The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


2 Chronicles 20
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By Stephen Green (First published in Christian Voice: February 2005)

2 Chr. 20:1 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. 

2 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 Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.

3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court,

6 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?

7 Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?

8 And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,

9 If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.

10 And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not.

11 Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.

12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.

13 And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.

14 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;

15 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.

16 Tomorrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.

17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.

18 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.

19 And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high.

20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.

21 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.

22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.

24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.

25 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.

26 And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.

27 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.

28 And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.

29 And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.

30 So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.

As I write this, the street vigils we have held outside the Cambridge Theatre against Jerry Springer the Opera have just finished and the show has closed, the vigils of prayer and praise outside the BBC in January are still fresh in my mind, and it has just been announced (though not yet confirmed) that the producers of 'Springer' have decided not to take the show to Broadway, mainly in reaction to our vigils here in the UK.  So I am giving thanks to God for His victory.  It is not that the whole war is over, but a small battle has, it seems, been won.

The threat to Judah was great.  Moab and Ammon, the descendants of Lot through his incestuous daughters, were cruel, proud and idolatrous nations.  Both nations had been a continuing snare to Israel.  Moab tried to entice Balaam to curse Israel and through intermarriage drew Israel into idolatry.  Solomon married Ammonite women and introduced their worship to lead Israel astray.   The territory of Ammon was to the east of the Jordan and that of Moab to the south of them, east of the Dead Sea.   They had formed an alliance against Judah, which by that time had become strong, the result of being ruled by three kings in succession who sought the Lord.   Jehoshaphat, his father Asa and his father Abijah were all Godly kings, at least, most of the time.  Nevertheless, the invading army was stronger and menacing.

Jehoshaphat was afraid of the invaders, but sought the Lord first of all, with fasting (vs3-4).   Then he led his nation in prayer (vs5-12) confessing the power of God for deliverance.  Then the people all stood before the Lord in obedience to Jehoshaphat (v13) in Godly submission and petition.  It is sobering to remember that in time of disease and war, our own nation has turned to Almighty God in prayer, and seen his deliverance, though not in as spectacular fashion as Judah would do here.  It is sad though to realise that the last monarch to call this nation to prayer was the late King George VI, the Queen's father.  We have not sought the Lord as a nation for almost sixty years.

The prophet Jahaziel (vs14-17) was not just a random prophet.  He was a member of the king's court.  He was rather like a minister of state.  He was taken seriously.  There may well have been other voices in the king's ear.  Some might have been for appeasement, others may have had different battle plans.  Some might even have been advocating drawing in to Jerusalem to resist a siege.  Others could have been for taking on the enemy in their own strength.   But this is a nation who, under the leadership of an upright, God-fearing king, are used to taking advice from those who know the word and the presence of God.  The prophecy Jahaziel brings is practical as well as spiritual.   It is encouraging, but it involves a step of faith.  It rejects the seige mentality that may have been in some minds, and a godless rush that was no doubt being thought about by others.

Jahaziel says firstly that the people must not be afraid of the size of the opposition (v15).  We too can feel overwhelmed at the size of the task.   We are being asked to take on a local authority, or a health authority, a theatre company or an abortion clinic, a media monopoly or even the Government.  We too can be tempted to stay pietistically inside the walls of Jerusalem, believing we are secure even while the enemy is encircling the walls.  We might think they can never starve us out.  We might believe we are safe in our holy clubs.  But we will be wrong.  If we keep our heads down and pretend there is no problem, we shall perish all the same, just as Jerusalem would have perished.  That is why God commands us to go out in His strength:   "Be not afraid, nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude."  We have to venture outside the walls of the church, think outside the box of 'prayer only' or even worse, doing nothing at all, and go down to the battle-field.

Secondly, Jahaziel says that the battle is not theirs, but God's (v15).  Let none of us think he is an officer in the Lord's army, or involved with preparing the battle plan.  We don't do spiritual warfare, we are in a spiritual war.  And whose war is it anyway?  "The battle is not yours, but God's."  It is gracious of God even to allow us to be foot soldiers in His battle force.  He could do it all without us.  But he is gracious enough to let us play a part.  He is generous enough to allow us to share in His victory.  God wants us to see what He can do.  If we stay in Jerusalem we shall never see it. 

Thirdly, God says they must go out as if to battle (v16).  Do they dare do that?  "Who dares wins" is the motto of the SAS, and there is truth in it, if we believe the Bible.  The heroes of faith are men of action.  They dared to take a step of faith.  When their teams lose a football match, coaches often say, "We didn't turn up today."  If you do not turn up physically, you can't expect to win.  If you do not turn up mentally, you won't win either.  If you do not turn up spiritually, you won't win.  If you do not turn up at all, you won't win.  God does not ask us to do much.  He just asks us to get out from within the walls of our comfort zone and turn up.

Fourthly, he says they will not need to fight (v17).   This is odd.  They have to turn up but they won't need to fight?  Why should they bother to go at all?  It is because God wants to gain the victory in partnership with us.  He wants His people out on the battlefield prepared to fight and in position to see His deliverance.  If the people won't go, they will not see His deliverance for the simple reason that it won't happen.  We must do our bit before God will do His bit.  On this occasion, the army won't actually have to fight.  There are other occasions in the Bible where the people had physically to fight.  In our case, we may not know how much work we have to do.  But we do know that we must do something. If we do not play our part, He will not play His part.  God wants to see us doing something for Him.  It could be a big thing, and if it is, it will not be more than we can manage.  It could of course be a small thing, indeed it could be a tiny little thing, but it must be something.  We must go out ready to do His will.

Fifthly, Jahaziel ("Whom God watches over") tells the people to "stand ye still and see the salvation of the Lord." (v17).  We need to do a physical thing for God.  We need to turn up, and go down to the battlefield ready for anything, but that time will come when we just stand still and watch amazed as the Lord does such a wonder that we would not have thought it possible.  If we do what we can, and it might not be much, but it has to be something, the Lord will do what only He can.  What the Lord can do is anything.  I have seen so many miracles just over the less than twelve months that we have been holding street protests and prayer vigils that I now expect a miracle every time we go out.   And every time it happens, I say, "Lord, I wouldn't have thought of that.  That is awesome.  How do you do it?"

Sixthly, he repeats that they must not be afraid (v17).  When God says something in the same passage more than once, He is trying to get our attention.  "Fear not, nor be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord will be with you."  The temptation to do nothing is very great.  The feeling of fear or impotence in the face of that great multitude is more than we can humanly bear at times.  But "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."  (Cor 12:9)  Yes, we are weak, fallible, foolish men and women.  But His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  God commands courage in us just as He did in Joshua (Josh 1:7) and Paul.  God is bigger than the enemy.  God is waiting for us to do what we only can do, fearlessly, strong in His strength.

Another time where the command to stand still and see God at work was made was at the crossing of the Red Sea:

Ex 14:10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. 

11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 

14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. 

Again, the people of God had taken a step of faith.  They had kept the Passover and fled Egypt.  Now they were as it appeared in trouble, but God honoured their trust in Him just as He would that of Judah much later.  Significantly, the command to "fear not" was made then as well.  We sometimes think that there are people who are naturally brave and people who are timid.  God has other ideas.  Being not afraid is not advice, or a suggestion if you can manage it, it is a command.  As being courageous is a command, it must be capable of being done, by His grace.

We can think of another step of faith requiring courage.  It would have been simple for God to have parted the river Jordan before the people came near it.  But God wanted the people of Israel to take that first step of faith before He performed His great miracle.  Bear in mind the river Jordan was in spate at the time.  The waters were rushing down.  It would have been easy to have been swept away. But the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to step into this torrent before God would part the waters.  They had to do their bit before God did His:

Josh. 3:13  And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the LORD of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

So out went the people of Judah, believing that God would grant them victory (v20) and singing praises (v21).  Such trust and faith in the God of miracles and such an expression of praise was rewarded.  The opposing armies destroyed themselves (vs22-23).  Only God can do that.  As it happens, God can do that today.  We are opposing spiritual forces, that is true, but they use people and those people the enemy uses are spiritually in the enemy camp.  When we pray and sing praises in a street prayer vigil, it spreads confusion in the enemy camp.  Confusion in the enemy camp is always a good thing to pray for in any case.  Confronted with a group of Christian believers praying and singing praises, handing out Gospel leaflets relevant to the protest, witnessing and evangelising, they do not know what is going on and just like Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir, they make mistakes, fall out amongst themselves and generally give God's people the victory in the Lord.

Added to that, "no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn" (Isa 54:17).   That verse concludes: "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord."  That is all good to be reminded of.  Street vigils of prayer and witness are not the only thing Christian Voice does, but they have become an important part of what we do.  They have a spiritual power that I am only dimly beginning to understand and above all they are one very positive way of getting down to the battlefield.  And the battlefield is the only place mentioned in scripture where we have the privilege of standing still and joyfully seeing just what the Lord can do.