Friday, November 4, 2011

Dig a Ditch

On March 31, 1973, an event took place in my life that has influenced every other event thereafter.  It determined who I would marry, where I would work and friends I would make. This event would take me to the heart of Africa and to the Philippines. This event also would teach me not to lose my faith in poverty, nor to lose my soul in prosperity.  Actually, this turning point in my life is responsible for this blog: It was the day I reponded to an invitation to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
It’s been 37 years since I took my first step in faith, and looking back, I see that each step in faith has prepared me for the next step in faith.  In Romans 1:17, Paul says that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  As it is written, the just shall live by faith.”
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  It is a story of a military victory under King Jehoshaphat (no one names their kid Jehoshaphat anymore!). King Jehoshaphat learns there was a coalition of three armies a day’s march from Jerusalem.  He knew he could not defeat them, so he called for the people to fast and pray.  God heard their prayers and, speaking by a prophet, said the battle belonged to Him alone. The king’s army was told to follow the choir to the battlefield and watch what God is able to do.  What they saw was a battlefield littered with the bodies of their enemies.  It seemed that the coalition wasn’t that strong, because they fought each other to the death.
My question about this story is why did King Jehoshapat not panic when he heard about the enemy that was going to attack?  He seemed to have the ability to put his faith in the words of the prophet so easy, but there was a lot riding on those words.  If he were wrong, it would mean the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of Judah and the end of his life.  Yet, he calmly replaced his frontline warriors with a choir. How did he learn such faith?  Was there something in his life that prepared him for that day?  I think the answer is found in 2 Kings 3.
When Jehoshaphat came to the throne, he honored a treaty with King Jehoram (the son of Ahab and Jezebel) to help defend each other’s kingdoms if enemies surrounding them attacked.  Jehoram convinced Jehoshaphat to bring his army north and join him in a battle with the Moabites.  Jehoshaphat’s army had to march north through the desert, so by the time they arrived, they were weakened by the march.
Things were not looking good.  Jehoshaphat feared he had missed God’s will, so he asked if there was a prophet in the area.  He was told that Elisha was dwelling nearby. When the two kings arrived at Elisha’s house, they found that Elisha was surprised to see Jehoshaphat hanging out with the likes of Jehoram. Before Elisha tells Jehoshaphat what to do, he called for a musician to lead in worship (sound famliar?).  Then Elisha told Jehoshaphat he would win the battle by returning to the camp and digging some shallow ditches. God would do the rest.
That night, a rain filled the ditches.  When the sun came up, the Moabites looked down on Jehoshapat’s camp and saw the sun reflecting off the ditches.  They believed the pools in the red clay were puddles of blood caused by a fight among the soldiers.  Thinking that all were dead, the Moabites entered the camp unarmed.  The army of Judah woke up, drew their swords and defeated the enemy.
What Jehoshaphat learned from his victory through worship and digging ditches prepared him to obey, in faith, the next time God’s prophet told him, You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
The Bible is filled with stories of battles, and our lifes are as well. Life’s challenges will not end until we are called into God’s presence.  What is your battle today?  God has prepared you for the challenge through your victories and defeats of the past.  The strategy of each battle may be different, but the battle cry is always the same:
“And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.’ ”  II Chronicles 20:21
En agape,
Fr Mark