When we are given a command, there is a desired response, particularly for that command to be followed. The desired response is obedience. Any other response is considered rebellion. When a military commander commands his unit to perform a certain task, obedience is expected and anything other than obedience can be considered not only cowardice but also mutiny. Discharge would follow deliberate disobedience to an officer’s command which has come down a long list of authorities. When a teacher assigns an assignment for his/her class to do, he/she expects the students to comply with the assignment. Punishment follows the disobedience of the children to this authority figure.
In 2 Chronicles 20, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, was faced with an enemy that he literally cannot handle. Great distress overcomes him as a result. This is the report king Jehoshaphat received from his men: “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is, Engedi)” (2 Chronicles 20:2). A great multitude of the Moabite-Ammonite-Meunite coalition was approaching Judah at the city of Engedi. Jehoshaphat was gripped with fear and wisely and faithfully “set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3). In the face of turmoil and apparent destruction, Jehoshaphat did not ask questions or try to find answers. He didn’t even attempt to consult with his generals or prophets. The first thing he did was seek the LORD. What a tremendous example! Jehoshaphat begins his prayer for help in the presence of people from every city in Judah with an acknowledgement of who God is. He first recognizes God’s sovereignty and lordship over “all the kingdoms of the nations” (2 Chronicles 20:6). This is important to notice that Jehoshaphat recognized and praised God for His rule over all people and all kings whether they worshiped Him or not. This clearly conveys that God’s rule and glory is not dependent on human acknowledgement or worship. He is the great “I AM.” He is God regardless of the acts of men. In this sense, God never changes (Malachi 3:6). Before his petition to God, Jehoshaphat praises God for His “power and might” acknowledging that “none is able to withstand with [Him]” (2 Chronicles 20:6). He ends his petition to the LORD God with this cry, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Indeed, we are all powerless and our eyes should be set to God who is our helper and our strength (Psalm 121:1-2). Jehoshaphat is decreasing while increasing the worth and glory of God in this prayer (John 3:30).
Immediately following this prayer, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel…And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem’’” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17). The king was humbled by the response from the LORD and immediately “bowed his head with his face to the ground…worshiping the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:18). When faced with the grace and mercy of this powerful and mighty God, there can only be two responses, humble worship and adoration as you fall to your knees, or the fleeing of an apostate. Even more important to notice is the response of this faithful king and his people Judah the next day.
In light of the Authority who commanded them to “go down against them [tomorrow],” Jehoshaphat and Judah had two options: obey or disobey. Obedience was their choice. “And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa” (2 Chronicles 20:20). Not only did they obey the Lord, but the people of Judah under the leadership of Jehoshaphat arose early to obey the command of the LORD. I can imagine them sleeping so lightly, eagerly anticipating the powerful and mighty acts of their faithful God on their behalf the next day. As soon as the sun crossed the horizon, I can just see the entire nation jumping from their slumber to witness the wondrous works of God Almighty. They were so joyous in fact that Jehoshaphat “appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 20:21). And God was faithful to His people in their obedience as He “set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another” (2 Chronicles 20:22-23). The worship of the people pleased the LORD and He was faithful to His promise to fight the battle for them as He caused the peoples of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to turn on one another until none of them were left. Oh and how the blessing followed; so much blessing, in fact, that the people of Judah needed three days to collect all of the spoils. God was greatly glorified and His name was made famous in all the land (2 Chronicles 20:25, 29).
His Glory, Not Ours
In light of this Old Testament passage, the question begs, “What good is this for us?” Well, that is the problem. We assume that life is all about us. From my recent study of 1 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, I have noticed three main things: God is sovereign, God is faithful, and life is all about God. Now, with that said, we can in fact draw a few implications from this text.
A Great Horde of Enemies
Similarly to the Judeans in this text, we too face a horde of enemies in the form of Satan and his demons. He is gathering up a multitude of family members, friends, worldly enemies, and even sometimes your pew-mates to work against you. Jesus even promised His disciples persecution and enemies in Matthew 10. Take note of these examples:
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” – Matthew 10:16
“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” – Matthew 10:21-22
“If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” – Matthew 10:25
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” – Matthew 10:34-36
As it can clearly be noted, faith in Christ creates a great horde of enemies which could even be in your own family. Jesus promises us persecution, betrayal from our relatives, false accusations, and separation from friends and family, all resulting from our faith in Him.
The first thing that God says to king Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah as they are about to face a great multitude of enemies is, “Do not be afraid.” Fear not! God knew the enemies that Judah was about to face and commanded them to not be afraid before anything else. Jesus did the same for His immediate disciples and the same for us. In light of the command of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and the promised persecution, betrayal, false accusations, and separation, Jesus commands us to “Fear not…” (Matthew 10:26, 31; 28:18-20). When we begin to think about missions and reaching the thousands of unreached people groups, the persecution and earthly loss are startling. Jesus says, “Fear not!” Why did God’s command to not be afraid spark joy in Jehoshaphat? Because he has heard of and seen the powerful and mighty works of the LORD. How can we obey and receive joy from Christ’s command to fear not? We can fear not because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him]” (Matthew 28:18). In other words, Jesus is Lord over all, even the most seemingly insignificant creatures (Matthew 10:29-30). In the face of real fear of this great horde of enemies formed against us, fear not for they are not sovereign, but subordinate to God who is worthy of fear since He “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Fear not!
The Battle Is Not Yours
There is beautiful comparison and insight into God’s grace at this point of study. God tells the people of Judah that the battle is not theirs to fight, but it is His. He will do the life-saving work for them. Similarly, God looks at us in our sin and He sees the enemies of sin, Satan, death and destruction and tells us, “This is not your battle to fight, it is mine to win.” Jehoshaphat was told not to fight! We are similarly told not to fight to earn our salvation. If Judah had attempted to fight this battle, defeat and destruction would follow. In the same way, if we attempt a legalistic fight to earn our way into God’s presence, we will fall in eternal defeat, destruction, and death. “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). No matter how hard we try to please God, all of our efforts will results in utter failure. Praise God that He made a way. He came to earth as a man, being fully God and fully man in order to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live (Romans 3:23) and to die the death that we all deserve because of our sin (Romans 6:23) only to rise from the dead on the third day in order to win the battle for us defeating sin, Satan, destruction, and eternal death. Because of His victory, we can die to our old sinful life and rise to walk in a new life in step with the Spirit and one day walk in the glory of His presence eternally with fullness of satisfaction and joy. The battle is won and the enemy is already defeated; we do not have to fight!
Go and See the Salvation of the LORD
Now, what is our response to this reality going to be? What should it be? Let’s take a look at King Jehoshaphat’s response when God declared that He would fight this battle for them. Jehoshaphat and all of Judah worshiped God and rose early the next morning to obey the command of the LORD. As Christians, what is our command? In light of the tremendous grace of God in salvation, what has He commanded us to do as His people? The command has been the same since He called Abraham: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). Just as God commanded Judah to go down to the place of the battle to witness God perform wondrous works, He commands us as His followers to go into the most harsh spiritual battlefields to proclaim the gospel of His kingdom and the glory of His grace and then watch Him work in the hearts and lives of men. As long as there are lost souls, our mission is not complete and in this sense, we cannot rest. We can rest in the grace of God, yet we must never tarry in working for the kingdom of God in the nations for the sake of the Name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9-11). We have been set apart and commanded to be witnesses of His grace and to witness His glory in the lives of those we disciple.
If you are a Christ-follower, then you have been commanded. This is not a special calling, but a special-command for all who follow Christ. Each regenerate heart should seek to spread the glory of God’s grace so that the nations would praise His name and they would receive unparalleled joy. Will you obey or will you disobey? The response is simple. God desires willing followers who will obey His commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we have walked through the glory of God’s grace in the lives of the people of Judah and King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, it is clear that this God indeed does not change in His nature and character as the glory of His grace is clearly seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in Matthew. Praise God that He is a gracious and glorious God. In the face of promised persecution with a great horde of enemies formed against us, we have the grandest promise in the history of the world to empower us to wake up early to obey the command of our Master to “Go and make disciples.” I will leave you with the words of our sufficient Savior, Jesus Christ:
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b
By His Grace – For His Glory – For our Joy