Pressed But Not Crushed: A Study on 2 Chronicles 20

If you know me, you know I’m not into politics. 

I don’t emotionally invest in global events. I don’t turn on the news unless I have to. 

And for good reason: Growing up, not only did the evening news proceed family dinners but often added stress to the dog days of school. Like most, I could appreciate the voice of Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw on a Taco Tuesday. But given the choice, younger me would rather comb through a newspaper by a fireplace than channel-flip through the five stages of grief. 

Fast-forward to today and the bombardment of information is at a fever pitch. Precipitating our lives is a paradox full of silent scrolls, constant noise, and souls desperate to press ‘mute’ on what they can’t resist: The world at their fingertips. I know I’ve been there and am still there in some ways. After all, the quest for a distraction-less life will always be an uphill battle.

But I suppose that’s why I writing this: To remind us how in all things, there’s a right way to stand, a right way to contend, and a right way to honor.

Even when the news is disturbing, there are ways to walk in our priestly identity as messengers with purposed mouthpieces. The million-dollar question is: What are the ways and how do we walk them when the world around us is falling apart?

To find out, let’s turn to 2 Chronicles 20 and dive right in…

1) The Way to Stand

Imagine waking up to two powerful armies raging war against you. The future of a reformed country, not to mention your life, hanging in the balance. I don’t care what side of the bed you rise from. There’s no coffee in the world strong enough to offset that brutal awakening. 

Yet, for our protagonist, Jehoshaphat – a devout, God-fearing king, that’s exactly where he finds himself. Contending with a stirred Judean ecosystem (thanks to his efforts in ch. 19*), the foreign foundation is fragile. The Moabites are ticked. The Ammonites are incensed. And the result is v. 2

Then it was reported to Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude has come against you from beyond the [Dead] Sea, out of Aram (Syria); and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is, Engedi).”

Hearing this news, Jehoshaphat could have easily yielded to fear and doubt. After all, when you learn a nation’s fate is at stake, staying calm can seem like a tall order.

However, it’s here where Jehoshaphat makes a critical decision: Rather than panic into premature prayer, he seeks the Lord with determination, proclaims a fast and a gathering for His people to do the same (v. 4), and inspires unity ahead of the victory to come. 

Following his prayer in v. 5-12, we see the evidence of Jehoshaphat’s faith through the response of his people (v. 13-14). Not only do they stand and receive from the Lord but discern God’s battleplan through worship and thanksgiving. With corporate praise an official banner, Jehoshaphat’s army charges into war with confidence and is delivered from the men of Ammon and Moab – a thorough breakthrough epitomized in v. 21:

Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Sound familiar? I didn’t think so.

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can blend courage with community and perceive conflict without overreacting. Especially in trials and tribulations, the way to stand is never an individual exercise. If you want to lead, you must first learn to lean, dependently with God first, interdependently with people second. 

2) The Way to Contend 

Going back to Jehoshaphat’s prayer

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying,  ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’  And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

…the structure is notable for a couple reasons. 

  1. Before Jehoshaphat requests of God, He acknowledges who God is. More specifically, Jehoshaphat declares God’s sovereignty and strength into his situation (v. 5-6) and in humility recognizes God’s dominion as infinitely greater than his.  
  2. While Jehoshaphat believes God will be faithful, He praises God for having been faithful (v. 7). This flavor of hope not only allows Jehoshaphat to contend through worship and prayer but anchors his trust in God’s character as opposed to his track record. 
  3. Jehoshaphat pleads in meekness and transparency. He knows God is aware of what’s going on but is still explicit in conveying his concern. To the extent Jehoshaphat resists fear, to that extent he spells it out knowing he has nothing to lose being honest with God.
  4. Jehoshaphat concludes his prayer with a timeless mic-drop: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” With past victories in tact, Jehoshaphat could have easily relied on winning formulas, proven communication skills, even ally relationships. Instead, he boldly professes his weakness and seals his petition in a spirit of expectancy knowing this prayer was key to helping his people stand firm. 

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can surrender to God ahead of evil’s surrender to Christ in us. When you feel overwhelmed by clients, colleagues, and/or workload, don’t deny your helplessness but rejoice in the fact you can call on God to go before you.

3) The Way to Honor

While much attention is given to Jehoshaphat’s prayer and victory in 2 Chronicles 20, the epilogue is also worth noting. For starters, Jehoshaphat’s prioritization of consecration over celebration (v. 26) is indicative of a leader who cited his honor correctly. Had Jehoshaphat’s pride surfaced, he could have fallen victim to the same vice he was rebuked for in chapter 19. Yet, as we find, rather than fall into idolatry, Jehoshaphat maintains holy reference by blessing the Lord with his troops. The spoils of war now altars of gratitude with legacy ties to this day. 

After exalting God on site, Jehoshaphat and his men return to Jerusalem to commemorate their freedom (v. 27-30):

Then they returned to Jerusalem with joy, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, led by Jehoshaphat, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. They came to Jerusalem with harps, lyres, and trumpets to the house (temple) of the Lord. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest on all sides.”

This conclusion tells me two things: 

  1. As an appointed leader, Jehoshaphat accepted conflict with courage, went into battle with assurance, and conquered his enemies with humility.
  2. As an anointed leader, Jehoshaphat accomplished these things in the joy and fear of the Lord.  

Essentially, whatever Jehoshaphat set his mind to, it prospered because he cared more about what God said than anything else. Like today, the man encountered much in terms of noise and despair; however, as a man of valor, he kept his eye on the prize at all times – never wavering to ego, consensus or past strongholds. As such, it’s no surprise the rest of Jehoshaphat’s reign was marked by peace, tranquility, and rest. 

Bottom line: In a few verses, Jehoshaphat provides a template on how we can honor God through victory and achievement. While celebrations have their place, remember gratitude must dictate your gladness not the other way around. If you desire to serve the Lord in holy fear, start with joy rooted in thanksgiving.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Fortifying cities from idolatry towards holy reverence

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

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