Sunday, February 6, 2011

Slaying Giants - Jehoshaphat

 “Now it came about after this that the sons of Moab and the sons of Ammon, together with some of the Meunites, came to make war against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi)."
Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.
They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed."
When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the LORD and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, "Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.
For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped.
When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found much among them, including goods, garments and valuable things which they took for themselves, more than they could carry. And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much." 2 Chronicles 20:1-4; 20-25

This is one of my favourite songs of Don Fransisco’s. It is a bright spot in the history of Israel, when you look at the kings following Solomon. The country was split in 2. Israel was the northern part and consisted of ten tribes, while Judah was the southern half and consisted of two tribes. Israel’s capital was Samaria; Judah’s capital was Jerusalem. Every king in Israel was considered wicked, while there were a spattering of good kings in Judah. Jehoshaphat was one of the good ones.

What was a good king? Israel throughout this period of time struggled immensely with the idol worship of the surrounding countries. The good kings were the ones that tried to put a stop to it, and followed several other laws about only marrying other Israelites. The bad kings tended to marry women from these other idol worshipping nations, and both allowed and practiced idol worship themselves. Sometimes the good kings made alliances with the bad kings. Jehoshaphat made 3 bad alliances: he married his son Jehoram (who would be the next king) to a daughter of Ahab (a bad king who worshipped idols), he made a commercial alliance with Ahab’s wicked son, Ahaziah, and he made a military alliance with Ahab, which resulted in the death of Ahab. So, Jehoshaphat was good, but not great. That seems to be the way of life when you look at many of the leaders in church history you see very human traits. God calls us to the ideal, though. He empowers us to get beyond the mundane, to go beyond the mediocrity of society, to rise above the baggage of our old, worldly life. As we read the history we see glimpses of what that life is like – that life where we walk in step with the Spirit of God by total surrender to His will.

This story of Jehoshaphat is one of those glimpses. Here is Jehoshaphat trying to follow God. He works to remove the idols and places of Baal worship, though he is not able to totally rid the country of its influence. On his way back to Judah after Ahab died in battle the prophet challenged him on that alliance, but also said there was good in him for he removed the idols and set his heart to seek God. He was blessed for that, and so he was successful and prosperous. He set up fortified cities and put in place judges a system to deal with law and disputes. He worked to rule well, and God blessed him. It is in this context that the news of the invading army arrives. So what can we take home from this story?

The first thing is to look at what we are doing before the giants arrive, before the news of the impending invasion of the foreign army. Jehoshaphat set the example of living out the Truth of God in our daily life. Because he kept short accounts with God, confessing sin as it happened and seeking the holiness God asked for, he was able to go to God with the problem as soon as it appeared. Do you ever feely “unworthy” to go to God because of the baggage you are carrying. It is like the guy who is drowning and cries to God. He realizes he has been far from God, and has to make promises about the future for his salvation because he has nothing to offer God in his history.  “God, if you will save me, I will serve you the rest of my life.” Compare that to, “God, I am in trouble again. You have saved me countless times from things worse than drowning, and I thank you again. But here I am. I have been trying to serve you and find myself in this predicament. I believe you have more for me to do, so I cry out to you, father, and ask for salvation from this fate.” Which of these is more sincere? Which of these is honest?

Jehoshaphat was able to go immediately to God because he kept short accounts – things were looked after between him and God. The second thing we notice is that his first response is to talk to God. He prays. He not only prays, but gets all of the other people to pray. That is why we take pray requests in our service – we need to be a people of prayer. Our success in defeating the giants facing this church whether they be low attendance or low financial resources depends on our commitment to pray. Our success in defeating the giants in our life depends upon our commitment to turn them over to the Lord, for He is the One that can deal with all these things. Jehoshaphat also fasted about this issue. He put aside some of his very physical needs so he could focus on God much more directly, bringing this request in urgency to God. And God heard Him and answered in a most remarkable way.

Salvation is about living a life focused in and on Jesus Christ. You cannot do that without prayer. Yes, some people will definitely pray more than others, but as a follower of Jesus prayer has to be a part of who you are. Prayer is what connects you to the spiritual. Prayer is what keeps in check your ego and pride, and can help prevent you from always trying to do things in your own strength. When you pray and talk to God about your life, you will find it will become much easier to have God’s perspective on life. Prayer gets to the heart of spiritual warfare. It frees up the Spirit of God to work in and through you.

Lastly, as we read this story of Jehoshaphat, we find that he lived a life of praise. I have said many times that using Scripture in prayer is very powerful. Listen again to how powerful praise is: “When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.” Praise also frees up the Spirit of God to work wonders. It empowers the heavenly forces to work because praise is recognizing the awesomeness of God. We got Ben a new T-shirt that says, “Danger! Extreme levels of awesome!” God wears one that is even better than that,  because He is totally awesome. And when you begin to recognize that through genuine praise, through genuine service, through genuine love, God in His Sovereignty works wonders in and through you. The challenge for you and I is obvious. We need to be living lives of praise to our Creator. We live in three arenas: our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Strive to praise God in each of these places.

The story of Jehoshaphat is about keeping short accounts with God, about a life of prayer and praise. May you see the giants in your life slain by the very power of God because of your faithfulness in these things.

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