ďPrayers for Desperate TimesóJehoshaphatís PrayerĒ††††
2 Chronicles 20:1-30††††† January 4, 2009
SI:† When do you pray the most?†
When things are going well, or when times are desperate?†
And when do you pray with the most feeling and greatest sense of urgency?
Itís when you are in some kind of crisis.
†† Itís when something huge is overwhelming you and itís so big
†† that you know unless God steps in, there will be a disaster.†
Last Sunday we started a nine week study of prayers for desperate times.
†† Weíre looking at nine different believers in the Bible who were facing
†† an overwhelming crisis, and they prayed, and God answered.
These stories are faith lessons for you when you find yourself praying
†† in desperate times.† Maybe you are in one of those times right now.
Our story this morning comes from the life of King Jehoshaphat.
†† He faced a huge crisis, he prayed, and God answered.
†† Letís see what his story teaches us about living by faith.
I want to give credit where credit is due.† I got a lot of help from a sermon on this passage by Richard White, who is the pastor of Montreat Presbyterian Church,
in Montreat, NC.
INTRO:† You know the old sayingóDonít make a mountain out of a molehill.
When someone says that they mean:†
†† Get some perspective.
†† Step back from this and look at the big picture.
The reason old sayings are so memorable,
† †is because they bring to mind such vivid images.†
Imagine a man going out into his yard, and getting on his hands and knees,
†† and shoving his face into the ground so that his vision is filled
†† with this three inch high pile of dirt.†
All he can see from east to west and north to south is this molehill,
†† and he groans and says to himself, Iíll never get over this huge mountain
†† that is standing in my way.†
We can laugh at that, and yet we all know that getting the right perspective,
†† is easier said than done.† Often in desperate times, we donít know how
†† to step back and look at the big picture.
But King Jehoshaphat did.†
†† When he was threatened with a mountain of trouble,
†† he was very careful where he put his eyes.
What was his mountain of trouble?
Three enemy nations on the other side of the Jordan River had combined
†† their armies into one huge army and had invaded Judah.
But the really sneaky thing they had done was that they had gone
†† around the south end of the Dead Sea, through very desolate area,
†† and had gotten all the way to En Gedi without being detected.
En Gedi was basically Jerusalemís back yard.†
†† In just two days of marching they could be in sight of Jerusalem.
If you are a map person like I am, look at a map in the back of your Bible,
†† and you can see their strategy.† It worked, Jehoshaphat was caught flat-footed.
He didnít have time to prepare his army or call on his allies.†
†† He knew negotiation was impossible.† These were bitter, jealous enemies.
†† They wanted to destroy and enslave and they had the upper hand.
It was three against one, and Jehoshaphat was alarmed.
But he wasnít paralyzed. †He didnít fall apart.
†† He chose a faith perspective.†
†† He looked up and saw the big picture.
It may be that in 2009 you get some sudden, shocking news like Jehoshaphat got.
†† And you may find yourself unprepared and alarmed.
What are you going to do?†
†† Are you going to crawl on your hand and knees and shove your face into
†† the ground so that this bad news fills your vision and appears to be a mountain
†† that cannot be climbed?
No, youíre not going to do that.†
†† You are going to lift up your eyes to bigger thingsóthe Lord and his deliverance.
†† You are going to see the big picture.
†† And you are going to see the big picture the same way Jehoshaphat did.
How did he do it?† How did he get this faith perspective?
†† By three specific actions:† Seeking, Standing, and Singing
†† Letís look at each and apply them to ourselves.
MP#1† First, a faith perspective comes by seeking the Lord.
The first thing Jehoshaphat did when he got this alarming news was seek the Lord.
He sent word to the people of Jerusalem and Judah,
†† and they came and prayed and Jehoshaphat led them.
Jehoshaphat didnít plan first, he prayed first.
†† He didnít call a war strategy meeting first, he called a prayer meeting.
His prayer is a very helpful model for us to follow.
Started by saying, God, I know who you are.
†† You are the God of our fathers, the God who is in heaven,
†† the God who rules over the nations, the God of all power and might.†
He lifted his eyes to the highest possible placeóto heaven, God ruling on throne.
One of the oldest and most important military strategies is take the high ground.
†† What higher ground is there than heaven?††
†† God rules and all the nations are molehills.
Every time we drive to Chattanooga, on I-24, around foot of Lookout Mountain
†† I notice a monument, easy to miss, marks spot where some Union regiment
†† camped before they stormed up Lookout and took it from Confederates.
And even though Iím a Southerner, I look up and say wow.†
Thatís what Jehoshaphat did first, took the high ground spiritually.
†† God, I know who you are.† You are my God.† Youíre in heaven ruling over all.
You have to do that right away when you get alarming news.
†† Right away you have to take the high ground in prayer.
†† O Lord, you are sovereign over all things.†
†† You rule over this problem of mine.† Itís a molehill in your sight.†
But Jehoshaphat didnít stop there.† God is not just God in heaven.†
†† Heís God in history.
†† And he has a history of faithfulness to his people.
†† Jehoshaphat recounted Godís faithfulness in his prayer.
In his prayer he goes back 100 years to the time of Solomon.†
†† When Temple dedicated God told Solomon that if ever the people of Israel
†† were facing a calamity, if they came to the Temple and cried out, he would save.
And then he goes back 400 years to the time of Joshua.†
He recounts Godís help in the conquest of Promised Land.
†† How Lord would not allow Joshua to attack the very nations now attacking.
And then he goes back 1000 years, all the way to Abraham.
†† All the way back to God promise to give them the land as an inheritance.†
Jehoshaphat wasnít just trying to psych himself up, give people a pep talk.
†† He was reminding himself that Godís people are one through all ages.
†† And that God is faithful to his people through history.
The things he did for his people even a thousand years ago are part of our
†† heritage, they are part of our story.
And all of the promises he has ever made are ours in Jesus Christ.
†† God told Israelitesí in Solomonís day:† Iíll hear when you pray from this Temple.
†† Is that promise for us?† Yes, Jesus is our Temple.† God hears us through him.
All Godís promises are Yes! and Amen! in Christ.†
One reason our troubles get so large in our eyes is because we live in the moment.
†† We not only forget Bible history, we forget our own personal history.
When you get alarming news, you must recount, the Lordís faithfulness to you
†† and his great promises to you in Christ.† Look back at his record of faithfulness.
†† Remind him of it in prayer, thank him for it.
If you donít, you will probably start to panic.
And how does Jehoshaphat end his prayer?
†† Weíre powerless against this hoard.† We donít know what to do.†
†† But our eyes are upon you.† †
And thatís where you have to get to in your prayer.†
†† Not just:† God I know who you are and what you have done in history.†
†† But, Iím relying on you, not myself.
Let me ask you a question:† Where are your eyes?†
†† As you face an uncertain economy, debilitating illness and losses,
†† enslaving habits, sin-wrecked relationships, and other fearsome adversitiesó
Where are your eyes?†
Donít look at yourself to fix thingsóyou canít save yourself.
†† And donít just look at your problem, that will only make you afraid.
†† Put your eyes on the Lord, seek him, and he will be your deliverer.†
MP#2† Second, a faith perspective comes by standing before your troubles.
Jehoshaphat prayed and the people prayed.
†† And then the Holy Spirit came on a man named Jahaziel.
†† This is what the Lord say, Do not be afraid.† The battle is not yours, the Lordís.
†† God is going to fight this battle.† He is going to deliver you.
But then he says something interesting.†
†† Tomorrow morning, march out against them, take up your battle positions,
†† stand firm, and see the deliverance of the Lord.†
Godís going to fight for you.† Heís going to win the battle.
†† But you have to march out, take up military positions, and stand firm.†
What NT passage does this remind you of?† Ephesians 6óthe armor of God.
††† Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes . . . Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.† Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, and so on . . .
Martyn Lloyd-Jones has a great sermon on this command in Eph. 6 to stand.
†† He says at the beginning of this sermon that this command illustrates what he
†† calls ďthe paradox of the Christians position.Ē†
A Christian at one and at one and the same time realizes how terribly weak he is, and yet how tremendously strong he is.† In and of himself, helpless.† But in the power of the Lord and His might, invincible.Ē
And then he explains what this command to stand means for a Christian.†
1.† Expect troubles and trials and hardships.†
Jesus has told us, in this life you will have tribulation.
†† They are inevitable because of the devil and life in a fallen world.
Donít feel sorry for yourself or disappointed when they come.
†† That will just rob you of spiritual energy.† Youíre a soldier.
2.† Always be alert.† Heís talking about being alert to the devilís lies.†
The come in so many ways.† From culture, TV, ads.† From other people.
Get good at spotting them and shooting down. †Will come extra thick in hard times.†
3.† Donít even think about retreating.
In desperate times you are tempted to look at your own weaknesses,
†† and perhaps the failures of other Christians who have faced this,
†† and you start to make excuses, think about the easy way out.
Lloyd-Jones says you have to take note of these failures, but donít
†† talk about them too much and think about them too much.
†† Retreat is not an option.† Giving up ground is not an option.† Aim for victory.
4.† Realize the privilege of being in such a fight.
You are a soldier in the army of Israel.† Your Captain is Jesus Christ.
†† He has entrusted you with this mission.†
Thatís what this trial is.† Itís mission youíve been sent on to battle the enemy
†† and advance the Kingdom of God by faith.
Do you see how this changes your perspective?
†† This desperate time you are in is not just about you.†
†† Part of the big thing God is doing.† You have the word of your Captain to stand.†
Over Christmas I read a book about the siege of Bastogne by a paratrooper
†† in the 101st Airborne who fought there.†
The book is called Seven Roads to Hell and thatís because the seven main
†† roads in the Ardennes region converged in the town of Bastogne.
†† When the Germans started their last great offensive of the war, had to take town.
They sent 15 divisions to capture the town, four of them armored.†
†† The American troops holding the town were surrounded and outnumbered 9 to 1.
†† They were low on ammunition, food, medicine, and winter clothes.
But they were commanded to hold Bastogne at all cost and they did.
†† They knew the importance of their position.†
Donald Burgett, the author, 19 at the time, tells of how their position was attacked
†† by Panzer and Tiger tanks, followed by infantry.† They didnít have anything
†† to knock out the tanks, just armed with rifles.† But refused to retreat.
Crouched in foxholes, let tanks roll over them, then jumped up to engage infantry.
†† One story after another like that.†
It was a terrible battle, horrendous bloodshed and destruction.
†† But also a great picture of men standing firm.†
Lord, in his wisdom has chosen this military word picture for the Christian life.
†† Thatís a perspective you need.† Stand firm.† Yes, you are weak in one sense.
†† But you are also incredibly strong.†
Expect a fight, be alert, refuse to retreat,
†† and remember the great privilege of being a Christian.†
MP#3 †Third, a faith perspective comes by singing praise to God.
Jehoshaphat and his army assembled and marched out to stand in the place
†† of battle and wait for the Lordís promised salvation.
Who led the army into battle?† Singers.†
Now this is not the usual order of doing things.
†† Usually when we are desperate we pray and pray and pray.
†† And after God answers, then we sing the doxology.†
But Jehoshaphat and army of Israel didnít wait to see if God would deliver them.
†† They sang first.† They praised him when it looked on a human level
†† like they were going to be slaughtered.†
And what did they sing.† Sang about Godís steadfast love to his chosen people.
†† ďGive thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.Ē
If you have notes in your Bible you will see this is from Psalm 136.
†† Itís one of the few Psalms with a chorus.†
Every line tells some great act of God for Israel in early days, parting the Red Sea,
†† giving them the Promised Land.† After every line, is this chorus:
†† ďHis love endures forever.Ē
You can imagine that as they went out, song leaders sang the stanzaó
†† and then the army sang in response:† ďHis love endures forever.Ē
Isnít that interesting.† Itís not so much Godís power that is the emphasis
†† of their singingóbut Godís love.
And then the mysterious part of the story.
†† ďAs they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies.Ē
As Godís people sang of his love, their deliverance was secured.
†† This has been the experience of many Christians.†
Paul and Silas, when they were chained in the Philippian jail, at midnight were
†† singing hymns to God.† They were not crushed by their situation.
†† They had a faith perspective.† They knew the Lord would deliver them.
When Amy Carmichael went to India as a missionary, something happened
†† that changed the direction of her lifeís work.† A little Indian girl came to her
†† and begged for her protection.† Amy discovered that this girl had been sold
†† as a temple prostitute.† She rescued that girl and countless others.
There were powerful people who hated her for her work, tried to undermine
†† and spread lies about her.† Amy said this about singing:†
†ďI believe truly that Satan cannot endure it, and so slips out of the roomó
†† more or lessówhen there is a true song.Ē
Martin Luther, the great father of the Reformation, was often attacked by enemies
†† on the outside, but it was his own bouts of depression that hurt him the most.
He said this about singing:
†† ďMy heart bubbles up and overflows in response to music,
†† which has so often refreshed me and delivered me from dire plagues.Ē
William Law, spiritual mentor of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield:
†† ďThere is nothing that so clears a way for your prayers, nothing that so disperses dullness of heart, nothing that so purifies the soul from poor and little passions, nothing that so opens heaven or carries your heart so near it as songs of praise.Ē
Let me ask you a question.† Do you know the enduring love of God?
†† When you are facing a mountain of trouble, whatever it isó
†† do you know God loves you in Christ?†
If you donít, that mountain of trouble will be all that you see.
God has ordained music and singing as one of the ways
†† that the reality of his love and his presence and his power to save are pressed
†† home to your heart so that you see the big picture, and mountains of trouble
†† become molehills.†
Itís worth noting that Jehoshaphat didnít send the people off to sing
†† in their private devotions.† Nothing wrong with that if you want to do it.
But they sang together, in corporate worship.†
†† They were led in song.† Their voices blended.
That gave power to their singing.†
†† It pressed home to all of their hearts the truth of the words of this Psalm.
†† They were ready to stand and wait for Godís deliverance.
We have to be a singing church.† That means you have to sing.† You must.
†† It gives you a faith perspective,
†† it encourages fellow church members,
†† and it honors Godóand he commands it.
As you face troubles, you get a faith perspective by singing praise to God
†† for his enduring love.
CONC:† You may read this story and say:
Yeah, but he hasnít delivered me yet.† He hasnít come through.
†† My enemies arenít dead at my feet and Iím not making off with the spoils.
†† When is that going to happen?
You donít know.† The timing and the details are in Godís hands.
But this is what you do know.†
You know what is mountain and what is mole hill.
†† Bad economies are not Lord.
†† Troubles overwhelming are not Lord.
†† Death is not Lord.† Jesus is.
He is the mountain and he will stand in the latter day upon the earth.
†† And all the nations, and all the threatening armies, and troubles,
†† will be as molehills before him.
And you will see him and stand with him
†† because he loves you and died for you.
That is the perspective you have to keep.
So, Christian, itís the beginning of a new yearó2009.
†† What are you looking at in these days?
†† What is filling your vision?† Look with faith at Jesus Christ.
Seek him in prayer, stand where he places you, and sing of his everlasting love.