O (LORD) our God, will You not judge them?
For we are powerless before this great multitude coming against us,
nor do we know what to do; but our eyes are on You.”
( 2 Chron. 20:12)
King Jehoshaphat was scared. A great confederation of enemies was coming against Judah from the south—Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites without number. In his fear—but also in his trust—he assembled all Judah to fast and pray. And when the time to pray in public arrived, he called to mind both the character and the promises of God. Then, in the words of our text above, he laid his petition before the LORD.
What words they were, and what a reminder and admonition to us, as we fight our own good fight of faith! Note well in these words three great and unalterable facts that mark our Christian life as we journey through the wilderness of this world to our heavenly homeland.
First, Jehoshaphat acknowledges his powerlessness. “We are powerless before this great multitude coming against us.” And so we are—but only in and of ourselves (John 15:1f). For outside of ourselves there is a great power that created the world, that raised Christ from the dead, and that is eager to suit us up daily with the weapons of our warfare. How sweet to read that in Jehoshaphat’s day it pleased the Lord to do all the fighting by himself. All that Judah was required to do was “stand and see the salvation of the Lord.” And so they did. We, of course, will often be called on to participate in the various “salvations” that the Lord grants us. But that changes nothing essential. Essentially we are powerless—unless and until we are empowered by his invincible power from above. It is not just true of Jehoshaphat’s battle, but of all battles: They belong to the Lord.
Secondly, Jehoshaphat admits he doesn’t know what to do. What a liberating confession! Can you not the feel the weight lifting from your shoulders as you realize that God does not hold you responsible for coming up with bright ideas to advance his Kingdom? No, all he holds you responsible for is to do exactly as Jehoshaphat did: sometimes fast, always pray, and always seek God’s face (20:3). Was this not what Paul and the prophets in Antioch did? And did not one of the prophets, just like Jahaziel in Jehoshaphat’s day, bring a word from the Lord? And did not the execution of that word turn Asia and Europe upside down, and storm the kingdom of Satan in those lands? (Acts 13) Our walk with God is never easy, but it’s always simple: We are simply to seek the LORD.
This brings us to the third and greatest fact of all. In this face of his spiritual powerlessness and ignorance, Jehoshaphat spoke these wise and memorable words: “But our eyes are on You!” Amen and amen! Do you remember how our Lord said, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. And how great that darkness will be!” Well, strong warnings protect vital truths and ensure great blessings. We MUST fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1f). Read Hebrews 11, and ponder the men and women of Faith’s Hall of Fame. Did they not all walk in the footsteps of king Jehoshaphat? Did they not see, feel, and acknowledge their utter powerlessness; did they not admit their ignorance; did they not look to the Lord alone for help; and did he not graciously give them the wisdom to know his will and the power to walk in it?
If you will take time to read the whole story of Jehoshaphat’s reign, you will see that he was not a perfect king. More than once he took his eyes off the Lord, putting his trust in man rather than God. And for those failures he more than once earned a rebuke, and more than one experienced a measure of defeat. But O what a great king he was, for over the great long haul he did indeed look to the Lord, walk in his will, enjoy his blessings, glorify his Name, and therefore earn his everlasting “Well done!” (17:1-6)
What then is the take-away of our text? Simply (but never easily) this: Let us ask for Jehoshaphat’s eyes. And let us do all we can to maintain them, fixing our eyes on Jesus as we meditate in daily on his word, pray always in the Spirit, and faithfully step out in obedience to his will. This is not a one-time experience; it is the pattern and trajectory of the whole Christian life. But as we keep rising to it, more and more will we find ourselves in the place of king Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah, of whom it is written that they fell down before the Lord, worshiped him in joy, and declared, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his covenant love endures forever” (20:18)!