I led devotions again today. This time, I focused on the story of Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. If you don’t remember the story, I would encourage you to read it for yourself, but I’ll give you the synopsis with a few things I gleaned from it. Jehoshaphat was about to face a big problem. The Moabites and Ammonites were getting ready to attack Judah. Then, Jehoshaphat gets a message that the Edomites have decided this would be a good time to launch their attack as well. So, Judah is facing three armies, any one of which would stand a decent chance of destroying them. I drew from this story three keys for facing our enemies.
The first thing Jehoshaphat did was called all of the people in Judah together for a time of prayer and fasting. Jehoshaphat gathered the people in the temple courtyard and prayed, “Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. . . . We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” The first step in facing our enemy is to acknowledge our weakness and God’s strength; we do that through fasting and prayer. When I was an associate pastor at El Dorado Springs, I really saw this put into action. When Pastor Joe first came to the church, he preached on prayer every service for weeks in a row. At first, the people thought they had made a mistake in calling such a “one-track” pastor, but eventually they got the message and began to pray. Many prayer ministries started—pastor’s prayer partners, Week of Waiting, 24 hours of prayer and fasting, 40 days of prayer and fasting. One of the most powerful ministries was Gideon’s Army. This was a group of about 50 people who met every Sunday night following the evening service. They would choose one unsaved person in the community and corporately agree to pray for that person during that week. They specifically prayed that God would bring conviction to that person’s heart. Many times, that person would be in the service the following Sunday, white-knuckling the pew in front of them. We saw many people come to Christ as a result of the prayers of Gideon’s Army.
The next thing that happened in Jehoshaphat’s story was that a prophet named Jahaziel stood up. He gave some words of encouragement that God had heard their prayer. And then he gives some strategic advice. He tells Jehoshaphat that the battle is not his; it’s God’s. Jehoshaphat won’t even have to fight. “Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you.” That sounds like pretty good advice in theory—just stand still and let God fight your battle for you. But it’s a lot harder to put into practice when the enemy is (or three enemies are) marching toward you. Many of us have a hard time with standing still. We have our own ideas about how our enemies should be handled, and they rarely include inaction. But that’s what Jehoshaphat had to be willing to do. So, that’s the second step—patience and faithfulness.
Finally, the morning comes, and it’s time for Jehoshaphat to go and face the battle. He chooses an unusual strategy. He puts the choir in the front lines of his army. Not swords, not lances, not cavalry, not archers—singers. They march to the battleground, singing and praising God. Apparently they got a late start, because they missed the entire battle. While Judah was still on their way, the armies of Moab and Ammon allied against the army of Edom and destroyed it. Then, a dispute broke out between their two armies and they completely annihilated each other. So when Jehoshaphat and the army/choir of Judah arrived, there was nothing left to do except pick up the spoils of war. Pretty cool, huh?
So, in case you weren’t paying attention, the three steps were:
1. Prayer and fasting
2. Patience and faithfulness
3. Praise and worship (anybody have a synonym for worship that starts with F?)
If we could really learn to put those three things into practice, we might find that God fights a lot of our battles for us and we could enjoy more of the blessings he wants to give us.
We made it a little farther in Malachi today. I only have three more days to teach, so I need to accelerate it a bit. Today, we finished up discussing his second oracle, which is about honoring God, and started into his third oracle, which is about being faithful (or, at least, not being unfaithful). In Malachi 2, he gives us a good picture of what a minister should be, probably drawn from the life of Phinehas. You may not be a vocational minister, but you might find these good qualities to develop in your own life:
1. He revered God. He always showed God proper respect and honor.
2. He stood in awe of God’s name.
3. True instruction was in his mouth.
4. Nothing false was found on his lips.
5. He walked with God in peace and uprightness.
6. He turned many from sin.