In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah are facing an overwhelming situation. The combined Moabite and Ammonite armies are bearing down upon them with one aim: destruction and take-over. The odds are not good and there seems to be little hope of relief.
In the horn of Africa right now, drought and famine are placing 10 million people in dire circumstances. The country of Somalia particularly is in need. There is little infrastructure or governmental stability. The extremist group, al-Shabab, has terrorized the country in the past and even now denies there is a famine, while stirring up strife in the capital of Mogadishu. How can food and hope break into this situation?
In our own lives, we all face seasons of trouble that can feel overwhelming. In recent days I have talked with people facing economic worries, employment difficulties, and relational strife. What do you do when you face overwhelming odds?
King Jehoshaphat does something that seems impractical from a Western point of view. He develops a strategy for dealing with the coming army, but it is apparently impractical. He asks the people to come together to fast and pray “to seek help from the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).
The king prays in a way that I find helpful. He remembers who God is (20:5-6), recalls what God has done and promised (20:7-9), honestly assesses the situation they are in (20:10-12), and asks God to intervene (20:12). The last line of the prayer is striking:
Our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.
From this place, another prophet speaks a word of guidance from the Lord with a specific strategy of how to respond. The end result is the deliverance of God for these people.
Regardless of the outcome, however, Jehoshaphat’s approach to God is exemplary for its honesty, trust, and priority. He is saying, in essence: ‘we are facing overwhelming odds and we have no idea what to do, but we are looking to You to help us first of all.’
In every situation, whether the famine in the Horn of Africa or our own personal crises, what would happen if we turned, like Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah, to the Lord in this way as our first move?