WHAT TO DO (WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO)
The book of II Chronicles provides a fascinating insight into the time period when the nation of Israel was split into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. After Solomon’s reign, the nation quickly separated, and two kings ruled over the divided nation consecutively. This book gives us an overview of this tumultuous time in Israel’s history that eventually led to its exile.
Throughout the recorded stories, we discover the direct correlation between the spiritual condition of the ruling king and the spiritual climate of the nation. When a ruling king was wicked, the people would rebel against the Lord and bring judgment upon themselves. A righteous king would stir the people back to repentance and they would experience the blessings of the covenant.
One of these righteous kings was a man named Jehoshaphat. He was not a perfect king by any means, and his story reveals that he made his fair share of mistakes. However, he learned how to turn to the Lord in times of trouble. And we see this take place in a story recorded in II Chronicles 20.
The chapter opens with an ominous report:
After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom…” (1-2a)
The kingdom of Judah is under attack by a large army made up of three surrounding nations with the intent of taking the land from them. If these enemy nations were to win this war, the Israelites could be plundered, face slavery, or even death. The stakes were incredibly high. Jehoshaphat delivers a speech, and he makes the following statement to the Lord in prayer: “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.” (12)
I love the humility in this statement. King Jehoshaphat found himself in a situation where he did not know what to do. He had a few options in how he could have responded to this threat. He could have assembled his troops, gave them a moving “We can do this!” speech, and prepared to respond with force. He could have sent messengers to make a treaty with the nations with a promise to pay homage to them, a common practice in those times. He could have ranted and complained about how unfair it was that this army was coming and how sick he was of having to deal with situations like this. But what he chooses to do is both profound and incredibly applicable to our lives. The Bible records:
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (3-4)
When faced with an attack from a strong enemy, Jehoshaphat’s immediate reaction was to turn to the Lord and seek His assistance. The nation found itself in a desperate situation, and this king did the very best thing that anyone could do. He went to the One who has all wisdom and all power and asked Him for help.
The People Pray
Prayer can seem inconsequential when you find yourself in a situation as severe as Jehoshaphat’s. In the natural realm, this was not a great battle plan. What good would a prayer service do at a time like this? He oversaw a nation of people. It was his responsibility to protect them. And when faced with an imminent threat such as this one, who would blame him for spending all his time in the strategy room, considering his options and taking an inventory of his resources? Why not come up with a plan first, and then take time to pray?To the person who does not understand the power of prayer, taking the time to do it is illogical. But King Jehoshaphat understood the power of the One who to whom he was praying, and so it only made sense to start there. Click To Tweet
To the person who does not understand the power of prayer, taking the time to do it is illogical. But King Jehoshaphat understood the power of the One who to whom he was praying, and so it only made sense to start there.
It causes me to ask myself, “What is my first response when I am in a situation and I do not know what to do? Do I run first to God or do I run to someone else? Do I pray or do I complain? Do I try to lean on my own strength and understanding, or do I go to the Lord to seek His?”
When we do not know what to do, we need to learn to humble ourselves and seek the Lord in prayer.
The People Fast
In the same vein, proclaiming a fast would not seem to be an intuitive way to address the situation in which Israel found itself. Can you imagine the commander of the army addressing the anxious troops in this way: “No one is to eat for the next twenty-four hours. Per the king’s orders, we will fast and seek the Lord for His help.”
Once again, from a natural perspective, this does not make any sense. But from a spiritual viewpoint, it makes all the sense in the world. Jehoshaphat understood the power of seeking the Lord through fasting, and so he gets the whole nation to join him in this spiritual discipline. Fasting is a sign of our utter dependence on the Lord. The nation needed a breakthrough and they needed it quickly. King Jehoshaphat knew that their only hope was in the Lord’s supernatural intervention.Fasting is a sign of our utter dependence on the Lord. Click To Tweet
How often do we take time to fast in situations that we deal with? When we are in the middle of a real battle in our families or are facing an impossible situation in our workplaces, are we setting aside time to fast and ask the Lord for a breakthrough? Is this even on our list of practical ways to deal with difficult issues in our lives?
When we do not know what to do, we need to set aside time to fast and seek His face.
The People Worship
What happens next in the story is amazing. A prophecy is given to Jehoshaphat. He is told by the Lord not to fear because God was going to fight the battle for them (15). I suppose those may have been the sweetest words that the king had ever heard. And in addition to this incredible promise, he is given instructions:
“Tomorrow march down against them…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you.” (16-17)
The morning comes, and the troops are assembled. Jehoshaphat does a third thing that is counterintuitive to a military battle. He appoints men to worship the Lord and puts them in the front lines of battle. I may not be a military expert, but I am fairly confident that leading your troops with singers and musicians sounds more like a death wish than a brilliant plan. But Jehoshaphat’s confidence was not in his military might or strategy, but in the Lord to whom he and the nation had cried out to for deliverance.
And as they worshipped, before anyone had to draw their weapon to engage the enemy, the Lord completely destroyed the enemy armies. Worship actually became their weapon. When the army of Judah finally arrived at the scene, the enemy was dead and all they had to do was collect the plunder. In fact, there was so much that it took three days to collect it. If anyone in the army had doubted Jehoshaphat’s strange approach in preparation for war, they must have been a believer after this supernatural intervention.
Once again, I am challenged by this king’s strategy. I wonder if worship is my knee-jerk reaction when I am faced with challenging circumstances. How often do I choose to give God a sacrifice of praise when everything feels like it is collapsing around me? How likely and I to let worship be my weapon?
When we do not know what to do, we need to take time to worship the Lord for Who He is, rather than focus on our situation.
I believe every story in the Bible is given to us to teach us something. And the lesson here is easily understood. When you do not know what to do…when you are facing a battle…when the enemy is closing in on you…when your situation seems impossible, there is a way to position ourselves to let God fight the battle for us.
Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation right now. Perhaps you are facing a trial or a challenge that is threating your well-being, your family, your peace, your joy, even your relationship with the Lord. Maybe you would say, “I simply do not know what do to.” Take King Jehoshaphat’s example, and turn your eyes to the Lord. Seek Him through prayer, fasting and worship. And allow Him to show you what He expects from you in your situation. Then obey Him whatever the cost and watch Him act on your behalf.
DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.