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Lessons from Jehoshaphat

Posted: June 25, 2015

Have you ever felt like you were about to be overwhelmed in battle? Or facing a superior force coming to try and take everything you had? Being scared would be an understatement.” 

That was the situation with a king named Jehoshaphat who ruled over Judah in Old Testament times. He was a good king. The Bible says “he followed his father’s God and obeyed God’s commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel.” 

Back then, God’s people had split into two countries, Israel and Judah, that were often at war with each other. Jehoshaphat ruled in Judah, having followed his father, Asa, who had also been a righteous King. 

On the other side, there was King Ahab, who ruled over Israel with his wife Jezebel. Things weren’t going so well there. Ahab was making a bunch of bad decisions, and Jezebel was trying to kill all of God’s prophets, but that’s a story for another time. 

Back in Judah, things were going just fine. They’d been at peace with Israel, and Jehoshaphat had built up their army to the point where no one wanted to attack them. God’s blessing was on them. 

But then Jehoshaphat entered into an alliance with Ahab. His son married Ahab’s daughter, and Ahab enticed him into joining forces against another country. A prophet warned them not to do it, but they did anyway, which led to Ahab’s death, but Jehoshaphat survived.  

When he got home, another prophet paid him a visit and told him the Lord wasn’t happy that he’d joined forces with evil. After that, Jehoshaphat focused on serving the Lord and taking care of his people. 

One day the King received messengers with bad news. Three of the surrounding countries had amassed and were coming to attack them, just a day’s march away. 

Jehoshaphat was terrified, and rightly so, because this was a BIG army coming against them. But he begged the Lord for guidance, and ordered everyone in Judah to begin prayer and fasting. 

The people came to Jerusalem from everywhere in Judah and basically had a big prayer meeting. It was kind of like the community vigils we do when bad things happen, only this time, they met before the calamity! There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere. 

The Bible says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there.” God told them “Do not be afraid, the battle isn’t yours, but the Lord’s. Tomorrow, march out to meet them, but you won’t even need to fight.” 

God went on to tell them to take their positions and “stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.” They all fell facedown and worshipped (who wouldn’t at that point). 

The next day, the King and his army went out to meet the superior force. Sometimes, you just have to step out in faith and show up. As a good leader should, Jehoshaphat encouraged the troops and reminded them to stand firm. 

Here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of fighting, he appointed singers to walk in front of the army singing “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures for ever.” 

A radical approach to be sure, especially if you’re one of the singers out there facing the enemy! But sometimes you need to be a little radical about things. At the very moment they started singing, the Lord caused their enemies to begin fighting among themselves. 

Two of the invading armies ganged up on the other, and when they destroyed that one, they turned on each other. Confusion reigned and when Jehoshaphat’s army arrived, all they found were thousands of “dead bodies lying on the ground as far as the eye could see.”
They went home with all the plunder, and gave thanks to God for the victory. What’s more, when all the surrounding countries heard that the Lord himself had fought the battle for them, they had peace on every side. 

Sometimes, like Jehoshaphat, and his people, we have to have a little help. Or a lot of help. At times like this, crying out and going facedown might be just the thing that saves you. 

Finally, stepping out in faith, and being a little radical can be a good thing too. But we should probably do it right away, before that invading army gets here. So what battle do YOU need help with?