2 Chronicles 20: 2-26
So, what do we fear?
I looked at a number of different lists, by googling “Top Ten Things People Fear.” This is my list, after looking for common factors. Many of these are cross-cultural: 10. Commitment/intimacy. 9. Isolation. 8. Enclosed spaces. 7. Spiders, bugs, mice and rats. 6. The dark. 5. Rejection. 4. Failure. 3. Snakes. 2. Death. 1. Public speaking.
Sometimes, though, our fears become very immediate. Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah became very fearful when they heard that a great multitude was coming against them, an army from Edom, from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who were assembling against them at En-gedi – an oasis south and west of Jerusalem, next to the Dead Sea, near Masada. And 3Jehoshaphat was afraid; he set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the towns of Judah they came to seek the LORD. Jehoshaphat spoke to the people, who assembled in front of the Temple, in Jerusalem. He reminded God of their history as Chosen People, and the protection God had given to them as they made their way through the wilderness to the Promised Land. [partway through v. 12]: For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” 13Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
14Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly. 15He said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you: ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16Tomorrow go down against them; they will come up by the ascent of Ziz; you will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” And the Levites assembled the Temple singers, to lead and encourage the people with SONG and HYMNS of PRAISE. 20They rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God and you will be established; believe His prophets.” And, 22As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
Well. With all due respect to Layton – I am not sure we would respond well to that kind of advice today. We like guns, and surveillance cameras, and body searches and concealed carry. We like attack drones, character assassinations, and focusing on our differences instead of our similarities. We like control. We like power. We like action. Physical action, duking it out, slugging it out, shooting it out. Too often we forget that actually our battle is not with flesh and blood. Instead, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 6:11: 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our* struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. This is not just mystical mumbo-jumbo here: Paul is talking about the real deal. We ARE in a battle against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Because we know how the battle ends doesn’t mean that the battle is over. After all, World War II was effectively decided with the successful invasion of France on D-Day – but don’t ever tell a veteran of World War II that the war was over on June 6, 1944. The Battle of the Bulge was horrendous – the war in Africa was too, and the war to take Italy. And remember the war in the Pacific.
So what are we supposed to do? We could start where Jehoshaphat started: with prayer and fasting and seeking the will of the Lord. We know what we are called to do: to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and minds and souls and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Concerned about Waypointe? Go knock on the doors and ask to talk with people there instead of listening to rumors and fear. Concerned about the direction the township is moving in? Attend council meetings. Look at the candidates running, and talk directly with them about what their vision is for the community. Concerned about violence here? Think about how to present a future with hope to those who live here. When people have a vision of hope, it is possible to work for that common goal. Concerned about the future of this church? Pray for guidance as to what God is calling us to do here in this place to serve now, in this time and place. Concerned about the denomination? Read the materials on the website. Talk to our classis reps. Come to a classis meeting – you can’t vote but you can be granted the privilege of the floor, and listen and ask questions. Concerned about the future of America? Maybe we need to start with the vision of how God calls us to be witnesses to God’s grace, love and mercy. How do we care for the widows and orphans and – yes – refugees among us? How do we need to shift our vision? Too many times we think that life is a pie, our existence is a pie, and we have to fight one another to get our slice or two or five or ten. But if our life is grounded in Jesus, we have to wake up to this fact: the metaphor is all wrong. Jesus is not a pie. Jesus is the light of the world. When we light a candle from a candle, we do not diminish the light – instead, we spread the light, and diminish the darkness – remember, one of those things most humans fear the most! Jesus, the light of the world, will bless us by arming us with the full armor of GOD, not of humans. In this battle with this present darkness, we need not to fight fire with fire, but with love, the fierce, wild love of Jesus for this lost and broken world.
So what am I the most afraid of? That when I stand in front of my Lord and Savior, that I will see disappointment instead of love in His eyes, because I have not done what I can, where I am, with what I have. May I be able – may we ALL be able – to keep our eyes on the cross, and through the cross, to the Lord our God. Remember Paul’s letter to the Romans 8: 37-39: 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And even so, come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.