The church is the “worshiping assembly,” and her mission is to call the nations to worship God. But worship is not only our goal; it is also one of the chief assigned means for achieving that goal. Worship is not a retreat from the church’s work of conquest. Worship is a fundamental “strategy” of the church militant. Worship is not a retreat from cultural engagement; rather worship is the driving engine of all true cultural engagement.
During this time of the coronavirus scare, we are being told by unbelievers that our worship services are somehow “non-essential.” In actual fact, worship is the most essential activity of our lives. So as we assemble before God now, we want to be pleading with Him to rise up and vindicate His name. Without Him, we are all of us nothing, and if this is the true and honest teaching of His Word, we are pleading with Him to intervene now, and to vindicate this teaching of His Word.
“It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon-tamar, which is En-gedi. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah . . . 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 the LORD in the midst of the congregation; And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s . . . And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD . . . And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever . . . And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much . . . Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies” (2 Chron. 20:1-3, 14-15, 18, 21, 25, 27).
Summary of the Text
Though he had sinned by giving support to Ahab in the Northern Kingdom (2 Chron. 19:1-3), Jehoshaphat (whose name means “Yahweh judges”) was generally a faithful and reforming king of Judah. He removed the idols from the land (17:6; 19:3), and appointed judges throughout the land (19:5-11). He was not a perfect king, but he was certainly a good one. And it was under his leadership that Israel experienced one of her most remarkable victories.
And so we can see that Jehoshaphat’s response here in this new challenging situation was consistent with his overall faithfulness:
Jehoshaphat assembled the people at the house of the Lord and proclaimed a fast (20:2-5). Even the infants and children were included (20:13; and see Joel 2:15-16). In the assembly (20:5), Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord. He confessed that the Lord is “ruler” of all nations and that “no one can stand against Thee” (20:6). He called on God to remember His covenant with Abraham (20:7; see Gen. 15:18), and specifically that He had driven the Canaanites from the land and given it to His people (20:7). He reminded the Lord about the promise that He would in fact deliver His people whenever they turned to Him at His temple (20:8-9; see also 2 Chron. 6:24-25,34-35). His prayer was also a confession of their helplessness before the invaders (20:12).
He trusted the word of God through Jahaziel, that the “battle is not yours but God’s” (20:15-17). Jahaziel’s instructions to “stand and see the salvation of the Lord” is reminiscent of Moses’ words at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:13). The Lord here is promising the Israelites a new “exodus,” a miraculous escape from a new Egypt.
So Jehoshaphat led the people in humble worship (20:18), and appointed the Levites to praise God (20:19, 21).
In short, he responded with an assembly for prayer, preaching, and praise. He responded with worship. He responded with worship prior to battle, and he responded with worship as a weapon of battle. While the army of Judah went out with the singers in the lead, the Lord “set ambushes” for the Ammonites and Moabites, turning them to fight among themselves (20:22-23). When Judah went to find out what had happened, they found a valley full of corpses, which they plundered for three days (20:24-26; see Ex. 12:35-36). The Moabites and Ammonites had come to plunder Judah; but the plunderers ended up plundered. This means that when Judah worshiped, Yahweh became a terror to the surrounding nations (20:29).
So Worship Really is Warfare
Worship and prayer are frequently a means of warfare in Scripture: Israel “cried out” during their oppression in Egypt, and the Lord remembered His covenant and came near to deliver them (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:6-9). Throughout the period of the judges, Israel was oppressed and defeated whenever they worshiped idols. And when they repented and “cried out to the Lord,” He would raise up a judge to deliver them (Judges 2:11-23; 3:8-11; 3:12-15; 3:1-3; 6:7-10). And when Samuel assembled the people at Mizpah, the Philistines attacked them. While Samuel offered sacrifice and cried out to the Lord, God thundered at the Philistines and confused them, allowing Israel to win a great victory (1 Sam. 7:3- 11). This is a recurring theme in Scripture. Right worship is potent.
Battle in the Heavens
Though the power of worship is evident in the Old Covenant, it is even more so in the New Covenant. In Christ, we are positioned in the heavenly places, that is, in places of rule and authority (Eph. 2:6; see 1:21-23). When we assemble for worship, we join with the heavenly hosts (Heb. 12:22-24), and our heavenly worship affects the course of earthly history.
Our prayers and praises ascend before God, and coals are thrown from the heavenly altar. And the Lord thunders from the heavens, shakes the earth, and scatters our enemies before us (Rev. 8:1-5). This is in fact the structure of the entire book of Revelation—there are two kinds of scenes in that vision. There is worship of God in Heaven, and there are convulsions on earth.
When we hallow God’s name, as we are doing here, we are doing so in the heavenly places. In Christian worship, all the congregations of God in the world are gathered up by the Holy Spirit of God, and are ushered into the throne room of God. We there declare His praises. We hallow His name. We address Him as our Father, who is in Heaven. On the basis of that worship, what do we ask for? Let the phrases run together—hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. And what is next. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. What is His will? His will, as Jesus taught us in the prayer, is to hallow His name in the heavenly places, and for Him to ensure by His Spirit that what we just did in the heavenly places is brought to earth. What are we asking for? We are asking for His kingdom to come. We are asking for His will to be done, here on earth, here in Moscow, here on the Palouse, as in right here.
We are, in short, asking Him to do something where we live because we just did that same thing where He lives. We bring something to His house—glory, laud, and honor for the Father—and that is our basis for asking that He bring back that same thing—glory, laud, and honor for the Father, only glorified—to our house. And this is what we do when we worship in Spirit and in truth.
“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Ps. 68:1–2).
Psalm 68:1-2 (KJV)
God shall arise and by His might put all His enemies to flight;
In conquest shall He quell them.
Let those who hate Him, scattered, flee before His glorious majesty
For God Himself shall fell them.
(Ps. 68, Huguenot Battle Hymn, Cantus Christi)