2 Chronicles 20:1-30
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21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
22 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.
I can only imagine the extent of King Jehoshaphat's alarm and overwhelm when he got the news that a massive army was on its way to fight against Judah. What terror! He knew that with the size of the army and the distance to which they had already traveled, his only hope was God’s intervention. That realization drove him and all of Judah to their knees in desperation. This was a universal fast that even included infants! [a] God extended His grace to Judah and assured them through the prophet Jahaziel that He was with them and that the battle was HIS.
At this news, a lot of us, including myself, would have immediately gotten up, celebrated and started preparing right away. Instead, the nation of Judah took the time to praise and worship God. Praising God took priority over anything else on their to-do list. Then, as they marched out to battle the next day, they sent the worshipers out ahead of the army. In this way, they were marching in triumph instead of fear. As they began to praise God, He began to move on their behalf.
What a great example and reminder for us to praise Him before the battle is won! But what about when you don't know what the outcome of the situation will be? And what about when life's journey takes a harrowing turn?
Hebrews 13:15 (NIV) says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." The word "continually" does not hinge on a situation or our latest assessment of God's faithfulness. In the past, I've had to wrestle with this verse. At first it reminded me of a hard-nosed dictator who sternly points His finger at me and says "Worship me!" as He watches me lie on the floor in a heap of pain. However, this couldn't be further from the Truth!
Here's the REAL Truth:
Psalm 145:8-9 (NIV)
"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."
Psalm 34:18 (NIV)
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Isaiah 61: 1-3 (NIV)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
When life hurts and the battles continue to rage in our lives, we can still praise God because his goodness, compassion, love, and grace do not change with our circumstances. He is the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). One day at the end of time He will make all things right. On that day, I can guarantee that no one will walk away saying, "that's not fair."
As we praise God for his presence and unchanging character, we are partnering with Him in ushering His presence into our hearts and our circumstances. Psalm 22:3 says that God "inhabits the praises of His people." So praising God is part of our battle strategy! Whether it's our heart's posture or our circumstances, something has to shift because God's Word is powerful and doesn't return empty (Isaiah 55:11).