By Dr. Kelli Criss
When the world is troubled, God is with us. As COVID-19 impacts the globe and Holy Week has just occurred, the faith community turns to God and our holy texts. This week’s blog, Fixing Our Eyes Upon God, brings attention to God’s presence and work during our shared struggle. We examine the experience of King Jehoshaphat for insight into how we can focus on God in the midst of trouble.
Jehoshaphat Reigns over Judah
Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah for 25 years (2 Chronicles 17-20; 1 Kings 22:42-43). During his reign, he made a disastrous alliance with Ahab, King of Israel (2 Chron. 18:1). An infamous union, Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel is known for the pagan practices their relationship ushered into the kingdom of Israel. The alliance between King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel involved a marriage between Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, and Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah.
Athaliah’s influence brought pagan practices to Judah that Jehoshaphat had to purge from his kingdom (2 Chron. 19). King Jehoshaphat further ensured that the Mosaic Law was known and understood in Judah (2 Chron. 17:7-9). He reorganized the judiciary, assigning judges in the more important cities of his kingdom (2 Chron. 19). He strengthened the defenses along his norther frontier near the boundary between Israel and Judah (2 Chron. 17:2).
An Impossible Battle
Jehoshaphat not only struggled with pagan influences within his kingdom, but also he faced enemies from without. 2 Chronicles 20:2 (New International Version) explains that “a vast army is coming against” Jehoshaphat. The Moabites turned their wrath against him and induced the Ammonites, the Syrians, and the Edomites to unite with them. Jehoshaphat, believing that his help would come from God, proclaimed a fast, and the people assembled in Jerusalem to implore God for divine assistance (2 Chron. 20:3, NIV). After he finished praying, Jehaziel, a Levite, proclaimed deliverance in the name of the Lord, assuring Judah’s overthrow of the enemy without a blow:
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, 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 Chron. 20:15, 17, NIV).
Indeed, Judah’s enemies quarreled among themselves and destroyed each other (2 Chron. 22-23).
Jehoshaphat Turns to God
Before the battle was won, Jehoshaphat’s circumstances were overwhelming. Let’s examine how King Jehoshaphat overcame his enemies. First, he admitted fear: ‘Jehoshaphat was afraid” (2 Chron. 20:3). Second, he admitted the sources of his fear:
- The Unknown: “nor do we know what to do” (2 Chron.20:12, NIV).
- Powerlessness: “We are powerless before a great multitude who are coming against us” (2 Chron. 20:12, NIV).
Jehoshaphat’s powerlessness shows he knew that the problem was bigger than his ability, resources, wisdom, and experience. He felt vulnerable as a king, wondering whether the people God had entrusted to him would die and whether he would face failure and defeat. He was afraid of having no security. David said, ‘The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103: 13-14, New Living Translation).
Third, he focused on the Lord: “Jehoshaphat turned his attention to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:3, NIV). The people of Judah “gathered together to seek help from the Lord’ (2 Chron. 20:4, NIV). He focused on God using several tools: a) he called himself and the people to fast and pray (2 Chron. 20:4, NIV) and b) his prayer focused on the Lord and his attributes, particularly.
During the uncertainty the world endures today as we battle an invisible enemy, the circumstances seem as overwhelming as Jehoshaphat’s battle against many enemies. The faith community looks to the testimony of God’s deliverance of Jehoshaphat from an impossible and terrifying predicament. It’s noteworthy that Jehoshaphat had not been a perfect king. Hadn’t he aligned his son with a wife who ushered paganism into Judah? God heard Jehoshaphat’s cry in spite of his mistakes and because of Jehoshaphat’s willingness to admit his need for God’s help.
Whatever our human errors and squabbles, God is present and at work during our current crisis. This is certainly true for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Governor DeSantis as well as our brave first responders, doctors, and nurses. None of us is perfect. Our government’s leadership and the faith community have an opportunity to admit our fears and powerlessness and to seek God humbly in prayer.
We’ll see you next week when we discuss the attributes of God that pervaded Jehoshaphat’s prayers as he submitted to God. Until then, stay safe, keep praying, and share your faith with those around you. You can sign-up for our newsletter and get further information about Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition on our homepage.