Their Problems And Ours
EasyEnglish Bible Studies that show that God is sufficient whatever the problem
Jehoshaphat: The Problem Of Anxiety
by Raymond Brown, M.A., M.Th., Ph.D.
translated into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
(Anxiety means to be anxious.)
‘Every person alive will have trouble’ (Job 5:7). Eliphaz said these words while trying to comfort Job. It is easy to agree with him. It is a hard fact of human experience. Trouble comes to us all at some time. We shall think about how a Christian deals with sudden trouble. There are situations in life that upset a Christian. We shall think about how he reacts to them.
In this study, we will consider one serious incident. It happens while a great king is ruling. His name is Jehoshaphat. The main passage for our study is 2 Chronicles 20. Chapter 19 ends with some words that Jehoshaphat said. He spoke to the people. The last sentence encouraged them. He said: ‘Be brave.’ There is also a promise. God was near. ‘The *Lord shall be with those who do what is right.’
The Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) emphasises practical things. What we believe is important. But we must express what we believe in our daily lives. It should show in our behaviour. The king needed to take his own advice. God often tests us when we are in trouble. We have advised other people in their trouble. We must obey our own advice now. Most of us are better teachers than we are students. We have big lessons to learn in life. We must often learn them by trouble. This is a sad fact.
Notice Jehoshaphat’s reaction to his problem. It was a great problem of anxiety. You can read about it in 2 Chronicles 20. Things were going quite well for this good king. He made mistakes sometimes. But he loved and obeyed God. He was loyal to God too. (Read 2 Chronicles 17:3-6; 19:3, 9.)
Then there was sudden trouble. Two countries, which were the king’s neighbours, sent their armies. They even got extra military help from other nations. They all came to attack Judah. (This was the land where Jehoshaphat ruled.) It was a complete surprise. So he was not prepared at all. He only had a small army. He knew that the people in Judah could never overcome the enemy. God was their only chance. If he would help them, then they would succeed.
This was the time when the king needed his own advice. ‘Be brave because God is near.’ It was natural for him to be very anxious. Judah had no military strength. Cruel neighbours often attacked them. Now Jehoshaphat’s worst fears were happening. This is what he did when he was so anxious.
‘He decided to ask the *Lord what to do’ (2 Chronicles 20:3). Let us begin with a declaration. It is this. Any kind of trouble can be worthwhile if it brings us nearer to God. Of course Jehoshaphat would not choose this trouble for his people. But perhaps he would not have prayed so hard if he had not had it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German. He was a Bible teacher and writer. During the 1939-1945 World War, Hitler was the leader in Germany. Because Bonhoeffer did not agree with Hitler, the German government sent him to prison. He wrote many letters from prison. We can still read them. (Letters and Papers From Prison; 29, 55, 67; SCM Press.)
He did not want to be in prison. But he did not think that ‘a single day was wasted’. He did not know what the results would be. It was too soon for him to know. But he was sure that something would result from it. He says: ‘Of course not everything that happens is the purpose of God’. Then he adds: ‘yet nothing happens without his will’. (Read Matthew 10:29.) So, events may be very bad. But we can always find God in them. We often need trouble to make us pray hard. Bonhoeffer admits this. Most of us would probably agree with him.
Because he was anxious, Jehoshaphat hurried to the place for prayer. If trouble brings us closer to God, then it is worthwhile. Circumstances may cause pain and despair. But we should not be anxious. We should look at our trouble in a calm way. We should look for something good that could come out of it. This can be a hard thing to do. There certainly was a good thing for Jehoshaphat. His trouble helped him to improve how he prayed. So, good things can result from our troubles too.
Give yourself a task. Choose to remember God’s goodness in the past. The king’s trouble made him pray hard. Let us now look at his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12. First he remembers the former days. He remembers the great help that God’s people received.
When we are anxious, we often look at the present. Our present pain is all that we can think about. Then we fear more troubles in the future. But we should begin by looking back. Think about how good God has been to you in the past. So, he would not forget you now.
‘His love in time past forbids me to think
He will leave me at last in trouble to sink.’
These are 2 lines of a Christian song. John Newton wrote this, and many other songs. He lived from 1725 - 1807. For many years, he said that there was no God. His life was very wicked. He was the captain of a ship that carried slaves. Then he became a Christian. God forgave him. He became a completely different person. So he knew all about God’s love in the past.
You remember the past too. Think about former experiences of God’s goodness and care. Remind yourself about this God. He was sufficient for you then. He is still the same God now. He wants to help you today.
The *Hebrew people look at life in a certain way. It is different from the way that people in the West think. We talk about the past being behind us. They prefer to think that the past spreads out in front of them. It is the future that they cannot see. They could clearly see the way that God had led them. Their history was full of wonderful acts of God. He parted the waters. He defeated their enemies. He satisfied their hunger. He guided their lives. (Read Deuteronomy 32:7; Isaiah 46:9; 51:9-15.) These great facts encouraged them. They increased their confidence in times of trouble.
He knows about your present difficult situation. See how Jehoshaphat found help. He remembered a sure fact. God is in total control. ‘*Lord God...you rule in heaven over all the world’s nations. You have power and strength. Nobody can defeat you. You are our God’ (20:6).
Think about yourself. Your circumstances have changed. This can tempt you to be anxious. You wish that you did not have this trouble. Perhaps you fear that something bad is going to happen. Remind yourself that God rules. He is still in control of all life’s situations. Good things can result from this trouble. It can bring honour to God too. This may seem impossible. You feel so much pain and despair. But thousands of Christians have proved this truth.
Jehoshaphat did the right thing. He looked back. He remembered all that God had done in the past. He looked up. He said: ‘You are God in heaven.’ His own resources were very small. This would make him very afraid. But heaven’s resources have no limit. When he realised this, his anxiety began to disappear.
It is this.
God promises to help you in every kind of difficulty. The king stood in the place of prayer. He thought about 2 great national leaders. They were Abraham and Solomon. They lived centuries before Jehoshaphat did. First, God made a promise to Abraham (20:7). (Read Genesis 17:7-8.) God promised that the land would belong to the Jews. That promise would always remain.
Then, some centuries later, Solomon had prayed. He had thought about a situation that might happen at some time. It was the same one that the *Hebrews now had. (Read 1 Kings 8:37.) God had given them some great promises. He would not disappoint his people. Solomon was sure about that. He spoke about God’s goodness and care. It had been many years before. (Read 1 Kings 8:56.) But Jehoshaphat now took the same promises and accepted them. The king said that God had given the Jews the land for all time. He trusted in this promise.
In our times of trouble, we must do the same. Think about the great promises of God. They are for you at this difficult time. Accept them. Hold on to them. God will never disappoint you. Be sure about that fact. Jehoshaphat’s prayer was very serious. It was sincere. His trust was in God. So, God sent him a message. He gave it to man who worked in the Temple (God’s special building). He called out to the king and the people. ‘Listen to me everybody. The *Lord says this to you: “Do not be afraid. Do not worry about this large army. The battle is not your battle. It is God’s battle.” ’ (Read 2 Chronicles 20:15-17.)
Jehoshaphat probably remembered his own words to the people. ‘Be brave’, he had said. And, ‘The *Lord shall be with those who do what is right’ (19:11). There are 2 vital things here. The first is about what God has said (20:7). (Read Genesis 17:7-8.) Remember his promises. The second is about where you must look. Remember God’s nature (2 Chronicles 20:12). ‘We look to you for help.’
Perhaps serious trouble has come to you. You are feeling very, very sad. There is pain and despair. When things are at their worst, remember this important fact. There is always something for which you can thank God.
Read the rest of the story (20:18-29). The place where they fought the battle became famous. Many years later, people called it ‘the valley of blessings’ (20:26). Blessings means benefits or good things.) It can be the same for you. You seem to be in a dark valley now. Perhaps one day you too will say that it was a valley of blessings. Something good will come out of it. But even now, try to think of something for which you can *praise God.
This was a strange battle in the valley. They did not put their best soldiers at the front. Instead, they had a group of singers at the front! The king appointed special singers. They marched out on that awful day. They sang: ‘*Praise the *Lord. His kindness and love continues always’ (20:21). The singers began to sing and to *praise God. Then the *Lord acted. The enemy armies began to fight each other!
You may have anxious thoughts and fears. Then you should remember these brave *Hebrew singers. God promises to support you. So you should offer your praise to him. David sang a song of praise on a special occasion. You can read about it in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. He sang it on a day when he was happy. Of course, it would be easy to do it then. Jehoshaphat sang it on a day when he was very afraid.
We read Jehoshaphat’s song in 2 Chronicles 20:21. It is possible that his song was a short copy of David’s prayer. If so, it would give certainty to the soldiers. They would hear the words as they marched behind the singers. It could remind them about their great king David. With God’s help, David defeated the enemy many times. So it would give them comfort. It would encourage them. It was about the same subject as Jehoshaphat’s prayer. He prayed in the Temple (God’s special building). He did this when he knew about the coming attack. (Read it in 2 Chronicles 20:5-12.)
Think about the benefits that the king received from his trouble.
· His prayer and friendship with God became better (20:3-5).
· His trust in God became stronger (20:12).
· His understanding of God increased (20:17).
· His love for God increased (20:27, 28).
The story began with the fear of man (20:3). It ended with the fear of God (20:29). Jehoshaphat’s experience convinced his neighbours. These nations did not know or follow God. But they could see that God was great and good (20:29).
Our reaction to trouble is important. It can convince our friends and neighbours too. It can help to bring them to a personal experience of God. They can know the God who always loves. They can know the All-Powerful God for themselves.
Are there extra blessings when people come ‘together to seek help from
the Lord’? (2 Chronicles 20:4) Is prayer that is in a group of people
more useful than personal and private prayer?
2. Jehoshaphat admitted that he was weak. ‘We have no power’ (2 Chronicles 20:12). We might want to do something effective for God too. Should we admit that we are weak? (Read 1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 13:4.)
3. Jehoshaphat also admitted that he did not know what to do. (Read 2 Chronicles 20:12). We all need God’s advice. Do we need his help for major decisions only? Or do we need his help for everything in life? How can we understand what is the difference between important things and unimportant things?
Hard times can come suddenly when we do not expect them. Then people
can become seriously afraid. They can let things upset them. What
causes that to happen? (Read 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17.)
2. What does it mean to keep looking at God (2 Chronicles 20:12)?
3. Other people who are in the Bible give us a good example. They encourage us to keep looking at God. (Read Hebrews 11:27; 12:2; Psalm 105:4.) Can you name any of them?
4. Another leader who loved God helped Jehoshaphat in this emergency. (Read 2 Chronicles 20:14-17.) Perhaps we know people who are in times of trouble. Then how can we help them by what we say?
5. In this emergency Jahaziel encouraged the king. He had some great truths to tell Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:15-17). Could you make a list of them?
6. During the battle, the king’s choir sang some familiar words. They come from the book of Psalms, which is in our Bible. (Read Psalm 20:21; 1 Chronicles 16:34-36; Psalm 107:1; and especially Psalm 136). To praise God is a privilege. Do we forget to praise God in times of trouble? Or do we neglect this privilege? (Read 2 Chronicles 20:21-22.)
How important is it to count our blessings?
The chorus of a Christian song says:
‘Count your blessings, Name them one by one.
Count your blessings, See what God has done.
Count your blessings, Name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.’
Hebrew ~ a nation, a people and a language; Jew is another name for a Hebrew person.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we do what they say.
praise ~ to admire and appreciate God; a song or a prayer can be praise; the way that we live can praise God too.
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION: Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER: Sue Hunter
© 1999-2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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