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GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD

2 Chronicles 20:1-20:30
Key Verse: 20:21

Happy Thanksgiving Sunday! Thankful people are beautiful people. How can we be thankful? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to obey this command. However, this command is preceded by the command, “pray continually” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Prayer and thanksgiving are closely related. Today’s passage is a very unique passage that teaches the power of prayer and the power of praise, which is an utmost expression of thanks to God. Prayer and praise are essential parts of Christian life. As we study this passage on this Thanksgiving Sunday, may we newly learn about prayer and praise so that we can go deeper into the life of thanksgiving.

First, Jehoshaphat’s prayer and God’s answer (1-17). This chapter begins in war. Look at verse 1. “After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat.” A vast army of three united forces were coming to attack Judah and now very close to Jerusalem, 55 km away southeast (arriving at Hazazon Tamar, En Gedi). What did Jehoshaphat do hearing the urgent news of a vast army’ coming against him? Look at verse 3. “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” “Alarmed” showed that he was not a superman. He was an ordinary man. Yet, he made a decision to pray to God when the formidable enemies were at hand. He could have escaped or tried to find a human solution. But in such a situation he resolved to inquire of the LORD. It was because he knew that in a situation like this only God could help him. He proclaimed a fast for all Judah, and the people of Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD.

In verses 6-12 we see Jehoshaphat’s admirable prayer. In prayer it is easy for us to present our problems to God right away, especially when the problems are urgent. Such a prayer is not that bad. However, we can from Jehoshaphat how to pray. In his prayer, Jehoshaphat thought of who God is, and what God had done in the history of his people and then presented his problem to God. Through Jehoshaphat’s prayer we learn what is important in our prayer. When we pray, we pray to God. Then we should think of who God is before presenting our request. God who is in heaven is above all and the sovereign Ruler of all the nations and any human beings. He is able to solve any of problems with power and might in his hand. And truly no one can withstand him orthwart what he is going to do. Next, we should think of the history of God, what God has done in my life, my family, my church, furthermore. When we think of God’s history, we can see that he is faithful and has a clear purpose for his people in the words of his promise. Then we can hold on to God’s promise anew. Afterward we can present our problems to him. Jehoshaphat keenly knew the problem and also knew that he and his people were powerless. The problem was too big for him to solve as the vast army indicated. Their eyes would have been blocked and blinded because of their mountain-problem. But he confessed, “…our eyes are upon you.” It is a spiritual secret that when we put our eyes on God, our problems look small, smaller and smaller. But when we place eyes on the problems or people, God looks small, smaller and smaller until we feel that God is far away from us and has nothing to do with our problems. As long as we put our eyes on God, we can have hope at any life situation. When there seems to be no way, there is a way in God. We need this kind of spiritual training to set the eyes of our hearts on him amid problems big or small alike.

When Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah prayed, God responded. The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel and he said, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you:” What is God’s message? Look at verses 15b-17. “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. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.” Wow! What a message! This is not man’s message but God’s. This message was given to them when they prayed seeking help from the LORD. The battle is God’s (1 Sa 17:47). So they will not have to fight, but stand firm and see the victory. What they had to do was to go out to face the enemy.

Here we must know that the battle is God’s. Our battle is a spiritual battle. Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We need to pray for our spiritual battle. When we pray, God fights for us.

Second, the people’s praise and God’s victory (17-30). How did Johoshaphat and the people respond to God’s message? Look at verse 18. “Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD.” They must have moved by God’s mercy and grace, hearing such a great message of victory. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. They could not contain their thanks and joy, so they stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel with all their voices. It was before fighting and their time was very limited; every second could be counted in that urgent situation. But they took time to praise the LORD. Early in the morning they went out to face the enemies, leaving for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat gave them final instructions to have faith in the LORD their God. Then suddenly, after consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army. This is an unusual and uncommon thing for the imminent battle. The choir went out first, at the head of the army. What an interesting scene! When the Israelites crossed Jordan River, the ark of the LORD went ahead (Jo 3:14). That was understandable. But here a praise team went out at the head of the army. They would be soon recognized and fully exposed to the enemies because of their singing, and become the first victim. Jehoshaphat could give this direction and the people could follow it because they had the assurance of victory hearing God’s message.

They were to praise the LORD for the splendour of his holiness. It makes us stop to think. Why would they praise the LORD for the splendour of his holiness, not for his power and might and giving victory to them? The most distinct character of God is holiness. God is holy. When Isaiah met God in the temple, he heard the angels’ saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” (Isa 6:3). When Apostle John saw the glorious Lord at the Island of Patmos, he could hear the praising, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" (Rev 4:8) When Mary realized God’s grace of having a child in her through the Holy Spirit, he praised the Lord, saying, “From now on all generations will call be blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name” (Lk 1:48-49). Holiness has the meaning of “sanctifying” “setting apart” “being separate.” God is holy and his temple is a sanctuary for his Name (20:8). His holiness cannot be contaminated by anything. When God created man, man was made in the image of God, having his holy image inside. But sin came into the man and man’s holy image was damaged. Man became sinful and the world was filled with corruption. But sin cannot destroy God’s holiness. Rather, God’s holiness can make man and the world holy again. God’s holiness cannot be contained in himself. The holiness of God is shining and brilliant and splendourous and glorious. God’s history of redemption through his Son Jesus well shows this. He prayed for his disciples for the sanctification of their inner persons by the truth of God’s word. Chris Jesus is our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption through his death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 1:30). He died on the cross and shed his blood to cleanse our sins. Sin brought death to mankind. All men die without exception. Last week Steven Jobs who died and many people showed their sadness and tribute to him. But Jesus rose again through the Spirit of holiness. Since then death has no power over those who are in Christ. God’s holiness affects mortal mankind to the point of overpowering death. Our holiness relies on how closely we come to God through his Son Jesus Christ. Dr. David Kim’s thesis was about making dirty water clean. I don’t know exactly how it can be done. Yet, it is interesting and mysterious. But most amazing thing is the holiness of God that makes sinners clean and holy until the world becomes the holy world again.

As it is mentioned above, “holiness” also means “setting apart” or “being separate.” Genesis 2:3 says, “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” The seventh day is holy being separated from other six days as the day of rest. In Exodus when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, he said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5). Holy ground was set apart from the common ground. God said to Israelites, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Lev 11:44,45; 19:2; 1 Pe 1:16). God is holy. The LORD God is different from all other gods. In Isaiah God said repeatedly, “…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (46:9). He is in heaven and so above all. He is a holy God. He wants his people to be holy, different from the people of the world. In the Old testament Levites were set apart to do the temple work and serve him. Aaron, from who priesthood was originated was a Levite. In today’s passage the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, who was a Levite. And some Levites praised the LORD with a very loud voice, when they heard God’s message. In the New Testament Jesus called his disciples out of the world and said, “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13,14)

Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem must have been moved by the splendour of God’s holiness. In his splendourous holiness he set apart his people, treating them differently by hearing their prayers and presenting them the way of victory in an impossible situation. God’s people are holy in that they can pray to God and God answers their prayers more than they can imagine. Jehoshaphat and his people saw beyond their coming victory. They looked up the holy God and praised for the splendour of his holiness.

The contents of their praise are this: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” Here we see that God’s holiness is connected to God’s love that endures forever. God sets apart his people and shows them his enduring love, steadfast and faithful. Jesus loved his disciples to the end. His love never quits. In times of adversity his love shines more. He gives victory to his people when they are surrounded by a vast army. His love never fails. His love prevails at any circumstances. When I think of our student disciples, I can see that his love is unfailing and enduring forever for each of them. When Jemmie could not share her life testimony at 2011 Canadian SBC against her wishes, it was like a failure in her spiritual fight. But God’s love didn’t fail. God helped her to go deeper into her life and God’s love through completing her life testimony before God. Through this she made a clear commitment to him by accepting God’s mission personally based on his words of Mark 1:17. Now she is serving one Bible student, Markus, whom God sent to her. Allen shared his very graceful Bible testimony on John 15, the vine and branch relationship at 2011 Canadian SBC. It was a big surprise to many of us. Since then his heavy school study and temptations tried to fail him in his spiritual struggle. But God’s love endured and persevered him and let him come to God and listen to his word time and again. This summer God led Sara to have more than 3 month trip to Israel. In this long trip she could experience God’s delicate love of protection, know the preciousness of her family and God’s big family in UBF and realize God’s deep purpose for her life, “You will be a blessing” on Genesis 12:2. After the trip now she is serving Anna and Nancy through 1:1 and serving GBS. This summer God guided Rebekah to France and helped her to newly see God’s personal care and vision for her through her French-speaking talent. When Daniel came, she could talk with him in French. Our Centre is becoming bilingual. God helped Paulina to testify to God’s mercy and unfailing love at 2011 Canadians SBC, and hold to her personal prayer topic, “I want to know Christ.” In her first year of the university she struggled hard to serve two Bible students, Zhe and Ai, and now she is serving Ivy God blessed her spiritual desire with the whole Genesis study at Young Leaders’ Conference at Germany. It is true that God love endures forever. It fails not. It prevails at any circumstance. We can give thanks to him and praise him for the splendour of his holiness and his unfailing and forever-enduring love.

What happened when Jehoshaphat and his people praised the LORD with thanksgiving and singing? Look at verses 22-24. “As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.” Wow! What a victory! God fought for them according to his promise when they sang and praised the LORD, of course in faith. So they did not need to fight. They did not raise even a sword to kill the enemies. God himself all the fighting and gave them a complete victory. Probably they got disease of doubt and they were destroyed by themselves. Look at verse 24. “When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one escaped.” Looking at the numerous dead bodies of the vast army, their eyes must have popped up because of God’s distinguished love that fought for them and gave them a sheer victory, when they were so powerless. Look at verse 25. “So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing, and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.” It was likely that their fighting was an easy job taking just even less than a day but colleting the plunder was a very difficult job, taking three days. What did they do next? Look at verse 26. “On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day.” One whole day they praised the LORD. Before going to the war they praised the LORD. And now after the war and victory, they praised the LORD. When they praised in the valley, their praise must have echoed perfectly. Their praise at this time became historical, making the valley the Valley of Praise, the Valley of Beracah. Look at verses 27,28. “Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets.” Their joy was not merely emotional joy with no cause, but the joy with cause, God’s given cause. God made them rejoice. And their praise and singing was endless. Now in the temple of the LORD they praised the LORD with musical instruments.

Look at verses 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.” What a contrast between all the kingdom of the countries and the kingdom of Jehoshaphat; the one in fear the other in peace. God was truly holy, setting his people and his nation apart from all the kingdoms of the nations.

Thank God who is in heaven. He is holy and his love endures forever. He hears the prayer of his people and shows them his unfailing steadfast love and decisive victory. He treats his people differently and wants them to be holy in this world. May we pray to him, especially at the time of adversity until our eyes are upon him and give thanks to him and praise him for the splendour of his holiness and his love that endures forever.

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