Blog of Creative Life Lessons
A few years back I was in a very painful situation. In the moment it was the worst thing I had ever experienced, but now as I look back it was a time of significant refining and learning for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was teaching me something about myself, about prayer, and about who He is.
During this season I began to study about the battles in the Old Testament. It all started when I heard a sermon about Jehoshaphat. Looking back, I truly believe that God brought the message to guide me through the situation. I am once again in a very difficult battle, and my loved ones are in the battle with me. In this battle there is so much at stake. For my own faith, I am revisiting this story, but I want to share it with others, it is relevant to all of us no matter what the battle is. You may reference this account in 2 Chronicles 19 & 20
Let me set the stage for you. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah after Israel was split into 2 kingdoms. At the time there was a severe back and forth between the kings who followed God, and kings who were evil. Ahab, the king of Israel was one who was evil. Jehoshaphat was one who continually wanted to seek God in his battles, but he was not perfect in his seeking God. We can see this in chapter 19.
Ahab wanted to go to war, and he asked Jehoshaphat to go with him. Out of loyalty Jehoshaphat wanted to go for support. Ahab had already sought advice from his own prophets, but his prophets notoriously were prophets of pagan gods. Jehoshaphat asked that Ahab ask a prophet from Jehovah. Initially, Ahab refused stating “I hate him, he only prophesies disaster about me, never anything good.” Ultimately Ahab knew he would not get an answer that he wanted by asking for advice from the one true God. Jehoshaphat persisted in seeking God for an answer. Finally, Ahab called the prophet from God who warned him not to go, but Ahab showed rebellion and entered into battle anyway. Jehoshaphat was hesitant, but followed Ahab’s lead. The decision to go to battle was because of man’s desire, not God’s, and it cost Ahab his life.
What price have you paid when you have entered battles that you wanted to fight, but God did not bless? I personally have paid dearly for my unblessed battles, I am thankful God has spared my life, because a few of those battles could have cost me that much.
After the war, a prophet named Jehu confronted Jehoshaphat. The actual words of Jehu’s rebuke was, “Do you help the wicked and hate those who love the Lord?” But one key phrase that is spoken next gives us insight into why God spared Jehoshaphat in his disobedience, “Some good has been found in you, for you have removed your idols, and have decided to seek God.” In contrast to Ahab, when Jehoshaphat was confronted by a prophet about his carelessness to follow man and earthly desires, he was quick to accept responsibility, and make the necessary changes in his life to follow God’s wisdom.
It was Jehoshaphat’s heart to follow the Lord that made a difference in how his story ended. God already knew Jehoshaphat’s heart; lip service is nothing more than words spoken unless the heart is soft to Him. We can’t hide the condition of our heart towards God, and ultimately, we can’t hide our heart from others either. It has a way of coming out in time. Sometimes we need to do some deep heart work to be able to follow God’s lead into battle.
I want to pause here to confess, I try to seek God in my daily life battles, but sometimes I really get things wrong. Sometimes I am even the one who carelessly caused the battle, but I am in a process of learning how to listen to and obey God better in my battles, there are so many lessons we can learn here by studying Jehoshaphat. We can learn a lot by noticing Jehoshaphat’s commitment to seek the Lord, his ability to receive rebuke with humility when he got it wrong, and his commitment to learning from his mistakes while pressing forward.
As we read on, we can see evidence that Jehoshaphat learned from his mistakes. In chapter 20, we read that three nations came together to destroy Judah. When Jehoshaphat was told about the attack, Scripture said he was “afraid and he resolved to seek the Lord.” I absolutely love that verse!! For so many reasons. First of all, it says he was afraid. Me too. Many times, over me too. I don’t have to feel shame for feeling afraid when I face a battle because even a mighty king was afraid. It is not a sign of weakness or a lack of my faith. But we cannot stop there, because the next part says that even in fear Jehoshaphat made a resolve to seek the Lord.
The meaning of the word resolve is “to decide firmly on a course of action”. In chapter 19, he wanted to seek out God, but was too weak to stick to it. He was persuaded by the circumstances to compromise. In his second chance, he RESOLVED to seek God. Thank you, Jesus, for second chances (and in my case third, and fourth, and fifth….)
Next, he called the people together to fast and pray. Sometimes we need support in our resolve to seek God. Sometimes it is something that is personal and should be done alone. In this case, he needed his nation to support his resolve.
Next, he prayed. I could get carried away about what this prayer consists of, but it may be good to save writing those details for another day, so here is a quick overview; He reminds himself about God’s power and how God has “shown up” for generations. He states that because of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations Judah will put their trust in Him to be in this battle. He verbalizes the commitment to stand before God. He tells God about his feelings around the attack, in essence he “tattles” on the enemy. Sometimes, we just have to vent, God is safe to vent to. But then he confesses his need for God in the situation. The end of the prayer says:
“For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do but we look to You.”
And they stood
And they stood
And they stood in wait for God to answer.
I love this!!!!!! I love it because I am terrible at the standing part. In this story, from beginning of the plot against Judah to the conclusion of the story is 10 paragraphs. In my real-life story, it takes much longer for everything to happen than the time it takes to read 10 paragraphs. I will say my prayer with resolve, and shortly after my resolve is weak or maybe even gone because God has not made the answer clear, or He has made it clear and I must wait on Him, but I don’t want to. Judah kept their resolve, they stood, waited, and listened.
Finally God gave His answer through a man named Jahaziel, who told them they would not have to fight the battle, but they needed to go, position themselves and stand still. God would fight the battle for them. So that is what they did. Judah went to meet their enemy, and all the way to the battlefield they praised God. Long story short, before Judah arrived, the enemy got confused and killed one another. By the time they reached the battlefield, the only thing there to greet them were corpses. God had already won the war for them. All they had to do was stand in their resolve to trust and obey God.
How much faith did it take a nation to trust that Jahaziel was speaking on God’s behalf? I know I would have a hard time believing it. If someone told me that God’s answer to the battle was that I just needed to do nothing but let go and trust, I would still feel the need to something, yet often that is exactly what I need to do. Stand, and listen, and only obey moment by moment.
With that said I would like to add a conclusion to the difficult time I was in when I first studied this passage of Scripture. I felt strongly in my heart that God’s answer was that I needed to pray hard and stand, until March. March was 9 months away, and I didn’t like that plan. But I stood. I did not stand quietly; I did not enjoy standing; I was very verbal to God about how much I hated standing. But I stood, and then something happened that changed my life. It was not what I thought I wanted; it was better. I am here to testify that God is worthy of our trust, even when the battle feels overwhelming. How many times do we miss out on God simply because we didn’t resolve to seek God, wait to hear from Him, and then stand? I am resolving that this time I will seek God, listen, and stand…quietly, because God is trustworthy.
Lord, I pray for myself as well as all my readers. May we learn how to fight our life battles like Jehoshaphat. May we learn what it means to trust in you, may we learn how to stand, may we learn what it means to listen for Your voice, but mostly may we learn how to have a soft moldable heart towards you. In Jesus name,