2 CHRONICLES 20
12 O our Elohim, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
Seeking God's presence in prayer
The time had come for national prayer, and it was the king who would lead them, in a magnificent outpouring of pleading and praise. Standing in the great court, 13 and perhaps upon the brazen platform of Solomon, brought forth for the purpose, 14 Jehoshaphat stood up before the congregation and led them in earnest entreaty.
His prayer would reveal just what type of man he was, as the congregation stood in silence and heard his words. Here was a time of crisis, where both king and people feared for their safety, and yet his prayer was a superb example of God-centred thinking and petition.
Here was no 'me, my, mine', but instead 'Thee, Thy, Thine'. All was attributed to God, for everything rested upon Him. His was the sovereignty that Jehoshaphat acknowledged, and none else besides. It was not just that with Him resided all power, but that in Him rested all purpose. That immutable purpose lay with His chosen people, the seed of Abraham, and the king reminded God that the conflict therefore rested ultimately with Him, and not with His people.
Jehoshaphat came to seek Yahweh, in conscious echo of the psalm of the House of Asaph since, like them, he believed in the power of His presence, as he prayed earnestly before the ark in the new court of the sanctuary. 15
And yet, the king's plea was not his own, for in this time of crisis, Jehoshaphat addressed God in the words of Solomon, when he stood upon his brazen platform, and uttered his special prayer on the very day the ark was brought into the Most Holy. What better prayer could Jehoshaphat echo, in this, his own hour of need, than the one Solomon offered in the same place?
And there was more besides, for his final thoughts were in the very spirit of his father's prayer, when faced with the crisis of an overwhelming multitude. 17 Jehoshaphat understood the supremacy of God, and pleaded the divine help, but for the honour of God's own integrity. He asked God to take up their cause, but for the defence of His own name.
How beautifully did the king place their need alongside the purpose of their God. In total humility, he declared their true state, when he cried:
"for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."
Here was the glorious spirit of complete surrender. A simple confession of their complete inadequacy was followed by a declaration of His absolute sufficiency. Both their dependence and their trust were upon Him, but there was no presumption in the prayer, for Jehoshaphat left the cause with God. His prayer, even in distress, was a model of God-centred, God-focused entreaty.
13 There were only two courts in Solomon's temple, the great Court of the people, and the court of the priests (2 Kings 21:5; 23:12). Jehoshaphat was probably stationed in the great Court with the people, but directly before the entrance to the Court of the priests (2 Chronicles 4:9).
14 Solomon's brazen scaffold was like an inverted laver, which provided a metal platform on which the king could stand that his prayer might be heard by all. Given the similar circumstance of national prayer convened at the temple (cp. 2 Chronicles 6:3,12,13; 20:5), the platform might have been recovered from a temple storeroom, and used by Jehoshaphat.
15 The word paniym was the key to the family psalm (1 Chronicles 16:11,27,29,30,33,37) as the House of Asaph in singing before the ark came into the presence of Yahweh. Jehoshaphat understood this, and sought the help of his God with the same cry (2 Chronicles 20:9,13,18).
16 The brief words of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:9) were a splendid summary of Solomon's plea for the divine help when Israel (in desperate need) prayed toward His house, and toward the place of His name (6:20,21,26-28,34,35,40,41).
Jehoshaphat knew his Bible!
17 Asa keenly felt that same sense of inadequacy, and the same dependence on Yahweh to vindicate His own name in saving them (2 Chronicles 14:11). And his prayer resulted in a wonderful victory!
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 5
14 Then 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, came the Spirit of Yahweh in the midst of the congregation;
"God . . . spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets" (Heb. 1:1).
Not only have we these general declarations of a divine authorization of the words of the prophets, in a sense excluding literary authorship on their part, but we have express instruction as to the method by which those words became the words of God. And this instruction fences off all idea of those words being the words of the prophets in any sense of natural gift. Natural gift could not produce most of them. They are carefully discriminated from the words that a man might speak from natural impulse, and are expressly attributed to a divine impulse with which the prophet had nothing to do.
"Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). "Thou testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets" (Neh. 9:30).
When this divine impulse was on a man, he could not resist it, as we learnt from the case of Jeremiah, already referred to (Jer. 20:9). In the case of Ezekiel, its action is described circumstantially thus:
"And the Spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet . . . And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them . . . When I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God" (Ezek. 2:2; 3:4, 27).
A prophet might therefore be compared to an electric lamp with the electrical current turned on. Detached from the current, he was as dark as any other man; but with the power of the Spirit aglow, he showed the brightness of the mind of God in words which were the words of God, and not the words of the prophet. God alleges His connection with the matter thus:
"I have spoken by the prophets, I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the prophets" (Hos. 12:10). "I have hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth" (Hos. 6:5). "The Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants, the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
The operation is illustrated in the case of the seventy elders appointed to assist Moses in the administration of the law in the congregation.
"The Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy of the elders of Israel . . . and I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee and will put it upon them. And Moses went out and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. And the Lord . . . took of the Spirit that was upon him (Moses) and gave it unto the seventy elders.
And it came to pass that when the Spirit rested upon them that they prophesied. But there remained two of the men in the camp . . . and the Spirit rested upon them. And they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle, and they prophesied in the camp" (Num. 11:16-26).
Here was a simultaneous touching of seventy men by the Spirit, irrespective of locality, and being touched they were affected and could not but speak,
"as the Spirit gave them utterance."
The Christadelphian, June 1898
The prophecy of Jahaziel
15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith Yahweh unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but Elohim's.
16 To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of Yahweh with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for Yahweh will be with you.
20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in Yahweh your Elohim, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
Proclaiming a national fast
In all the history of the kings of Judah, there were but a few who could be counted as true spiritual reformers. Jehoshaphat was among them, for his reign was marked by strong initiatives to bring his people "back unto Yahweh Elohim of their fathers". He knew the power of the Levites to help establish that state, and enlisted their help to enliven the nation.
In all Judah, therefore, and throughout all its cities, he introduced teachers of the Levites who faithfully taught matters of principle from the book of the law, and judges from the Levites who impartially judged issues of practice from the statutes of Yahweh. 5 The result was a kingdom with a deepened awareness of the divine standards; and, although not mentioned directly, there was every reason to believe that the song of praise sounded daily in the sanctuary during his kingship. 6
One day, however, there came an event which propelled the House of Asaph yet again into national prominence. It began with a crisis in the kingdom, for a report came to the king of an enormous host massing on his border, from the region of Edom. 7 There was a season for war, 8 and a time when kings went forth to battle. 9
Such military engagements were commonly conducted in the spring, when the land had dried from the winter rains, and the earth could bring forth provision for man and provender for beasts. When the nation should have been rejoicing in the memorial of Passover deliverance, they faced instead the threat of attack from an enemy who had already gained an entrance into Jehoshaphat's realm, being stationed at Engedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea.
The confederacy gathered against him was large indeed, for beside the children of Lot, who led the enterprise, were others who had joined their cause, until there was a great multitude. 10 Its very size filled Jehoshaphat with trepidation, and he set himself first to seek Yahweh in his own life, and then to invite the nation that they might join him. 11
To seek God, was to come before Him, and it was in Jerusalem, at the house of Yahweh, that the king came to stand with his people, in this time of desperate crisis, when their nationhood was threatened. The circumstances engendered distress, but the calm resolution of a wise king brought stability and confidence to the people who looked to him for leadership. Jehoshaphat, recognising how' serious the matter was, proclaimed a special fast, in which the nation might come together to acknowledge their need and enquire of their God. 12
5 2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 19:5-11.
6 The records of Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa, would certainly suggest that they upheld the system of sanctuary worship, including the courses of the singers, a standard Jehoshaphat would continue.
7 The phrase "beyond the sea on this side Syria" (2 Chronicles 20:2) is rendered by RSV: "from Edom, from beyond the sea", and this is the more likely direction the host came from.
8 Ecclesiastes 3:8.
9 'The phrase "after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle" (2 Samuel 11:1) relates to the return of the year, hence RSV: "in the spring of the year." With the commencement of Abib, the ground was fit for soldiers to march, and spring warmth gave fresh growth.
10 The record emphasises this (2 Chronicles 20:2,12,15,24).
11 This action of Jehoshaphat was itself a fulfilment of the psalm of the House of Asaph, which asked the nation to "seek Yahweh and his strength, seek his face continually" (1 Chronicles 16:11). The two words for "seek" (baqash, darash) are both repeated here (2 chronicles 20:3,4).
12 The only designated fast was the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29; Isaiah 58:3; Acts 27:9). But there were instances of special fasts, which might be held at any time, but which were proclaimed with similar objectives (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 9:1; Jeremiah 36:9; Joel l:14).
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph 5
Jehoshaphat was a man whose spirit marched in sympathy with the House of Asaph, for his prayer reflected everything that their family believed in and stood for. Here was a king with whom they could work, and here was a leader under whom they could serve.
Little wonder, then, that a man from this household stepped forward, inspired by the spirit of the king's prayer, and moved by the Spirit of Yahweh's message, that he might give the response of heaven in the ears of all Judah, who stood with their wives and their little ones before Yahweh, bound together this day in their fellowship of need.
When Israel were about to go into battle against their enemies, the law required a priest to give words of encouragement to the army, that they might believe that Yahweh their God went with them to fight for them. 18 It was in this spirit that Jahaziel of the family of Asaph stood before the nation on this day. His words exhorted them to be neither fearful nor dismayed, but to go forth against their adversaries on the morrow, with directions as to where they would be encountered.
But this was to be no ordinary conflict, for Yahweh alone was to fight on their behalf, since the battle was not to be theirs, but God's. They were simply to be the passive onlookers of the salvation of Yahweh, the astonished witnesses of His power to save.
The word of His spokesman, uttered by inspiration of the Spirit, electrified the nation with its promise. The congregation, suddenly lifted out of their distress, felt a surge of hope and gratitude, and Jehoshaphat himself led them in worship, as he and all those assembled at Jerusalem prostrated themselves in the reverence of praise before the ark of the presence.
Certain of the Korahites from Kohath stood up in support of Jahaziel and offered their praise with a loud voice. These were singers of Heman, a family who also stood closely related to the ark, since it had been their honour to attend to its carriage. Here was an outpouring of praise in the spirit of thankful relief that "He that inhabiteth the cherubim" was to go forth on their behalf.
There are times in all our lives when we must stand still and see the salvation of our God. The prayer of Jehoshaphat had prepared the nation for this assurance, and the prophecy of Jahaziel had returned God's promise.
When, in our deepest distress, we come before Him in the same spirit of surrender, we are brought to the same profound realisation that Yahweh can accomplish far more for His own purpose than we ever could. We learn to allow God to work His own work for the vindication of His Name, but to believe that deliverance is possible for those who honour that Name above all others.
18 Deuteronomy 20:1-4.
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 5
21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto Yahweh, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise [Give thanks to] Yahweh; for His mercy endureth for ever.
Leading the warriors in song
The king was quick to respond to the message of God, for early the next morning they assembled in readiness to march to the place of battle. Jehoshaphat reminded the people of the need to believe in the power of God and in the word of His prophets, one of whom had so signally encouraged the nation the day before.
It was most probably the king's initiative to appoint the singers, but, like David before him, he wisely consulted with the people before setting them at the head of the army. And there was deliberate intent in the special psalm that he wished to have sung by the singers. Who then would he appoint to go before them? Who might lead the battle array in song?
Jehoshaphat did not hesitate to give the primacy to the House of Asaph in this hour of urgent need. After all, they already were the leaders of the singers, appointed to sing before the ark of the presence, which Jehoshaphat had so evidently referred to in his stirring prayer.
Had not Solomon before him selected this family to lead the praises of the nation before the ark, and had not David his father done likewise before him? And who had stood up before the nation at this very time to give assurance of divine victory, but Jahaziel of the House of Asaph?
His was the speech which enthralled the people, his the promise which inspired the Kohathites, and his the message which convinced the king to make his bold decision. If Yahweh was to be with them, then who better to elicit His response than those who came into His presence every day?
That it was the House of Asaph who stepped forward at the king's request, was known in the instant the singers burst forth into song. The Chief Musician raised his hand, and the singers, clothed in their holy apparel, 19 burst forth into the song they knew and loved so well:
"0 give thanks unto Yahweh; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever." 20
No one needed to instruct the choir in the words they should sing, for they knew them from memory. This was their family psalm, and they were ready to respond. But their hearts were in their mouths as they began, for whoever had heard of a choir at the head of a warrior host, marching in song toward the battlefield? It was a stern test, to be asked to sing under such difficult circumstances, but this family had a history of rising to the occasion, as they sought in song to stay the nation on their God.
22 And when they began to sing and to praise, Yahweh set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
Despite the anxiety of the moment, they stepped forth in front of the army, and sang with absolute conviction that the presence of God was with them. It was as if they were carrying the ark in their midst, so wonderful was the exhibition of their faith.
And the divine response followed, for, when their spirit was right, and they sang their hymn with absolute focus before God, then He moved on their behalf. 21 The enemies of Israel "smote one another", so that, by the time the singers arrived at the battlefield, the battle was already won.
They entered into the valley before the wilderness of Jeruel, and their singing stopped abruptly, as they looked out over the field and realised that their enemies were all dead before they had even lifted a hand. It was true, then! The battle had been God's, not theirs, and He had won the victory. Those of the House of Asaph gazed with astonishment at a mighty host defeated by song. What music was this, that could bring about the overthrow of a multitude?
20 The KJV of 2 Chronicles 20:21 has: "and to say, Praise the LORD", but the word is not halal, but yadah "0 give thanks", as used in the original psalm (1 Chronicles 16:34).
21 This is the implication of the passage: "And when the began to sing." [then] ", the Lord set ambushments" (2 Chronicles 20:22).
Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph 5