One passage per day for a whole week, based on the sermon.
- 2 Chronicles 18:1-34
- 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
- 1 John 2:12-17
- Ephesians 2:1-10
- Ephesians 6:10-20
- Matthew 26:47-54
- 1 Samuel 17:1-58, especially verse 47
When the Battle Chooses You
Pastor Steven begins with a story about his anniversary and segues into a list of marriage advice. One piece of advice that is given out a lot to newly married couples is “Pick your battles,” because not everything is worth fighting over. (He gives an example of how after 17 years they still debate the direction that forks should go in the dishwasher, but it’s not a battle they fight. It’s just not worth it.)
But what do you do when your battle chooses you?
The main focus of his sermon is on the story of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah.
A little history: At this point in Israel’s history, the kingdom that was once united under David and Solomon is now divided between the Northern Kingdom (usually called Israel or Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom (called Judah – where Jerusalem is). Leading up to this time, another Ancient Near East religion gains traction in Israel (both North and South), the worship of a mother-goddess named Asherah, who was a goddess of fertility and the consort of Ba’al. Idols to Asherah were usually sacred trees (called Asherah Poles) and are used as sites of worship alongside altars to Ba’al. Jehoshaphat was faithful to God and removed the Asherah Poles in the Southern Kingdom, but King Ahab in the Northern Kingdom was too much influenced by his pagan wife, Jezebel, to do anything about it. So things are going well in Judah. Jehoshaphat is following God and setting up the priests to minister to the people (2 Chronicles 19).
Just when things were going good, a battle picks Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1). Battles will sneak up on you with no time to prepare, to seek advice, or make plans. You’re caught off guard.
There’s something about a surprise attack that will make you run to the presence of God.
Jehoshaphat was “alarmed” yet “resolved.” (20:3, NIV)
A. Choosing the Wrong Battles
In Chapter 18, Jehoshaphat fought alongside King Ahab and the Northern Kingdom (who was not being faithful to God). There, Jehoshaphat saw that Ahab had hundreds of false prophets that told Ahab what he wanted to hear. False prophets tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. The one prophet who did honor God told Ahab it would be a mistake to go to war and that Ahab would die.
Choosing the wrong battle will get you killed. They go to war anyway, and Ahab dies because of a lucky arrow shot in between his armor, and Jehoshaphat almost gets overtaken, but he prays to God and God saves him. (18:28-34)
Don’t take on a fight that’s not your fight.
Don’t take on a battle that doesn’t belong to you.
Christians don’t need to share their opinions on every cultural issue.
People have tried to get me to use my pulpit for political purposes, but that’s not my fight.
I’m not trying to run the White House. I’m trying to run my house.
If you are controlling others, you’re fighting the wrong battle. You can manipulate behavior in the short term, but you cannot change people’s hearts.
Great reply when someone asks you, “What do you think about so-and-so…” — “I don’t.”
BYOD – Bring your own drama. (We have enough drama ourselves, we don’t need to insert ourselves into someone else’s drama.)
B. When Battles Choose You
Jehoshaphat went to seek the Lord, not asking around for help (like Ahab did) or for other people’s opinions.
He was shocked, but he wasn’t shook.
He was facing three enemies (20:1):
- Moabites – Descendants of Lot
- Ammonites – Descendants of Lot’s son, Ben-Ammi
- Meunites (later called Mt. Seir, I’m pretty sure these are Edomites) – Descendants of Esau
Today, we face three enemies:
- The World
- The Flesh
- The Devil
Pastor Steven says that this list of three enemies comes from 1 John, but I am unable to locate the specific passage that he is referencing. I did come across a verse that refers to three vices for us to avoid: “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world,” (1 John 2:16, emphasis mine), which sounds very similar to the list that Pastor Steven mentions. The “triad” he mentioned above does seem to appear in two other passages: the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 (the three things that prevent growth) and Ephesians 2:2-3 (the “world,” the “ruler of the kingdom of the air,” and the “flesh”). More on these “enemies of the soul.”
The nature of the battle determines the strategy–you need to fight on the right level. Jehoshaphat isn’t going to Ahab; he’s going to the right place with no plan: He’s going to God.
He shifts his focus from what’s coming against him to the One who is above him.
In his prayer, he reminds God of all of things he’s done for Israel. Remind God of what he’s done, not so that he remembers, but so that you do.
There’s a tone shift in Verse 8. Jehoshaphat may acknowledge that his near death experience in Ahab’s fight was his own fault, but this battle is different. These enemies are enemies that God told the Israelites not to drive out when they conquered Canaan. Now they are coming after Judah!
Why didn’t God not command the Israelites to drive out these peoples? They are still connected to Abraham’s lineage, who is God’s friend (20:7), even if not directly: Lot was Abraham’s nephew, and Esau was Jacob’s twin brother (Jacob was later renamed Israel, which probably means he struggles with God).
C. Waging War with Worship
The battle may be bigger than me but it’s not bigger than God.
Sometimes you fight things that are in your genetics.
Taking responsibility for your actions is good, but if it turns into shame it will drive you out of the presence of God.
If it’s God who gave it, it’s God’s to protect, as long as we’re being good stewards. God won’t let other come and take it away.
The possession isn’t the treasure: you are the treasure, his possession, his daughter, his son, his friend. (20:7)
We do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). Choose fights: “Not this one.” Sometimes it takes more faith not to fight and let God sort it out.
Anger is often a cover-up for fear.
Marriage isn’t about fighting against each other: the fight is happening at a different level: It’s about us fighting together against “it.”
If it’s too big, it doesn’t belong to you.
We say the battle is the Lords, but we stress like it’s ours.
We waste time and energy when we could have been worshiping.
Wage the war with worship. When the battle picks you, response with worship.
Do you have the faith to not fight in the flesh?
“Put your sword away” (what Jesus says to Peter as he’s being arrested–Matthew 26). Jesus had the faith to trust that the fight wasn’t going to be won with swords, but with his death on a cross. He was fighting at a different level.
Jehoshaphat set worshipers to fight the battle, and God set his angles against the armies (20:21-22). The enemy started fighting the enemy (20:23).