How do you respond to the fear that comes with a genuine threat? There are times when we are afraid of things that turn out to be mere perceived threats, but there are also times in life when we detect a threat and realize that threat is real and dangerous. Then we feel fear. What is the disciple of Jesus to do in this situation? In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat is confronted by a real threat and is afraid, but his response reveals for us a strategy for dealing with that fear.
Jehoshaphat is king of Judah in Jerusalem. He gets word that “a great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea (2 Chronicles 20:2).” Jehoshaphat detects a real threat that could result in serious harm. There is a great multitude coming against him and “Jehoshaphat was afraid (20:3).”
We all know well this feeling of fear. When we encounter a real danger, our unconscious response is for fear to arise and for adrenaline to flow. Fight or flight. The Bible speaks a lot about fear, because the Bible is written for people who live after Eden in a world full of threats and for people whose natural reaction to threat is to be afraid. But the Bible gives counsel and comfort to those who feel fear: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You (Psalm 56:3).” “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine (Isaiah 43:1).” “Deal courageously, and may the LORD be with the upright! (2 Chronicles 19:11)” How, then, should the disciple of Jesus respond to fear?
The first thing to do when we feel fear is to acknowledge the fear and admit that we are afraid of something. There is a threat, and we are afraid. This acknowledges our weakness and positions us for receiving help.
When Jehoshaphat heard of the threat and felt the fear, “he set his face TO SEEK THE LORD (20:3).” “Judah assembled TO SEEK HELP FROM THE LORD (20:4a).” “Judah came TO SEEK THE LORD (20:4b).” When we feel fear, the disciple of Jesus seeks the Lord. This is perhaps the most critical part of the strategy. Being fully aware of the threat, we willfully turn our eyes from the threat to our God, and we seek Him. We remember His power that He has demonstrated to us countless times. When feeling his own fear, the prophet Jeremiah said, “But the LORD is with me like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11).” Our Dread Champion is greater than any threat, so we need to seek Him. Seek His face – what does He think of this threat? “If God be for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” Since God is on our side, we cannot lose. We seek the Lord and make sure that we are “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10).”
Next, Jehoshaphat prays to the LORD and cries out to Him. And what a prayer! The king declares the power of the LORD (20:6), the works of the LORD (20:7), and the promises of the LORD to rescue His people (“If disaster comes upon us, we will cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save (20:9).”). Then Jehoshaphat clearly states the threat (20:10-11) and asks the LORD to act on his behalf (“we are powerless, but our eyes are on You.”) (20:12). This is a model prayer when a threat looms large.
Then a prophet speaks out and tells Judah and King Jehoshaphat, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the battle is not yours, but God’s (20:15).” The prophet goes on to say, “Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD will be with you (20:17).” When it is time for us to confront the threat and to act, we do so in the confidence that the Lord is with us. We are not afraid or dismayed but are assured that He will be with us and will act for us. “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides You who acts for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).”
Finally, as Judah and Jehoshaphat go out to meet the enemy, they choose to believe and to trust that what the Lord has promised, He will certainly perform. “Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe His prophets, and you will succeed (20:20).” Jehoshaphat has cried out to the LORD is prayer and has acted with courage, and now he leads Judah into the battle, believing that the LORD will act on their behalf. Just so, having seen that the Lord is greater than any of our threats, we move forward trusting that the Lord is with us.
What we see here in Jehoshaphat is a basic strategy for responding to threats and fears:
- Acknowledge the threat and the fear
- Seek the Lord
- Pray to the Lord and cry out to Him
- Act with courage; do not be afraid or dismayed
- Believe in the Lord and trust in the Lord
SDG rmb 11/17/2020