 14 tells us that God’s Spirit suddenly came upon a Levite singer, Jahaziel, who promptly instructed the people to prepare for a miraculous victory. Twice he urges them not to fear the approaching armies, while reminding them that “… the battle is not yours but God’s.” This undoubtedly triggered a memory in Jehoshaphat of what his great-great-great grandfather David boldly proclaimed to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:47).
Verse 13 reveals that the entire nation of Judah was “… standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children” … in other words, they were mobilized by families. This necessary part of preparation is a recurring theme in Scripture, evidenced by how Nehemiah arranged the work-groups while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (ch. 3). For those of us who profess to follow Jesus, this begs the question: Are we committed to next-generation disciple-building? While speaking at the conference in Ethiopia two weeks ago, I was impressed and encouraged by the numbers of young people who maintained rapt attention during the three-day conference … by my estimates, more than half of the 20,000+ attendees were below the age of 35!
Jehoshaphat’s preparation for victory is then summarized in verse 17, “… Station yourselves [Take up your positions] … Stand firm … See the salvation [deliverance] … Face the enemy … the Lord is with you.” This echoes Moses’ instructions to Israel at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13-14).
- Trusting Wholeheartedly (vv. 18 – 22)
Jehoshaphat’s call for the people to trust God wholeheartedly is described in very specific ways … somewhat counter-intuitive to 21st Century followers of Jesus:
- Through worship (v. 18)
- Through loud praise (v. 19)
- Through thankful singing (vv. 21-22) … reminding them of Psalm 136
The results of this four-fold template for surviving perilous times? … Nothing short of astounding!
- Their enemies were miraculously routed and destroyed completely (vv. 22-24).
- With the victory came provisions beyond imagination (v. 25) … taking three days to collect!
- The people returned to their homes so filled with joy, blessing God, and singing His praises, that they even renamed the battlefield, “The Valley of Blessing” (vv. 26-28).
- Word spread quickly so that surrounding nations feared the God of Judah, resulting in a lasting peace … another recurring theme throughout Scripture.
The specific dangers and peril that we face today as followers of Jesus will vary, depending on where we live in the world. Applying Jehoshaphat’s template to our unique situations will yield results that will cause us to recite the prayer of the psalmist:
- “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.” (Psalm 136:23-24, 26)
Peace & Joy!