2 Chronicles 20:1-30 - Asking Help Of The Lord

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The book of Chronicles was written for a clear purpose: to encourage the people of Israel returning from exile in Babylon to keep seeking the Lord because he isn’t done yet.
Several clear themes emerge as you read the whole book: the focus on the temple shows the importance of worship. The focus on David and the Kings shows the importance of godly leadership. The focus on the effect of humble, penitent intercession in the life of the nation shows the importance of prayer.
And that is our focus today, with as our text...
2 Chronicles 20:4 NIV
The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
2 Chron 20:4
We’ve already seen one King calling the people to seek the Lord. They made a covenant together in .
Now the people are coming together to seek help from the Lord in response to a national emergency.
2 Chronicles 20:1 NIV
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.
2 Chronicles 20:1–2 NIV
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).
Jehoshaphat is king. He knows that he is not strong enough to stand against the army approaching Judah. So he does the only thing he has left to do:
2 Chronicles 20:3–4 NIV
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
A fast was proclaimed, so that the people can physically express their spiritual need of the Lord’s help. They came together to seek that help in prayer. And then they listened to the Lord as he responded to their cries through the words of a prophet.
As we explore this theme of prayer from this passage, I am struck by its relevance to our situation as a church. I believe the Lord is calling us to respond in much the same way as the people of Israel responded in this chapter - with fasting, prayer, and inquiring of the Lord.
First we’ll consider the context and meaning of the passage, before we consider how the Lord is calling us to respond today.
We have no great army advancing against us. We have much worse. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil which wage war against us at every level. We feel that war as we fight for holiness and purity, as we battle to seek the Lord.
I am especially concerned about one particular way in which the enemy is advancing against us. It’s clear that the enemy wants for us to fail in our mission to invite everyone to follow Jesus.
The stark reality is that we have seen no credible profession of faith as a result of our witness and evangelism as a church for over three years.
This must surely cause us to be alarmed.
First we’ll consider the context and meaning of the passage, before we discern it’s meaning for us today.

Fast Before The Lord

2 Chronicles 20:3 NIV
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.
Not altogether uncommon. On numerous occasions in the OT the people are called to fast in response to some kind of crisis.
They would abstain from all food for a period of time in order to express their grief or their repentance, to seek guidance from the Lord or to show their need for the Lord’s intervention.
It was an appropriate way to respond to a crisis such as the one Jehoshaphat and the people were facing. The purpose was to “inquire of the Lord” and “seek help from the Lord.”
Fasting endured as a Christian practice. The Lord Jesus taught about how Christians should fast saying, “When you fast...” Not if. When ().
Jesus said, “When you fast...” Not if. When ().
And later when asked why his disciples weren’t fasting...
Matthew 9:15 NIV
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
Matt 9:15
They will fast because he is not there. John Piper writes...

in this age there is an ache inside every Christian that Jesus is not here as fully and intimately and as powerfully and as gloriously as we want him to be. We hunger for so much more. That is why we fast.

We hunger for so much more. Do we feel that hunger? Is there an uncomfortable rumbling deep within us, an unsettling feeling that we cannot be satisfied until we are fully, truly, physically and spiritually united with Jesus in glory?
It’s true that probably, for most of the time, we don’t feel that way. Which is why we must fast. Because the hunger pains that kick in two hours, four hours, eight hours after the last meal give us the physical sensation of what we should be feeling spiritually.
And then we can pray: “O, Lord, just as my body is crying out for food, so my spirit cries out for you! Just as my vital organs need food in order to continue functioning, so my soul needs you in order to have true spiritual life.”
Jehoshaphat called the people to fast because they needed to feel their emptiness and their great need of the Lord. They fasted to inquire of him and to seek him in the crisis they faced.

Seek Help From The Lord

2 Chronicles 20:4 NIV
The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
2 Chronicles 20:1–4 NIV
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
And Jehoshaphat led them in prayer. Notice the elements of his prayer.
He prayed with confidence.
2 Chronicles 20:6 NIV
and said: Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.
2 Chron
He appealed to the Lord’s past acts.
2 Chronicles 20:7 NIV
Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?
2 Chron 20:7
He pleaded on the basis of the promises of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:8–9 NIV
They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
:8-9
He fully owned up to their powerlessness and weakness in the face of attack.
2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV
Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
:
And so back to confidence in the Lord - our eyes are on you.
This is an honest prayer that is well worth looking at when troubles come. This is a prayer that could be prayed (with changes to suit the circumstances) by anyone who is feeling at the end of themselves, anyone who needs to seek the Lord.
Which is frankly all of us, isn’t it? Our circumstances will change all the time. But our need of the Lord will always be the same.
So when we pray we ought always to pray with confidence in God who hears our prayers and is able to respond according to his sovereign might.
We may appeal to the Lord’s works in the past, reminding him and (more importantly) ourselves of his great acts of deliverance.
We can plead the promises of God, imploring him to do what he has said he will do.
Matthew 17:19–21 NIV
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matt 17:19-20
And we must always pray in full awareness of our powerlessness to do anything.
Having sought help from the Lord in prayer, Jehoshaphat and the people listened.

Listen To The Lord

2 Chronicles 20:13 NIV
All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.
They stopped. They didn’t pray and then rush about, getting on with things, or trying to prepare for war. They simply stood before the Lord.
2 Chron 20:14
2 Chronicles 20:14–15 NIV
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
And then he details how the people will not have to fight this battle because the Lord will deliver them from it.
This was the answer they were looking for. This was the response they needed.
Throughout Chronicles this happens. It was exactly what was promised Solomon at the dedication of the Temple…
2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:13–16 NIV
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
And time and again when the people face trouble they pray and the Lord delivers them.
And time and again when the people face trouble they pray and the Lord delivers them.
The Book of Chronicles is one big lesson in the importance of persistent, humble, fervent prayer to the Lord. Especially when faced with battles, trials, difficulties and weakness.
And now the Lord gives them the assurance they need through his prophet. A word of encouragement that the Lord will deliver them. And that assurance is what prompts them to get up and get on.
And they go singing and praising the Lord!
2 Chronicles 20:21–22 NIV
After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
:21-22
What an important rebuke for us (at least for me). We pray but we don’t stay.
What an important rebuke for us (at least for me). We pray but we don’t stay.
We don’t stand before the Lord. We don’t seek that assurance from him that he has heard our prayers and will respond.
I said at the start that I believe the Lord is calling us to respond, to this passage and our circumstances, with fasting, prayer and inquiring of the Lord.
What do I mean? What are the connections between this chapter and our church right now?

Worship The Lord

We have no great army advancing against us. We have much worse. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil which wage war against us at every level. We feel that war as we fight for holiness and purity, as we battle to seek the Lord.
But I am especially concerned about one particular way in which the enemy is advancing against us. It’s clear that the enemy wants for us to fail in our mission to invite everyone to follow Jesus.
The stark reality is that we have seen no credible profession of faith as a result of our witness and evangelism as a church for over three years.
This must surely cause us to be alarmed, as Jehoshaphat was alarmed at his news.
The temptation is to throw ourselves into pursuing new evangelism methods or courses, trying out new ways of connecting with the community and so on. That would be the equivalent of Jehoshaphat the army preparing for a war they could not win.
Instead I believe we must do as they did: fast, pray, seek and inquire of the Lord.
Expressing our confidence in God’s power and promise. Confessing our powerlessness to save sinners.
And seeking answers from the Lord - why are we not seeing people coming to Christ? Is there something we’re doing wrong or not doing at all? Do we need to change what we do, or how we do them? Is there are corporate sin that needs confessing?
I spoke with the elders about this when we met on Monday evening, and together we feel it is appropriate, in the face of these circumstances, to call our church to a season of prayer and fasting.
I’m suggesting that we fast on Tuesdays, so that we can share in our fasting as homegroups. For the same reason we might also consider fasting on Sundays.
How you fast is up to you. The most common way is to abstain from food for a period of time. You must discern what works best for you.
This is a season of prayer and fasting which may go on for some time.
In any case, I believe that we must spend time “standing before the Lord.” Praying earnestly about the situation we face.
And I believe we must be prepared to listen to the Lord, and be prepared for the Spirit to speak to us.
So as we pray and fast in the coming days/weeks/months, as we read his Word, let’s pay attention to what he could be saying to us.
And if you feel that the Lord has spoken to you concerning our particular circumstances, then share it with your homegroup, and with the elders that we might weigh and consider it together with you.
Brothers and sisters, I am alarmed that we are not seeing growth by means of people coming to faith in Christ.
And so along with the elders, I am calling us to a season of fasting and prayer.
Starting now, with a time of open prayer before we close in song.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Spend the majority of time in prayer, seeking and inquiring of the Lord during this season of fasting and prayer. Lament before the Lord that we are not bearing fruit for the gospel. Ask Him to fill us with His Spirit that we might declare the truth with boldness.
Use and adapt the prayer .
If there is time, read and discuss how we might delight in our weaknesses.
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