Jumping Jehoshaphat! I never knew what that meant when my grandma exclaimed it. It was not until years later I found out this was the name of a person – poor kid. Jo-Phat was one of the early Kings of Judah – the Southern tribe. His dad Asa had this trust problem – he tended to trust himself and his decisions more than God’s. When it came to defense he made treaties with ungodly neighbors and when it came to his health he called his physicians before calling upon God. God was a fall back plan.
Jo-phat learned well from his father becoming a head strong king pursuing treaties for protection without God’s blessing but ironically expressing sensitivity to God’s leading in other areas. He appointed judges and told them to “faithfully and wholeheartedly serve the Lord” while entering trade agreements with evil nations. He wanted to be godly while lacking the patience or faith to take his own counsel to faithfully and wholeheartedly serve the Lord. God was still the fall back plan.
Jo-phat is not much different than the rest of us at times. We admire people of action; those that rush in fixing things and making things happen. He only wanted to ensure his country’s safety and prosperity; so what is wrong with taking the bull by the horns, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, storming the breach – pip pip tally ho! People trusted this man of action and living-on-the-edge king and how could he not be pleased by the adulation and praise? But God, though, may not have been pleased with Jo-phat as he mirrored what many of us do in taking charge of our physical lives – the part we see and experience while leaving the rest to God – that unknown “spiritual” part. We have this mistaken thought that these are two separate pieces of our lives fitting together to make a whole, but is this the case?
When Israel was being haunted by a vast approaching army mercilessly wiping out all in its path Jo-phat did something uncharacteristic for a man of action; instead of rushing in organizing the army and defenses he called everyone to prayer. This took precious time and may have seemed disappointing to his admirers as people streamed in from all parts of the country to stand before the Lord and his prophets. You could hear them say “We are wasting time – is this smart?” And what was the answer to prayer– prepare for battle! Now we are getting somewhere! So what is the battle plan? Send in the choir! Can you imagine the harden veterans strapping on armor and sharpening swords in preparation for battle while a cadre of brightly robe clad men are practicing scales and warming up their voices to lead the charge?
In God’s creation He did something that most of us miss – He created the spiritual and physical aspects of life simultaneously intertwining them into an inseparable whole. They are not two entities that we can compartmentalize. When God spoke to the stressed and scared people of Israel he told them to not rush in and “do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.” I am sure there were the detractors that called for quick action sensing they had to “fix” things. It was hard for them to see their king seemingly hesitate and waver. But he wasn’t! Jo-phat was finally understanding that God wants us to prepare spiritually through prayer as plan number one – not as our fall back plan.
How often do we Christians react by rushing in to “take care” of a situation before spending adequate time in prayer? Do we pay lip service about following God while running ahead of Him more often than not? If we rush in – even with good intentions – what would have happened by waiting for God’s timing first? We have to understand as Christians that compartmentalizing God’s world, knowingly or unknowingly, into the physical and spiritual is opposed to how God works. Remember he is the one that sends the guys singing praise into battle first. He tells us the first will be last and the last first. He says the wisdom of the world is foolish in God’s eyes. Even if it does not seem to make sense follow God anyway – just ask Jehoshaphat who won the battle without a single life lost!
How did God finally record the reign of Jo-phat? “He did what was right in the eyes of the lord.” If God can defeat a vast army with a choir then maybe we should not be admiring the old man of action “Jumping Jehoshaphat” but the new and improved “Praying Jehoshaphat” instead.
This weekly devotion is written by John Key