Give Thanks

| 2 Chronicles 20:10-30

Week of November 27, 2016

The Point:  We can give thanks in every situation.

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer:  2 Chronicles 20:10-30.

[10]  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– [11]  behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. [12]  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.” [13]  Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. [14]  And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. [15]  And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, 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. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” [18]  Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. [19]  And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. [20]  And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” [21]  And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” [22]  And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. [23]  For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. [24]  When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. [25]  When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. [26]  On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the LORD. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. [27]  Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them rejoice over their enemies. [28]  They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. [29]  And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. [30]  So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.  [ESV]

“Assembly Prays for Help [5-13].  The first step consists of Jehoshaphat’s prayer. The king’s prayer is introduced [5] and a closing remark follows it [13]. The prayer itself contains the elements typical of laments. It divides into a recital of past blessings [6-7], a statement of innocence and trust [8-9], a complaint about trouble [10-11], and a petition [12]. Jehoshaphat’s complaint was not only designed to express His own frustration with the ingratitude of these nations, but also to incite divine wrath against them. Jehoshaphat’s prayer reached its high point in 20:12. Here he offered his petition and support for his request. Simply put, the king asked God to execute judgment on them. His request was in the form of a question fully expecting a positive response: will you not execute judgment on them? Jehoshaphat felt he had every reason to believe God would destroy his enemies based upon who God is [6] and God’s faithfulness to His promises [7]. He explained that his confidence rested on the fact that Israel was powerless against this great horde. Jehoshaphat and the Judahites did not know what to do except to turn their eyes upon God. This passage does not focus on the king, but on the people involved in the assembly. All Judah stood with Jehoshaphat as he prayed [13]. This fact highlighted another exemplary aspect of this event. All the people, including women and children, joined Jehoshaphat in prayer.

Assembly Receives Response [14-17].  As often happened in liturgies of lament, God responded to His people through an oracle. In this case, the response came through a Levite in the assembly. The Chronicler first described the scene of the oracle [14] and then summarized the message [15-17]. The messenger of God was Jahaziel … a Levite [14]. A number of times, the Chronicler mentioned that Levites served a prophetic function. Jahaziel stood in the assembly and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. We do not know precisely how the special descent of the Spirit effected the human recipient. Perhaps some kind of ecstatic experience took place [see 1 Sam. 10:5-6,9-10]. In all cases where the Spirit of God came on people, His inspiration authorized their outlooks. Jahaziel did not speak on his own, but under the power of the Holy Spirit. Jahaziel’s message is typical of prophetic oracles of salvation given in response to laments. Even so, it is clear that the Chronicler reported Jahaziel’s speech in such a way as to connect it closely with Deuteronomy 20:2-4. In that passage, Moses ordered that priests were to assure the people of victory as they prepared to fight in the conquest of the land. Moses himself had done the same at the Red Sea. The Chronicler had already connected this battle with Israel’s earlier conquest [20:7,10]. By modeling Jahaziel’s speech after Moses and his instructions, the Chronicler demonstrated that the battle in Jehoshaphat’s day followed the pattern of the earlier ideal holy war battles of Israel. Jahaziel’s speech divides into three parts. After an introductory address [15a], he spoke a word of encouragement [15b]. he then instructed Jehoshaphat and Judah on the battle plan [16-17a] which is very similar to the openings words [15b]. Jahaziel addressed all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat. The word that followed was not just for the king’s hearing. It was to be received by the assembly representing the entire nation of Judah. Jahaziel began his speech with an exhortation for Judah not to be afraid or discouraged. These words assured the listeners that they had nothing to fear. The Levite continued with a reason for confidence: for the battle is not yours but God’s. The Chronicler expressed this theme on several other occasions. From his point of view, when God fought on behalf of Judah, victory was inevitable. Instructions for Jehoshaphat and Judah followed the initial encouragement. Judah’s army must go down against the approaching enemies [16], but they will not need to fight in this battle [17]. To one degree or another, every exemplary holy war battle in the Bible downplays the human factor and exalts the action of God. In this case, however, the passivity of the army of Judah is emphasized beyond normal. All Judah had to do was to stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf [17]. Jehoshaphat and his army did not need to fight at all. The allusion to the crossing of the Red Sea is evident. There Israel simply watched God destroy the Egyptian army. In this battle, the army of Judah would do much the same. Jahaziel closed his speech as he began it. He exhorted the people not to be afraid or discouraged. He supported his exhortation once again. This time, however, he simply said the Lord will be with you. That God was with His people was the same as saying He would lead them into battle.

Assembly Responds with Praise [18-19].  The Chronicler’s account of Jehoshaphat’s assembly closes with the reaction to Jahaziel’s oracle. In effect, two things happen. First, there is humble bowing before God. The king bowed his head with his face to the ground and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord [18]. Note once again that the participation included all the people. The act of bowing demonstrated the humility of the king and the entire assembly in response to the kindness of God. Second, as with most laments in the Old Testament, the oracle of salvation led to joyous praise. The people of Judah prepared to march into battle full of confidence and grateful praise to God. The Chronicler noted that some Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord [19]. The Chronicler identified these divisions of Levites a number of times in his history. They honored God with a very loud voice. The enthusiasm of the musicians reflected the joyous celebration in the hearts of all who attended the assembly. This scene of overwhelming joy expressed in song recalls a number of similar scenes throughout the Chronicler’s history.

Jehoshaphat’s Army Marches to Battle [20-21].  The next day Jehoshaphat led his army to meet the enemies. This report of departure divides into three simple scenes: the departure [20a], the exhortation [20b], and the marching order [21]. The Chronicler began this section by noting that the departure was early in the morning. This temporal reference indicates that Jehoshaphat did precisely as he was commanded. Jahaziel had ordered him to leave tomorrow [16]. As soon as tomorrow came, Jehoshaphat left for battle. The king exhorted his army when they went out. Speeches before battles take place on several occasions in Chronicles [see 1 Chr. 19:12-13; 2 Chr. 13:4-12; 25:7-9; 32:7-8]. Jehoshaphat’s speech divides into three parts noted by three imperatives: hear … believe … believe [20b]. Jehoshaphat gave these final instructions because the outcome of battle was still uncertain. As with many prophecies in the Old Testament, implicit conditions applied to the prophecy of victory. In this case, the Levite’s instructions for battle formed an implicit condition which Judah still had to meet. The language of the first sentence in Jehoshaphat’s exhortation alludes to the speech of Jahaziel in 20:15-17. The Levite addressed the king and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem [15]. Jehoshaphat spoke to Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem [20]. As he sent his people into battle, Jehoshaphat addressed the same people as the Levite before him. The second sentence exhorts the people to believe in the Lord your God. Unlike Asa before him [see 16:1-9], Jehoshaphat relied entirely on God to give him this victory. As the king and his army went out to battle, Jehoshaphat wanted to make sure that his army met the condition of trusting God to fight for them. If they trusted God, they would be established. In much the same way, the third sentence of Jehoshaphat’s exhortation tells the people to believe his prophets. In all likelihood, the use of the plural referred not simply to Jahaziel who had just prophesied the day before [15-17[, but to all of the Levites who confirmed the message of Jahaziel with their music and praise [19]. They would soon lead the army into battle. Jehoshaphat insisted that his army follow the direction of the Levitical prophet. If they did so, they would succeed. After exhorting the people, Jehoshaphat arranged the army in marching formation [21]. The Chronicler noted, however, that Jehoshaphat did not act until after he had taken counsel with the people [21]. By doing so, the Chronicler drew attention to the importance of leadership making decisions with the consensus of the people. Jehoshaphat then appointed those who were to sing to the Lord [21]. It seems most likely that these appointments were from within the Levitical musical clans. They sang a psalm that the Chronicler elsewhere attributed to the Levitical singers. These Levitical musicians went forward before the army. In yet another way, the Chronicler emphasized Jehoshaphat’s exemplary actions. Here he made it clear that the king followed the marching directives of Moses by putting Levites at the head of the army. Levitical music played an important role in the holy wars of Israel. Priests and Levites often led into battle with music. This feature of Israelite warfare should be understood in light of its symbolic nature. Israel’s army was only an earthly reflection of the great army of heaven led by God Himself. As such, the work of Israel’s musicians corresponded to the spiritual, heavenly music that accompanied the appearance of God in battle. His march into battle was marked by the blast of a heavenly trumpet. The music of Israel’s earthly army symbolized that heavenly reality.

God Intervenes for Jehoshaphat [22-23].  With Judah moving toward her approaching enemies, the Chronicler came to the turning point of his story: divine intervention. The record consists of a summary of the event [22] which is followed by more details [23]. The Chronicler set the time for divine intervention as the beginning of singing. This chronological reference indicated that the defeat of Judah’s enemies occurred before Jehoshaphat even reached the site. By this means the Chronicler stressed the supernatural character of the event. The Chronicler simply stated that the Lord set an ambush. The chronological reference at the beginning of the verse rules out a Judean ambush. The Chronicler may have meant that the heavenly army of God ambushed the enemies of Judah. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the army of heaven moves ahead of the army of Israel [see 2 Sam. 5:24; 2 Kings 7:5-7; 19:35; Isa. 13:4; Ezek. 1:24]. The Chronicler’s understanding of this event was probably along these lines. In all events, the enemies of Judah were routed by God. After attributing the defeat of Jehoshaphat’s enemies to God’s intervention, the Chronicler explained how the defeat took place in two steps [23]. The men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir. Then, after slaughtering the men of Mount Seir, the Ammonites and the Moabites turned on each other. God caused confusion among the enemies of His people so that they actually destroy themselves. An enemy’s self-defeat appears frequently in the Old Testament and depicts one way in which supernatural intervention is recognized [see Judg. 7:22; 1 Sam. 14:20; 2 Kings 3:23; Ezek. 38:21; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 14:13]. When enemies become so confused that they destroy themselves, it demonstrates that God was behind their defeat. The Chronicler described these events in this manner to make it clear to his readers that God had intervened on behalf of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat’s Army Gathers Plunder [24-26].  In balance with the marching of Judah’s army into battle, the Chronicler described the aftermath of divine intervention. This portion divides into three scenes: the arrival of the army [24], the collection of plunder [25], and praise on the battlefield [26]. Once again, the Chronicler stressed the passivity of Judah’s army. When the army came to the place of battle, they looked toward the vast army. Yet, the preceding divine intervention was so complete that they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. The Chronicler recorded a number of battles in which the people of God were victorious. Yet, at no other place did he depict the defeat of Israel’s enemies in such categorical terms. Not only did Judah’s army have nothing to do with the battle; the entire opposing force was destroyed. Moreover, the Chronicler increased his readers’ astonishment at Judah’s victory by describing the plunder of battle [25]. The army of Judah found  among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. In fact, it took three days to collect all of the goods. The plunder of this battle is greater than any other battle in Chronicles. After three days of collecting plunder, the Judahites assembled and praised the Lord [26]. The place of this praise was the Valley of Beracah. The Judahites had no doubt as to who deserved credit for the defeat of these enemies. God had won a great victory for His people.

Jehoshaphat Returns and Holds an Assembly [27-28].  In balance with Jehoshaphat’s earlier assembly of fasting [20:2-19[, the Chronicler depicted another assembly in Jerusalem. In this case, however, the mood is very positive; here the Chronicler continued his focus on the joy resulting from Judah’s victory. Although the term ‘assembly’ does not appear in this passage, it is clear that this gathering was a religious assembly because it took place at the house of the Lord. As such, the actions here also contribute to the Chronicler’s emphasis on the importance of religious assemblies in Israel’s history. Jehoshaphat led the army back to Jerusalem. They returned … with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies [27]. Instead of fear which characterized the initiation of Jehoshaphat’s first assembly [20:2-3], the Judahites were full of joy because of God’s intervention. Their victory parade came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord [28]. This passage demonstrates the Chronicler’s continuing interest in the music of worship. As in many other passages, the splendor of Judah’s joyful experience is described as a time of playing many musical instruments. The music of this scene recalls the musical response to the oracle of Jahaziel. Now that victory had come, the people of Judah returned to the temple to honor God for fighting on their behalf. A number of psalms probably represent the kind of songs employed at times of victory celebration [see Pss. 24, 68, 118, 136]. In these psalms, God was celebrated as the incomparable Divine Warrior. The Chronicler filled this story with the wonder of Judah’s praise not only to instruct his readers, but to give them positive motivation for imitating the ways of Jehoshaphat in this narrative. If they desired to experience this kind of joy, they had to follow the example of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat Has Peace and Rest [29-30].  Jehoshaphat’s second battle closes with a hopeful report. In contrast to the beginning of this story [20:1], Judah was no longer threatened by foreign powers. The nations around Judah heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel [29]. Word spread far and wide that Judah had victory over her innumerable foes. As a result, the fear of God came on all the kingdoms [29]. In this passage, the fear of God over the nations resulted in quiet, for his God gave him rest all around [30]. The terms quiet and rest imply military security and economic prosperity. A number of times Chronicles indicates that the people of God received these blessings from God as reward for their fidelity. The Chronicler’s outlook becomes clear when we remember that the same motif appears earlier in Jehoshaphat’s reign. Because of Jehoshaphat’s fidelity to God, the nations feared God and they did not make war with Judah. Jehoshaphat had failed to be loyal to God in his alliance with Ahab [chap. 18] and was condemned to the wrath of God [19:2]. Nevertheless, all was not lost for Jehoshaphat. After his failure, he served God faithfully and was exemplary in battle. As a result, he received another portion of peace and rest later in his reign. The Chronicler’s readers could take hope from this series of events. Although they had failed God, all hope was not lost for them.”  [Pratt, pp. 466-480].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Read Jehoshaphat’s entire prayer in 20:6-12. What does he acknowledge concerning God in his prayer: both concerning God’s character and His past actions on behalf of His people? What did Jehoshaphat tell God that the people would do? What does he ask God to do? What do we learn from this prayer concerning how to pray in times of great difficulties?
  1. What did God tell His people through the prophet Jahaziel [15-17]? List the commands (note the verbs used). What two commands are repeated at the beginning and the ending of the message? What two promises are given at the end of verses 15 and 17? How did Jehoshaphat and the people respond to Jahaziel’s prophecy [18-19]?
  1. Read Jehoshaphat’s charge to the people of Judah as they went into battle [20-21]. What three imperatives does he give the people? Note how these imperatives meet the implied condition found in Jahaziel’s prophecy (to believe and obey God). Who led the army into battle? For what did they give thanks [21]?

References:

1 & 2 Chronicles, Richard Pratt, Mentor.

1 & 2 Chronicles, J. A. Thompson, NAC, Broadman.