Jehoshaphat and the Power of Worship
The term “worship wars” describes the constant battle there seems to be over this thing we do every Sunday for about 30 minutes. Like the man in this video, some go to war to resist worship. Arms folded they glare at the Minister of Music daring him to make them sing if he thinks he’s man enough. Believe me, I’ve led worship, I’ve seen these worship warriors! They go to war to resist worship.
Others go to war over worship. Churches, completely united over doctrine, may split over whether you use hymnbooks, play drums, or turn on an electric guitar. Sometime ago a very well respected evangelical preacher was kicked off of a Christian radio network not because his preaching was watered down or his theology suspect. No, it was much more serious! The worship style which his church used, but which was never presented on the radio and which, by the way, was tamer than our own, was too “worldly.” People fight over worship constantly.
I think that both of these approaches to worship sadly miss the point. The church of Christ desperately needs to fight about worship today, but we do not need to go to war to resist it, nor go to war over it, we need to go to war with our worship. What I mean is this: Worship is one of the greatest weapons in spiritual warfare, yet we don’t often see it that way. We see worship as the thing we do that’s supposed to make us feel close to God, and, while it might do that many times, that is not its primary purpose. Worship is warfare, and we desperately need it to be warfare.
Why? Well, we need our worship to be warfare because our battle is spiritual. You see, we spend much of our waking hours in one conflict or another. We tend to think that our argument with our boss is his fault or our own, but behind every disagreement, there is a spiritual struggle. We think that our financial stress is all about our wife’s lack of discipline, and part of it may, indeed, be, but behind every bounced check is a spiritual struggle. Teenagers, we think that we argue with mom and dad because they’re just out of touch, and they may indeed be as weird as a polyester leisure suit, but behind every struggle for freedom you ever wage is a spiritual struggle. The Bible says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of widkedness in heavenly places. And if the battle is spiritual, then our weapons must be spiritual too. Worship is one of those weapons. We need our worship to be warfare because the battle is spiritual.
But we also need it to be warfare because our enemy is serious. We are not in war games. Our enemy seeks our destruction. If he cannot touch our souls because we are saved by the grace of God, then he wants to neutralize our witness by silencing our testimony. He is deadly serious about making us ineffective. That’s why we need our worship to be warfare. Our enemy is serious.
And we also need our worship to be warfare because our flesh is so weak. In the comsic struggle with Satan, God wants to use us as his warriors but we have a fatal flaw in our armor: our own sinful nature. What strengthens us to fight against the onslaught of Satan. It is worship! That is why our worship must be warfare!
So how does it happen? How does worship become warfare? Well, we read an unbelievable story in 2 Chron 20 that clearly shows us. Jehoshaphat is the King. He’s one of the good guys. Though he’s had some bad moments, he’s tried to serve the Lord. But the day comes when it looks like all his clean living and devotion to God is going down the tubes. He is threatened by an invading army and his response to this threat demonstrates for us three avenues by which worship becomes warfare. First, worship becomes warfare:
DIV 1; WHEN IT CONNECTS WITH GOD
In v 1 of that chapter it reads:
It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. 2 Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar” (which is En Gedi). 3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? 7 Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?
Tragedy and danger have a way of connecting you with what’s really important and Jehoshaphat was certainly in the middle of danger. Jehoshaphat gets word that a “great multitude” of warriors are coming against him. Like you and me, he’s scared. He’s very frightened, so much so that he proclaims a fast throughout the land and the Bible says there in v 3 that he “sets himself to seek the Lord.” Hey, he’s not mumbling half-hearted, “hope-they-make-it-to-heaven” prayers here! He’s dead serious. He’s seeking God!
And, as he begins to seek the living God, God does just like He promises to do with anyone who genuinely seeks Him. He found that the promise God made to His people way back there in Deut 4 was true: But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul . . . In the middle of his praying and his worship, Jehoshaphat connects with God. You know that by the awareness he displays when he prays before the people in v 6,
“O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? 7 Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?
Notice he mentions God’s sovereignty and power. He says: O Lord God or our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of hte nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? In the middle of his fear and his worry, Jehoshaphat sets his heart to seek God and when he genuinely connects with that God, he is reminded of the awesome power that God has. Yes there’s a great army poised to attack him, but he serves the God who rules over nations. He serves the God in whose hand is power and might. He serves the God whom no one is able to withstand.
But there’s something even more precious here. In v 7, after he talks of God’s power, he makes it personal. He says, “Are you not our God . . .” Now its one thing to know of a God who has power. It’s another thing to call that God, your God!
Listen, Christian, the reason our worship is so wimpy is because it never connects. We wade through choruses and hymns with no thought. We daydream when someone leads in prayer and we sleep through the preaching of God’s word. Then we leave God’s house and wonder why nothing ever changes in our lives. I’ll tell you how to have life change. Let God turn your worship into warfare. Start genuinely connecting with Him!
And some might say right here: “Ooo, that sounds really spooky, Rusty. What do you mean when you say, “connect” with Him. Are you walking off the charismatic cliff, here? You going to have us raising our hands and closing our eyes? I hear people talking about “connecting” with God, but it seems like to me that they’re just deceiving themselves into some kind of emotional experience that isn’t real. They may claim that something is happening to them and they may think that it’s real, but I can’t say I’ve ever experienced it. I can’t say that anything “real” has happened in my heart during worship.”
Well, I understand what you’re saying. I really do. But I also know something about God. God is here, and He is not silent. Frederick Faber said:
There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on - -
One pastor wrote:
My daughter, Zoe, is two-and-a-half and loves to play hide-and-seek. Sometimes she hides, but usually the game involves hiding my cell phone. Unfortunately she doesn't yet understand the object of the game. She makes me close my eyes—that much she gets. But it's downhill from there. First of all, she always hides my phone in the same place: on the stairs, in plain sight. No matter how many times we play, she always puts my phone on the stairs. When I open my eyes, I know my phone is on the stairs, but I'll pretend like I don't see it. I'll look on the sofa, or under the table. It's my way of trying to teach her what the point of the game really is. What I've ended up teaching Zoe is that her father is a complete idiot, because the moment I look somewhere else for the phone she says, "No, Daddy. The phone isn't there. It's on the stairs, silly goose." And then she rolls her big brown eyes at me. There's nothing like having your intelligence insulted by a two-year-old. I've been trying to show Zoe that the fun of hide-and-seek is the seeking. But for Zoe, no matter what I try, the fun part is always the finding.
God wants us to seek him. But, like Zoe, he understands that the real joy is not in seeking, but in finding. He wants to be found. He has not intended the Christian life to be an impossible hunt for an elusive God that requires enormous faith. Quite the contrary. The Christian life is a simple walk to a welcoming God that requires only child-like faith
This is the image Jesus presents to us of our heavenly father's love. It is the image of a God who wants to be found, the God James says will draw near to us if we draw near to him. He is the God who stands at the door and knocks, and is prepared to come in and eat with anyone who opens the door. We are called to seek the God who wants to be found.
Listen, Christian, it is not God who’s hiding from us, it is Satan and our own sinfulness that is constantly distracting us from the one who is always whispering to our souls. The reason Satan is so intent on keeping us from connecting with God is because he knows that it is that connection which will turn our worship into warfare. He’s a master at misdirection. What are some of his favorite distractions? How does he distract us from a real connection with God.
Well, one of his distractions is worship itself! Instead of fighting him with worship, he wants us to fight each other over worship. He causes us to allow our disagreement over “contemporary vs. traditional” songs or “coat and tie” verses “casual” dress to distract us from what we’ve really come to do. Listen Christian, our focus should not be style but God! We must connect with Him.
He also distracts us through busyness. It was Louie Giglio who said that we do not come to church to worship, we should come “worshiping to church.” What he meant is simply this: If my schedule is too busy to allow me to worship God in private, I will usually be too distracted to worship God when I arrive on Sunday morning.
Research reveals that busyness really is a big problem. In data collected from over 20,000 Christians in 139 countries (though mostly in America) and between the ages of 15 and 88, The Obstacles to Growth Survey found that, on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they "often" or "always" rush from task to task. About 6 in 10 Christians say that it's "often" or "always" true that "the busyness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God." If you broke it down by profession, guess who were the most likely people to say they rushed from task to task? Pastors! 54% said that this was a problem for them and 65% said that it adversely affected their relationship with God. Dr. Michael Zigarelli concluded: “It's tragic and ironic: the very people who could best help us escape the bondage of busyness are themselves in chains."
Listen, Satan longs to distract us from connecting with God because he knows that when I connect, worship becomes warfare. But worship also becomes warfare:
DIVISION 2: WHEN IT ACTS IN FAITH
You see the faith of these folks in they way they prayed. It begins when God moves on a man named Jahaziel. He gives these desperate worshipers a word from God. Look at v 13:
13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord.
14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
God promises that He is going to deliver them and King Jehoshaphat responds in faith:
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high.
In the temple worship, this was a traditional practice. When the people offered a prayer of lament, that is a prayer describing their troubles, and God spoke to His people a message of deliverance, in temple worship this was followed by a song of thanksgiving. They thanked and praised God for His deliverance before it arrived to express their faith and to show that they took God seriously, even though nothing had yet happened. Their faith anticipated the outcome.
But it didn’t stop there: The next morning look what happens in v 20:
So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”
Look at what they did: They went out! Yes, they were facing an unbeatable enemy! Yes, they were uncertain of what they were to do, but they marched out, (watch this) led by the worship team. They marched out worshiping! You see, their faith was anticipating faith and then their faith was active faith.
And that brings us to a couple mistakes you and I often make here. On one side or the other, we get this faith thing all wrong. Most often, we try to have faith without action. Now, we know that James actually tells us that real faith always has action attached to it, but we try to have it the other way.
A newly converted president at NBC ws asked how his new faith would affect the moral standards of programming at NBC. Buying into the sacred-secular bifurcation, he said, “All it does is give me peace of mind in my personal life. But whether it will affect my programming, it doesn’t. It just makes me think clearer, but that just means I will probably think more commercially than I did before.”
That’s faith without action. I believe, but its not going to impact what I do. Friend, that is not faith and it is certainly not worship. But there’s another equally destructive error we make about faith
We attempt to have action without faith. This is action that happens in my flesh and in my own strength without any connection with God. I act without praying and without depending on Him. The result is exhausting and unproductive and it does not worship God nor
You see, even though in our story, God fights the battle for His people, I am convinced that if they hadn’t acted in faith, they would have suffered defeat. These worshiping Israelites didn’t just get the warm fuzzies from being in the presence of God, they moved out in faith nor bring victory. Powerful worship doesn’t neglect active obedience nor does it depend on itself. It acts in faith.
You want to know the greatest example of this kind of worship? It was Jesus. In John chapter 12, Jesus is contemplating His march to the cross where He would die not just a cruel, criminal’s death, He would die a Savior’s death. He would die not just physically, but spiritually for the sins of every man. As He thought about that, in his humanity, the greatness was overwhelming to Him, but here is what he said in John 12:27:
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father glorify Your name!
Do you get it? He’s saying because I am going to the Cross, God’s name will be glorified. My action becomes an act of Worship, the ultimate act of Worship!
Listen, if you have never had a relationship with Jesus Christ, this is worship that you need to act on. You need to come to Jesus Christ in simple faith and connect with what He did for you on the cross. It was the greatest act of worship in history.
And if you have connected with Christ, let me ask you, Christian: How can you act on your worship? Well, follow the example of these worshipers: They believed the Word of God. When Jahaziel told them that God was going to give them victory, they believed the Word of God. And when they believed the word of God, then they obeyed the will of God. Because they believed what God had promised they were willing to walk out into, what would have otherwise been utter defeat.
And Christian this is how we act on our worship. We believe the Word of God, (which, by the way, just means that the preaching of the Word of God is important to worship!) And when we hear the word, we act on what we hear. We believe the Word of God and we obey the will of God.
Do you do that? The worship hour should be the most life-changing hour in your week. Is it? Or do you just come here and get a little sanctified dose of feel good, then go out and keep right on living like you did. Do you act in faith; Do you allow God to change you? That’s how you turn worship into warfare.
The world is not impressed by our worship in here. They could care less how many worship choruses we sing. They don’t really care how cool our orchestra is or whether the pastor preaches a good sermon. They don’t care about our worship in here, they are impressed by our worship out there. When we act in faith in our community; when we actively show the love of Christ, our worship becomes genuine warfare.
And when I connect with God and when I act in faith, my worship gets transformed. It becomes a spiritual weapon that assaults hell and makes war on the devil. That’s how you know your worship is dangerous. It is warfare
DIV 3: WHEN IT ASSAULTS THE ENEMY.
You see the amazing results of Judah’s worship in v 22:
Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.
God, somehow, caused his enemies to turn on one another and, when God’s people arrived worshiping God, the battle was over. He turned their worship into warfare and defeated their enemy.
Did you know that your greatest enemy wants only one thing from his evil existence? Did you know what he is focused on? Isa 14:12 says of Satan:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Satan’s one desire is for your worship! He wants to be like God in your life. He wants our worship because he is selfish and because he knows that if we worship him, we will join him in his selfishness and destroy ourselves and he wants to destroy us.
God also wants our worship. He wants it, not because He is selfish, but because He is worthy. He knows that if we connect with Him and if we experience His presence, we will find joy because we will be fulfilling the very thing for which we were created. And this is the ultimate reason that worship is warfare. You see not only to we war with our worship, there is a war over our worship. Satan wants it and God wants it and when we truly worship Him by connecting with Him and by obeying Him in faith, we declare war on Satan and we see God powerfully work to defeat Him. And the end result is that God is glorified. V 29 says that after this great victory won through their worship that “ . . .the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.”
Christian, that just means one thing: Your greatest calling is worship! I like the way Hebrews 13:15 puts it:
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
These two verses tell me that worship is the expression of lips that love Him. I speak the greatness of God. I open my mouth and sing; I may raise my hands and express my praise; I may even shout joyfully to God. I express my love to Him with my lips. Are you free to do that? Now I didn’t say, “Are you free to fake that, I said are you free to do that, and do it from your heart?” What hinders you from freely speaking the praise of God. Could it be that sin in your life? Is it the fear of man? Are you emotionally dead and you need to deal with some real issues in your life? Are you angry and has that anger just stopped your worship? Worship is the unhindered expression of lips that love Him. But it’s more than that.
V. 16 says that in addition to our verbal praise, we are not to forget to do good and to share, (notice) for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. See, worship isn’t just the expression of lips that love Him, it is the submission of lives that obey Him. That just means I go out in faith and serve Him daily. I am willing to witness for Him; I am willing to suffer for Him; I’ll even clean bathrooms or dig ditches for Him. I worship Him with my life.
Are you doing that? What is it that is keeping you from serving Him with all your heart? Is it some job that has replaced your allegiance to Him? Is is some demand that you’ve made of Him that He hasn’t fulfilled? Is it just plain old selfishness?
Listen, today, like never before, the church needs dangerous worshipers!
Aaron was a young man in Chicago. He was praying for God to really use him in some church organization for His Glory. Nothing happened. Summer arrived, so after waiting, he took a job driving a bus on the southside of Chicago. After learning the route, he was on his own—a rookie driver in a dangerous section of the city. It wasn’t long before Aaron realized just how dangerous his job really was.
A small gang of tough kids spotted the young driver, and began to take advantage of him. For several mornings in a row they got on, walked right past him without paying, ignored his warnings, and rode until they decided to get off.… all the while making smart remarks to him and others on the bus. Finally, he decided it had gone on long enough.
The next morning, after the gang got on as usual, Aaron saw a policeman on the next corner, so he pulled over and reported the offense. The officer told them to pay or get off. They paid but, unfortunately, the policeman got off. And they stayed on. When the bus turned another corner or two, the gang assaulted the young driver.
When he came to, blood was all over his shirt, two teeth were missing, both eyes were swollen, his money was gone, and the bus was empty. After returning to the terminal and being given the weekend off, our friend went to his little apartment, sank onto his bed and stared at the ceiling in disbelief. Resentful thoughts swarmed his mind. Confusion, anger, and disillusionment added fuel to the fire of his physical pain. He spent a fitful night wrestling with the Lord.
How can this be? Where’s God in all of this? I genuinely want to serve Him. I prayed for a ministry. I was willing to serve Him anywhere, doing anything, and this is the thanks I get!
The matter went to court. Even though Aaron felt resentment, God began to change his heart. Under the Spirit’s control he came to no longer hated them—he pitied them. They needed help, not more hate. But what could he do?
At the trial after there was a plea of guilty, Aaron (to the surprise of his attorney and everybody else in the courtroom) stood to his feet and requested permission to speak.
“Your honor, I would like you to total up all the days of punishment against these men—all the time sentenced against them—and I request that you allow me to go to jail in their place.”
The judge didn’t know whether to spit or wind his watch. Both attorneys were stunned. As Aaron looked over at the gang members (whose mouths and eyes looked like saucers), he smiled and said quietly, “It’s because I forgive you.”
The dumbfounded judge, when he reached a level of composure, said rather firmly: “Young man, you’re out of order. This sort of thing has never been done before!” To which the young man replied with genius insight:
“Oh, yes, it has, your honor … yes, it has. It happened over nineteen centuries ago when a man from Galilee paid the penalty that all mankind deserved.”
And then, for the next three or four minutes, without interruption, he explained how Jesus Christ died on our behalf, thereby proving God’s love and forgiveness.
He was not granted his request, but the young man visited the gang members in jail, led most of them to faith in Christ, and began a significant ministry to many others in southside Chicago.
Now Aaron was a dangerous worshiper! O how we need them! And I know what you may be thinking. You may be thinking, “That’s great for Aaron, Rusty, but I just don’t think I could do that. I don’t know if I am capable of this kind of warfare.”
Erwin McManus says that one summer, his son, Aaron, went to a youth camp. He was just a little guy, and I was kind of glad because it was a church camp. I figured he wasn't going to hear all those ghost stories, because ghost stories can really cause a kid to have nightmares. But unfortunately, since it was a Christian camp and they didn't tell ghost stories, because we don't believe in ghosts, they told demon and Satan stories instead. And so when Aaron got home, he was terrified.
"Dad, don't turn off the light!" he said before going to bed. "No, Daddy, could you stay here with me? Daddy, I'm afraid. They told all these stories about demons."
And I wanted to say, "They're not real."
He goes, "Daddy, Daddy, would you pray for me that I would be safe?" I could feel it. I could feel warm-blanket Christianity beginning to wrap around him, a life of safety, safety, safety.
I said, "Aaron, I will not pray for you to be safe. I will pray that God will make you dangerous, so dangerous that demons will flee when you enter the room."
And he goes, "All right. But pray I would be really, really dangerous, Daddy."
Have you come to that place in your own life where you stop asking God to give you a safe life, and make you a dangerous follower of Jesus Christ?How do you become really really dangerous? You become really really focuse on worshiping God with your lips and your life