Or, The Liturgy of Seeking the Lord
2 Chronicles 20:1-30
January 2, 2022
Lord’s Day Worship
The beginning of a new calendar year is as good a time as any for evaluation, which for everyone should result in a lot of things to give thanks to God for, and also for everyone probably some repenting from sin and turning to obedience. These are year round activities, but something about the transition from December to January makes it fitting.
The beginning of the calendar year also coincides with the anniversary of TEC’s beginning. Next Sunday, January 9, will be exactly eleven years for us as a church body. From the very first Sunday in 2011 we have begun the Lord’s Days in January with teaching, reminding, renewing, rejoicing in our Lord’s Day liturgy of assembled worship.
Due to our significant increase of new members, I took a number of sermons last year to explain the five Cs and point out some of the ingredients that cause our worship to taste the way it does. As I’ve said, I’ve taken numerous swings at trying to communicate why we do what we do when we’re together (you can find those previous messages if you’re interested, last year’s are at the previous link, and here’s another set about our liturgy).
For Our Worship 2022 I want to remind you 1) why our worship belongs up front in the battle, 2) how our worship protects us from the implacable idol of woke-ism that’s so trendy today, and 3) the way our worship models the reality of a hierarchical cosmos, especially as seen between male and female.
To get us going, let’s read a great story of God’s steadfast love in His deliverance of Jehoshaphat and the Jews in 2 Chronicles 20.
2 Chronicles 20:1-30
Some context: we are in a battle but ours is not like exactly this, nor is the United States a nation like Israel. And yet, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, see also 1 Corinthians 10:11). So the LORD is the same LORD. The hope we have in Him is the same sort of hope. And our desperation, with only one sure Deliverer, is most definitely the same.
We ought not skip the “After this” in verse 1. Jehoshaphat sinned in 2 Chronicles 18, but repented in chapter 19 and began a restoration of righteousness in Israel, appointing judges and repairing the temple. In other words, chapter 19 is full of Jehoshaphat bringing glory to God through his obedience. Sometimes when you live by faith, the LORD kicks it up a notch (just as Shasta “had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” The Horse and His Boy). Now the LORD chose to bring glory to Himself through Jehoshaphat by deliverance.
The Moabites and Ammonites plus some Meunites (from Edom) make up “a great multitude” coming to kill Jehoshaphat, gathering from the west side of the Dead Sea and coming around the south of the sea, probably just a day or so away. Jehoshaphat had one thing going for him: he knew what he couldn’t do. So he “set his face to seek the LORD” and called on his people to fast (verse 3). The people assembled, and for emphasis, the whole assembly is said to seek the LORD and His help (verse 4).
On behalf of the assembly Jehoshaphat cried out in front of the assembly, praising and petitioning the God of heaven who rules over all the earth. He is the God who makes and keeps promises, including the very land of Judah; Jehoshaphat expected the “Land Lord” to intervene. He acknowledges that the very house of worship is identified by the name of the LORD, and that generations have committed that they will “cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save” (verse 9). Jehoshaphat lays out the problem, not because God didn’t know it, but as a record of how bad it really was.
We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (verse 12)
Beloved, fellow members of the body, friends, brothers and sisters, the end of the rope is the right place, as long as we keep our eyes on Him. Powerless, without strength, not enough resources, every shelf in the arsenal is empty. Ignorant, without a plan, not enough ideas. “But our eyes are on You.” Every week, as we assemble together in the name of the LORD we say that together: our help is in the name of the LORD. Our eyes are on You.
All the assembly, “with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (verse 13) were there as if their lives depended on it, because they did. The Spirit came upon Jahaziel, a Levite, who brought them a word from the LORD.
Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s (verse 15)…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf…Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. (verse 17)
One of the most frequent commands from the LORD is: don’t fear; in fact, the Lord gives that command 365 times in Scripture. One of the first Greek phrases I ever memorized was μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευε (Mark 5:36). His Word lifts up our heads beyond circumstances to His sovereignty. His Word pierces through the visible to the invisible, the spiritual, the eternal. When the assembly gathers before God and discerns the end of the wicked, we see how good we have it to be near to God our refuge (see Psalm 73:17, 28).
When we bring our desperation to Him, He hears, and He reminds the humble that He is near, He is “with us.” The battle is not ours, but His (verse 15), similar to David’s last words before he killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:47). “Stand…and see the salvation of the Lord,” just as Moses told the people waiting beside the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13).
Jehoshaphat and the temple ministers worshipped. They fell down before the LORD, then stood up to praise the LORD with a loud voice (verses 18-19).
The next morning they gathered again and Jehoshaphat exhorted them:
Believe and you will be established. Believe and you will succeed. (verse 20)
The battle begins with faith, it’s from faith to faith. And that faith is expressed in worship.
Israel’s army was there, but the choir went first, just like at Jericho (Joshua 6:9). For their song selection they chose an oldie but a goodie:
Give thanks to the LORD,
for his steadfast love endures forever. (verse 21)
This well-known refrain at least goes back to David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 16 (see verse 34); it gets Tomlin-level repetition in Psalm 136. The choir is out front, up front.
“And when they began to sing and praise they LORD set an ambush” (verse 22)…so that the enemies were routed. Two of the three enemies turned on the third, then the remaining two turned on each other, and were successful in destroying each other. Israel worshiped and watched (think of the antsy ones at St. Anne’s in That Hideous Strength whose assignment it was to wait).
So Judah got a good look at the outcome, and the people were three days in gathering the spoil (verse 25), and appropriately “blessed the LORD” (verse 26). They returned home with joy, rejoicing in God with harps and lyres and trumpets (verses 27-28).
“[God] delights to furnish those with matter for praise that have hearts for it.” —Matthew Henry
We have a sort of mini-Jehoshaphat crisis every week. As I said, our battle isn’t the same, but in one way our enemy/enemies are more fierce (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:12). We assemble to seek the Lord. The name of this place could be called the “Our-Eyes-Are-on-You” place. Or it could be called Beracah, “Blessing,” the place we seek His blessing and we bless His name for all He’s done.
We gather to remember the indicatives: Our God is the God of heaven, who rules over all kingdoms and nations, in whose hand are power and might so that none may withstand. And that same Lord, His steadfast love endures forever.
Then we we remember the imperatives: Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Stand firm. Believe in the Lord your God. Give thanks to the Lord. Call on Him in the day of trouble and He will deliver (Psalm 50:15).
And it is not a stretch to say that when we begin to sing and praise Him, He moves.
The gates of hell cannot withstand the worship of the church in Jesus’ name (Matthew 16:18). Hell’s unbelief is not more powerful than God-by grace-granted faith. Hell’s rebellion is bitter and breakable compared to the believer’s Spirit-produced joyful and strong and free submission. When we assemble on the Lord’s Day we are an outpost of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom we are receiving cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28), let us be grateful and offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.
Call. Confession. Consecration. Communion. Commission.
Boom! “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
Assembling before the Lord each Sunday reminds us that we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We are not sufficient (2 Corinthians 3:5). We are, by ourselves, powerless, and we don’t know what to do.
But because of the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), because of the true King of David, Jesus Christ, we see the salvation of the Lord.
We could call him Jealousable Jehoshaphat. The whole assembly with him was jealousable. “The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel” (verse 29). Jehoshaphat had sought to bring glory to God through his obedience, which he did, but God brought even greater glory through deliverance.
“Blessed are all who take refuge in [the LORD, the Son]” (Psalm 2:11-12). “I will live up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1).
Believe in the Lord and you will be established, believe His Word and you will succeed (2 Chronicles 20:20)! Believe not for health and wealth, but in humility and worship. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Stand firm. Keep your eyes on Him.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1 Corinthians 16:13–14, 22–23, ESV)