God fought their battle while they watched and sang
2 Chronicles 17-20
This wild and amazing story from the Old Testament has been loved by Christians down through the ages since it tells of how God protected and fought for those who trusted in Him. King Jehoshaphat and his people were allowed to experience things that many of us may never get to experience.
Good King Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah. King David was his great, great, great grandfather and Jehoshaphat wanted to serve David’s God. The year was approximately 820 B.C. and back then most of the people in the ancient world worshipped and sacrificed to idols. It was the thing to do! Worshipping idols was so popular that many of King Jehoshaphat’s people in Judah also sacrificed to idols. Scripture says that “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the ways of his father, David: and he did not worship idols.” (2 Chronicles 17:3)
King Jehoshaphat cared about his people and tried to influence them to worship God and stop worshipping idols. Jehoshaphat went around his country tearing down all of the idols that he could find. And he traveled through the land like a missionary teaching his people about the one true God. He believed that if the people were educated and knew the Word of God that they would turn from idols. And he called his priests and prophets to go out with him every week and teach the people about God. The people of Judah loved their king and listened to him and they promised to follow their king and worship his God. So God blessed the land of Judah with plenty and abundance and for a while life was good.
But danger was never far away! Judah was a tiny God-fearing country surrounded by large militant heathen nations. Angry nations who were always looking for excuses to fight and kill and sack and burn their neighbors! Scripture says that the countries of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir all agreed to join together and attack the land of Judah. And Scripture records that a messenger came to King Jehoshaphat with the frightening news: “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria …” (2 Chronicles 20:2)
Scripture continues: “ Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast throughout all the land of Judah. So all the people of Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord, and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 20:4)
King Jehoshaphat knew that his small army could never fight these massive forces. He knew that his people would be taken captive or tortured or killed. He felt sick to his stomach and his whole body trembled as he ran to the Lord to pray for help. Instead of calling his armies together to plan a battle strategy, the first thing King Jehoshaphat did was to proclaim a fast. His orders went out to all of his people throughout the land of Judah to fast and pray. We don’t know how many days the fast lasted, but it is recorded in Scripture that all the people in Judah stopped everything they were doing and came together and fasted and prayed, along with their king.
Scripture says: “Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord. And this is the prayer the people prayed: “O our God. Will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us: nor do we know what to do. But our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Then while they were all there together bowing before the Lord praying, Scripture says: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel …..And he said, ‘Listen all of you of Judah and your inhabitants of Jerusalem and you King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘ Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ ” (2 Chronicles 20:14)
Then God gave Jehoshaphat instructions through the prophet Jahaziel as to what to do when the enemies arrived for battle. Scripture says: “Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…Do not fear or be dismayed, tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:16-17) God had promised his people that He would take care of them and that He would save them from their enemy, and the people believed Him.
As the prophet spoke God’s words, King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah fell to the ground worshipping the Lord. “And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all of Judah and the people of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshipping Him.” (2 Chronicles 20:18) After that they sang praises to God with voices loud and high. (2 Chronicles 20:19)
Everyone in Judah got up very early the next morning and started hiking down the desert trail to the place the Lord had told them to go and where He said that they would meet their enemies. The Lord spoke to them through the prophet as they were on their way. “Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established,…” (2 Chronicles 20:20a) As they were walking along the excited group decided who should sing and who should praise the Lord. And as the whole nation that morning went out to meet their enemies, they went out singing and praising their God with harps and lutes and trumpets and loud shouts of praise. “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever,” The people of Judah were on a high.
And amazingly, as King Jehoshaphat and his people began singing and praising God, the Lord began setting ambushes against their enemies – the armies of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who had come to destroy them. (2 Chronicles 20:22) And as God set up His mysterious ambushes, a strange jumbled confusion seemed to settle in over the Ammonites and they all started becoming disorderly and rattled and began turning on the Moabites and fighting them. This only enraged the Moabites whose sanity was leaving them and they turned on the crazed Ammonites and fought back and the frenzied fighting between the fierce Ammonites the angry Moabites became so chaotic that they both began blindly fighting the armies of Mount Seir as well as each other. And the soldiers from Mount Seir started reeling like drunkards and blindly attacking each other as well as the Ammonites and the Moabites. And as Judah watched, it seemed that their enemies were caught up in a tangled web of mass confusion with everyone crazily fighting everyone. And under a spell of muddled insanity they all fought each other until they all were defeated by each other. And there was no one left to fight.
And all the while King Jehoshaphat and his people stood there and praised God and watched this very unusual battle being fought with God’s mysterious spiritual weapons. And they joyfully praised God as their victory was being won. And God miraculously saved them that day because they believed in Him. And there was power in their praise.
The name “Judah” actually means “Praise”. And this story from the Old Testament is a great lesson on the power of praise. Scripture says that God is enthroned in the praises of His people. (Psalm 22:3) And how did God fight this unusual battle? God is God and He can do anything He wants! He has ways that are past our finding out. The God who promised the people of Judah long ago that if they believed in Him they would be “established” (2 Chronicles 20:20b) is the same God who promises us today that if we believe in Him (Christ) we will also be “established”. (Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9)
Word spread across the ancient world that Judah’s God had won a tremendous battle for them. And fear gripped the ancient powers because they knew that Judah’s God was a powerful God who would fight for them. So Judah was able to rest from the concern of another military attack. “And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. Then the realm of King Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.” (2 Chronicles 20:29-30) Because the people of Judah so long ago trusted in God and obeyed Him, they were promised victory and rest all around. And today if we trust in God and obey Him, we are also promised sweet victory and also rest all around.