Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Don't Know What To Do, But Our Eyes Are On You

Life is never a constant. It is more like the ebbs and tides of the ocean, responding to the many things that affect us and that we affect. Sometimes the ocean of life can been serene, with the almost hypnotic pounding of the waves upon the shore. Other times that ocean is a very frightening thing as the storms whip those waves up in to a ferocious fury. There are times when simple matters, like bill payments, becomes a mountain of a wave threatening to undo us when in reality it is a simple fix. Then there are times when circumstances are such we are not sure we will even be able to survive until morning.

During these very dark moments of life I like to remember King Jehoshaphat, one of the bravest kings of Judah. This is what scriptures says about him:

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 but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 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)

Jehoshaphat was so devoted to the Lord that his great desire was to see him honoured and worshiped throughout the land so he put in place a plan to bring about reforms. He sent out a team of teachers along with the Book of the Law to educate the people on their past, on the covenant with God and the expectations God had laid out for them. This provoked revival in the land and a respectful fear among the surrounding nations. These were the golden days for Jehoshaphat, the days of the serene ocean:

The fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks: seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred goats.
Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful; he built forts and store cities in Judah and had large supplies in the towns of Judah. He also kept experienced fighting men in Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 17:10-13)

But Jehoshaphat had a weakness. He had a desire to see Israel and Judah as one again. He longed to see a better cooperation between the two half-nations. The problem was that God had forsaken Israel and honoured Judah. He did not want Judah to have anything to do with those who had turned their back on him. Israel's fate was already sealed and God did not want Judah sucked down with it. Yet, Jehoshaphat reached out and associated himself with the wicked king of Israel. He sinned against God. This was his own doing.  As a result God gave this word to Jehoshaphat after his close encounter with an assassination attempt:

Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God. (2 Chronicles 19:2-3)

Because of his inappropriate response to the circumstances of life Jehoshaphat invited trouble into his nation, trouble that he would have to deal with as king. That trouble came in the form of a vast army that was made up of three nations. They had come together to overwhelm this tiny nation of Judah. Make no mistake about it, Judah was only what she was because of the LORD God Almighty because she was too small to be anything on her own. We are only what we are because of Jesus Christ. We are too insignificant to be of any worth or of any concern to the enemy. We too can find ourselves facing an overwhelming situation because we invited it in to our lives, a situation that sends us into panic and fear because it is so much beyond any capacity we have to deal with it. Now consider how Jehoshaphat responded in this impossible situation caused by his own sin.

The first thing he did was call the biggest prayer meeting ever held in Judah. The scriptures say that every man along with his wife and children assembled in Jerusalem and the king stood up and prayed in their presence. But read carefully what he prayed:

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. 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? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘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.’ (2 Chronicles 20:6-9)

Notice here that the king does not point out all the good things he has done. He does not ask God to save them because they merit it. They do not even pretend to be anything other than his people. What the king does do is lift up who God is. He reminds God of his promises. He keeps his prayer focused on what God has done and what God has promised. He basically asks God to save them because of his unfailing love and that's it. Jehoshaphat understood the heart of God. He presents the situation to God saying basically, here is the storm of all storms that is threatening to wipe your people off the face of the map.

I can't stress enough here the importance of this prayer because so often we either do not call upon Jesus for help because of our past, all our mistakes, with the attitude "God would never help me". Or, we try to point out all the good things we have done and promise to do better in the future thinking we can merit his help. An earthly father will help any of his children, not because they deserve it but simply because they are his children. How much more our perfect heavenly Father. Jehoshaphat ended his prayer with the most powerful statement of faith that can be spoken in the face of an overwhelming storm. In front of everyone in that tiny nation, the king put the fate of the people in God's hands:

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)

This prayer moves me every time I consider it because I understand the honesty of it spoken from a man who desired nothing but to serve God. And God did not disappoint.

The LORD God Almighty responded to his children with words of instruction and encouragement:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

And he told them:

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.

Bot notice here that God did not simply send the army away. The nation still had to face it, they still had to walk through that valley of the shadow of death, but the Lord promised deliverance:

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.
He told them:

Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.

The people responded in worship. They were not yet delivered but the word from the Lord was solid for them. They considered themselves saved because of this promise. They were delivered so they worshiped before it actually happened. The next day they went out dressed for battle as the Lord told them to, but they were led by the singers of worship. And the Lord delivered them.

Perhaps not everything we face threatens to destroy us in this manner but everything we face should be dealt with in this same kind of faith. It doesn't matter how the world sees you or what others believe about you. What matters is that your heart is right with God, that you trust him and that you realize that his promises are not based on what you merit but on his unfailing love. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we do not know what to do and then we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. The writer of Hebrews encouraged us:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

The apostle Paul wrote:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Our only appropriate response to the storms, be it small or the overwhelming kind, is to call out to God, to trust his promises and to worship that much louder. May the Lord preserve your faith in the days to come.


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