“Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 20:18)
Even his name has a wonderful ring to it. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah, famous for his triumphant victory during a dark time in Israel’s history. His story is one of gigantic faith and overwhelming success during a miraculous battle where God did all the slaying, and Jehoshaphat’s armies reaped the enormous spoils of war without lifting a finger in the fight. 2 Chronicles chapter 20 details his remarkable triumph, but his story didn’t start there. It usually never does.
We first encounter Jehoshaphat in the previous three chapters. The introductory paragraph of his bio explains how the later achievement occurred. We read, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4). The passage goes on to describe Jehoshaphat with this high commendation: “His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD.”
Long before three invading armies confronted him, Jehoshaphat made the wisest choices possible. He turned his back on the disgusting habits of his wayward fathers, eradicated the altars of the pagan gods, walked in obedience to God’s laws, and sent out a band of traveling priests and officials to teach God’s Word to his people. The results of his actions were profound: “And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat” (2 Chronicles 17:10).
By the time the three armies showed up, Jehoshaphat grasped the source of his protection and understood exactly where his security was found. Even though he was afraid, he “set his face to seek the LORD and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3). The people of the land who had been instructed in “the Book of the Law of the LORD” were prepared to also “seek help from the LORD.” Jehoshaphat’s directives earlier in his life were bearing great fruit.
Jehoshaphat’s biography in chapter 20 reveals some of the most powerful verses in the Old Testament. We learn of his perspective on God’s character: “In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” We are exposed to his contagious faith: “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.” And we are reminded of one of the most powerful promises in Scripture: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”
Jehoshaphat led his people in worship, in praise, in truth. He counseled them to believe God and keep their eyes fully on him, regardless of the widespread crises at hand. He commissioned the choir to go ahead of the army, understanding that praise of the Most High God was the essential first line of defense. And he reminds us today to continue to incorporate similar obedience into our lives of faith, precisely where we are, in the middle of our own battle or awaiting answers on the sideline.
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marti Chance