O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.” And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. – 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 ESV
Where do you turn when everything looks bleak and desperate? What is your natural reaction when difficulty shows up in your life? For Jehoshaphat, at least on this occasion, it was to turn to God. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah and he was a reformer king. In other words, he had gone out of his way to bring the people of Israel back to God. He had personally traveled throughout the land of Judah, carrying a message of repentance and reform to the common people. He had commissioned the judges telling them, “ judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment” (2 Chronicles 19:6 ESV). He had appointed Levites, priests and the heads of families to act as judges for the people as well, telling them, “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart” (2 Chronicles 19:9 ESV). And yet, despite all of Jehoshaphat’s reforms, we read that “the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle” (2 Chronicles 20:1 ESV). He had been faithful and done what was right and now he found himself surrounded by his enemies. This is the kind of circumstance that would cause most of us to ask, “Why?” We would want to know why God was doing this to us. We would demand to know what we had done to deserve this fate after all we had done for Him. We would see the circumstances before us as unfair and undeserved. But instead of complaining, questioning, or second-guessing God, Jehoshaphat turned to Him for help. “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4 ESV).
Jehoshaphat’s name means “The Lord will rule (judge)” and it seems that he actually believed that statement. He took His problem to the God in heaven. He appealed to the Lord God, the ruler and judge over all creation. As far as Jehoshaphat was concerned, God was not just the Lord over Judah, He was the king of the entire universe. “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV). God had given them the land in which they lived. He had done so in keeping with His promise to Abraham. It was their land by God-given right. And now that they found themselves surrounded by their enemies, they were going to need God’s help. Jehoshaphat appealed to God, reminding Him of the prayer Solomon had prayed when he had dedicated the temple in Jerusalem – “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save” (2 Chronicles 20:9 ESV). That time had come. Disaster was at the door. The enemy was at the gate. So the people were crying out to God, counting on the fact that He would hear and save.
Verse 12 records two important admissions made by Jehoshaphat. He said, “we are powerless” and “we do not know what to do”. He admitted their weakness and confessed that they were clueless as to what to do. Too often, these two things are the hardest for us to admit as believers. We tend to try to solve all our problems in our own strength and according to our own wisdom. We come up with our own solutions and attempt to power our way through our problems in our own strength. But Jehoshaphat and the people owned up to their inadequacies. Far too often we find it difficult to say, “I can’t” and “I don’t know”. We see weakness and not knowing what to do as faults. Yet the apostle Paul said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT). And Paul was able to say this because God had told him, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT).
Not knowing what to do and lacking the strength to do anything are assets, not liabilities, for the believer in Christ. When we are weak, God is strong. When we don’t know what to do, God offers His infinite wisdom. He is never at a loss as to what to do and never lacks the power to see that it is done. But we must turn to Him. We must lean on Him. We must desire to see His power work through us and for us. We must learn to see difficulties as opportunities to see God’s power displayed and to learn His direction for our lives. When we can’t, He can. When we don’t know what to do, He always does. He is the God in heaven.