O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. -- 2 Chronicles 20:12
Friday, September 19, 2014
Maybe They Had Bagpipes
The story of Jehoshaphat being told here is a well-known and celebrated one, preached over and over like the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego or David and Goliath. Judah was threatened by an invading army of overwhelming numbers. The king proclaims a fast and prays. God answers by telling the people of Judah to send singers and musicians out in front of their forces to praise and glorify the Lord. The enemy is thrown into confusion, and the allies begin to fight among themselves until they are wiped out. When Jehoshaphat and his people arrive on the scene, all they have to do is pick up the spoils.
The message is usually that looking toward God, praising Him, and relying upon Him will enable us to overcome otherwise insurmountable obstacles and be greatly blessed. It’s a good message, and it’s true, but the key to the whole thing, it seems to me, lies in the couple of sentences above which are part of Jehoshaphat’s prayer.
We do not know what to do … When we are faced with a terrifying, mind-numbing situation, stricken by loss, suffering, in pain, confused and frightened, that is the first thing we need to realize. None of the options I can come up with are particularly appealing or offer any hope of success. This set of circumstances, the demands and threats I face are beyond my experience, knowledge and understanding. What I am supposed to do?
… but our eyes are on you – I don’t have a solution. I don’t have a pat answer. The only thing I know to do is to look to You, Lord, to keep my eyes on You, to be ready to take whatever direction You offer.
In this case, God gave them a specific and somewhat odd instruction. The “praise team” at church likes to think that the solution is always just to sing “In the Presence of Jehovah” or whatever “powerful” chorus is currently popular. I would remind them that in another dire situation, also involving Jehoshaphat and a musician, God told them to keep quiet and dig ditches (2 Kings 3). The point is not to assume that you know what the Lord wants done but to seek Him for what He wants and how He wants to do it this time.
Sometimes Jesus healed people by speaking a word, sometimes by a touch, one time He spit on a mute’s tongue, another time He spit on some clay and put the mud on a blind man’s eyes. David was told to use different strategies on different occasions in battling the Philistines. Samson didn’t carry that jawbone with him everywhere he went.
That’s not to say that a person can ever go wrong praising the Lord and giving Him glory. Rather as we serve the Lord and follow Him and are led by the Spirit, we sometimes need to say, "I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You," and be ready to trust and obey.