|Taking Every Thought Captive|
Keys to Revival
KING JEHOSHAPHAT'S PRAYER IN 2 CHRONICLES 20:1-30
Though most commentators see Jehoshaphat as an innocent party being attacked for no apparent reason,(6) it may very well be that this incident was an expression of divine wrath as alluded to in 2 Chronicles 19:2 (note the rendering in the NIV).(7) If this is the case, then it seems that God was using this incident to punish Jehoshaphat for his involvement with King Ahab (2 Chron.18). God has power over all people and uses His power over His own people to accomplish His purposes even when it includes chastisement. However, Jehoshaphat responded correctly to the threat and displayed a submissive attitude toward God which resulted in a mighty victory by God on behalf of Judah.
The Bible presents God as One who is all-powerful and completely sovereign over all His creation. For this reason, prayer is not a light matter. The believer in prayer has access to this divine power. Commentator J. Oswald Sanders made an astonishing observation about prayer. He said, "It invests puny man with a sort of omnipotence."(8) The believer need not fear any foe under heaven when he is fully surrendered to the will of God. Effective prayer brings the believer to this state of submission to God's sovereignty.
One way to show submissiveness to the will of God is by praying according to His will and one way to do that is by praying according to the promises God has given in Scripture. Jehoshaphat modeled this in verse 7 by praying in accordance with God's promise to give the land to Israel forever (Gen.13:15; 15:18). Also, at the dedication of the Temple, the Lord had promised Solomon that He would hear the prayers of the people (2 Chron. 6:14-42; 7:15). God said, "Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place" (2 Chron. 7:15 NAS). The believer in prayer can rehearse the promises of God and be confident that the Lord hears and will act to fulfill His promises on behalf of His children.
Commentators disagree as to whether Jehoshaphat went out to meet his attackers with an army or not.(9) It is clear that Jehoshaphat had a large and capable army (2 Chron. 17:12-19). However, he apparently did not trust in his army to deliver him from the combined Transjordanian forces. Rather, Jehoshaphat, without any deliberation, turned to the Lord and asked for His deliverance on their behalf saying, "For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You" (2 Chron. 20:12b).
Likewise, Christians today must choose to rely on either human or divine resources. Lehman Strauss wrote, "Human wisdom and human desire can achieve human results. But praying in the Spirit produces divine results."(10) When believers rely on their human resources, they selfishly seek their own glory and foolishly deprive themselves of God's power. However, Christians can turn to God in prayer, as Jehoshaphat did, even though they may have some means, and allow God to show Himself strong on their behalf and receive all the glory as a result. Whenever God's people face an impossible situation, it is actually a wonderful opportunity for God to test their faith and bring glory to himself.
In response to Jehoshaphat's prayer, God inspires Jahaziel to deliver the prophecy to the Jews that God will deliver them. The content of his message contains reassurances, reasons for confidence, and instructions.(11) The reassurance is simple and direct: "Do not fear" (vs.15). The reason for the confidence is the presence of God in their distress: "The Lord is with you" (vs. 17). The instructions tell the time and place of the action: "Tomorrow go down against them" (vs. 16). Perhaps the most difficult instruction to follow was: "You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf . . ." (vs. 17).
God promised to win the battle and commanded the people of Judah only to stand still and watch God act on their behalf. Clyde Francisco wrote, "Does man have nothing to do? 'Yes,' said the Chronicler, 'he must have faith in God and follow his word.' In the face of an overwhelming enemy, it would take more faith to stand still than to fight."(12)
Those who go to God in earnest prayer will find deliverance. How easily Christians can forget to wait on God for answered prayer. All too often, many believers are quick to seek an immediate result in their own ability and understanding. Rather, when distresses come, believers can follow the pattern given here in chapter 20 - seek the Lord and trust Him to deliver. God delivered the Israelites from Pharoah's army at the Red Sea (Ex. 14) telling the Israelites to "stand still" (Ex. 14:13). No human activity could have aided them. So too, believers today must learn to cease from trusting in their activity and watch the salvation of God in their lives as they wait upon Him in faith.
Jehoshaphat appointed the temple choir to sing praises to God before the procession into the wilderness. The Jews were singing God's praises for deliverance before it had occurred. This shows their great faith in God and His Word with which God was pleased. Music has had a large role in the warfare of ancient and modern times(13) and it is helpful for believers today to incorporate singing praises to God as they face their distresses. Singing God's praises during prayer is profitable because God deserves it, but also because it helps to remind the believer about the greatness and faithfulness of God. As the believer is focused on God's character and works, his faith is strengthened and joy increases.
Some believe that the Levites led the procession with their musical instruments singing the 136th Psalm.(14) There is an obvious similarity between verse 21 - "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting" - and the very first verse of Psalm 136. While it is impossible to know for sure whether this is the exact Psalm or not, it is probably fair to say that they sang something similar to Psalm 136 for it celebrates past victories the Lord has wrought for His people.
Another commentator submitted that Jahaziel wrote Psalm 83 on the occasion here in 2 Chronicles 20.(15) Psalm 83 does name Edom, Moab, and Ammon among the nations which are the enemies of God. It is very likely that Jahaziel wrote this Psalm since he is understood to be a singer in the temple and possessed a literary heritage as he was a descendant of Asaph, the assumed head-singer of David's time.(16)
Christians, following the example given in 2 Chronicles 20, should be encouraged to praise and thank God for His numerous past victories. The more thought is given to past victories, the more thankful they become. However, Christians should not limit their praise and thanks for past victories only, but also for those victories that are anticipated for present distresses. An interesting note is that in verse 22, when the Jews began singing is when the Lord acted to defeat their enemies. Perhaps more victories would be had if Christians today trusted God and praised Him before they saw the answered prayer.
In response to Jahaziel's ministry, Jehoshaphat led the people to worship God by bowing down with their faces to the ground. The Levites then sang praises to God "with a very loud voice" (vs. 19). This response of sincere worship demonstrates their genuine faith in God and in what He had spoken through His prophet. Their response is truly a model for all believers to follow - worshiping God and thanking Him for His deliverance before the result.
Jehoshaphat is here himself a model of obedience to God's Word as he, in verse 20, rose early the next morning to fulfill God's command. He then encouraged people to put their trust in the Lord and in His prophets. Japhet observed, "Jehoshaphat's words of encouragement to the army are also beyond what the prophet counselled; they are a firm declaration of trust, and attest to the profound transformation wrought in Jehoshaphat as a result of the Lord's intervention. The fearful and bewildered victim has become a decisive leader."(17)
Jehoshaphat commended the word of the prophets to the people. Walter Kaiser asked, "For how will we ever know how to live or think if we do not have the Word from His holy prophets and apostles? Indeed, without such a faith in the Word of God, we shall be denied every opportunity for success and for a genuine revival in our day."(18)
Jehoshaphat appointed singers to go before the army and when they began singing, the Lord caused their enemies to destroy each other. The exact source of the "ambushes" is not certain. Japhet concluded that there were no super-human forces involved.(19) Dillard has in view "the heavenly army" as the source for the ambush.(20) Bennett offered several conjectures: "They could not be men of Judah: they were not to fight, but to be passive spectators of their own deliverance. Did the allies set an ambush for Judah, and was it thus that they were afterwards led to mistake their own people for enemies? Or does the chronicler intend us to understand that these 'liers in wait' were spirits . . . or that . . . there fell upon them a spirit of mutual distrust, jealousy, and hatred, that had, as it were, been waiting for them there? But whatever the cause, a quarrel broke out amongst them; and they were smitten."(21)
Whatever the ambush was, God caused it and He caused His enemies to be defeated in the presence of the Jews so that "no one had escaped" (vs. 24). Not only did the Jews now have peace from these defeated enemies, but they came and gathered the spoil that was among them - blessing upon blessing! There is no mention of the people offering any of the spoil to God, but they did return to the temple to worship God and celebrate His victory. When God's people believe Him and His Word, He upholds them and brings them through the trial in great victory. Oh the blessings that belong to those who will take God at His word!
In the final two verses of the revival account, it is reported that fear came upon all the surrounding nations when they heard the news that the God of Israel had defeated His enemies. Johnstone noted, "Israel's vocation among the nations of the earth has been fulfilled in exemplary fashion."(22) Bennett concluded, "They had experienced a deliverance that might rank with the Exodus; and as at that former deliverance they had spoiled the Egyptians, so now they had returned laden with the plunder of Moab, Ammon, and Edom. And all their neighbours were smitten with fear when they heard of the awful ruin which Jehovah had brought upon these enemies of Israel. No one would dare to invade a country where Jehovah laid a ghostly ambush of liers in wait for the enemies of His people. The realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, not because he was protected by powerful allies or by the swords of his numerous and valiant soldiers, but because Judah had become another Eden, and cherubim with flaming swords guarded the frontier on every hand, and 'his God gave him rest round about.'"(23)
The peace that comes only to God's children is a testimony to the watching world that the God of the Christian is One who does mighty works on their behalf. It may be that God works on behalf of His own, not only for the good of His own, but to convict the watching world and reveal Himself to them. May the prayer life of every believer produce such wonderful results as these observed in the revival of King Jehoshaphat.
1. J. Barton Payne, "1, 2 Chronicles" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 501.
2. Pancratius C. Beentjes, "King Jehoshaphat's Prayer: Some remarks on 2 Chronicles 20:6-13," Biblische Zeitschrift 38, no. 2 (1994): 269.
3. J. A. Thompson, 1,2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994), 293.
4. Raymond. B. Dillard, 2 Chronicles, vol. 15, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 156.
5. Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 786.
6. William Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, vol. 2 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 98.
7. H. L. Ellison, "1 and 2 Chronicles" in The New Bible Commentary Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 389.
8. J. Oswald Sanders, Effective Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 7.
9. W. H. Bennett noted that the Jews went forth, not as an army, but as passive spectators. See W.H. Bennett, An Exposition of the Books of Chronicles (London: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1908. Reprint, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1983), 378. However, William Johnstone observed differently that Judah went fully armed into battle according to verse 21. See Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 101.
10. Lehman Strauss, Sense and Nonsense About Prayer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 31.
11. Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 100.
12. Clyde T. Francisco, "1-2 Chronicles" in The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 3, ed. Clifton J. Allen (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), 390.
13. Dillard, 2 Chronicles, 158.
14. Robert Jamieson, Andrew Fausset, and David Brown, The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary in The Bethany Parallel Commentary on the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985) , 793.
15. J. Barton Payne, "Second Chronicles" in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary ed. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison (Nashville: The Southwestern Company, 1962), 408.
16. Japhet, I & II Chronicles, 793.
17. Japhet, I & II Chronicles, 797.
18. Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Quest for Renewal: Personal Revival in the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 96.
19. Japhet, I & II Chronicles, 798.
20. Dillard, 2 Chronicles, 159.
21. Bennett, Exposition of Chronicles, 381.
22. Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 104.
23. Bennett, Exposition of Chronicles, 384.