Day 19: May 22, 2017: Worship Leads the Way
2 Chronicles 20:18-23: Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.
This really is a remarkable story: The text is about the incursion of foreign armies into Judah but it is not a military account. There are no battle plans. There is no mention of swords or shields or chariots. “Mighty men of valor” (2 Chr. 17:14) make no appearance, and the captains of the armies are not heard from. Instead, there is prayer (v 3 -12), fasting (v 3), prophecy (v 14-17), and now there is worship (v 18-22). The only “military” action which Judah took was to march out to the field of battle, but even their marching was a celebratory worship service and not a somber preparation for war.
In response to the Lord’s promise of deliverance and victory Jehoshaphat and the people “fell down before the Lord, worshipping the Lord” (v. 18). Then the Levites rose and gave praise to God “with a very loud voice” (v. 19). The next day, before the march began, Jehoshaphat urged the people to believe in the Lord and his prophets (v. 20). Then he appointed singers to march in front of the army and proclaim, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v. 21). Thus worship literally lead the way as Israel journeyed out to meet their enemies.
Does worship lead the way in your life? Do you begin each day by focusing on God and praising him for his greatness? Do you fall down in worship when God shows himself faithful in your life? When hardship comes, do you remember God’s steadfast love and give thanks to him?
The book of Revelation shows us that worship, and not bustling human activity, is at the center of the universe. In chapter 4 John received a vision of “a door standing open in heaven” and a summons to “come up here” (4:1). In the vision John was then transported to God’s very throne room (4:2) and he was given a glimpse of the One who sat on the throne (4:3). What unfolded before John’s eyes next was a mighty crescendo of worship which began with the “twenty-four elders” seated around the throne (4:4), and which kept building until it came to include “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To the him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (5:13). God is at the center of all reality. He is Ultimate Reality. And because God is the Creator and Redeemer of all things (4:11, 5:9-10) the most important human action is the action of falling down on our knees and worshiping Him.
In his commentary on Revelation Eugene Peterson writes, “The end result of the act of worship is that our lives are turned around. We come to God with a history of nay-saying, of rejecting and being rejected. At the throne of God we are immersed in God’s yes, a yes that silences all our noes and calls forth an answering yes in us. God, not the ego, is the center. God is not someone around whom we make calculating qualifications, a little yes here, a little no there. In worship we “listen to the voice of Being” and become answers to it… We are privileged listeners and respondents who offer ourselves to God, who creates and redeems.”
Worship turns our lives around and centers us on God. The account in 2 Chronicles 20 is remarkable because Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were focused on God and not on their enemies. The end result was that God defeated their enemies for them (v 22-23) and when Judah witnessed God’s victory they returned to Jerusalem worshipping and praising the Lord (v 27-28). Now, this passage should not be taken to mean that if we just worship God everything will turn out to be okay. To conclude that would be badly to miss the point. Worship is not a means to the end of getting something from God. Rather, worship is about God himself, and God is worthy of our worship regardless of how things are going for us personally. The people of Judah worshipped God before they witnessed God’s victory over their enemies. Worship led the way in their lives; and worship must lead the way in our lives. We must daily praise the God who is our Creator and Redeemer.
Take time now to worship God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “O holy God, eternal Creator, Ruler, and Redeemer, I praise you for being the great, mighty, awesome, and loving God that you are. You are worthy of all my worship, so help me to each day give my life to you as a living sacrifice, that all that I am and all that I do may bring glory and honor to you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”