A crisis is due (time of arrival uncertain)
September 11, 2001 is a day that no New Yorker (or our generation) will ever forget. It started off as another ordinary day as people hurried into the day. Someone overslept, another had a fight with his wife, someone’s car broke down, one planned to get engaged that evening. But for more than 5000 people in the Twin Towers it was the last day of their lives.
We never schedule a crisis in our dairy – no one knows when disasters is going to hit. A sudden death of a loved one, news of cancer, robbers in your home or a letter of retrenchment. These things happen to someone every day. Jesus spoke the truth: “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). All we can do is “be watchful” and ready (1 Peter 5:8) and respond in a godly way.
Judah’s king Jehoshaphat had such a day as three big armies crossed the sea from Syria to invade Judah. Yet this Godly man did not panic or run away. His response to this crisis is recorded for our comfort, encouragement and learning (Romans 15:4).
What can we learn from this great historic account deliverance?
- DEVOTION: Live ready (v6-13)
Jehoshaphat is a king that served God with the devotion of king David, “walked in his commandments” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4) and had his “heart set on God” (19:3). Not only did he serve God in the privacy of his heart and personal life, but this righteous ruler courageously brought about a great reformation in the nation of Israel by destroying Baal worship with its immoral public practices, and by further commissioning priests to teach the Law of God throughout Judah and later judges to bring about justice in his kingdom.
So when the news of this crisis came to his palace, Jehoshaphat did not fear but did what he did every day: he went into his inner room and prayed to the God whom he had faithfully served all his days. I love the way the book of Daniel records how that godly prophet responded to the death threats of not worshipping the emperor: “and Daniel went to his house… and he kneeled on his knees three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since his youth.” (Daniel 6:11)
So what do we learn from this? A crisis may hit any of us at any moment, and the best way to be prepared is to be securely rooted in a devoted relationship with God. When war breaks out the soldiers should be disciplined and trained; when exam day comes the student should be prepared; when a fire rages the fireman should be trained. When a crisis hits, the believer should be firmly established in the devotional disciplines and relationship with His God – just like Jehoshaphat was.
Secondly, Jehoshaphat was ready because he was forewarned about some impending doom (2 Chronicles 19:2). Peter teaches us to “be watchful because the devil walks around like a prowling lion” (1 Peter 5:8) and Paul urges the believer should “not be ignorant if [Satan’s] plans” (2 Corinthians 2:11). We are ready by staying close to God and watching in prayer, listening to what the Holy Spirit reveals to us.
- PRAYER: Run to God (v13-14)
As soon as the news of the approaching armies reached the king he proclaimed a fast, and everyone in this reformed nation ran to their God. Jehoshaphat’s prayer is deliberately included as an example prayer for a crisis such as this. This is how he prayed:
- Praise: Even with the crisis looming Jehoshaphat starts by praises to God, allowing his (and the assembly) to consider Whom they are praying for: the Almighty God who Rules from Heaven and has power over every nation, and he is the God who made covenant with them!
- Remind: The king reminds himself (and the assembly) of what God has done in the past, which immediately makes this present crisis seem less dooming since God has done many similar miracles for Israel in the past. Furthermore Jehoshaphat reminds himself (and the assembly) of the promises of God, stirring faith that God had already promised to do the thing he was about to ask. These two reminders stirred the assembly’s hope that God is at hand and for them, and therefore he is willing and able to deliver them from this disaster.
- Confess: “You have not because you ask not”. Only after praising God for his attributes and faithfulness does the King confess his problem to God and asks for intervention, but he adds their helplessness in the situation and trust in God’s willingness and ability to help. He prays “For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (verse 12). God promises “grace to the humble” – and that is exactly what the nation needs in this crisis!
- WAIT: Let God direct you (v13-15)
After the prayer the whole nation “stood before the Lord” (verse 13) – just waited patiently, quietly for God’s direction or instruction. Each minute that they stood waiting they knew the army marched closer to Jerusalem. But no-one did anything to prepare for war or flight – they abstained from all food and rest and entertainment because they knew that all their efforts will be futile – they literally looked and waited for God to save them.
Just like Habakkuk did years later, the Jews took their eyes off their enemies and looked towards God: “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me” (Habakkuk 2:1). Then God answered through the prophet Jahaziel that he will destroy their enemies – they simply had to walk to the edge of the desert and see what He was going to do. Juda was encouraged by God and worshipped God with relief and gladness. God heard their prayers and would save them from certain destruction!
Because they waited, God answered the questions “Lord, what do you see?”, “Lord, what will You do to save us?” and “Lord, what must we do?” In every crisis the Word of God is what changes the situation from trial to triumph.
- FAITH: the worship of faithful obedience (v16-21)
But as in almost every situation, God involves us in His salvation. What did the Jews have to do? In simple obedience walk head-on towards the enemy. As Moses had to face Pharaoh, Joshua had to encircle Jericho, David had to walk up to Goliath, and Gideon had to walk into the Midianite camp, so Judah had to march in faith towards this massive army. As Daniel’s friends discovered, God’s Great Plan sometimes requires us to walk through the fire. But as they obeyed in faith, they started singing the ancient Israeli song associated with God’s faithful deliverance of the Egyptian Army after their Exodus “Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:20)
And this act of faithful obedience and praise resulted in God’s intervention into the situation: the three invading armies turned on each other and completely annihilated each other so that “No-one had escaped.” (v24) All Judah had left to do was carry the spoils of war back – for three full days! What a marvelous victory by the Lord!
- THANKS: Stop to give honour (v24-26)
But the story does not end with the spoils and peace – Jehoshaphat had the wisdom to end where they began: at the House of God. The whole nation returned to God’s Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks to God and make His praise glorious. They returned to the place where they prayed, waited and received the Word and direction from God.
Just like one of the ten lepers who had received healing from Jesus returned to give thanks and “was made well (or whole)”, so Jehoshaphat and Judah was reward with “quite” and “rest all around” because of their gifts of thanks.
The other day the Lord said to me as something happened which was out of my control, “Don’t walk around defeated.” I want to leave you with this phrase – when Crisis hits don’t walk around defeated, like heathen who live “having no hope and far from God in this world” (Ephesians 2:13).
Rather, like King Jehoshaphat, devote your life to seek and serve God. When news of crisis comes, turn to Him in prayer, reminding yourself of Who He is and what He has done, present your problem to Him and confess your helplessness and trust in Him. Ask Him what He will do and what you should do. Then wait – let Him direct your response. Act confidently – God is in control of your life, and you are precious to Him. And once He has saved you, make His praise glorious!