Stand and See God’s Victory for You

Stand and See God’s Victory for You

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat, how many folks here know who Jehoshaphat was other than an expletive? Jehoshaphat was a King of Judah after the division between the Northern Kingdom Israel and the Southern Kingdom Judah in 922 BCE. According to the Hebrew chroniclers Jehoshaphat ruled in Jerusalem from 873 – 849 BCE. During that time Judah was much smaller and militarily weaker than its Northern neighbor Israel. According to the Hebrew chroniclers, Jehoshaphat made an alliance for mutual protection with Ahab, King of Israel, but the agreement fell apart, because Jehoshaphat was horrified by the idolatry practiced in the Northern Kingdom including using living infants as burnt offerings to Chemosh the god of war.

Now some of you may be wondering, pastor, why are we studying this Jehoshaphat and all of this ancient history? Because the story in our scripture today has an important application to our own lives. But first let me set the stage historically, so we can understand the spiritual implications of the victory God worked for Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat had entered into an alliance with Ahab King of Israel to bring under subjection the Moabites, who lived East of the Dead Sea. But when the alliance between Judah and Israel broke down, the Moabites saw their opportunity to get even with Judah.

The Moabites brought all of their diverse and sometimes mutually hostile tribes together including Ammon, and the tribes of Mt. Seir. This was a large army, and they gathered at the Oasis of Ein Gedi. Those who were with us on our trip to Egypt and Israel will remember we stopped at Ein Gedi, where there is a perpetual source of fresh water in the middle of a desert region.

The Moabites gathered their host at this Oasis before attempting to climb the Dead Sea escarpment using the Ascent of Ziz. And here a picture is truly worth a thousand words. The Ascent of Ziz was no easy climb, and if an enemy were waiting for you in ambush near the top of the ascent. . . I think you get the picture.

Meanwhile back in Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat, hearing that the tribes of Moab were gathering against him, called for all the people to gather in the temple for prayer. As they were praying, the spirit of the Lord came upon a member of the choir, Jahaziel. Wouldn’t you know it’s always in the choir. And Jahaziel began to prophecy saying: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.

16 Tomorrow go down against them; behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel.

17 You will not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Fear not, and be not dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Now in addition to the strategic advantage of occupying the high ground for the battle, God worked a miracle. The Moabites did themselves in. While these contentious tribes were gathered at Ein Gedi someone said something about someone else’s mother. A fight broke out between the Moabites, the people of Ammon, and the folks from Mt. Seir. And after a bunch of them had killed one another the people of Seir took off. With their numbers already reduced, the next morning the Moabites and Ammonites tried to climb the ascent of Ziz and guess who was waiting for them at the top? All Jehoshaphat and his people had to do was roll down rocks and shoot arrows down on top of their enemies. The Moabites panicked and ran away. God had secured victory for Jehoshaphat and his people.

When the Israelites followed the Moabites down to their encampment in Ein Gedi, they found that their enemies had abandoned the cattle they had brought for food, weapons and all kinds of gear. What a victory!

So what does this story have to do with us? Have you ever been afraid or anxious? Given this economy who hasn’t? Have you ever felt outnumbered and beset by enemies? Hopefully not very often, but it happens. Well, when we are feeling afraid or anxious like Jehoshaphat we need to pray. If we are a leader, we need to summon all of our people to prayer. At the darkest hour, God will speak through the least likely person, maybe even someone in the choir like Jahaziel.

In difficult times full of fear, hostility and anxiety Psalm 137 stands out as a meditation to comfort and strengthen us: 1 Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers!

2 For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.

4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday.

7 Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over those who seem to prosper in using unethical schemes, over those who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

9 For the wicked shall be cut off; but those who wait for the LORD shall possess the land.

10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look well at their place, they will not be there.

11 But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

Worry is debilitating. Anxiety causes us to shrink back from the world and other people, rather than fully engaging with life. There is an old Irish proverb that speaks to the problem of worry.

In life, there are only two things to worry about, either you are well or you are sick. If you are well, there is nothing to worry about, but if you are sick, there are only two things to worry about, either you will get well or you will die. If you get well, there is nothing to worry about, but if you die, there are only two things to worry about, either you will go to heaven or hell. If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about. And if you go to hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with all your friends, you won’t have time to worry! My great-grandfather Tracy had a special blessing, “may you be in heaven half an hour, before the devil knows you’re gone.”

If we have resolved with ourselves the fear of death, the rest of our worries can be managed. When we understand that we are beloved by God, and nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even death, then we have nothing to fear. Even our financial worries come into perspective, when we remember that there are no pockets in a shroud – no U-haul following the hearse.

Let me share with you the Still Speaking Devotional from Tuesday of this past week: So much of our scripture is a celebration of abundance. The first chapters of Genesis are a song of praise for God’s generosity. With each act of creation, the divine refrain is, “It is good, it is good, it is very good.” And it pictures the Creator saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Many of the Psalms, including the one for today, survey creation and catalogue this abundance in loving detail and with joyful thanksgiving. Then, in the Gospels, Jesus multiplies loaves and fishes so that there is more than enough for everyone. At a wedding feast he turns water into wine, and more wine than could be consumed at a dozen weddings. These highly symbolic stories speak of God’s abundance. There is enough, there is more than enough.

That’s the biblical narrative. But the narrative by which we are tempted to live is another story entirely, a story of scarcity, where there is never enough. In fact, we are tempted to define enough as, “always something more than I have now.”

In spite of all that has happened in recent months, we still live in the most prosperous country in the history of the world. Do you live out of a sense of abundance or scarcity? That may be an economic question, but certainly it is a faith question.

And here is the prayer that accompanied that devotion: O God, when I count your blessings, they are numberless as the sands, so I confess that I don’t always get very far with my counting. So I simply thank you for sharing your abundance with me. Amen.

As Jehaziel said, “You will not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf.” Jesus showed us the way. The tomb is empty, and Jesus goes on before us. God’s abundance is still all around us. As Bobby McFirren said, “don’t worry, be happy.”


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