Revival in the Face of God's Enemies.
A Sermon by Richard Bacon.
Transcribed & edited from a sermon preached Nov. 15, 1992.
Copyright 1997 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett


Father, we pray that Thou wouldst make us to flourish in Thy sight, that Thou wouldst cause us to be planted in the house of the Lord by Thy grace, and that as we are raised in Thy house, as we continue in Thy footsteps, as we continue to follow after our Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou wouldst cause us not to fade in our old age, but that we might continue throughout our days to bring forth fruit unto Thee. We pray that Thou wouldst cause our lights to be bright, that our community might see our good works and glorify Thee. For we pray this in Jesus Christ's name, Amen.


[Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-25]. This is a wonderful story. In fact several Psalms were written as a result of this particular episode. You may recall Psalm 48, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness." A number of Psalms came out of this encounter, and we see when the army goes forth, that they were led by psalm-singers. But this didn't happen without any background.


What has happened up to this point is that Jehoshaphat began a reformation in the land of Judah. One of the things they were doing in the reformation, was tearing down all the high places, the Ashteroth, the sticks and stumps that were the focus of worship whenever God's people were apostate. The priests informed Jehoshaphat as to what God required of the people of Judah, and he set up two side by side governments in the land [chapter 19]. The king set up an ecclesiastical government, which were the Levites, and he also set up a system of princes, which was the civil government. He had two governments existing side by side, just as in this country. There is the civil government which is run from Washington, from Austin, and from Rowlett; then we also have an ecclesiastical government (not one but several, but the point is that there is an ecclesiastical government distinct from the civil). We do not have a department of religion in this country that runs the churches. The churches have their own government separate and distinct from the civil government, which follows the pattern of 2 Chron. 19.


Now Satan is not going to stand still for this kind of reform taking place among the people of God. And so the enemies of the Lord rose up in order to fight against the reformation. Why did this happen? First of all, the conspiracy is real. Wicked men wanted to overthrow the work of the Lord. But secondly, I think it is important for us to put this in the proper perspective, the perspective of the people of God. God was proving the reformation. He was determining if it was real? And, as we see by the end of this chapter, yes, it was a real reformation. And because it was a real reformation, what we have here in 2 Chronicles 20, are some characteristics of how God's people respond to calamity, to affliction, in a time of real revival. And so we can call this chapter, Revival in the Face of God's Enemies.

First of all there was a conspiracy against God's people. "And it came to pass after this." The "this" refers to the reformation of worship and civil government in chapter 19. Both the ecclesiastical and civil governments were being required to follow God's law in their respective spheres. What response would we expect people to have in the face of wicked men coming up against the church, coming up against a godly government? The response we see in 2 Chronicles 20:3-13.


God's people sought God's face. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord." Jehoshaphat set an example not just as a private citizen, but as king of his country. As leader of his people he set the example of setting his face to seek the Lord. And he "proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." In what lawful manner do the people of God afflict themselves? Do we take sticks and stones and cut ourselves? No, fasting is the only lawful means that God has given us to afflict ourselves. This is the means that Jehoshaphat used. "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." We see not only that there was a fast proclaimed; not only that there was effective leadership in place, but also we see the people of God coming together. They are no longer being scattered, but they are coming together.

"To seek the Lord." They had a purpose in mind. We see in the prayer that the king prayed as he stood before the congregation in the house of the Lord. He remembered one reason they had the temple, was so that if there were trouble the people would have a place to go and seek the face of the Lord. And so he reminded God of His promises. He reminded God, not that God would forget, or that He needed reminding; but he reminded God of His promises in this respect: he says, in effect, `God this is your word, and we believe your word, and because we believe your word, we've done what you've said to do. We have made full use of the means of grace.' They made use of fasting, and they made use of, if you will, the gathering together at the church building. They came together in the place where God set his name. The king said (vs. 9), "If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine," in other words, a time just like that one, "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."

Now, which of you Jesus asked, if his son or his daughter came to you and asked for a fish would give him a serpent? Or which if he asked for a loaf of bread would give him a stone? Jesus said, well, if you being as evil as you are, know how to give your children gifts, how much more will the Father give to them that ask. What are the people of God doing? They have come to church to make use of the means of grace, to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer (notice that prayer and fasting go together), and to say, `please hear and help.'

"And now" (vs. 10), "behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade..." Behold those people whom we would have destroyed, if you had told us to, but we specifically obeyed the word of the Lord in not destroying them; now they have come up against us. Now God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great army. Jehoshaphat acknowledged his own helplessness. He acknowledged the helplessness of the people of God. But - You see the Bible is just full of "buts." This is the word of grace: we are nothing, "but God . . ." And so he said here, "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." That is to say, we're looking to you for help. "And all Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, their wives, and their children." Note, we see families worshipping together. So the second thing, after the conspiracy (vs. 1-2) is God's reforming people seek his face (vs. 3-13).


Thirdly, God answers. First of all He told them in verse 15, that the battle is God's; but just because the battle is God's, He doesn't say for the people to stay home. No, He says, `you go out and be where your supposed to be. You go set yourselves at the sight of the battle, but the battle is the Lord's' God answers (vs. 15), "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." God can handle the multitude; the battle is His; He is going to take care of it.

Verse 16, "Tomorrow, you go 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. 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; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you." At this point, if there had been an Arminian in this revival, he probably would have said something to the effect, "You see it's all up to us. God is telling us to go out to the battle. It must be up to us; let's take our best weapons with us." But Jehoshaphat, being a good Calvinist, realized that wasn't the point at all. The point was, we have a responsibility to be where God says to be, but the power, the might, and the battle belong to the Lord.

Now, hopefully, we can see some comparisons to our own time. Would God begin to revive His people? We would pray that it would happen in our lifetimes and in the lifetimes of our children. But we might also expect as reform takes place, there would be battles; that those who had become comfortable with idols, with covetousness, with their old lifestyle, who have been unwilling to set their affections on the things above, whose lives in fact are rebuked by the lives of those who are being reformed; we would expect that there would be opposition from those people; even family, just as those distant relatives of the Israelites (the Moabites and the Ammonites who were Lot's descendants; the inhabitants of mount Seir, Edomites, who were Esau's descendants) came up against them to destroy them.

And so Jehoshaphat in the midst of this revival, in the midst of calling upon the name of the Lord, received an answer from the Lord. 1. The battle is God's, not yours. 2. Go out to the battle. Be there, be at the place where God's people are being attacked. He gave a specific location. `You know where that cliff is over by Ziz, at the end of the brook, down there? That's where they are. So you go there.' You go where the enemy is. Don't wait for them to come up against the walls of Jerusalem.


Next we see the people preparing. After Jehoshaphat bowed his head, continuing to worship the Lord, "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." What was their response? Worship! What should our response be if we believe that God has begun to do a reforming work in our lives, if we believe God has begun to do a reforming work in our midst? Our response should be one of worship. If we believe there is a conspiracy; if it's the case that the nations still rage; if it's the case that those who hated God still hate God, and would come up against his holy child Jesus, and those who follow Him; if that's the case, and it is; then we can expect conspiracies against reform in our time. And we can expect it within the nominal family sometimes. When God answers our prayers and says that we're to go out to battle, what should our response be? "Oh no not another one!" or "Oh no we're not going to have to face this again are we?" No, that is not the response of a people who are in reform! The response of a people who are in reform to this kind of a challenge is worship. Affliction should bring about worship of the Lord.

So the people prepared. God told them to rise up and get to the battle. What did they do? (vs. 20) "And they rose early in the morning . . ."


Let me put in a "plug" for rising up early in the morning. Do you remember when Abraham was taking his son Isaac, the child of promise, up to the top of Mount Moriah? He rose up early in the morning. Things happen early in the morning that don't take place the rest of the day. There is a quietness to the morning that lends itself to preparation for the day. There is a hurriedness, a busyness, about the rest of the day that doesn't lend itself to preparation. I recommend this time highly for your time of devotion. And as the people of Judah rose up to do battle, what are you going to do all day long as you go out to that calling, as you raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Don't you know that Satan wants to sift those children? Don't you know that Satan wants a hold in your heart while you're at work. How are you going to prepare for that workday? By rising up early and preparing your heart, by worshipping the Lord.

And so we see in verse 20, that the people of God knew this. "They rose up early in the morning, and they 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 . . ." Have faith in what, believe in what? Believe his Word! "Believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper."

Now when he had consulted with the people, note what he did next (vs. 21): "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 forever." I don't know of another army that has ever been arrayed like this one with the psalm-singers out front. They went before the whole rest of the army. It was the Levites' job, as you probably know, to guard the entrance of the temple. But their job also was to sing. They sang the psalms; the hymns of David and Asaph and the various Psalm writers. And they went out before the people of the Lord, in fact probably singing some of the very songs that came out of this encounter. They went forth singing "Praise the Lord for his mercy endureth forever." The people of God were praising the Lord. Had they experienced victory yet? Not yet, but they were praising the Lord for his mercy. They knew that they would experience the victory in God's own time.

So the people prepared for battle by preparing their hearts, by rising up early in the morning, and by continuing even throughout the battle to worship. As they walked as it were into the very valley of the shadow of death, we find them singing praises to the name of the Lord.


Finally (vs. 22-25), God gives both victory and increase. What is victory? Victory is overcoming the enemy in battle. If you don't go to battle, what victory will there be? None! God sent Judah out against the enemy so that he could give them victory. If they're not out there, if they haven't set themselves to seek the Lord, if they haven't gone out praising the Lord in their worship, if they're not out there on the battlefield, there will be no victory. Victory is overcoming the enemy in battle.

"And when they began to sing and to praise the Lord." When did it happen? "When they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten." What happened? The confusion in the enemy's army caused them to attack one another. The people of God were united. But the enemy was scattered. The enemy was divided because God alone works in the hearts of men. "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." First Ammon and Moab and Mt. Seir conspired against Judah. But conspiracy breeds conspiracy, so then the descendants of Lot decided they didn't need Mt. Seir. So they got rid of Edom. They slew them, but then one step further, and Ammon and Moab turned against each other until all of them were dead. "When Judah came toward the watchtower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped." How many did the Judaites kill? None as far as we can tell. They all killed each other. God turned them against one another.

Verse 25. "And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them." They not only had victory, not only did the people come out, not only did they show forth the praises of the Lord, not only did they see the entire army of the enemy destroyed on the battlefield, next they came up and took away spoil. They were going to be better off afterwards than they were before. When they "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."

I don't know what those armies were doing out there with all these precious jewels and riches, or how many of them there must have been that it took three days to carry it all back to Jerusalem, but God had something in mind for His people from the very beginning. They didn't know that. All they knew was that there was an enemy coming, and they had good reason to be afraid because the enemy was stronger than they were. They didn't know the end from the beginning, but God did. God knew exactly what he had in mind for his people, and it was blessing. But what did he require of his people? What was required in the midst of attack before this blessing would take place? First, the people of God had to seek God's face. There had to be revival in the face of the enemy. Second, when God answered, the people had to do what God said to do. They had to follow his instructions to the letter. He gave them specific instructions as to where they were to set themselves, and they followed them. Third, the people in the midst of this ambush praised the Lord. They sang praises to his name, crying out not "Oh woe is us," but "The mercy of the Lord endures forever." They went out to exactly where God said to go, and they did what God said to do. And what did Jehoshaphat remind them? "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe in his prophets, so shall ye prosper." Did they prosper? They sure did! They prospered so much that they had to put their jobs "on hold" while they were carrying jewelry home. How many of you would like to take three days off work to go out to the woods and drag home baskets full of jewelry? That's good work when you can find it! This is what their living was derived from for three days. God had a blessing for them that they didn't know at the beginning.

Do we have afflictions? Do we have those that would come up against us, whether they be men, or forces of Satan, or sicknesses, or whatever they happen to be? Are there forces rising up against us? Yes, about every day! What can we do about it? We can seek the face of the Lord. We can praise his name. We can continue to go out and be where God says to be. We can believe his prophets, and beloved, though we don't see it at the beginning of the affliction, at the end of the affliction we will prosper. God will bring us to the place of blessing. But the time of blessing, the time of victory is when? After the battle. God says to set yourselves and see the victory of the Lord: for the battle is not yours but God's. God will do the battling. God will give the victory. But we must understand that victory is not an absence of conflict. That's not victory. Rather, victory is overcoming the enemy in battle. And just as in Jehoshaphat's day there were reformation, revival, victory in the face of the enemies of God, so will there be for us when we make use of the means that God has placed at our disposal. Remember, God's people gathered together and fasted and sought His face. They praised the Lord, they obeyed His commandments; they believed His prophets, and then they found the place of blessing. W


Father, we confess with the psalmist that the very ramparts of thy city are beautiful, for thou hast established Zion. Thou hast placed thy name in the place of blessing. And Father as we gather together to hear the Word, and to seek Thy face, I pray that Thou wouldst speak to our hearts as Thou didst to the people in Jehoshaphat's day; that Thou wouldst grant to us to set ourselves and to go forth singing Thy praises into the place of battle. And then, O Lord, we pray that Thou wouldst be our Battler, that Thou wouldst be our sword and our shield, our high tower, our mighty place; that Thou wouldst confuse the enemy, for they are mightier than we. And yet, O Lord, they are not mightier than Thou. For Thou hast all strength, and all power, and the kingdoms of this world have been placed in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so we pray that Thou wouldst confuse the enemy, that Thou wouldst grant to us victory as we stand in the place where Thou hast called us to be. And we pray these things in Jesus Christ's name, Amen.