As a young boy growing up in a small country town in Northwest Connecticut, I wasn’t versed in the finer points of city living. The center of our town consisted of one congregational church, one general store, a postage-stamp sized post office (pun intended), and an elementary school. Oh yeah, and not one traffic light. Anywhere.
My early childhood years were somewhat reminiscent of an old Little Rascals episode: a bunch of boys immersed in some new adventure every day! We built forts, climbed trees, swam in ponds, and rode our bikes for miles down the winding, country roads. Traffic wasn’t a concern. Traffic? In our small town everybody knew everybody. And everybody knew everybody else’s car. We waved. We smiled. We looked out for each other. It was safe.
About this time in my life, I visited the thriving metropolis of Hartford, Connecticut. I know, it’s not exactly a big city; but for me, it was huge! Tall buildings, traffic lights, a bazillion cars, and people everywhere—I was mesmerized. Our babysitter had driven my brother and me to the city where we were to meet my mother.
We impatiently waited for her to come as we lunched in a corner restaurant. Looking out the window and anticipating her arrival, I suddenly saw her approaching from the other side of the intersection. Before my babysitter could react, I burst from my seat, exploded out the door, and dashed across the street to meet my mother. The street. The city street. The busycity street. The busy city street with the brightly illuminated “Do Not Walk” sign. Before it became a video game sensation, I had unwittingly become the human frogger.
For some odd reason, my mother was not impressed with my dexterity. At all. Nor did she seem overly exuberant to see me. In fact, her countenance betrayed an odd blend of, “I’m so glad you didn’t get killed!” and, “Now I’m going to kill you for being so stupid!” If you’ve ever had parents, I’m sure you know the look I’m talking about. And right there on the side of that busy intersection I received an impromptu lecture on how to cross the road.
Although I can’t remember her exact words, the lecture went something like this: “Kurt, you need to stopfirst. You can’t just run blindly out into the street!” [Slight pause for hyperventilating breathing] “Kurt, you need to look both ways. And don’t forget to listen too.” [Another pause in order to lock on target with the parental death stare] “Kurt, sometimes vehicles approach at a high rate of speed or appear from just around the corner or over the crest of the hill, so you just have to stop, look, and listen.” [Final pause to determine if I appear to be sufficiently repentant. In order to avoid hearing the sermon again, I dutifully nod my head in acquiescence.]
It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.
In a sense, it’s a lesson Jehoshaphat learned too. A good and godly king, Jehoshaphat had faithfully ruled Judah for a number of years. Already he had dispatched Levites and judges to every city in order that God’s people might learn and apply the Word of God to their lives. Because he placed such a strong emphasis on serving the Lord, he both refurbished the Temple court and revived the Temple worship. To be sure, he possessed a genuine heart for his God!
But godly living does not exempt us from dangerous traffic. Both Peter and Paul emphasized the inevitability of conflict in the lives of believers. Paul told us that “all that will live godly…shall suffer,” and Peter reminded Christians to “think it not strange concerning the fiery trials” that they would face. Inevitable trials do not mean inevitable defeat. But they are like busy intersections: potentially destructive and deadly, if we do not approach them correctly.
The Bible describes Jehoshaphat’s dangerous intersection in 2 Chronicles 20:1-17. Although not essential to understanding the rest of this article, it would be helpful for you to read the passage yourself.
A coalition of forces had gathered themselves against Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah. By the time they were discovered, they had already breached the Jordan River/Dead Sea barrier and were now encamped precariously close to Jerusalem. For all intents and purposes, they were on Jehoshaphat’s back door step. The messenger related the bad news that Moab, Ammon, and Edom had joined forces to attack and annihilate Judah!
Unexpected news like this can literally immobilize us. In Jehoshaphat’s case, his mind must have been racing a million miles an hour. The Bible tells us that he feared. And one thing we all know about fear is its ability to stop us. Jehoshaphat was on the edge of busy street with three dangerous vehicles careening right toward him!
How unfair! After all, were not these the cousins of Judah? Moab and Ammon were Lot’s children. The Edomites were the descendant of Esau. All three of these nations were related to Father Abraham. Although they did not enjoy the same promises that Judah did, the Lord had nonetheless showed them favor. Remember that He told the children of Israel—when they had left Egypt to travel to Canaan–not to fight with them or to occupy the land God had given to them.
Now they were attacking Judah!
Have you been treated unfairly? Maybe, like Jehoshaphat, your problems have confronted you not individually, but en masse. Perhaps the source of your “distressful traffic” is someone who is close to you, who should know better, who might even be related to you. David faced Absalom. Abel faced Cain. Whom do you face? Or what?
Instead of summoning a quick reconnoiter of his troops, Jehoshaphat did something rather extraordinary: he called for a fast. Now I’ll be honest with you, reading that took me by surprise. And I’m pretty sure that telling people not to eat before an ominous battle is not a strategy they teach in military academy. In fact, I’ve heard the exact opposite is true: that an army marches on its stomach. But God’s ways are not our ways, are they?
Fasting is so much more than the voluntary foregoing of food. It is an admission that we need the Lord–with all of His wisdom and power–more than we need even our necessary food. We simply have to have Him. Without Him we can do nothing. And without traffic to remind us, sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we can live carefree fort building, tree-climbing, pond swimming, bike riding lives without Him.
His grace leads us to intersections of realization that we are helpless and vulnerable without Him. Stop. You can only play frogger for so long before you become road kill.
What is Jehoshaphat to do? Does any hope exist? Where can he look for help? One of the most outstanding prayers recorded in the Bible is this prayer of Jehoshaphat as he employs the only realistic strategy in overwhelming situations. He looks up. I love the simple language of the Scripture that “he set himself to seek the Lord.” When we face fearful circumstances, the default setting of our lives should be the same.
I hope you’ll take time to actually read the passionate, corporate prayer of Jehoshaphat. It is both rich in its theology and powerful in its application. I’d love to take extra time right here to dissect it. Here’s the gist of it:
He begins by praising God for His unparalleled power. God is the God of heaven who rules over allthe nations of the world. Nobody can withstand Him. Not Moab. Not Ammon. Not Edom. Not your problem and not mine. Hmmm, it almost sounds as if we’re more than conquerors through Him that loved us! Even now, God is unwaveringly wielding His power in our lives, changing us into the very image of Jesus Christ. The circumstance we see as our roadblock is nothing more than a tool that God is using in the process. Look and see the reality of God’s power in your life!
In his prayer, Jehoshaphat continues to praise his God, not only for the reality of His power, but also for the relationship He has with His people. The powerful God is the personal God. Check it out yourself. And pay attention to the personal pronouns. Three times in one verse Jehoshaphat emphasizes his relationship with God. He references our God (Creator of the universe), Thy people (covenant with Israel), and Thy friend (companion of Abraham).
Applying this to the New Testament believer: We have a bona-fide relationship with the omnipotent God due to our covenant relationship through Jesus Christ, a friend who never leaves us nor forsakes us. Look at that for a while! You’ll like what you see.
In the third part of his prayer, Jehoshaphat claims the promise God gave to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, i.e., that He would “hear and help” when His people gathered at this place to seek Him with their whole heart. Today our place is the Lord Jesus Himself. Right where you are, in Jesus’ name (our right to and authority of approach to God is in Him), you can claim His very promises! Jehoshaphat did. So can you.
Prayer is a two way street. Yes, we speak to the Lord. But He speaks to us as well. In the process of prayer, as we verbalize our most intimate concerns, the Lord has a way of showing us things about ourselves. Such was the case with Jehoshaphat. As he continued to pour out his heart to the Lord, we find him contextualizing the issue. He looks back at how the children of Israel had treated these nations previously. He reminds the Lord that they had not taken advantage of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites when they had been given the chance.
What a marvelous benefit prayer provides! So readily, and many times effectively, we posture ourselves to be martyrs in the negative circumstances we face. Purporting ourselves to be modern Jobs, we are too often prone to seek sympathy from others in our problems. But God cannot be manipulated. He knows what we face and whywe face it. And sometimes the reason we suffer is as a consequence of our own stupidity or sin. Yup, it’s true. Prayer is a foolproof means by which to contextualize the issue properly. Listen.
Negative circumstances can easily cause us to become self-focused and proud. As we take our problems to the Lord, He lovingly reminds us that what’s really important is His glory. We are called to glorify Him. As “image bearers” and “glory reflectors,” our lives should cause people to possess a better opinion of God and to sense better the weightiness of His glory. Jehoshaphat got this. He said, “These enemies are threatening to take ‘thy possession which thou hast given.’” God desires to receive the glory in the situation you presently face. Quit making it about you.
Prayer is a place to be painfully transparent. God know all about our deficiencies. He knew where Adam was hiding, and He wasn’t fooled by David’s scheming. Or yours. That’s why it’s important for us to be utterly transparent with Him.
Admit who you are.
Confess your inability.
Be honest about your lack of knowledge. Jehoshaphat admitted truthfully and publicly that he had no power to solve his problem and no clue what to do about it. Spiritual “know-it-alls” might win a game of Bible trivia here and there, but they lack any real power for dynamic living.
So there they stood in the Temple court. Jehoshaphat. The people. Their wives. Their little ones. The enemies loomed just around the corner. The circumstance appeared to be bleak, at best. Then it came! As it always does, the message from the Lord came just in time. A prophet spoke out from the middle of the congregation and told God’s people that victory would come!
The Lord encouraged them with two statements of historical significance: (1) “The battle is not yours; it is the Lord’s.” This statement would call immediately to mind the story of David and Goliath! (2) “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” This encouragement would remind them of Moses and the Red Sea! Now think of it for a moment… Through His word, God encouraged Jehoshaphat that He would work in his life just as He had in the lives of David and Moses! Your Goliaths and Red Seas and Moabites and [fill in the blank] are God’s concerns. And they are within the scope of His solutions.
By the way, don’t ever try to cross the road in India. Different story. Trust me.
Source: Consider This