Description / Transcription
Intro to guest preacher by Pastor Lawrence: It’s my privilege this morning to introduce you to the first of several guest preachers that we’ll have this summer. Blair Smith is hardly a stranger to our congregation. In fact, his precious family worshiped here at Christ Covenant, his wife Lisa and their four children, aged 6, 8, 10, and 12; that’s easy to remember, isn’t it, are members of our congregation and minister with us. As for Blair, he’s a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, our beloved denomination. He serves as assistant pastor, professor, I should say, of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary here in Charlotte. Blair’s graduate theological work is in the area of trinitarian theology in the early church and he hopes to finish his dissertation later this year and receive his Ph.D. from Durham University. Maybe you and Kevin can finish together, Blair. [laughter]
Before moving to Charlotte in 2016, he was a research visitor at the University of Notre Dame. Blair served for more than seven years as the pastor of adult education at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland. His wife Lisa also happens to be the lower school nurse at Covenant Day School. Would you join me please in welcoming Blair Smith to our pulpit [applause].
Rev. Smith: Well, thank you, and thank you, Bernie, thank you to the pastors and elders for the opportunity to minister God’s Word this morning. It has been, indeed, a rich blessing for me and my family to be a part of Christ Covenant though it is new to be on this side of the pulpit on a Sunday. Shout out to the balcony; that is usually where I am on a Sunday with my family. We’re the ones that know which preachers are balding. [laughter] Will you pray with me before bringing God’s Word to you this morning?
Our Father, Your Word is a lamp unto our feet, a light to our path. We pray, indeed, that the Word that would go forth this morning would be a light and that your Spirit would attend it. Open our eyes to behold wonderful things out of Your Word and may your Spirit open our hearts to receive it in faith that we might believe it and that we might put it into use and action in our lives. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Well, there’s a great debate in the land. The talking heads on television like to argue about it. You’ve seen it on the Twitter, perhaps you’ve engaged in it in your lunch room. Is LeBron James better than Michael Jordan? Wherever you fall in that debate, I’m from Ohio and I don’t see a Scottie Pippen on the Cavs, so perhaps maybe LeBron James, but I digress. Wherever you fall in that debate, one this is clear: Michael Jordan was of such stature and so consequential as a basketball player that every basketball player who has come after him is judged in light of him.
A few weeks ago Kevin introduced this series and set in context by looking at King David. Whenever you are studying the kings or kingship in the Bible, we must have our David lenses on. He’s the table setter; he’s the gold standard for the kings in the Old Testament.
Now if you have your Bibles open, flip back to the first ten chapters of 1 Chronicles. Now if you’ve done a Bible reading program, or doing one currently, this along with Leviticus is that section you are tempted either to skip or quit, when you get to it. Genealogies, understood they can be tedious, they can seem like a stream of meaningless names, but here and in Genesis and in the Gospels, they can be incredibly important.
Look at 1 Chronicles 1:1, just very briefly with me. Where does it start? Adam, Adam. That means the chronicler is setting his message within the context of the whole world, of the human race. Israel has something to do with Adam.
Now go forward a little bit to 1 Chronicles 10:14. 1 Chronicles 10:14. Speaking of Saul, it says this: “He did not seek guidance from the Lord; therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David, the son of Jesse.” All these genealogies end when David arrives on the scene. And you could say history begins for the chronicler with Saul’s demise and David’s rise. As one writer put it, in the chronicler’s mind, chronicler is what we’re going to call the author of this book, in the chronicler’s mind, all of history is a footnote to David.
And what does God have to do with David? We know from 1 Chronicles 17 and its sister passage in 2 Kings 7 that he establishes covenant with him, and yet a covenant which reaches well beyond David. The story of God’s covenant with David starts, you may remember, with David’s desire to build God a house. The king is resting in his palace in this scene, he’s at peace with his enemies, he turns to Nathan the prophet and says “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent,” and Nathan the prophet responds, and he says “you have godly instincts in this thought you’re having. Yes, build God a house.”
Enter into the scene God, enter into the scene more specifically God’s Word to Nathan later that night. “Why do I need a house? I’ve been moving all around with you. Have I ever said I need a house?” Subtext here: I’m God, the universe is My house, I don’t need it. And He goes on to say “of course, David, your son can build Me a house. It will be a special place of My presence here on earth, a place you will come to to experience My glory and worship Me.”
But before that, God says to David “you want to build Me a house? I will build you a house.” And when He says house, He doesn’t have in mind bricks and mortar, marble and pillars, He’s talking a dynasty, an everlasting dynasty. That’s why the Davidic covenant makes so much of God’s promise, of His absolute commitment to the Davidic house and kingdom. It’s so sure, in fact, He calls it His house, and His kingdom. God’s kingdom will be expressed through David’s kingdom, and God will relate to the king in this way, as He says in the covenant: I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.
With that as background, let’s turn to King Jehoshaphat. You’re going to have to bear with me this morning, ’cause I’m going to have to say that name a lot of times. I’ve known a few Asa’s. Asa was actually not as great a king, I don’t think, as Jehoshaphat, but His name is a lot easier to say. I don’t know many Jehoshaphats; maybe in history there are some. I think the problem there is there are four syllables and you’re going to have to bear with me as I say that name a number of times this morning. King Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, who we looked at last week.
Turn to 2 Chronicles 17 and read with me, verses 1 through 6. We’re going to jump around in various parts. Jehoshaphat’s name has four syllables, there’s four chapters for Jehoshaphat here in 2 Chronicles: “Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place (that’s Asa’s) and strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore, the Lord established the kingdom in his hand and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord, and furthermore he took the high places and the Ashram out of Judah.”
This introduction to the life of Jehoshaphat places him not only in the line of David, but also in the footsteps of David, when David was a man after God’s own heart. Of all the kings of Judah, only three are likened to King David: Hezekiah, Josiah, and Jehoshaphat. Remember, David’s the gold standard, therefore for Jehoshaphat to be described in this way, he’s, he’s a favorite king, particularly of the chronicler.
If you know the account of Jehoshaphat in Kings, you know it’s actually quite small compared to the one here. In Kings he’s given 50 verses; here in 2 Chronicles he’s given over 100 stretching out over these four chapters. For the chronicler, Jehoshaphat provided a particularly powerful message to his audience, an audience that had returned from exile, but in many ways was still in exile, for they were among a mixed, a sometimes antagonistic population.
In the New Testament, Peter addressed the church in his day as elect exiles. God’s chosen people are called to live as they are dispersed throughout the world, and this is no less true today. God’s chosen people are called to live faithfully among a mixed, sometimes antagonistic people of the United States of America, of charlotte, North Carolina.
Well, here in verses 1 through 6, we have the “Reader’s Digest” version of Jehoshaphat’s reign. He was strong and established, the Lord was with him, he forsook idolatry, he was obedient, and as we seen in verse 6, his heart was courageous, or as it might alternatively be translated, it was devoted, it was lifted up in the ways of the Lord. And this comment is immediately followed by his concern for the reform of worship. And we’re going to look at his reign, Jehoshaphat’s reign, and the message it has for us through three Ws, they’re there in the sermon’s title: Word, World, and Worship. The word was the foundation of his reign, the world was the great temptation of his reign, and worship was the great end or purpose of his reign.
As we look at the word as the foundation of Jehoshaphat’s reign, stay in chapter 17, and look with me at verses 7 through 9. Significant here is verse 7, where it says this: “In the third year.” Now Jehoshaphat and his father Asa probably overlapped three years, because you remember Asa’s illness at the end of his life. Jehoshaphat then reigned 25 years as king of Judah. This notation of the third year means most likely what follows is the first thing Jehoshaphat did when he had complete control of the kingdom, no longer co-regent with his ailing father. And what does he do? Look at verse 9: He made the word the foundation. Officials and Levites and priests taught in the cities of Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them. They went about throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the Word of God among the people of God.
Believe it or not, until the post-exilic pattern that we have under Ezra and Nehemiah, not many kings saw the value of this. Perhaps that’s why there were not many good kings not seeing the value of this. As good as some of Asa’s reforms were that we heard of last week, there was little emphasis during his reign on the teaching of the word. It would seem that Jehoshaphat almost alone among the kings in this respect saw the significance of this. It might have been growing up as a pious young man in his father’s house he perceived this lack in his father’s reforms and he took very deliberate steps at the very first to remedy it. Perhaps Asa, if he had been more deeply immersed and taught in the word and allowed it to burrow deeply into his heart and made alive in his experience, he would have not reacted the way he did, when the prophet Hanani’s challenge and rebuke came to him.
But what are the results of this systematic, faithful teaching of God’s Word in Judah? Go back to the end of verse 6: He took the high places and the Ashram out of Judah. Though teaching is mentioned after this, as we get into verses 7 through 9, this taking away of the high places, it doesn’t meant that there was something sequential here, they were taken away and then he started teaching. Remember, verses 1 through 6 act as a sort of summary. In the deepest sense, things run from the Word to the removal of idolatrous practices. It is the teaching of the Word that creates the climate in which meaningful reforms can be promoted.
Look now at verse 10: “And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.” It almost seems to suggest that the lifting up of the living Word of God proved to be a protection around this nation. And here we discern perhaps a vital difference between Jehoshaphat and his father Asa’s reign.
Go back quickly to 14:4, under Asa’s reign. Read there with me: “Asa commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers’, and to keep the law and the commandment.”
Now nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Asa commanded to seek and to keep good things. But here’s the question: Did he teach? You cannot command idolatry out of the human heart. What must be done, what must be done then, what must be done now, is to teach the Word. Teaching the Word creates a climate in which reform can take place. It makes it possible, it makes it practical. Where Asa commanded, Jehoshaphat taught. He taught the Word of God and insured that it was taught throughout Judah.
Before moving here to Charlotte, as Bernie mentioned, I served for several years in pastoral ministry, including over seven in the Washington, D.C. area. Before I got there, the pastor I served with, a senior pastor there, had gone through that painful process of leading a church out of an increasingly unfaithful denomination. That process required, of course, significant preparation on his and the leadership’s behalf as well as significant ministry in the aftermath. As I asked this pastor how he approached that process and the ongoing faithful vigilance that was required in ministering to that body, I’ll never forget his advice. He said this: I’ve never asked or commanded of the people of this church to follow something before I first taught it.
There’s an order to reform. The Word is taught faithfully and then faithfulness follows. The Word is taught faithfully and faithfulness follows. The ongoing faithfulness of our churches is directly tied to their fidelity to the Word of God, but not just a rote fidelity, not just a “yep, right, I believe it, we believe the Bible, it’s the inerrant Word of God, it’s in a statement, it’s on our website, there it is.” You can have that but at the same time not teaching the Word of God. Or if it is taught, it’s, it’s not done with any depth, with any eye to applying it to our lives. Fidelity to the Word of God is often observed best in its use. Is it being preached from the pulpit, taught in the Sunday School rooms, utilized in the counseling office?
It is important that Christ Covenant as a part of a denomination which requires she affirm the authority of Scripture. It is important we do put that on the website and in other places, but that means very little in comparison to the Word living in our midst through its faithful preaching and teaching. Our personal profession of the Word of God is important. We honor God when we honor God’s Word, His Scripture. But we must be very attentive to it, our hearts ready to receive it, our minds transformed by it, our feet, our hands willing to do it.
There’s a wonder epitaph to one who was taught and appropriated the Word of God in this passage. It’s found, if you will look at verse 16: “Amasiah, the son of Zikri, was a volunteer for the service of the Lord.” That is he willingly offered himself to the Lord. That’s what happens when the Word of God is taught. Men and women offer themselves freely to serve the Lord. When the Word is faithfully, thoughtfully, systematically, I mean from the earliest ages up throughout the ministries of the church, throughout the very service of worship that we offer, when it is taught there, we are offering ourselves and there will be those who offer themselves willingly to the Lord’s service. A people transfused with the Word will be a people looking for ways to honor and to serve their Lord.
This appears to be Jehoshaphat’s aim, that Judah would be so transfused with the Word that they would offer themselves up freely to their God.
Well, Jehoshaphat’s strength here in chapter 17 is, is remarkable and can be directly tied to his biblical fidelity, and this makes all the more remarkable his failure in chapter 18. We learn here that while Jehoshaphat’s overwhelming character was good, that the tenor of his life was, was faithfulness, he was, he was not perfect. In fact, he could be downright foolish. The best of kings, including one that was numbered among the great three that could be matched to David, had feet of clay. And so in this overwhelming picture of Jehoshaphat, there are two blights on him, and you can find one of those here in chapter 18, which we will discuss, and another that’s briefly mentioned at the end of chapter 20.
In chapter 18, the chronicler reminds us of Jehoshaphat’s frailty through an unwise alliance with wicked King Ahab in the northern kingdom. The world was a temptation for Jehoshaphat, and when I use “world” here, please understand the way I’m using it. I’m using it in that sometimes biblical sense of a, a sphere of sin and temptation, the world tempted Jehoshaphat with the security and peace that would mean for him and for His people violating the Word of God.
Now chapter 18, it’s a long, a sometimes strange chapter that serves a very important warning. No matter how rooted, strong, faithful a saint be, the world is enticing. But more, and this is the glory in the darkness of chapter 18, in the case of Jehoshaphat, God provides for this, this man and he provides for His people, roads back to faithfulness when they step off the straight path.
Read with me, verse 1 through 3 of chapter 18: “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab. After some years he went down to Ahab in Samaria and Ahab killed an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and for the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth Gilead. Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, ‘Will you go with me to Ramoth Gilead?’ He answered him ‘I am as you are, my people as your people; we will be with you in the war.'”
This juxtaposition here is quite jarring. On the one hand, we have the good, the godly king of Judah. On the other hand we have one of the worst, maybe the worst of the kings of the northern kingdom. The lapse here by Jehoshaphat is not just the marriage. In that day, in context, the wedding signified an alliance. There’s a joining here with a wicked man and an idolatrous nation. In Deuteronomy 7 God had prohibited His people from entering into alliances. Now that should be enough; the authority of God’s Word in prohibiting it. But he has a very protective purpose in prohibiting it, because when you enter into alliances with idolaters, you become idolatrous.
You see, God’s commands are not only about his authority and our willingness to obey, they are that; they are also about forming a hedge, a boundary, because if we transgress those commands, it leads to great pain, it leads to heartache and dissolution. There’s a real practical downside to disobedience and we find that in Jehoshaphat.
At the other side of this chapter, after returning home from a humiliating loss, the prophet Jehu, he confronts Jehoshaphat with the real issue. It’s found in 19, verse 2: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord.” In Paul’s words, believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. That is true when entering into a marriage covenant, but also in Old Testament in entering in political alliances. It was a barometer of faithfulness to God. Here’s the key, though. Here’s the key to understanding how chapter 18 fits with Jehoshaphat’s reign and the overwhelming message that he provides for us: It’s never too late, it’s never too late.
We have to skip over many details of this chapter, but I do want to highlight how though Jehoshaphat enters into a very unwise political alliance. He quickly becomes uneasy about it and learns to respond faithfully. And I have to think that uneasiness that he demonstrates in light of this unholy alliance comes from a conscious that has been infused with the Word of God.
Look at verse 4 of chapter 18: “And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, inquire first for the Word of the Lord.” Inquire first for the Word of the Lord. There’s a level of disquiet and concern in Jehoshaphat, and he doesn’t tamp it down and ignore it as we are often wont to do. He has courage to mention it and he says it, of all people, to Ahab, Ahab. That took some guts. It’s like going to the biggest bully in your school and saying “um, would you like to join me for a Bible study and a time of prayer?” He says to Ahab, wicked King Ahab, let’s, let’s first, before we go into this, let’s go to the Lord with this.
Remember who Ahab is. He’s officially religious but he’s a hardcore idolater. He’s got a whole army of professional prophets who will tell him exactly what he wants to hear, 400 of them, in fact. But of course, to a man they don’t listen to God, they, they take in the ambient culture of Israel and they tune a message for the king that’s in harmony with the culture. And Jehoshaphat knew something was off.
Look at the question he asks in verse 6: “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” And Ahab says, well, there’s this guy. But this guy is a prophet of God, Micaiah, and Ahab hates him. He hates him because he prophesied woe to him rather than good, and Ahab in this episode reveals his heart in the way that he rejects the servant of God. He rejects him because he speaks the Word of God, just as Jesus promised we might be rejected if we align with Him and His faithful servants. Micaiah could have kept the peace; that, that would have been the easy route in this passage, just as it was easy for Jehoshaphat to enter into an alliance with a powerful neighbor.
But after a little mockery of the false prophets in verse 14, Micaiah chooses truth and the honor of his calling. He tells the, in verse 16 to 22, what will happen, how the Lord simply is not with him, the Lord is not with him. Peace at any price is not something a man or a woman of God can go along with. God is not concerned to preserve peace at all costs, peace and harmony when truth and integrity are at issue. Jesus said, and it has application in this place, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Where there is evil, and men and women are revelling in that evil, going against the will of God, the coming of His Word will cause disturbance, protests, upheaval.
For Micaiah, he’s thrown into prison. What about Jehoshaphat? Well, he’s done something foolish, but he’s shown this willingness, he’s shown this willingness to seek the Lord, and he’s embroiled in the bad results of his unwise decision in this war, but the Lord provides a way out for him, even while Ahab apparently wants to make Jehoshaphat a really big target. As they go into battle, Ahab has this bright idea. He wants to put a big bullseye on Jehoshaphat by having him to into battle in his kingly robes. Ahab, on his part, will go in incognito, thinking perhaps he can outwit the Word of the Lord as it was delivered to him through Micaiah; this is another episode on how sin makes us dumb, right? He thinks he can avoid the sure Word of God that had been delivered through Micaiah by going into battle incognito, and here we have this wonderful display of where the wisdom of man gets turned on its head by the sovereignty of God
Ahab goes into battle, hiding his royal status, but he’s randomly killed by a stray arrow, randomly killed. He has armor on, but that, that arrow gets in there between the scale armor and the breastplate. Jehoshaphat, well, he goes into battle with the big bullseye on with his royal status obvious to all, making him an easy, making him a very desirable target. But read with me, verses 30 to 32 of chapter 18: “Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of his chariots ‘fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel.’ As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said ‘it is the king of Israel,’ so they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him.” Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. “God drew them away from him, for as soon as the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.”
Let’s think. Let’s think for a moment again about what got Jehoshaphat into this predicament, into this moment. He enters into an unholy alliance but he’s tender to that and before he goes into battle with Ahab, he says let’s seek God, let’s seek His Word. He even presses to find a faithful prophet after 400 false prophets had gone before him. Still, though, even after Micaiah’s word on what will happen, Jehoshaphat presses in to battle with Ahab, and Israel. He had perhaps one more, one more chance to get out, but he didn’t extricate himself from the situation, and here he is, he’s at the brink of death, he’s at the end result of his unholy alliance, but he doesn’t resign himself to what could have been a very predictable end to his life. He cries out, he cries out. He sends up an SOS prayer. Something so simple, something so beautiful, and Jehoshaphat cried out and the Lord helped him, is what the Word says.
Here he is, Jehoshaphat in the grip of the consequences of his worldliness, relying on worldly power, relying on maneuvering, and not God, and not His Word, but that Word which he knew, that Word which he taught, it was alive, it was alive in him. It wasn’t too late. He held to that Word. He held to that Word such as the psalmist gave it in Psalm 34:6: “The poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”
I don’t know where each of you are today with the Lord, but you’re not beyond this humble lesson that is given by this king of Judah thousands of years ago. The Lord hears our cries, the Lord hears our cries. It’s never too late to cry out to Him. Maybe you’ve gotten yourself into a real mess. You’ve aligned with some, some Ahabs in your life. Don’t quiet the Word that is within you. Listen to it. Cry out as Jehoshaphat did. Cry out to the living God. Know His grace and His deliverance. Sometimes God allows us to go to the, to the very extremity, when it almost seems like all is lost, and then He finally intervenes and saves.
Why does He do that? Why did He do that with Jehoshaphat? Perhaps it is to teach us this: Than when we are left to our own devices, when we follow the wisdom of our own lives and hands, this is the kind of mess and danger that we get ourselves into.
Well, if you turn to chapter 19, verses 1 through 3, and certainly there Jehoshaphat’s return to Jerusalem was humbling. He returned chastened. He returned chastened but wiser. We already heard Jehu’s judgment on his alliance with, with Ahab and Israel. It was a word of rebuke. But now listen to verse 3: “Nevertheless,” Jehu says, “some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asherah’s out of the land and have set your heart to seek God.” There’s the key.
Do you remember his father Asa’s response to rebuke? He was enraged. He flung the prophet into jail, not a little like wicked Ahab. But with Jehoshaphat we have a return to commitment. A word of rebuke often reveals the state of our heart, does it not? Here in the case of Jehoshaphat it revealed a humble, a contrite, a faithful heart. He had been tempted to greater worldly security and so entered into an unrighteousness alignment with the world. Now on the other side, knowing the Lord’s deliverance, the prophet’s rebuke with a soft heart, he returns and he returns to a program of reform in his life, in his nation. Disorder was brought in to his world through aligning with the world, now humble, committed, he seeks to order his world, that’s Judah, according to the Word of God. And of course his world, his nation, they listen and they follow. That’s the message of chapter 19.
Look at verse 4 very briefly: “Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.”
Jehoshaphat, he took his spiritual medicine like a man. He returned to a spirit displayed earlier in chapter 17 and he got down to spiritual renewal. Again, this time he does it according to God’s Word. He sets up a system of justice in chapter 19 by the book. And if we see spiritual renewal in chapter 19, we see it continued on into chapter 20, for just elbowed her husband faces a great threat, this one comes from the Moabites and Ammonites and it stands, this chapter, in almost complete contradistinction from what happened in chapter 18. There, of course, we just learned he relied on wicked power, even entered into battle himself. Here, chapter 20, he feared, he set himself out to see the Lord. It’s as if the chronicler is saying to the people of God as they are returning from exile, just as he’s saying to us here in 2018, remember that? Remember what Jehoshaphat should have done? Here’s what it looks like if he does the complete opposite, if he relies upon Me rather than his own flesh and of the world.
Look at verse 15 of chapter 20: “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.”
Here in chapter 20 there is a complete reliance upon God. So much so that Judah does not even fight. They have a battle they don’t even fight in. There’s this mighty threat, what are they going to do? The great king leads them out into battle? No, not here. The great king leads them in seeking and relying upon their Lord.
And this harkens back again to David. Remember David at his worst was a man of war, a man of bloodshed. But David at his best was a man who led His people in worship, even writing them numerous worship songs throughout the Psalms.
While there are details to this battle in chapter 20, I would encourage you this afternoon to read them along with the whole section of this Scripture. It’s amazing, it’s wonderful, it’ll drive you to your knees. Indeed, here in chapter 20 is the climatic chapter and it leads us to our knees, to prayer, to worship. Chapter 20 reveals the great purpose of God’s righteous king, the great end is that he and his people would be a people of worship.
Word, world, and now worship.
Look at verse 4 of chapter 20 again: “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, and Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord from all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord.”
This battle that we have here in chapter 20, it’s another platform. It’s another platform to show the necessity of God’s people, especially the leaders of God’s people, of seeking God, to humble oneself before God in the face of insurmountable odds, humanly speaking, and to trust Him fully for deliverance, that’s the essence, that’s the essence of biblical faith. Insurmountable odds, great God. What do we do? We rely ourselves upon the great God. We trust Him for deliverance.
And so you see Jehoshaphat’s prayer, it’s here in verse 12 of chapter 20. What does he pray: “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against it. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
How many times do you face that in your life? That time where you need to cry out for deliverance. This is a prayer to say we do not know what to do. I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you, and this is what Jehoshaphat did, fully trust in God for deliverance, and the rest of the chapter shows the results.
Well, in verse 4, we read of Judah assembled. In verse 13, we read these words: “Meanwhile, all Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, their wives, and their children.”
Now I think we need to ask this text could this widespread responsiveness that we see in these scenes have been possible without the widespread reform that had already taken place among the people of God as a result of the teaching of the Word of God? This is a deeply taught people in the life of Jehoshaphat, and a deeply taught people are prepared when the Spirit moves. They were prepared for revival. Reformation according to the Word always precedes revival by the Spirit. Reformation according to the Word always precedes revival by the Spirit. The result of the conflict here is God wins. Sure, Judah won, but not because anything they did. When you have an army of one and your army is God, you win, and that’s what Israel did in this passage.
But what I want to do, and what I want to give special attention here before closing, is again the prayer and worship that we find in this chapter, for it marks the high water, the high point, of this story and the purpose of Jehoshaphat’s life and I hope our lives.
Turn if you will to verses 5 through 12 of chapter 20. I’m not going to read the whole section, but I am going to allude and reference it as we got through this great prayer of Jehoshaphat, this great prayer that we find in verses 5 through 12. If we attentive to this prayer, we will be attentive to biblical resonances that pull together various threads of Scripture. They pull together Abrahamic threads, it pulls together Mosaic threads, it pulls together Davidic threads. It’s a portrait, it’s a model for us of biblical prayer, and I want us to look at four brief aspects of it.
First of all, if you look at the prayer, the king rehearsed the facts of revelation on which our faith is based, and he appeals in verse 6 to divine omnipotence. Look at it with me: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not king in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, in Your hand are power and might so that none is able to withstand You.”
Reminds of the apostles’ prayer as they faced persecution in Acts 4, they were under pressure there and they prayed a similar prayer, as Jehoshaphat here, and it can be our prayer, reminding ourselves of our weakness and reminding ourselves of how great God is and what He can do and His omnipotent power in our situation.
Secondly, verse 7, he recalls the facts of history: “Did you not, are God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham, your friend?” This is simply an echo that we have here of what God has done in choosing God’s people. They appeal to this historical fact that the Lord has been with him. Jehoshaphat’s reminding him “Lord, don’t forget who we are. We are your people. You called us from our father Abraham.” The king is putting the Lord into remembrance, as it were, and this is what He commands us to do. The Lord loves to be reminded of the ways that he has been faithful to His people and to you. He was gladdened to hear this prayer of Jehoshaphat. He’s gladdened to hear our prayers, where we rehearse to Him. This is how You’ve been faithful, Lord, please do it again in my life. Be faithful gain.
Thirdly, furthermore, Jehoshaphat reminded God of the promises He made to His people. Look at verse 9: “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment or pestilence or famine, we will stand before this house and before You for Your Name is in this house and cry out to you in our affliction and you will hear and save.”
What he’s doing here, what Jehoshaphat’s doing in this prayer, is he’s modeling it. He’s modeling it off of Solomon’s prayer of dedication at the temple, he’s modeling after David’s covenantal prayer, and the essence of these prayers and so many prayers of the Bible is this: God, You promised, You promised, therefore please do this, please do this.
There’s this wonderful image in the great reformer John Calvin’s writings on prayer, and he gives surprising attention to faith and prayer in his institutes. He gives this image of when we pray, we should go and dig up among the Scriptures the promises of God, and when we go to the Scriptures, and we find the promises of God, we should pray those promises back to our Lord. The promises come to us as the Word of God and then they invite a warm response of us to them that we might pray in faith those promises of who He is, what He will do, in our lives.
Finally in Jehoshaphat’s prayer there is an appeal and there’s a confidence of despair. It’s a godly despair. “We know not what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The old English preacher Alexander Maclaren said “blessed is the desperation that catches at God’s hand, firm is the trust that leaps from despair.”
When we hear this word of despair, we think perhaps of a godly despair. But when you hear it here, rather think of a human despair. “There’s no resources in us, Lord. We need you. Everything we have is in You. Grant it to us in Your son Christ.” That’s a prayer that our gracious Father loves to hear.
Well, remember the quote, according to Chronicles, history begins with David. While according to all of Scripture, history ends with David. Well, not David himself, but the son of David. Not a mere human being, but a king as fully human and fully divine, the son of God who sits on David’s throne and rules in everlasting righteousness. And as good as David is, as good as Jehoshaphat is, at his best they all prefigure One who is to come.
In the very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, that One to come, He says this: I, Jesus, I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.
Just earlier in Revelation, in Revelation chapter 5, John the seer says this: “Behold the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so that He can open the scroll and the seven seals.”
At the end of time stands One in David’s line, a conquering king who will set everything right. He will bring to the world and to the elect their great deliverance. As the people of Judah saw an army of One conquer their enemies, so does God put all enemies under Christ, the Son of God’s feet and when He returns, when Christ returns, His victory, a victory that began on the cross, it will be complete.
Now why do I rehearse all of this, right before closing? Well, in 2 Chronicles when the Lord delivered Judah, what did they do? How did they respond? Well, first thing to note, they got so many spoils from this victory it took them three days to collect it all, that’s one thing. The Lord took the riches of the enemy and gave them to His people.
But look at verse 27 to 28: “Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets to the house of the Lord.” Do you see that? They know God. He’s listened to their cry. He has delivered us, they say, let’s worship, let’s go to the house of the Lord and that’s exactly the right response. That’s what we get to do week in and week out in such a time as this.
What deliverance have you known this week? Perhaps it’s been significant. It’s been healing. It’s been a reconciliation. Perhaps it’s smaller, but still very important in the eyes of God. A small victory over temptation, you’ve held your temper, you haven’t clicked on that mouse, you’ve resisted gossip. Worship God in light of those deliverances. Perhaps our deliverance this past week is simply we are here, we are alive, we’re still trusting God. Worship. Worship Him. At the end of history, God’s Word will be fulfilled, the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Christ, and we will join the great throng of heaven to worship the Son of David forever and ever. John the seer says “and I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them saying to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever. Amen.”
Let’s pray. Our Father, we thank You for this Word, we thank You for Your king Jehoshaphat, we thank You for his dedication and commitment to Your Word which he made the foundation of his life and of his kingdom. We thank you for the example, even in his failing of how he found a way back to You by crying out to You and then taking rebuke in humility and seeking again reform according to Your Word, and we thank You for this wonderful picture in Revelation 20, the great end of his life, the great end of very saint, the great end of our lives, and that is to worship You, and I pray now that as we turn again to the words of the song, that we would worship you in spirit and in truth according to Your Word. In Christ’s name, amen.