The Living God and a Living Faith: Lessons From Jehoshaphat

2 Chronicles 20  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 7
There is one vital fact pervading every page of the Word of God, and illustrated in every stage of the history of God's people—a fact of immense weight and moral power at all times, but especially in seasons of darkness, difficulty, and discouragement occasioned by the low condition of things among those who profess to be on the Lord's side. The fact is this: That faith can always count on God, and God will always answer faith.
If we turn for a few moments to 2 Chron. 20, we will find a very beautiful and a very striking illustration of this fact.
This chapter shows us the good king Jehoshaphat under very heavy pressure indeed; it records a dark moment in his history. "It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other besides the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then"—for people are always quick to broadcast evil tidings—"there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria." Here was a difficulty of no ordinary nature. This invading host was made up of the descendants of Lot and Esau, and this fact might give rise to a thousand conflicting thoughts and distracting questions in the mind of Jehoshaphat. They were not Egyptians or Assyrians, concerning whom there could be no question whatever, but both Esau and Lot stood in relationship to Israel, and a question might suggest itself as to how far such relations were to be recognized.
Nor was this the only consideration. The practical state of the entire nation of Israel—the actual condition of God's people—was such as to give rise to the most serious misgivings. Israel no longer presented an unbroken front to an invading foe. Their visible unity was gone. A grievous breach had been made in their battlements. The ten tribes and the two were rent asunder. The condition of the former was terrible, and that of the latter, shaky enough.
The circumstances of king Jehoshaphat's reign were dark and discouraging, and even as regards himself and his practical course, he was just emerging from the consequences of a very humiliating fall. Thus his reminiscences were as cheerless as his surroundings.
But it is just here that this one vital fact presents itself to the vision of faith, and flings a mantle of light over the whole scene. Things looked gloomy, no doubt, but• God was to be counted upon by faith, and faith could count upon Him. God is a never-failing resource -a great reality at all times and under all circumstances. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." Psalm 46:1-31<<To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.>> God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. (Psalm 46:1‑3).
Here then was Jehoshaphat's resource in the day of his trouble, and he at once betook himself to it in that earnest faith which never fails to draw down power and blessing from the living and true God to meet every exigency of the way. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask the help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, 0 Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand Thee? Art not Thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend forever?"
These are the fine breathings of a lively faith—a faith that always enables the soul to take the very highest possible ground. It mattered not in the smallest degree what unsettled questions there might be between Esau and Jacob; there were none between Abraham and the Almighty God. Now, God had given the land to Abraham His friend. For how long? Forever. This was enough. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Rom. 11:2929For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29). God will never cancel His call, or take back a gift. This is a fixed foundation principle, and on this, faith always firmly takes its stand. The enemy might throw up a thousand reasonings, but simple faith casts them all aside.
Now it was on this original ground that Jehoshaphat rightly took his stand. It was the only thing for him to do. He had not one hair's breadth of solid standing ground short of this defense: "Thou... gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend forever." It was either this or nothing. A living faith always lays hold on the living God. It cannot stop short of Him. It does not look at men or their circumstances. It takes no account of the changes and chances of this mortal life. It lives and moves and has its being in the immediate presence of the living God; it rejoices in the cloudless sunlight of His blessed countenance. It conducts all its artless searchings in the sanctuary, and draws all its happy conclusions from facts discovered there. It does not lower the standard according to the condition of things around, but boldly and decidedly takes up its' position on the very highest ground.
Now these actings of faith are always most gratifying to the heart of God. The living God delights in a living faith. We may be quite sure that the bolder the grasp of faith, the more welcome it is to God. We need never suppose that the blessed One is either gratified or glorified by the workings of a legal mind. No, no; He delights to be trusted without a shadow of reserve or misgiving. He delights to be fully counted upon and largely used, and the deeper the need and the darker the surrounding gloom, the more is He glorified by the faith that draws upon Him.
Hence we may assert with perfect confidence that the attitude and the utterances of Jehoshaphat in the scene before us were in full accordance with the mind of God. There is something perfectly beautiful to see him, as it were, opening the original lease and laying his finger on that clause in virtue of which Israel held the land as tenants forever under God. Nothing could cancel that clause or break that lease. No flaw there. All was ordered and sure. "Thou... gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend forever."
This was solid ground—the ground of God—the ground of faith which no power of the enemy can ever shake. True, the enemy might remind Jehoshaphat of sin and folly, failure and unfaithfulness. He might suggest to him that the very fact of the threatened invasion proved that Israel had fallen, for had they not done so, there would be neither enemy nor evil.
But for this, too, grace had provided an answer—an answer which faith knew well how to appropriate. Jehoshaphat reminds Jehovah of the house which Solomon had built to His name. "They... have built Thee a sanctuary therein for Thy name, saying, If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in Thy presence, (for Thy name is in this house,) and cry unto Thee in our affliction, then Thou wilt hear and help. And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom Thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not; behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us
out of Thy possession, which Thou hast given us to inherit. 0 our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee." vv. 8-12.
Here, truly, is a living faith dealing with a living God. It is no mere empty profession—no lifeless creed—no cold, unmotivating theory. It is not a man saying he has faith. Such things will never stand in the day of battle. They may do well enough when all is calm, smooth, and bright, but when difficulties have to be grappled with—when the enemy has to be met face to face—all nominal faith, all mere lip profession, will prove like autumn leaves before the blast. Nothing will stand the test of actual conflict but a living, personal faith in a living, personal Savior God. Faith brings God into the scene, and all is perfect peace.
Thus it was with the king of Judah in the days of 2 Chron. 20 "We have no might... neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee." This is the way to occupy God's ground, even with the eyes fixed on God Himself. This is the true secret of stability and peace. The devil will leave no stone unturned to drive us off the true ground which, as Christians, we ought to occupy in these last days, and we in ourselves have no might whatever against him. Our only resource is in the living God. If our eyes are upon Him, nothing can harm us. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." Isa. 26:33Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3).
We are passing through critical moments. Men are taking sides; principles are working and coming to a head. Never was it more needful to be thoroughly and unmistakably on the Lord's side. Jehoshaphat never could have met the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites, had he not been persuaded that his feet were on the very ground which God had given to Abraham. If the enemy could have shaken his confidence as to this, he would have had an easy victory. But Jehoshaphat knew where he was; therefore he could fix his eyes with confidence upon the living God. His was a living faith in the living God—the only thing that will stand in the day of trial.
"They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." Isa. 49:2323And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. (Isaiah 49:23). Such is the veritable record of the living God—a record made good in the experience of all those who have been enabled through grace to exercise a living faith. But then we must remember how much is involved in those three words, "wait for Me." The waiting must be a real thing. It will not do to say we are waiting on God when in reality our eye is askance upon some human prop or creature confidence. We must be absolutely "shut up" to God. We must be brought to the end of self, and to the bottom of circumstances, in order to prove fully what the life of faith is, and what God's resources are. God and the creature can never occupy the same platform. It must be God alone. "My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation." Psalm 62:5, 65My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. 6He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. (Psalm 62:5‑6).
Thus it was with Jehoshaphat in that scene recorded in 2 Chron. 20 He was wholly cast upon God. "We have no might." But what then? "Our eyes are upon Thee." This was enough. It was well for Jehoshaphat not to have so much as a single atom of might—a single ray of knowledge. He was in the very best possible attitude and condition to prove what God was. It would have been an incalculable loss to him to have been possessed of the smallest particle of creature strength or creature wisdom, inasmuch as it could only have proved a hindrance to him in leaning exclusively upon the arm and the counsel of the Almighty God. If the eye of faith rests upon the living God—if He fills the entire range of the soul's vision—then what do we want with might or knowledge of our own? Who would think of resting in that which is human when he can have that which is divine? Who would lean on a arm of flesh when he can lean on the arm of the living God?
No sooner had Jehoshaphat cast himself completely upon the Lord, than the divine response fell with clearness and power upon his ear. "Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.... Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, 0 Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to-morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you."
What an answer! "The battle is not yours, but God's." Only think of God's having a battle with people! Assuredly, there could be little question as to the issue of such a battle. Jehoshaphat had put the whole matter into God's hands, and God took it up and made it entirely His own. It is always thus. Faith puts the difficulty, the trial, and the burden into God's hands, and leaves Him to act. This is enough. God never refuses to respond to the appeal of faith; no, it is His delight to answer it. Jehoshaphat had made it a question between God and the enemy. They have "come to cast us out of Thy possession, which Thou hast given us to inherit." Nothing could be simpler. God had given Israel the land, and He could keep them in it in spite of ten thousand foes. Thus faith would reason. It was simply a question of divine power. "0 our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee."
It is a wonderful point in the history of any soul to be brought to say, "I have no might." But the moment we take that ground, the word is, "Stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Human effort in every shape and form can only raise a barrier between our souls and God's salvation. If God has undertaken for us, we may well be still. And has He not? Yes, blessed be His holy name, He has charged Himself with all that concerns us for time and eternity, and hence we have only to let Him act for us in all things. It is our happy privilege to let Him go before us, while we follow on "in wonder, love, and praise."
Thus it was in that interesting and instructive scene on which we have been dwelling. "Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with a loud voice on high."
Here we have the true attitude and the proper occupation of the believer. Jehoshaphat withdrew his eyes from that great company that had come against him, and fixed them upon the living God. Jehovah had come right in and placed Himself between His people and the enemy, just as He had done in the day of the exodus, at the Red Sea, so that instead of looking at the difficulties, they might look at Him.
This is the secret of victory at all times and under all circumstances. It is this which fills the heart with praise and thanksgiving, and bows the head in wondering worship. There is something perfectly beautiful in the entire bearing of Jehoshaphat and the congregation on the occasion before us. They were evidently impressed with the thought that they had nothing to do but to praise God. And they were right. Had He not said to them, "Ye shall not need to fight"? What then had they to do? Nothing but praise.
"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, 0 Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper." 2 Chron. 20:2020And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (2 Chronicles 20:20).
It is very important that God's Word should ever have its own supreme place in the heart of the Christian. God has spoken. He has given us His Word, and it is for us to lean unshaken thereon. The divine Word is amply sufficient to give confidence, peace, and stability to the soul. We do not need evidences from man to prove the truth of God's Word. That Word carries its own powerful evidences with it. To suppose that we require human testimony to prove that God's Word is true, is to imply that man's word is more valid, more trustworthy, more authoritative than the Word of God. If we need a human voice to interpret, to ratify, to make God's revelation available, then are we virtually deprived of that revelation altogether.
"And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for His mercy endureth forever." What a strange advance guard for an army! A company of singers! Such is faith's way of ordering the battle.
"And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord sent ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten." Only think of the Lord sending ambushments! Think of His engaging in the business of military tactics! How wonderful! God will do anything that His people need if only His people will confide in Him, and leave themselves and their affairs absolutely in His hand.
"And when Judah came toward the watchtower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped." Such was the end of "that great company"—that formidable host—that terrible foe. All vanished away before the presence of the God of Israel. Yes, and had they been a million times more numerous and more formidable, the issue would have been the same, for circumstances are nothing to the living God, and nothing to a living faith. When God fills the vision of the soul, difficulties fade away, and songs of praise break forth from joyful lips.
"And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much. And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah [or blessing]; for there they blessed the Lord."
Such must ever be the result of a living faith in the living God. More than two thousand five hundred years have rolled away since the occurrence of the event on which we have been dwelling, but the record is as fresh as ever. No change has come over the living God, or over that living faith which ever takes hold of His strength, and counts on His faithfulness. May we then, through the gracious energy of the Holy Spirit, ever be enabled to exercise a living faith in the living God!