I'm currently, albeit slowly, making my way through several books by Lysa Terkeurst. In her most recent book, Unglued, Lysa writes about the practical applications we can take from the Old Testament story of Jehoshaphat found in 2 Chronicles 20. She describes how even the first few words of verse 3 are packed with wisdom. "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord...." It would be easy for me to gloss over this phrase, but Lysa points out that when we are in an alarming or impossible situation we can resolve the problem by deciding to ask God about it. Alarmed, resolved, inquire. Those three action words can apply to many situations.
Now, I'm sure I learned about Jehoshaphat in Sunday School, but I couldn't remember his exact situation any more readily than I could spell his name. After reading what Lysa wrote, I went to read the story for myself. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, is alarmed because he has just learned an army is about to attack and wipe them out. Rather than repeating everything Lysa wrote, I'll post the verses below and underline the portions that stood out to me. Of course, different phrases stand out to different readers at different points in life. Actually, different phrases stand out each time you read it. I encourage you to read it again for yourself (without my underlining) and see what stands out to you.
2 Chronicles 20:3-25 (my underline added for emphasis)
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said:“O Lord, God of our fathers, 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. 7 O 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? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘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.’10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O 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 upon you.”13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon 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.15 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. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”18 Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his[d] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
22 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. 23 The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seirto destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.
If I take those underlined phrases and combine them into a thought, I get something like the following. When I'm in a situation that seems impossible, I can decide to ask God about it. When I stand before him he will hear me and save me. I don't have the strength to face it on my own, but I don't have to be afraid or discouraged because the battle is God's, not mine. I don't have to fight the battle, just take my position, stand firm, and watch to see the deliverance God provides. God is with me and I don't need to be afraid or discouraged. (I like how he reminds us twice that we don't need to be afraid or discouraged). My response should be one of praise and worship, having faith that God will take care of me and thanking him even before seeing results.
It's been a while since I've taken a passage (especially an Old Testament passage) and broken it down like this. It was exciting to find wisdom that can apply to many situations. I have to smile at the creative ways God answers prayer. If he can show me this passage at just the right time, he can surely provide answers and solutions to my other inquiries. Resolve to inquire.
Food for Thought: "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord." -2 Chronicles 20:3