Jehoshaphat was a good king. He reigned over Judah for twenty-five years and during that time the nation was oriented towards God. However, early on in his reign he and the nation faced a huge challenge as detailed in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30: a number of the surrounding nations made an alliance and came together to wage war against Judah. The nation, including the king was gripped by fear (v3).
As any good king should, Jehoshaphat sought God and called the whole nation to fast and seek help from God. They gathered in Jerusalem to see what God would say. Jehoshaphat led the nation in an amazing prayer which reminded God that they were His people, that God had given them this land, that the nations who had come to fight them were not godly, and that God was able to save them. He concludes with the amazing statement, ‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you’ (v12).
At times like this, what is needed is someone who can hear from God, someone who is sensitive to what God is wanting to say by His Spirit, so that faith can be built. Up steps Jahaziel. His prophetic exhortation is phenomenal and breaks down into four parts.
- ‘Do not be afraid’ (vv15, 17)
‘Do not be afraid’ is such a common reminder throughout Scripture. I read somewhere that it appears in Scripture 366 times – one for each day of the year, even in leap years!
It is far too easy for us to lapse into self-reliance, assume that we need to provide the answers and thus become overwhelmed by the challenges we face. Fear is being sure of what we hope for but certain only of the things we can see, while ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see’ (Hebrews 11:1). In a situation where all around is danger, opposition and enemy, Jahaziel calls the people to not be afraid and to trust again that God is in charge.
- ‘This is the battle plan’ (vv16-17)
God, in His unparalleled wisdom gives Jahaziel the battle plan details. He essentially says, ‘You need to go to this place. They will come from a particular direction and you will find them. You will not need to fight.’ I love this! A huge army has amassed in order to fight Judah and the nation is told to go and take a look at them but that they won’t need to fight! This strategy isn’t detailed in any warfare manual!
From a place of not fearing comes the reassurance that God knows that plans of the enemy and that He is more than able to deal with them.
- ‘Stand and watch God’s salvation’ (v17)
Jahaziel then calls the people of God to action. He says that alongside not fearing, they need to stand and watch. They have been told where to go to observe the enemy. They then must stand there. The fact that they are told to stand firm and hold their position implies to me that it won’t be as simple as seeing the enemy just disappear. In fact, the enemy are likely to come closer, maybe a lot closer, before they are defeated. This is a test of faith. Victory is assured but it might not always look like that. Sometimes we will know for sure that God has all the details worked out but it may still look like the enemy are getting closer and in that moment we have opportunity for fear and doubt. Nevertheless, we are told to stand firm, hold firm and see the salvation of God. Only God can save. Only He can do it. All we can do is stand and watch.
From a place of not fearing comes the reassurance that God will save and we can stand and watch.
- ‘Go out and God will be with you’ (v17)
The final part of Jahaziel’s prophetic word is that tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep (!), they are to go out against the enemy and God will be with them. This, ultimately, is why the people of God have nothing to fear – their God is with them. This promise is not time-limited and it is not conditional. The people of God have God with them at all times. This is restated by Jesus when just before He ascends to heaven He announces to His disciples, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20).
The rest of 2 Chronicles 20 describes what happens the next day. In short, God did what He said He would. The enemy were defeated without Judah needing to fight and the nation were saved by their mighty God.
What followed was peace for Jehoshaphat and the nation (v30). But that only came about when a desperate king led His people to seek God’s face and then listen when God spoke through the Spirit-filled Jahaziel.