Drawing Near

I just returned from a Women’s retreat where I was able to share some thoughts on 2 Chronicles 20 and drawing near. King Jehoshaphat knew a thing or two about drawing near to the Lord in the face of great battles that seemed to be lost before they had even begun.  As we who struggle with wobbly legs to stand up to face insurmountable battles against depression and anxiety, false body images, pressures to work or not work, instant gratification, financial struggle, prosperity (yes, prosperity has it’s battles!), desperately seeking to stay alive as long as possible by obsessing with health, fitness and beauty, the list goes on and on…we can draw encouragement and great hope from our great King Jehoshaphat who ruled eons ago and faced a seemingly impossible battle.  He drew near to the Lord, and the Lord drew near to him.

Drawing near through showing the Lord our true selves.  In Chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat had just returned from battle.  He was no stranger to the ills of what battle brought to a kingdom.  Utter destruction and devastating loss.  So predictably, although maybe surprisingly to his subjects, when the King was told by a group of men that many, many men were marching to fight his fewer, fewer men…he became “alarmed” v.3  King Jehoshaphat drew near to the Lord by revealing his true self.  I love the use of this very word, alarmed,  because even a King over an entire nation can feel vulnerable enough before his people and his Lord to become alarmed.  And no doubt scripture uses this very word with great purpose.  It could have said nothing.  It could have said, nervous.  But scripture says alarmed.  We can feel what we feel as we feel it when we fall at the Lord’s feet in battle.

Drawing near through prayer.  Jehoshaphat then drew near to the Lord as he “resolved to inquire of the Lord” v.3  Again…love these words “resolved” and “inquire”.  It’s like he thought about Plan A, Plan B and Plan C but knew it was in his best interest in the end to ask the Lord…resolved…to ask God a question.  “Inquire” here denotes that King Jehoshaphat was so confident in His relationship with the Lord that he knew when he asked the Lord a question, he would receive an answer.  Relationships are like a to and fro motion, like waves coming onto a beach and washing out to sea…we ask, He answers.  He asks, we answer.  In battle we can come as we are, draw near to the Lord and ask His wisdom and expect to hear from our Lord.

Drawing near through a fast.  A scary word for some, a comfortable word for others.  One of the first acts Jehoshaphat proclaimed for his entire kingdom to perform facing this battle was fasting.  “…and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” v3.  A fast?  Not a play-by-play action war plan of attack?  You go here, this group goes there, here are our weapon stores, women and children go here….no.  He enters into battle, honed in and more attune to hear the Lord’s speaking to him.  When we fast, we add or take away something in our lives to better prepare ourselves for the presence of God in a season.  Be it Lent, Advent, Epiphany or self-proclaimed amount of time…battles…we fast to draw near to the Lord…just as King Jehoshaphat did in the face of great battle.

Drawing near through assembling and confessing.  “The people came together to seek help from the Lord” v.4  Came together as a body of people before the Lord. And following in v.5, “Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord…”  Friends.  We face battles every.  single.  day.  Why do we take time to come together?  We come together to proclaim who God is, and confess who we are not.  Verses flow of what the Lord had accomplished and end with this verse, “For we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” v.12  We come together, praising God for His goodness, His mercy, His loving kindness, His works of wonder and we confess our weakness, inabilities and our sins…our attempts at replacing Him in our life, day in and day out.

The story continues with the Lord drawing near to Jehoshaphat and his people by speaking through a man named Jahaziel.  The Lord tells the people through this man to go to the desert to face this vast army…and says this, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow, march down against them…take up your positions and stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” v.15-17pp  The Lord has, is and always will be about drawing Himself to His people. He longs to be near you.  And He most definitely shows up here for this King.

Drawing near through trust and obedience.  Jehoshaphat hears a command and obeys by heading to the desert of Tekoa, praising the Lord and stands.  What an act of faith to command your people, in the face of a vast army, to simply stand at watch.  Huh?  Are you crazy King?  You’re just going to stand there and watch?  What an act of faith.  In a world and culture of “fix-it yourself” answers, it takes great courage to stand in the face of people and simply trust the Lord has you…will fight for you…and believe!  As they praise the Lord…God completely destroys the vast army.  Totally and incredibly.  It was such a vast army, it took the King and his men three days to collect all the plunder.  Can you imagine the roar of victory cry!!!

Drawing near through praise.  Jehoshaphat finally draws near to the Lord through entering the temple of the Lord with His people and rejoicing.  This rejoicing spread as the story of God’s rescue spread and in v.29-30, “The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.  And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”  Oh how I pray that as we praise the Lord for the victories over the battles we face, our stories spread which in turn brings people to believe in a mighty and tender God…who loves us so much to fight our battles.

You know what is the most awesome?  THE battle has been won.  We are in relationship with the Lord because he sent His one and only son to die on a cross for our sins…forever allowing us to be in His presence and peace.  V30 “And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”  May we live at peace and live in this rest on every side…as a baby being cradled in the hands of their father.