I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (as long as you keep reading it): the Old Testament is relevant TODAY.
I’m 20 days behind on my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year-chronologically plan. Impressive, no? I thought I’d have totally given up by this point in the year. You, too, can continue to read your Bible plan even though you haven’t kept up with the prescribed readings. Christ has set us FREE from the self-imposed legalism that says we can’t do things at all if we don’t do them perfectly. Also, GRACE.
My point here is I read 2 Chronicles 20 the other day because my Bible plan said it was time. This isn’t a chapter or book I typically frequent because the historical accounts of Israel usually make my eyes glaze over. Maybe if I were a Jewish history buff I could keep up with which king is which and what city is where and how all that ties together for a purpose. But I’m not, so I can’t. FREEDOM!
A lot of folks are tempted to skip the whole Old Testament (except the reader friendly Psalms and Proverbs) for reasons like this. But I testify, once again, that sticking to it and persevering through the hard-to-understand parts is will worth the reward of discovering golden verses hiding inside seemingly useless books.
Second Chronicles 20 is such a treasure trove, giving US a play-by-play example of what to do when we’re in trouble.
You ever face trouble?
So did a king of Judah named Jehoshaphat. Judah was a country where a small portion of Israelites lived after the majority of the Israelites decided to break fellowship with them over some shady leadership issues. Judah had a bunch of kings in a short period of time, and this one actually loved God (which was rare).
We learn in verse 1 some other people groups are rising up against the people of Judah. Jehoshaphat gets wind of this when some of his men tell him, “‘A vast army is coming against you…’” (2 Chronicles 20:2).
Our modern day application: trouble is on the horizon.
Jehoshaphat’s response, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah,” (2 Chronicles 20:3). Now, this particular trouble was a corporate problem. So, in response to Jehoshaphat’s godly leadership, “the people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord,” (2 Chronicles 20:4).
Unity. Right there in the Old Testament.
But not just any ole unity. They people of Judah didn’t come together to brainstorm war tactics and battle plans. They didn’t form a committee to analyze the probability of their defeat versus their success. They came together to seek help from the Lord! Their lives were literally being threatened, and they responded by praying corporately.
When you and I sense trouble is near, we, too, need to rely on prayer more than we rely on our intelligence or strength for help.
Once the people were gathered together in front of the temple, King Jehoshaphat prayed aloud, first proclaiming the truth of who God is (2 Chronicles 20:6), and then recalling the truth of what God had already done for the people of Judah in recent years (2 Chronicles 20:7).
Why did Jehoshaphat do this? Certainly it was of not for God’s benefit. No, this wise leader understood his fearful people needed to be reminded of God’s position, power, and provision. The people of Judah needed their hearts re-calibrated to the truth if they would have a shot at trusting God this time around.
When trouble comes our way, we need to remind ourselves of who God is and what He has already done for us. We need our hearts to be encouraged that He is who He says He is, and He is trustworthy. When we face our troubles with this attitude, we are preparing ourselves to trust God despite what trouble our eyes may see before us.
In the next part of Jehoshaphat’s prayer, he describes the impending trouble to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:10-11). He then acknowledges to God, “‘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,’” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
In other words, “God, we need you and we trust you.” During trials, we should acknowledge our dependence on God while emphasizing our faith in God.
After Jehoshaphat prayed this, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord,’” (2 Chronicles 20:13).
What an insignificant detail. You know, if the Bible editors would just leave these kinds of sentences out, our Bibles would be a lot lighter. Trees would be saved. And we could get to “the good verses” a lot faster.
Unless this isn’t insignificant at all. What relevant idea could this verse be communicating?
How about after we pray we should wait and listen for the Lord’s response?
(Other possibilities not related to this article: families should pray together, teach your kids the value of prayer, let your kids see/hear you pray, women and children and little ones are capable of hearing from the Lord, not just men…)
As the people of Judah stood there, waiting for a response from God, the Holy Spirit spoke to and through a guy named Zechariah. (Relevant take away: sometimes God responds to us through other people).
God said to the people, “‘”Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s,”‘” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
Hmm. I wonder if that encouraged them at all? I wonder if God says to you and me, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this horrendous trouble you find yourself in. For the trouble is not yours, but Mine.”
To be sure, we cause a lot of our own trouble. But God doesn’t leave us to face it alone. He claims it as His own, and He steers us through it. He views our trouble as His problem to solve. “How am I going to get my dear one through this?” He asks Himself. “Let Me take the responsibility of providing a way out of the thicket for My child.”
God then gives the people instructions to “‘”Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you,”‘” (2 Chronicles 20:17). In other words, God tells them not to do anything except to prepare to be delivered by His actions.
How can we prepare for the Lord to deliver us from our troubles? I imagine we need to be waiting expectantly with our spirits dialed in to anything and everything the Holy Spirit is doing around us, looking for God’s method of delivery so we can be ready to cooperate with Him.
Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were overcome with God’s response. Some “fell down in worship”, and others “stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice” (2 Chronicles 20:18-19).
When the Lord speaks to us, we, too, ought to be moved to respond in worship and praise.
The next morning, Jehoshaphat led his people head on into trouble. And as they went, they sung to the Lord and praised Him (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
What lunatic walks into the fray singing Chris Tomlin songs? How delusional do you have to be to joyfully step into financial hardship? an interaction with your belligerent teen? a doctor’s appointment with an oncologist?
Well, unbelievers may consider this attitude crazy, but those who take God at His word are set free from worry and panic and despair, even when the circumstances may call for such feelings.
As it turns out, God kept His promise to Jehoshaphat and company, defeating their enemies without them lifting a finger (2 Chronicles 20:22-24).
And that same God offers to fight our battles for us.