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2 Chronicles 20:1
It came to pass.
It came to pass
“It came to pass.” The phrase occurs again and again in the Old Testament. “It came to pass after four hundred and thirty years that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt,” and, “It came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took the harp and played with his hand,” and so on. But has it ever occurred to you that the phrase is a very suitable one as describing the different events of earthly history and the varied phases of earthly experience? It hints not only that they happen, but that they are so soon over; they come, but they “come to pass.” We do not always realise that, but it is always true. We are not conscious that the earth is moving round the sun, or that it is revolving daily on its axis, yet it is true. Summer and winter, day and night, do not cease, there is perpetual movement.
I. All that comes to us here “comes to pass,” nothing lasts very long, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” It is true a Christian has an abiding joy, it is joy that springs from an inward life, but joys that are ours through happy circumstances, through successes, recoveries, attainments, meetings, of these it is as true as of their opposites that give us trouble, they “come to pass.” Each period of life comes to pass. Childhood, how swiftly gone! Soon the soft limbs grow robust, the hair loses its flaxen tint; and youth, with its gaiety, novelty, and romance, it comes so quickly, but it “comes to pass.” And, of course, this is equally true of all that we mean by the word “opportunity.” Thomas a Kempis says, “The wealth of both Indies cannot redeem one single opportunity which you have once let slip.” Every day as it passes takes with it in its hand the opportunities that we have slighted and refused to take. The feeling of irritation that you have under trying circumstances. Things have not gone as you wish. Things do go strangely sometimes. So much disappointment and trouble are caused by one screw being loose somewhere. Well, the thing has come, but remember, like everything else, it has “come to pass.” Or it may be something much more serious than that. A reversal of fortune, the failure or death of one who, if not the sharer in your heart’s affections was one whose presence and favour were of great value to you. That great crisis of yours came, but it “came to pass.” God guided you into the wilderness that He might speak comfortably to you. The stormy night full of terrors brought the vision and the morning. But some may be reminding the speaker in the silence of their own thought, there are sorrows in life that come to stay. Yes, you may say, it is the greater griefs, the darker dispensations, that come but do not “come to pass.” In proportion to the depth of the wound is its permanency. And yet, even in regard to the greater sorrows that come to us in life there is an example of that which the text expresses. Wounds heal, though the marks of them abide, and though in some cases, like Jacob after the night of wrestling, we halt upon our thigh, there is an assuaging influence in time; the intense grief, the sense of despair, the feeling that all has gone, that life has no recuperative power, and that there is nothing worth living for--of these feelings it is true they come, but they “come to pass.” Is not this equally true of very opposite experiences? Though successes and the honours of the world may remain, yet the first feeling of elation and pride of attainment, these “come to pass.” We get accustomed to success, it ceases to exhilarate, it no longer gives us satisfaction.
II. Now having given, I trust, sufficient illustrations of this phase of life, of the constant flux of transitory things--they come, but they “come to pass”--let us consider its religious significance. What does it teach us, how should it affect us?
1. What an emphasis it lends to the fact of our own continuance, the continuity of the personal life through all the changes of time! How much has come to pass! Youth, marriage, parentage, maturity, the successive seasons and steps in life, have come to pass. Friends, and even the nearest and dearest of all, have come to pass. We ourselves have changed. There is not a physical atom of our bodies that belonged to us ten years ago; the gait, the expression, all have changed. But all that makes the continuity of the I, the fundamental elements of our humanity, the more striking. I am the same being that long years ago first spoke God’s name at my mother’s knee; the same being as when health gave vigour to the limbs and youth fresh beauty to the cheek; the same being who, once a prodigal son far from God, rioting in pleasure, then miserable in the consciousness of spiritual pauperism, came back unto the Father. The essence, the very constitution of man, is within, it is hidden, it is that which abides. Surely then there is nothing unreasonable in the faith that I may survive the last change of all? “The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
2. Then should not the fact that most, if not all, things only “come to pass” have a moderating influence on passion? The things in life which we most regret are moments when we lose control of ourselves. Said Johnson to Boswell, when something had intensely irritated that inimitable biographer, “Consider, sir, how insignificant this will appear six months hence.” Boswell’s comment on relating it is, “Were this consideration applied to most of the little vexations of life by which one’s quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations.” Exactly. There is a great argument for temperance in this text. “It came to pass.”
3. Surely, too, this should affect our judgment as well as our feelings. Permanency must be a factor in judgment. Should it not guide us to choose and cherish the good that abides, the better part that cannot be taken away from us? Character is an abiding thing; the evil effects as well as the good effects are lasting, but the pleasure only comes to pass; no one can enjoy the pleasures of sin more than for a season, but “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Surely, too, this should affect our judgment of movements of thought and taste, schemes that men devise for benefiting the race, will they last? Are they only a passing phase, a fashionable craze, a novelty, attractive because it is new? Here they are, they have come; wait a little, and you will see that they have only “come to pass.” The Word of God abides, the Christ the Sun of Righteousness is still the sun of the moral world. The Bible has been attacked ever since there was a Bible. (R. Baldwin Brindley.)
2 Chronicles 20:3
And proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
Objections to fasting answered
(on the occasion of a public fast):--A fast may be defined to be a voluntary abstinence from food, as a token of our humiliation before God. Objections--
1. There may be this outward mark of repentance without any real sorrow for sin. Answer--The outward expression then becomes a mockery.
2. A public fast has the appearance of ostentation. Answer--If you alone were to keep the fast, it might aver the appearance of ostentation, but in the case of public fasting, it becomes a duty not only really to fast, but to show openly your compliance with a prescribed service, and gladly to embrace the opportunity of humbling yourselves before God.
3. If we feel repentance in our hearts, God, who sees our hearts, does not require to be informed of it by any external expression. Answer--The same may be said of prayer and also of all the means of grace which God has appointed.
4. Why should fasting in particular be selected as an external mark of humiliation. Answer--
(1) Fasting has always been the public token of humility, and this in heathen nations as well as amongst Jews and Christians.
(2) It was enjoined of God upon the Jews.
(3) It was practised by our Saviour and His disciples; and recommended by them to the world.
(4) It has all the qualities that might reasonably be expected in an external act of humiliation.
(a) It is a duty easily practised.
(b) Requiring no apparatus.
(c) Connected with no expense.
(d) Simple in its own nature.
(e) Equally adapted to all ranks, climates, and places.
(f) It involves an act of self-denial.
(g) It is an act connected with the mortification of those very appetites whence many of the sins for which we thus humble ourselves proceed.
5. Fasting may disorder a person of weak health, and thus indispose him even for the service of the day. Answer--The spirit of the Christian system, insists only on the principle, and leaves the application of it to the case and conscience of the worshipper.
6. A public command to fast is a species of compulsion, and therefore inconsistent with the notion of a voluntary act of humiliation. Answer--All that is done by the command of the Government is, to render that convenient which might otherwise be very inconvenient, and that practicable which might be otherwise impracticable.
7. It is unreasonable to expect the poor to give up a day’s labour, and to abridge their diet who scarcely ever enjoy a full meal. Answer--It is a voluntary sacrifice: God enjoins no man to make it who is unwilling. No man will really be a loser by serving God. (J. Venn, M. A.)
2 Chronicles 20:5-13
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah.
Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity
I. That in the discipline of life we should expect dangers and extremities. To know other resources we must learn the weakness of our own.
II. That in these dangers and extremities God has many ways of deliverance. Human agency but a small part of holy ministry. Birds and beasts, insects, elements of Nature, and hosts of angels under His command. Hence the folly of proscribing, measuring, or limiting in God’s work.
III. That in all dangers and extremities of life we should look to God for help. (J. Wolfendale.)
If, when evil cometh upon us.
The cause of famine and our duty
I. What is the cause of famine?
1. Dishonour of God (Ezekiel 14:13).
2. Blasphemy (Jeremiah 23:10).
3. Sabbath-breaking (Isaiah 58:13-14).
4. Contempt of God’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19).
II. What should be our duty when God sends a famine upon the land?
1. Humbling ourselves before Him in prayer.
2. Showing kindness to our neighbours (Psalms 41:1-2). (Charles A. Maguire, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 20:12
For we have no might against this great company.
I. There are embarrassments concerning our country.
II. Many good men and women are often greatly embarrassed about the divine inspiration of every sentence in the Bible.
III. Some of us are at times much embarrassed by the circumstances of life. Like a man who looks out of a railway carriage at night and sees nothing, so some of us often look towards to-morrow and see no light. This fear of to-morrow is the wet-blanket of the Christian’s life. Act rightly now; do your duty to-day, and never mind to-morrow. (W. Birch.)
I. There are often terrible crises in men’s lives when moral courage is required. Most men are brought at times to a crisis when they are ready to exclaim, “We know not what to do.”
1. In the course of secular work. A great company of worldly anxieties.
2. In the course of personal moral culture. Old habits, lusts, propensities.
3. In the process of philanthropic labour.
II. The only source of true moral courage is trust in God. To trust Him is to trust--
2. Wisdom equal to every emergency.
3. Power that can make the weakest mighty. (Homilist.)
The helpless Church and the mighty God
I want to take this as a text to preach the experience of the people of God.
I. An appropriation of God. “O our God.”
II. The enemy to be judged. “Wilt Thou not judge them?” The Christian has many enemies, internal, external, and infernal, but self is the greatest enemy the people of God have. Self must be brought under judgment.
III. The sinner’s powerlessness. “We have no might.” We are spiritual insolvents. Perfect poverty: all true disciples of Christ must be brought into this state. Like Mary, we have nothing to pay, according to Christ’s parable, and yet we are pardoned. That is the gospel.
IV. The church’s perplexity. “Neither know we what to do.” This is often the condition of the Church.
V. Faith’s invigorating look. “But our eyes are upon Thee.” (J. J. West, M.A.)
Jehoshaphat, face to face with one of life’s great emergencies, our model
Say we not well, that prayer is a model for presidents, princes, kings, and rulers for all time? But it has wider applications. The King of Judah is confronted by a great and startling peril;--what does he do?
I. Let us rather mark what he does not do.
1. He does not underestimate his danger. There are some men who think it wisdom to pooh-pooh a difficulty. Jehoshaphat is not one of them. He is at the farthest remove from foolhardiness or a rash contempt of the impending peril. The men who under-estimate risks are not the wise men or the safe men, morally, politically, or spiritually. There are many of this easy-going--if you please, buoyant--disposition who decline to look probable defeat or disaster in the face. They deprecate your fears, advise you to trust to luck, to go on and take the chances with a stout heart. They are willing to do it in politics, suffering the Ship of State to take her chances among the unknown shoals and rocks! They do it in religion. They discount heavily the Divine requirements, the Divine warnings, the Divine hatred of sin, the tremendous Divine penalties pronounced upon it; for them these all mean nothing or very little.
2. So neither did Jehoshaphat over-estimate them. His was no panic fright. Seen through the atmosphere of our fears, a man may become a monster. The King of Judah certainly discerned the danger and appreciated it to the full, but his brave and trustful spirit was as far as possible removed from panic, desperation, or despair. Jehoshaphat, confronted by a danger which seemed certainly to insure the ruin of his throne and kingdom, declines to regard the case as by any means hopeless, refuses to believe that the Lord’s arm is shortened that it cannot save, or His ear heavy that it cannot hear. Who says Moab and Ammon are stronger than God? Any peril is over-estimated of which men cry: “There is no help for him in his God!”
3. Again, if Jehoshaphat does not underestimate or over-estimate his dangers, so neither does he place any false reliance upon human power--his resources, his aids, or himself. Some men trust God when they are bereft of every other ground of confidence, but not till then. They brave it out till ruin stares them in the face, and then run to cover. Not so Jehoshaphat. The nation had scarcely known a more prosperous and potent reign than his. He had a great army at his command, and, it would appear from the record (2 Chronicles 17:12-19), could bring upward of a million of men into the field, a drilled and organised militia capable of effective service in emergency. Many a man in his position, and with such military and national resources behind him, would have given God altogether the go-by, and chosen, like Napoleon Bonaparte, to trust in the heaviest battalions.
II. Turning from this negative to a positive view, we ask, then what did he do? Where was his real confidence? If ever there was a man who offered effective and ample illustration of the Psalmist’s words--“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God”--that man was Jehoshaphat of Judah. What then did he do? He turned to God! And observe how he did this.
1. It was publicly done. The King of Judah made no secret of his dependence on the King of kings. “He proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah”--“And out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord”--“And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, and their wives, and their children.”--“And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, and said.” What announcement of national and personal need and reliance upon Jehovah could be more distinctly open and unreserved than this?
2. And it was as humble and self-renouncing as it was public in its character. National grief is an affecting spectacle. You have it here: “All Judah, their little ones, their wives, their children, stood before the Lord.” While speaking in their name, Jehoshaphat exclaimed: “O our God we have no might against this great company, neither know we what to do.” Lowly-mindedness and self-abasement in a whole people, as certainly as in a man, goes far to secure--as truly as it solicits--the Divine favour.
3. Jehoshaphat’s plea for Judah was further marked by an unreserving trust in God. With Jehoshaphat Jehovah is all and enough. “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?” Never a thought here of limitation, or weakness in Him; never a suspicion that He is unable or unwilling to rescue those that trust in Him to the uttermost. No association of His name with any other. He is not to be a helper, a partner, a contributor. He is to be all, to do all! The royal, the national reliance on Jehovah is entire.
4. This brings us to note finally that Jehoshaphat’s plea is marked by the fullest recognition of the Divine Sovereignty and Providence. A writer, quoted in one of our leading weeklies, says that, “No secular history would be read in our schools to-day or in the schools of any enlightened community in which the fortunes of nations were represented as controlled by special Divine intervention.” The man who wrote that sentence would, we fancy, have been treated with rather scant courtesy if he had chanced in the court of Jehoshaphat.
5. More than this, the King of Judah appeals to the Covenant. Now God loves to be plied with His own promises and reminded of the gracious relations He occupies to us. The Psalmist founded a claim to Divine help and mercy upon the ground of a godly parentage: “O Lord, I am the son of Thine handmaid.” Our best resource, our true “help,” is not in alliances, in circumstances, in capacities, in luck, in others, in ourselves, but ever and only “in the name of the Lord.” (W. T. Sabine, D.D.)
Leaving the vote with God
Sir Fowell Buxton, who shared with Wilberforce the labours which secured the emancipation of the slaves in the West Indies, ascribed their triumph directly to the power of prayer. Writing to his daughter when all was over, he said, “I firmly believe that prayer was the cause of that division” (vote in the House of Commons}. “You know how we waited upon God for guidance, with these words in our hearts, ‘O our God, we have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee’; and the answer, ‘Ye shall not need to fight in this battle; stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.’ You will find the whole story in 2 Chronicles 20:1-37. Turn to my Bible; it will open of itself to the place. We had no preconceived plan; the course we took appeared to be the right one, and we followed it blindly.”
2 Chronicles 20:15
For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.
Victory the gift of God
I. Let us remember the great truth enunciated here, and let us in all thankfulness address our tribute of praise to God for the success wherewith He has crowned our exertions.
II. Let us never forget that war must always be considered as a judgment, however it may, in answer to a nation’s prayers, be accompanied with victory. (J. Bainbridge Smith, M.A.)
God in battle
This battle was--
I. A committed thing to God. The course of events was committed by a specific act to God; and Jehoshaphat and Judah stood in expectation of what He would do. Solemn acts of committal are of great importance in our spiritual life. If we have a bad habit to fight with, or a temper or special temptation to overcome; or if we have to deal with some wayward spirit; or if we want to attain to some grace, or even to do something that is too hard for our own strength, but which lies before us in the path of duty, let each of these be “committed things.”
II. An accepted thing by Him. God espoused Jehoshaphat’s cause: “The battle is not yours.” When we commit matters to God and He accepts them, we may see them in new lights altogether. We often do so, and wonder that we were so blind before. But we need not wonder. The light came in with God. When matters seem very dark to us, let us be fully assured that they are capable of being lit up.
1. “Not yours!” Why not? Because another interest had come in. In one respect the battle is always ours, inasmuch as we are the persons to reap all the substantial benefits, but in another it is God’s; He has interests as well as we. In our trial time, we must view Him as an interested God.
2. How was it not to be theirs? Just by God acting in the matter in His own way. We seem at times more as though we wished God to follow our leadings than that we should follow His. God will lead us by ways which we know not. We have to learn the double lesson of the insufficiency of known ways and the all-sufficiency of unknown. God has continually to teach us the last through the first. By taking the battle out of their hands, God severed Jehoshaphat and Judah from the depressing thoughts of the results being affected by their weakness. Conclusion: Consider Christ, who “committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously,” and Paul, who said, “I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” (P. B. Power, M. A.)
The Divine victory
I. These words imply that the cause is the cause of God. While the Christian life is undoubtedly a personal matter, it is well to look away from our interest and remember that God’s cause is chiefly concerned in the conflict of life.
1. Individually. The Divine ideal for each man is the perfection of each man’s character, and therefore he makes the successful prosecution of the warfare for this end his own.
2. What is true of the individual is also true of the race. A redeemed and regenerated world is the idea of God. Our conflict, therefore, for these ends against the evil of sin and the corruption of the world is a battle of God.
II. These words imply that the method of victory is Divine. If the cause is God’s, the forces we employ and the mode of our warfare must also be His. The Koran might be accompanied with the sword, but not the gospel. Its weapon was a Cross, and in that sign it triumphed. So in all the battle of life he who would win the victory for God must use the Divine armour. Eloquence, learning, wealth, and even physical force, have contributed at times to the success of the Church, but quite as often they have been hindrances. The method of Jesus is meekness and truth, the Word ever spoken, the life quietly lived, and the testimony borne and the faith kept clear and strong in the darkest and most distressful hour. How often in the conflict of life we try to fight the battle in our own way! We seek to conquer indwelling sin, to overcome the attack of the enemy who would destroy us, by some methods of our own. We always fail.
III. If the battle be God’s, then we may be confident that the end will be the Divine end.
1. How many good people are greatly distressed about their final salvation. But salvation is a condition of mind and heart--a present trust and submission to God, each moment assured, and therefore assurance for the next moment. Leave the end with God. It will be God’s triumph.
2. In respect of the final outcome of the conflict between good and evil, in the Church and the world, let us believe that God will take care of the issues, and that all will be well. Let us leave our doubts, and our forebodings, and our mistrustings with Him. (Llewelyn D. Bevan, D.D.)
Jehoshaphat helped of God
I. Jehoshaphat’s prayer teaches us when we may expect help of God.
1. In matters which we know God has at heart.
2. In matters for which Christ’s atonement stands pledged.
3. In matters for which we have not ourselves to blame.
4. In matters wherein we are powerless to help ourselves.
II. How we may secure God’s help.
1. We must come into communion with Him.
2. We must pray for God’s help.
3. We must implicitly follow God’s guidance.
4. Faith is an especial prerequisite to God’s aid.
III. How god’s help is given.
1. Not always or necessarily in the shape we desire it. God makes spiritual growth His first aim in all His dealings with His people.
2. But when compatible with higher advantages, God aids us in temporal things.
3. God gives us blessings beyond His promise or our asking.
1. In God’s people the Divine help awakens gratitude.
2. Those who are not Christians are never unaffected when they see God help His children: “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel.” (Monday Club Sermons.)
The battle is not yours, but God’s
The text addresses a word--
1. To all who are bearing Christian protest against evil.
2. To all who are undergoing severe temptation.
3. To all who are labouring for the good of the world.
4. To all who are engaged in controversy on behalf of Christian doctrine. (J. Parker, D.D.)
The Lord’s battle
Luther’s strength lay in the way in which he laid the burden of the Reformation upon the Lord. Continually in prayer he pleaded, “Lord, this is Thy cause, not mine. Therefore do Thine own work; for if this gospel do not prosper, it will not be Luther alone who will be a loser, but Thine own name will be dishonoured.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
2 Chronicles 20:17
Ye shall not need to fight in this battle.
The conditions and certainty of obtaining God’s deliverance
I. That since our enemies’ designs are known to us, we ought to set ourselves, that is, make what provision we can against them.
II. That having thus set ourselves, we must then stand still, that is, do nothing which is unlawful, although it be for, our own preservation.
1. By doing any unlawful action we deprive ourselves of God’s care and protection.
2. By doing anything unlawful we bring a scandal upon our religion.
3. To do evil, although for our own preservation, would be most likely to unsettle and ruin us. When once we break down the fences of duty, who can tell where we shall stop? If we allow ourselves the liberty of doing one sinful act, we may easily be prompted on to commit a thousand.
III. Repentance and amendment of life being supposed, we haste all reason to hope that we shall see the salvation of God.
1. Whatever our danger, God hath sufficient power to save and deliver us.
2. This is to be inferred from the design of God’s sending judgments upon any nation. (Jeremiah 18:7). (Thomas Lynford, A.M.)
For the Lord is with you.--
The power behind us
In my firewood factory we use a circular saw for cutting timber. Until recently this saw was worked by a crank turned by men. It was slow work, and we bought a gas engine. The saw, driven by this engine, does more work and at less cost. It is the same saw, but the difference lies in the power that drives it. It was driven by hand-power, now by an equivalent for steam, we only need to keep the connecting band tight. It is not a question of our abilities, but of the power behind us. (F. B. Meyer.)
2 Chronicles 20:20
Believe in the Lord your God.
Salvation by faith
Judah is to be “saved by faith” from Moab and Ammon, as the Christian is delivered by faith from sin and its penalty. The incident might almost seem to have been recorded in order to illustrate the truth that Paul was to teach. It is strange that there is no reference to this chapter in the Epistles of St. Paul and St. James, and that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not remind us how “by faith Jehoshaphat was delivered from Moab and Ammon.” (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)
God-fearing makes grand soldiers
Carlyle has taught the present generation many lessons, and one of these is that “God-fearing” armies are the best armies. Before his time people laughed at Cromwell’s saying, “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.” But we now know that the trust was of as much use as the powder, if not of more. That high concentration of steady feeling makes men dare everything and do anything. Those kinds of morals and that kind of religion which tend to make the firmest and most effectual character are sure to prevail, all else being the same; and creeds or systems that conduce to a soft limp mind tend to perish, except some hard extrinsic force keep them alive. Strong beliefs win strong men, and then make them stronger. (J. Bagehot.)
2 Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people.
Shouting before the victory
Anybody can sing the Te Deum after the battle is over. The German soldiers shouted when they had conquered their foe in the first battle in the war with France. It did not want much of a spirit to do that. The difference between an ordinary man of war and a Christian is this: a Christian shouts before the victory, because he knows it is sure to come. You remember how the people gave a shout of triumph before the wall of Jericho before it fell down.
I. We are here taught the great duty of patriotism. In a leading newspaper it was stated that if we were not so good we might do a great many things which would be to our worldly advantage, that we are cursed with a great amount of scrupulousness with respect to our conduct in Ireland, Egypt, and Burmah; that if we were a little more unscrupulous, and did not trouble ourselves about the rights and wrongs of men, we might seize Egypt and settle all our differences in India. Yet all history proves to us that this kind of foreign policy in the long run is an utter fallacy. Why is it that the great Empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Rome have fallen? Why has Spain lost her position and France been humbled in our own day? Because they yielded to the foul ungodly spirit of national self-assertion and aggression; because they did not praise the beauty of holiness.
II. Our special object is to illustrate the history of the Christian Church. We are engaged in a holy war. The Bishop of Durham said the Churches of this country were indebted to the Salvation Army, because they had revived the consciousness of the fact that the Church of God was an army, and that our great business as a country is war--not with one another, but with all human misery. What must we do? Praise the beauty of holiness. If we go forth to war, we must do as Jehoshaphat--we must needs be clothed with the Spirit of holiness. The apostle John was not ready for the great work he was called to until he had put on the power from on high, which was the Spirit of holiness. What was the practical result of the Pentecostal blessing? They were filled with the Holy Ghost. What followed? They were delivered from--
John Wesley and those with him at Oxford saw, after reading the Bible, that holiness comes by faith. Our great mission is to spread Scriptural holiness. If we march forth to war with confidence in the Spirit of holiness, we shall triumph even without fighting. (Hugh Price Hughes, M.A.)
When the Spartans marched into battle, they advanced with cheerful songs, willing to fight; but when the Persians entered the conflict, you could hear, as the regiments came on, the crack of the whip, by which the officers drove the cowards to the fray. What wonder that the Spartans were like lions in the midst of Sheep! Were we enthusiastic soldiers of the Cross, through God’s help, nothing would be able to stand against us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The biographer of Bishop Hannington says, “How often had he encouraged his companions in times of doubt or difficulty with the words, ‘Never be disappointed, only praise.’”
2 Chronicles 20:26
The valley of Berachah.
The word valley is a poem in itself; it is associated with a great deal that is beautiful, comforting, and that gives the soul a sense of security and plentifulness. The Bible is full of valleys, as it is full of wells. What is this valley of Berachah? In some senses I do not care much for it; I know it means the valley of blessing, and that the people, in whom I have not the slightest confidence at all, sang themselves hoarse in the valley of Berachah because they were fed like oxen that were to be slaughtered. That is what the people were doing in the valley of Berachah. To me their blessing goes for nothing until I have deeply inquired into the motive of the hymn, the intent and the genesis of the ringing psalm. It was all right enough within given limits, but the limits themselves were wrong. No doubt there had been great victories, no doubt Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them that had been overthrown; and they found abundance of riches. I listened with reluctance to their selfish psalm. God might see some good in it; God sees good wherever it exists, in how poor soever a form. Sometimes the goodness is like a little starveling thing that has got no blood, no fire in the eyes, and no real trust in the soul--a kind of living, self-vexing speculation. Who would not sing in carrying off all these precious jewels? There is a better time for singing than the time of all this commercial aggrandisement and secular comfort. One little song of patience is worth the whole of this blaring noise. There is another valley mentioned in Numbers 32:9 --“the valley of Eshcol.” What valley is that? ‘Tis the valley of grapes and summer fruits, all of which we may pluck, because it is the intent of Divine love that we should possess ourselves of such luxuriant vineyards. Do we not suddenly come upon the grapes intellectual, social, educational, spiritual? Is not hunger itself often surprised by unexpected plentifulness? Yet sometimes men cannot believe even in this uncrushed wine of the grape; they will hasten home and say, “Do not, we beseech thee, venture in that direction; grapes enough there may be, even to abundance, but we had better remain where we are; can a man live upon grapes? We cannot tell what there may be beyond the river or on the other side of the mountain; here, you see, we have grapes enough; until we have drunken of this wine why should we strike our tents and go ahead? “We may pervert some little mean proverbs of our own, and say, “Better bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of.” We have grapes to-day: why should we care about to-morrow? Thus enthusiasm is killed, and all daring, high exploit, and noble endeavour. Ambition may be perverted, but ambition may be one of the forms or aspects of inspiration. It is the future that draws us on, it is the prophetic assurance of some fiery man that a mile further on and we shall have it that keeps the world young and keep the rust away. You cannot silence the divinely inspired and most restless man. We could rouse him and say, Now, why not be content? why not rest and be thankful? of course there may be higher heights and wider landscapes, let us admit all that for a moment; but why worry ourselves about it? there may be something beyond the grave; when we die we shall see what there is. Perhaps not; there is a right way of dying. The world has been kept going by what foolish people would call sensationalism. The very persons who now wrap their rugs around them and enjoy the immediate comfort of the day owe the very rugs in which they wrap themselves to the sensationalism of a former time that could not be kept back from the wilderness or the jungle or the far-away land, no, not by the roaring sea and the tempest that seemed to be an embodied destruction. Do not live yourselves down into saplessness and reluctance to move. And it is easy for some persons to come and sanction such indolence, but we want the true spies to say to us, “We have seen a land worth going to; it grows life, it is warm with summer, it is boundless with an illimitable hospitality.” Young souls, do not be frightened by the man sitting next you, for he is no man, he is hardly a figure in wax. In Hosea there is a glorious valley--“the valley of Achor” (2:15). What is the meaning of Achor in this connection? what is the broad spiritual interpretation of Achor? It may be given in two little words, each word a syllable, one of the words a letter’. “a door of hope.” I have given thee a new beginning, new chances, new opportunities, new mornings; this is not the end, this is the beginning; there is the great wall, go grope in blindness, but with finger-tips that can see; thou wilt in that great blank wall find a door; it is there, I made it, I made it for thee; I know the blankness of the wall, but on my word go thou forth and grope for the door, the Achor that will give thee visions beyond big as horizons, big as firmaments, big as outlined heavens: go forth in the spirit of hope. We are saved by hope. We are not saved by depression. There is a new beginning for you if you please to avail yourself of it. I have heard your story about lost opportunities and a wasted life and failure upon failure. That is atheistic controversy; you had better know it, it spoils your life. What the preacher is set to do is to proclaim the door of hope; salvation by hope, hope that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the book of Isaiah we have a beautiful valley; in chapter 22:1 we read about “the valley of vision.” That is a large valley, that valley is worth living in. To live with people who have always seen new lights, new possibilities, and new and brighter interpretations than have ever been realised before; that is companionship, that is resurrection. Who cares for those dullards who never see new lights, new companions, and the outlines of new springs and summers in the morning sky? What a poor life it is to live without vision! In Isaiah 28:1 we come into “fat valleys.” The poor drunkards were all lying down dead drunk and choked and suffocated with their own wine of fatness. They were pampered creatures; their soul was subordinated to the body, they were all flesh and next to no spirit. There are fat valleys that have no fatness of the true sort. Then there are valleys that are spiritually rich with all manner of nutritious food. There is a wine that has no intoxication in it, there is a wine that does not carry the seal of death. Into those fat valleys, and not into the other, may God lead us. Can Ezekiel be alive and not take his position in this great question of valleys? Ezekiel saw a valley, it was a valley of dry bones. Read Ezekiel 37:1 and the context. It was an awful valley, a valley of death. “Son of man, can these bones live?” And the son of man said, “O Lord God, Thou knowest.” The wisest answer to every Divine inquiry: refer the question back; let Him who propounds the problem solve it. I wish we could read all about the valleys. There is a beautiful historical expression: “So we abode in the valley.” We wanted to climb the green banks and get up to the points and coigns that catch the earliest kiss of the sun, but seeing that it was better for us to take another course, seeing that we had better obey God than obey your own fancy or whim, we abode in the valley. Abode in a dark, cold place? No; you are misinterpreting the word valley when you attach such epithets to it. I read of other valleys. The valleys are covered over with corn. That is never said about the snow mountains. Have the valleys no compensations? Is sickness itself without advantages? When you are weak are you not sometimes strong? Where did you get the little flower from? I know not that I have seen aught sweeter for many a day: what is it? The lily of the valley. Tell me there is no compensation in poverty, in sickness, in weakness, and even in failure and disappointment? It was in the valley that the lily grew. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Suppose every place were to receive its name from what is done in it! How startling and varied would be some of the names! Berashah means a valley of blessing.
I. After prayer. Jehoshaphat pleads with God on various grounds.
II. After conflict in the spirit of praise.
III. After victory. The triumph was speedy, signal, and complete. Let the valley of our life often be made a Berachah. (H. Gammage.)
2 Chronicles 20:28
Every one helped to destroy another.
As we look upon the world at large, how do we see men occupied but as destroying one another! This is a marked character of the lower and worse forms of vice, that each degraded one has a wretched pleasure in bringing down other souls to the same level of degradation and ruin; but the same tendency to mutual destruction is to be seen in the first fallings away from God through all the subsequent steps in the downward road. When young men first lead one another away from home into the strange ways and strange company against which the wise man has raised his voice, what do they but destroy one another? And in the wildness which they call, for a time, pleasure--whatever form the self-indulgence, the sensuality, may wear--every one still helps to destroy another: actually, as to the misused and worn body, and with not less reality as to the corrupted and earth-engrossed soul. In another way, also, not less direct, not less fatal, though less regarded, each wanderer from God helps to destroy others. Example is sufficient to make danger. It would be a bold thing, indeed, for any one human being to look back upon his life, and to say that his example had not been fatal to some other soul. When the Spirit has done His work of converting the heart to God, and the saved sinner turns his eyes upon the sins which made the Cross necessary for him, who will not have Paul’s remembrance of having given his word for death? Who will not have John Newton’s memory of souls led into wrong, for whom there remains no power of recovery? And what is the record of this kind preparing for the unconverted, when a more true and more awful scene than the great dramatist has conceived of the presence of wronged souls in the visions of the night shall be upon the dying man, or, yet worse, upon the man after death; when the memory, no longer clouded by the flesh, no longer impeded by prejudice or passion, shall recall the multitudes to whom evil has been taught by word or by example; when the immortal spirit shall have the light of eternity poured upon the passed events of life, and the evil example of one look or one word shall be traced through all its train of consequences up to its final ruin of other souls? And this mutual destruction, which belongs to the very character of the unregenerate man, follows him hither even into the house of God. How is it that the children of our schools have so little profit here? that they know so little of all that passes here? How is it that we so rarely find the truth making its way from either desk or pulpit to the hearts of our docile young ones? Simply because they are destroying one another by combined inattention. The trifle which draws off the mind from prayer, the whispered word which puts some thought of earth in the place of the Bible, the merry smile which catches another’s ready eye--these are the means by which every one helps to destroy another; so that grace is provided and preached in vain. And we can scarcely hope that this will be with children alone. In a congregation of merely nominal Christians, met merely for the sake of respectability, the work of mutual destruction would go on in the general support of their common lukewarmness, and every one would help to destroy another in the subjects for conversation prepared in God’s house, and the discussion of them in the homeward way. (David Laing, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 20:30-34
So the reign of Jehoshaphat was quiet.
The character of Jehoshaphat
I. Jehoshaphat is not unlike Hezekiah and Josiah.
II. His personal character seems to have had very distinctive features in it.
III. He was distinguished for his simple and yet profound reliance on God.
IV. The religion of most persons of great power and position--such as those possessed by Jehoshaphat--is usually reserved, and anything but childlike. Conclusion: The practical bearing of this study is that there are many in whom the possession and exercise of great powers, which are usually called worldly, are not by any means inconsistent with the most humble and sincere piety. (E. Monro.)
2 Chronicles 20:35-37
To make ships to go to Tarshish.
The wrecked fleet
I. The disaster to Jehoshaphat’s shipping.
II. The cause of this disaster. A judgment from Heaven. If Jehoshaphat had been a mere man of the world probably this disaster would not have occurred, but God would not allow one of His own servants to prosper in such an undertaking.
III. The lesson which the disaster teaches. Do not choose your associates amongst those who do not fear God. Always safest to keep under Christian influences. You will do well even to sacrifice a measure of financial interest and worldly prospect rather than be associated in business with a man who is out of all sympathy with you in religion. (J. Thain Davidson, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 20:37
Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works.
Some partnerships are inexplicable. A Church officer who has led the devotions of the Church has been known to enter into partnership with a grovelling man who never hesitated to use profane language in the warehouse; a generous supporter of good institutions has associated with a man who would have sold his own father if he could have made money by the transaction. And men have wondered who have not known how two could walk together except they were agreed, and who have gone upon the principle that light could have no communion with darkness. The principle of ill-associated partnerships works in two ways: the professing Christian finds it convenient to be able to remit all questionable work to the man who has made away with his conscience and honour, and the said man finds it very satisfactory to point to his professing partner as a proof and pledge that all is straightforward and upright. But is this as it ought to be? (J. Parker, D.D.)
An immoral fallacy
It will be said that business is business, and religion is religion, that there is a distinction between the merchant and the man. Let us admit that there remains this question: When the merchant is damned for his wicked deeds where will the man go? (J. Parker, D. D.)
The principle of the text--
I. Supplies a lesson for the young. What you have to settle first and foremost is, the moral basis on which you are proceeding; you must get the full consent of your judgment and heart and conscience before you give yourself up to any commercial course.
II. Is expansive enough to include the subject of marriage. We do not hesitate to lay down the broad principle that where there is incongruity of religious conviction between man and woman happiness of the deepest and purest kind is entirely out of the question.
III. Will permit an earnest word about evil companionship generally. (J. Parker, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 20". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany