One of my biblical heroes is Jehoshaphat, king of Judah who, after forming an alliance with Ahab, restored the place of God’s law in Judah (2 Chronicles 19). However, the incident that for me inspires faith comes in the following chapter.
An alliance of the surrounding people, a ‘great multitude’ of enemies, came against Judah. Jehoshaphat did not indulge in any macho posturing, did not claim that Judah could stand up and fight them off. He was afraid – with good reason! Sometimes we are afraid to admit our fears – we don’t want to show weakness. But Jehoshaphat knew that he, and Judah, were weak.
His response to that fear is what is so inspirational. He prayed, but he did not focus on the problem, large though it was. So often our prayers are so full of our needs that we almost lose sight of who it is we are praying to. But Jehoshaphat focused instead on the greatness of God:
“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.” (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)
Worship defined his response to the problem. He worshipped when he saw the problem. He led all the people in worship when God promised His help (vv.18-9). And he even sent the choir out before the army to worship as they went to face the enemy (vv.21-2). They did not even have to fight – because as they went out in worship, God won the victory for them, and they rejoiced (more worship!) as they returned to Jerusalem having seen God’s deliverance.
A.W. Tozer wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy that ‘the church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted it for one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men…. We have lost our spirit of worship’. If we do not have a right view of the greatness of God, our fear in the face of problems becomes something that paralyses – or takes over, so that it dominates our thinking and our prayer. We know that we should pray, we even know that we need God in that situation. But our faith is dulled because our worship is dulled and our appreciation of the glory of God is dulled.
That is why Jehoshaphat inspires faith. He knew what truly mattered – not the hordes of enemies descending on Judah, but the glorious God who had a covenant relationship with them. He did not let fear take over – he turned it to worship of the God who alone is to be feared. His faith was founded on the most solid ground, and he proved it in his worship, setting an example and an inspiration for all who profess that same faith.