The Revival Under Jehoshaphat - Part 4 of 6
At one time an emphasis on one Christian TV network was "Believe in America."
The theme seemed to be that things were not as bad as they appeared and that talk of judgment on this country was misplaced. Further, one southern gospel song declares, "There's gonna be a revival in the land." What would it take to make that happen in the United States or any other nation on earth? The revival in Judah under King Jehoshaphat offers important clues.
The biblical account of this revival indicates that personal devotion to God, as well as professional leadership on the part of national officials, are of the utmost importance in bringing spiritual renewal to any land. Such is equally true in the local church. That leadership includes directing people in prayer and fasting. The historical record of the revival under Jehoshaphat shows that prayer is most effective when it demonstrates absolute dependence on God. Petitions presented before the Lord in such an attitude bring a supernatural response which miraculously takes one through all of life’s great crises.
When it comes to promoting anything in the local church, I cannot count the number of times I have heard, “The pastor is the key.” Among the great causes for the pastor to promote in his congregation is revival. He will do well to follow the example of King Jehoshaphat in leading his nation to spiritual renewal.
Personal Devotion to God in the Life of National and Church Leadership
His personal devotion to God was the starting point for the revival under Jehoshaphat. The blessing of the Lord rested upon him from the beginning of his reign. This was because he walked in the first ways of David (2 Chron. 17:3). In doing so he refused to worship Baal. Instead, he sought to do the will of Jehovah (4). With that emphasis, his reign differed from that of the kings of Israel to the north. Thus the goodness of God rested on his administration (5).
Professional Courage in Affecting Reforms in Revival
From the foundation of his personal devotion to God, Jehoshaphat courageously affected reforms in a manner fitting to claims of revival in his country. With delight Jehoshaphat served Jehovah and sought to stamp out idolatry (2 Chron. 17:6). He outlawed the practice of homosexuality in the nation and banished persons engaged in it from the land (1 Kings 22:46). Sawyer correctly observes, “A man must sometimes destroy before he can rebuild” (Robert L. Sawyer, “I and II Chronicles,” Beacon Bible Commentaries, Vol 2, [Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1965], p. 575). He sent a teaching team through the country to promote an understanding of Scripture (2 Chron. 17:7-9). Knowledge of the Word must ever be the base for genuine revival. The church, priests and prophets, had failed to lead the country forward spiritually. Here, then, the government, the king does so, with no thought of separation between Church and state in those days. The team had five princes, nine Levites, and two priests, a total of 16. Their aim was to simply teach the Word of God. The king himself went with them in efforts to turn the people back to God (2 Chron. 19:4).
Clarke sees a parallel between what happened here and the history of his homeland of England. He credits John Wesley as being among the itinerant preachers there who made up such a ministry team as Judah had.
He writes: "Such an itinerant ministry established in these kingdoms for upward of fourscore years, teaching the pure, unadulterated doctrines of the Gospel, with the propriety and necessity of obedience to the laws, has been the principal means, in the hand of God, of preserving these lands from those convulsions and revolutions that have ruined and nearly dissolved the European continent” (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Bible Commentary, vol. II [Nashville, TN: Abingdom Press, n. d.], p. 665).
He credits the resulting revival with saving the nation from much destructive social turmoil that swept through other nations during that period of time.
Sacred history takes note of Jehoshaphat's further efforts at reforms during those days. In seeking justice for all of the people in his domain, he strategically located judges throughout the land (2 Chron. 19: 4-7). They must show no partiality and take no bribes. He said to them, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery” (6, 7). The king provided the same kind of service especially for those in Jerusalem, the capital city (8-11).
Results Following a Time of Revival
Seeing what was happening in Judah brought the fear of the Lord among the nations around them (2 Chron. 17:10). As a result they made no war against them for a time. God blessed the righteous king and his people with temporal things. The king amassed great wealth (13). The military arm of the nation saw impressive growth (13). Over a million men swelled the ranks of its army (14-18).
However, things did not continue indefinitely well for Judah. After a while its people faced a crisis as great as any during the course of its history. The events accompanying it, tested the genuineness of the revival and provoked the nation in further pursuit after Jehovah. Thankfully, though, its king, Jehoshaphat, had not waited until a time of crisis to set things in order spiritually.
Events Provoking Further Pursuit of God in Judah.
Following the summary above of one of the most notable revivals in the history of the nation of Judah, specific events in the country provoked a further seeking after Jehovah. In time Judah's neighbors began to be unhappy at its prosperity while receiving the blessing of God. They considered the rise of the nation a threat to their security. Thus they formed a military confederacy in efforts to stop what was happening. Their combined army marched against the people of the Lord. The sacred record says, “After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat” (2 Chron. 20:1).
As noted above, King Jehoshaphat had made some military preparations before this unexpected threat. After strengthening his army in the early part of his reign, the Bible says, “He stationed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and put garrisons in Judah and in the towns of Ephraim that his father Asa had captured” (2 Chron. 17:2). However, his plans centered only on defending his country against any possible invasion from Israel to the north (1).
The “sit and do nothing” philosophy hardly applies to the military life of any nation. Still, Jehoshaphat was not so foolish as to trust in the might of his army. He was of the same mind as the wise man when he wrote, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD”(Prov. 21:31). His sentiments were the same as the psalmist who said, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save” (Ps. 33:16, 17). He was also as wise as the one who declared, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7).
"Victory rests with the LORD."
Even so, Jehoshaphat now faced a confederate army much larger than his. When he learned of its approach, it had already marched to En Gedi, only twenty-five miles from Jerusalem to the west of the Dead Sea (2 Chron. 20:2). The intelligence report struck terror in the heart of the king.
Immediate Response to the Crisis
Jehoshaphat’s immediate response was to call a nation-wide prayer meeting. Fear is not so bad, if it drives one to his knees. The Bible says, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (2 Chron. 20:3). This is the first recorded royally sponsored fast in the Bible. The response to the call was most encouraging. Scripture reports, “The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD. Indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him” (4). Whole families came, including wives and children (13). To this day it is of the utmost importance to have the whole family together in church, especially in times of seeking revival.
Elements of the King’s Prayer
Believers find great lessons on how to pray as they observe the elements of the prayer, led by the king, on this solemn occasion. They will do well to follow the outline of his prayer for revival in their own lives, during personal devotions, as well as during corporate prayer services.
Recounting the Greatness of God
The great king gathers with his people in the house of the Lord. He selects the “new court” as the area commodious enough to house the throng assembled (5). This may have been an area erected as a part of the revival under his father Asa. Some suggest this is the origin of the Court of the Women at the Temple.
Jehoshaphat begins his petition before Jehovah by recounting the greatness of his nation’s God. He recognizes that, though the Lord is a heavenly Creature, yet it is He who rules over the affairs of all the kingdoms on earth (6). He acknowledges the almightiness of the only God in the universe. No one is able to withstand such a Being.
Recalling Former Blessings of God
The king continues his prayer by recalling former blessings from God (7). He remembers how Jehovah drove out the inhabitants of the Promised Land and gave it to Israel. His worship included recognizing the fact that the Lord took such action because of a covenant He had made with Abraham, one whom He had acknowledged as His friend.
Rehearsing the Promises of God
Jehoshaphat then rehearses the promises of God in his prayer. He recalls the fact that as a part of their occupation of the Promised Land they had erected a house of worship dedicated to Jehovah (8). Reference to that sanctuary leads him to recall the promises the Lord made to His people in response to the dedicatory prayer of his great-great grandfather, Solomon. Based upon it he prayed, “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” (9).
Presenting the Problem to the Lord
Only after such meaningful worship does Jehoshaphat present the nation’s problem before the Lord. He recalled that in their approach to the Promised Land Jehovah had prohibited them from taking any of the territory He had given to their relatives (10). The people of both Ammon and Moab were descendants of Lot (Gen. 19:36-38). The Lord had given the area around Mt. Seir to the descendants of Esau. It became known as Edom, one of the names of their famous ancestor (Gen. 25:29, 30). He reminds Jehovah that Israel had obeyed His command not to invade the territory He had assigned to their kin.
Drawing attention to one’s obedience in the past can be a worthwhile ingredient in one’s prayer. When one comes to a place of desperation in prayer, it helps to know that he has lived in obedience to the commandments of the Lord, as in the case of Hezekiah. When he faced certain death, Isaiah reports, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, ‘Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes’” (Isa. 38:2, 3). Jehovah responded by extending the king’s life for fifteen more years.
Jehoshaphat then declared before the Lord that those kin folk now repaid Israel evil for good. He said, “See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance” (11).
Petitioning the Lord for Help
Only now in his prayer does the king consider it appropriate to petition the Lord for his help. He does so, first, by confessing Israel’s helplessness. He said, “. . .we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do” (12). Sawyer says, “The king and his people faced the kind of dilemma that every man faces more than once in a lifetime” (p. 577). On that basis he requests the intervention of God. They were not only powerless before such a might army, but they could not come up with any plans to help themselves. However, significantly, he said, “But our eyes are upon you” (12). Their position was one of having to “sit and do nothing,” except they could pray and trust the Lord! Clarke evaluates this prayer as “one of the most sensible, pious, correct, and as to its composition one of the most elegant prayers ever offered under the Old Testament dispensation” (p. 670).
Effects of the Prayer
Jehovah responded to the king’s prayer both at once and over time.
During the Prayer Meeting
It is not surprising that Jehovah immediately responds to such a petition while the prayer meeting is still in progress. He uses a member of the choir to speak to His people. He is Jahaziel, a descendant of the noted musician Asaph. For some reason, though, he is not in his position in the choir that day. Rather, he is out in the middle of the congregation (2 Chron. 20:14). The Spirit comes upon him and he prophesies saying, “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” (15). Further words of encouragement flow from his inspired lips, “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.” (17).
"For the battle is not yours, but God’s."
In an hour of crisis people often say, "I can't just sit here and do nothing." To do nothing is one of hardest things in the world on a human being. As a pastor some years ago I stopped to chat with a retired farmer sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the small house he had moved to from his rural acreage. In the course of his conversation he declared, “Preacher, I used to think that if I could just sit in the shade in a rocking chair all day long every day that would be the nearest thing to heaven on earth. Now I have decided that doing exactly that, is the hardest work I ever did in my life!”
Yet, to do nothing sometimes is the most profitable thing in the world a man can do. Usually, people “do nothing” only when they are in a place where they are actually, truly, and totally helpless. A colleague of mine related to me an unusual technique of punishment his mother used to employ when he was a boy. She would sometimes to him say, "Sit quietly on the chair until you can get hold of yourself."
Scripture confirms the fact that there is truth behind her philosophy. No less than three times in the Bible Jehovah declared, “Be still and know that I am God.” To the people of Israel with the Red Sea before them and the army of Egypt behind them He said, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today” (Exod. 14:13). Then he provided the reason for the command, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (14). Many years later the Lord again said to His people, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). For the third time, now, as the nation of Judah faced a great national crisis He declared, “[S]tand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 20:17). Their obedience brought not only deliverance but a great revival in the land.
The ministry of the prophet in the prayer service also included words of knowledge that amounted to an intelligence report. He identified the location of the enemy army for the military leaders of Israel (16). Both king and people responded to the encouraging words with bowed heads in worship (18). Then the choir sounded out its song of praise “with voices loud and high” (19). Kaiser writes:
Jehoshaphat’s response to Jahaziel’s ministry of the Word of God, was to lead the people in bowing their heads and falling down in worship. And then, surprisingly, some of the Levites stood up, and broke out in praise.The revival was on. How God’s people can, and do, respond beautifully to the call of the Word of God. And how wonderful it is when it happens” (Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Revive Us Again: Biblical Insights for Encouraging Spiritual Renewal [Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1999], p. 111),
On the Day of the Battle
Jehoshaphat acted both as the General of his army and as their chaplain early in the morning on the day of battle. He encouraged them to believe in the Lord and to trust His prophets and promised that they would them be victorious in the war that was immediately before them (20).
His strategy as commander of the soldiers was a somewhat strange one, looking at it from a human point of view. He planned to send the choir ahead of the military men as they pressed forward onto the field of conflict! (21). He consulted with the ministers of music as to who should participate in ministry that day and perhaps as to what they should sing. They “worshiped in the beauty of holiness.”That is, they praised the beauty of God’s holiness or they ministered in “holy attire,” as Ellison suggests (H. L. Ellison, “I and II Chronicles,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. Francis Davidson [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953], p. 359).
However, true to His word, Jehovah fought for Israel that day. He caused a panic among the confederate enemy army. The soldiers from the different nations ended up killing each other (2 Chron. 10:22, 23). When the army of Israel appeared on the battle field they found nothing but bodies on the ground! Not one was left standing (24). This was a genuine holy war. Israel’s only task was that of gathering up the spoils (25).It took them three days to do that.
The Time of Celebration in Worship after the Battle
At the end of the three day period of gathering the spoils, the people of Israel assembled for worship on the battlefield. They named it the Valley of Berachah, the “Valley of Blessing”(26). Then Jehoshaphat led them back into Jerusalem to the Temple in a joyous procession (27). The orchestra joined the people and choir in their triumphant worship (28).
In the Days Following the Battle
The news that Jehovah had fought the battle for His people, resulting in a might victory over their enemies, spread quickly to surrounding nations (29). The fear of God filled all their hearts. Neighboring nations responded with respect for the Lord. Such is usually included today as a part of the fruit of revival. The record of the day of miracles ends with the report, “And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side” (30).
The biblical account of the revival under Jehoshaphat indicates that personal devotion to God as well as professional leadership on the part of national officials are of the utmost importance in bringing spiritual renewal to any land. Such is as true for the pastor of a local church as for the king of a nation. That leadership includes directing people in prayer and fasting. The historical record of the revival under Jehoshaphat shows that prayer is most effective when it demonstrates absolute dependence on God. Petitions presented before the Lord in such an attitude, bring a supernatural response which miraculously takes one through all of life’s great crises.
Clarke, Adam. Clarke’s Bible Commentary, Vol. II.Nashville, TN: Abingdom Press, n. d.
Ellison, H. L. “I and II Chronicles.” The New Bible Commentary.Ed. Francis Davidson.Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Revive Us Again: Biblical Insights for Encouraging Spiritual Renewal. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1999.
Sawyer, Robert L.“ I and II Chronicles.” Beacon Bible Commentaries. Vol. 2. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1965.