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 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.
During this time of the coronavirus scare, we are being told that our worship services are somehow “non-essential.” In actual fact, it is the most essential activity of our lives. 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.
“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 Chronicles 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).
Jehoshaphat’s response here was consistent with his faithfulness:
He 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 Genesis 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 deliver His people when they turned to Him at His temple (20:8-9; see also 2 Chronicles 6:24-25,34-35). His prayer was also a confession of 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 (Exodus 14:13). The Lord here is promising a new “exodus,” a miraculous escape from a new Egypt.
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. 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 Exodus 12:35-36). The Moabites and Ammonites came to plunder Judah; but the plunderers ended up plundered. 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 (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:6-9). Throughout the period of the judges, Israel was oppressed and defeated whenever they worshiped idols. 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).
Battle in the Heavens
Though the power of worship is evident in the Old Covenant, it is even more so in the New. 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).
“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” (Psalm 68:1–2).
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)