Not one of us will escape it. We will all experience it at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor you are still going to feel it. Regardless of whether you are black, brown, yellow, red, or white you will know it the moment it hits. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the moment when the phone rings and you are caught completely off guard by the news. I’m talking about the moment when the doctor says, “I’m sorry. The test confirms what we feared.” I’m talking about the moment the principal calls from your child’s school and says that it is important that she talk to you as soon as possible. I’m talking about the moment when your doorbell rings and, when you open the door, the officer asks, “Are you Mr. Hays?” You know what happens in those moments. Your heart races like an Indy car. It’s 0 to 160 in no time! Your hands get sweaty. You feel light headed. Something comes over you and you didn’t initiate any of it. You didn’t tell your heart to race—it just did. It’s like an involuntary reflex.
The initial response to stunning, earth shattering, shocking, mind twisting news is something that we all have in common. A racing heart, sweaty palms, feeling like it’s the end of the world, etc. All of these are symptoms of a problem just discovered. We all share those reactions in common. It is what follows the initial response that is so important. Some people receive bad news and they make emotional decisions that prove to be worse than the news they received. For those of us who have ever been in that situation and made some bad, emotionally charged decisions, and for all of us who will find ourselves confronted with startling news in the future, I want to share a powerful story from God’s Word with us this morning.
On Monday of this week I found out that I would be leading the study for the Men’s Bible Study on Tuesday morning. On Monday afternoon I began to prepare for the study. The more time I spent reading 2 Chronicles 17-20 the more I noticed a lesson emerging for me that wasn’t necessarily outlined in the study book. I was able to share the lesson with the guys on Tuesday morning and I want to share the lesson with all of us this morning.
The key figure in the study of 2 Chronicles 17-20 is a guy named Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah from 872-848 B.C. The Bible tells us that he was a godly king and that the nation prospered because of Jehoshaphat’s faithfulness to God. In 2 Chronicles 17:3-6 we read,
3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals 4 but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. 5 The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:3-6 NIV)
One of the really amazing things that Jehoshaphat did during his reign as king of Judah was that he appointed teachers to go throughout the land and teach the people the Word of God. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 17:7-9 and let’s read together.
7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah. 8 With them were certain Levites–Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tob-Adonijah–and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the LORD; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. (2 Chronicles 17:7-9 NIV)
Jehoshaphat didn’t just appoint people to go out and teach the Word of God because it was the right thing to do. Jehoshaphat was a king who, if you will remember, had a heart that was devoted to the ways of God. His passion was for the people of Judah to come to know and love the Lord. His passion was for the people of Judah to walk with the Lord in obedience in their daily lives. As a result of this, Jehoshaphat went out among the people and urged them to turn to the Lord. Read along with me from 2 Chronicles 19:4-6.
4 Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and turned them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 5 He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. 6 He told them, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. (2 Chronicles 19:4-6 NIV)
How Jehoshaphat governed, how he led the people, was directly tied to his commitment to the Lord. When he appointed leaders, like the judges we just read about, he charged them to execute their duties as “unto the Lord,” instead of just filling some public office.
Things were rocking along just fine for Jehoshaphat. Could life get any better in Judah? We read in 2 Chronicles 17:10 that the “fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat.” We read in the very next verse that the Philistines even brought Jehoshaphat gifts. That is amazing! How could things get any better for Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah?
When things are going really well for you, do you ever think to yourself, “I wonder what’s coming next?” There is just something in the back of your mind that says, “This can’t go on forever. This is too good to be true.” I don’t know if Jehoshaphat had any of those thoughts running through his mind, but when we come to 2 Chronicles 20 we find that the tide has turned in an instant. Read along with me.
1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ 10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-12 NIV)
It wasn’t just any army, but it was a “vast” army that was marching towards Jerusalem. Did you notice how Jehoshaphat responded when he heard the news? I want you to go back to verse 3 with me. This is such an important verse for you and me. In verse 3 we read, 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. (2 Chronicles 20:3 NIV) I told you that we all share the initial reaction to bad news. Jehoshaphat was “alarmed.” He was afraid. His heart raced just as fast as your heart or my heart has ever raced. What would Jehoshaphat do with the news that caused him such stress and distress? What would be his next move? We can find the answer in the very same verse where we learned about Jehoshaphat’s initial reaction. Look at verse 3 again. Do you see what Jehoshaphat did? He “resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” The word “resolved” is an important word for us to understand. The same Hebrew word is used of others in God’s Word who “resolved,” or determined, to do something. Let me show you a couple of examples. In 2 Chronicles 34:3 we read about Josiah, a young king who was only 8 years old when he was put into office. Listen to this.
3 In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images. (2 Chronicles 34:3 NIV)
Josiah set his face to seeking the Lord. He determined in his heart that he would seek God, that he would get to know God, and that he would follow God’s will for his life above all else. As a result, Josiah led the nation in a very distinctive way. His father, Amon, was an ungodly leader, but Josiah is called a man who did what was right in the eyes of God.
Ezra is another man who set his face to seek God. Ezra was instrumental in leading about 1500 exiles who were living in Babylon back to Jerusalem. In Ezra 7:10 we read,
10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 NIV)
I wanted to point out some of the other places where we find those who “resolved” to inquire of the Lord so that you would be able to get a clear understanding of what Jehoshaphat did when he was rattled with the alarming news that a vast army was coming his way.
I think I can confidently say that all of us would like to be at that place in our lives where, when bad news comes, after our initial reaction of “alarm,” we determine that we will go to God to inquire of Him about what is happening in our life instead of coming unglued. How did Jehoshaphat get to that place? Let me show you in the time that we have remaining. Go back to 2 Chronicles 17:6 with me. Let’s read it together.
6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:6 NIV)
This verse tells us so much about Jehoshaphat. The word that is translated, “devoted,” in the New International Version of the Bible is the Hebrew word, “גּבהּ” (gabahh) and it means, “to be high or to be exalted.” I know you don’t know Hebrew, but I want you to understand the meaning of this Hebrew word so that you can see that it means so much more than simply “devoted.” You can be devoted to something and not delight in it. You can be devoted to something and yet your devotion is nothing more than drudgery. Jehoshaphat got a buzz from seeking the ways of the Lord. His heart was lifted up! He got excited as he learned about God and His ways. He was thrilled to learn more and more about the Lord.
The delight that Jehoshaphat found in learning more and more about the Lord resulted in his life being changed. He applied the truths that he learned in Scripture. He recalled the truths that he had learned in those quiet times he had spent with the Lord throughout the day. Let me assure you my friends, if we will delight ourselves in the Word of God, we will experience a change in our own hearts. Our circumstances may not change at all, but the way that we deal with our circumstances will certainly change.
What does “delighting” in the Lord look like for you and me? Well, we can gain some insight by taking a look at some Scripture. Turn with me to Psalm 1. Let’s read together beginning in verse 1.
1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 NIV)
The “counsel of the wicked” holds no appeal to the person who delights in the Lord. Trying to fit in with those whose ways are opposed to the ways of God is not the aim of the person who delights in the ways of the Lord. The person who delights in the law of the Lord, the Word of God, spends his time meditating both day and night on the truths of God.
I asked the men on Tuesday morning, “How much time do you have during the day waiting on a meeting, taking a break, or driving from one place to another? How much down time do you have during your day?” What if, during those down times you filled your mind meditating on God’s Word instead of listening to the radio or reading something on the Web? If we just chose one verse of Scripture to ponder and think about throughout the day it would have an impact on our lives. Each man agreed that meditating on God’s Word throughout the day would benefit them immensely.
When trouble came Jehoshaphat’s way he was alarmed just like we would be alarmed, but his next move was not typical. He didn’t seek the counsel of the best military advisors he had available in the land. He didn’t start whining about why trouble was coming his way. He gathered the people together and he prayed,
12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)
When we find ourselves in those situations where we don’t know what to do, what do we do? I can’t answer for you, but I think most people do what I’ve done in the past. We try to find someone smarter than we are, someone who has some expertise that we lack, someone who we think can get us out of the jam that we are in. Jehoshaphat went to God.
In Psalm 37:4, David wrote, 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV) I’ve heard this verse quoted like it’s a magical charm. The things we do with God’s Word are tragic. We take verses like Psalm 34:7 or Matthew 18:19 and we make them into a rabbit’s foot to try and convince ourselves that God will do what we want Him to do. In Matthew 18:19 we read,
19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19 NIV)
There is a great truth found in Psalm 34:7, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The more Jehoshaphat spent time learning about the Lord the more excited he grew about learning and applying God’s truth. The more excited he became about what he was learning, the more his heart began to change, and the more he wanted for his life what God wanted for his life.
That same principle holds true for you and me. The more time I spend with the Lord, delighting in learning about Him and His ways, the more my heart is going to change. I’m not going to want what I use to want. I’m going to want God’s will above all else.
When Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord he was given some very specific instructions. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel and he delivered a message to Jehoshaphat. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 and let’s read together.
15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17 NIV)
Now that just doesn’t make any sense does it? “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be discouraged. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…” Where is the battle plan? That is the battle plan. Do what God says. Trust God. That is the battle plan that will never fail.
Jehoshaphat wasn’t the first man that we read about it in God’s Word who found himself in a jam. In Exodus 14, Moses has just led a multitude of slaves out of Egypt when Pharaoh decided that he wasn’t going to let the slaves so free after all. Pharaoh marshaled his troops and set out after the Hebrews. As soon as the Hebrews heard that Pharaoh and his army were hot on their trail they were alarmed. Sound familiar? Let’s read Exodus 14:12-14 together.
12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:12-14 NIV)
The Hebrews were alarmed. What would be their next move? Well, you can read about it. They started fussing and crying and fuming at Moses because he ripped them from the “good” life they had back in Egypt. Boy, how quickly we forget don’t we? While the Hebrews were stuck in the mire of an emotional meltdown, Moses was inquiring of the Lord. Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”
Are you facing insurmountable odds today? I don’t know if it has to do with your marriage, your job, one of your children, or some other situation in your life. If it seems like you have come up against an immovable object and your heart is beating ninety-to-nothing, then you are going to have to decide what your next move will be. Will you allow your fear and anxiety to lead to make some emotional decision that could very well lead you into an even worse situation or will you trust God? That is the decision that is before you this very morning. What will you do? I want to urge you to learn a valuable lesson from Jehoshaphat. Whatever it is that you are facing, or whatever it is that you will face in the future, you cannot go wrong if you will trust God with your situation.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 24, 2011