Their Eyes Were Watching God
Their Eyes Were Watching God
New Hope Baptist Church
April 17, 2005
Text: 2 Chronicles 20:1-12
Introduction: (Subject-What do you do when in a stratosphere of stress or in the face of fear?)
Stress is not an emotion that is often sought after. Stress is pressure, strain and anxiety. It can be bought on by constant worry, nervous tension and trauma. Stress is when a person is concerned, ill at ease or their spirit is disquieted. But one of the main triggers of stress, of pressure, anxiety and tension is fear.
Terror, dread; fright; panic; alarm; trepidation and apprehension all describe some form of fear. When one is fearful, one is afraid; scared, even terrified. Fear brings a person to astounding revelations and confessions. Nothing can introduce a person to their real self and true feelings better than fear. The question is what to do with fear? What do you do in the face of fear? Fear will elicit some response, some action, or a certain decision. Thus we find the main character in our text this morning at the point of decision in the face of fear, brought on by the pressure and nervous tension of the oncoming attack of a mighty army.
Jehoshaphat was the son and successor to king Asa as king of Judah. He was 35 years old when he became king, and he reigned 25 years. He took it upon himself history has it, to cleanse the land of idolatry. He sent out priests and Levites in the land to instruct the people in the law of God. He enjoyed a great measure of peace and prosperity, being one of the best, most pious and prosperous kings of Judah since Solomon. He was a zealous follower of the commandments of God and he tried to put down the high places on which the people of Judah burnt incense. He received tributes from the Philistines and Arabians, and he kept a large standing army. Even though he strengthened himself against Israel, he eventually became an ally with Ahab. This was a great mistake, because it brought disgrace to him and disaster on his kingdom.
Sometimes before the end of his reign, he encountered the most notable event of his reign. The Moabites formed a great confederacy with the surrounding nations and came against Jehoshaphat. These allied forces, the Moabites, Ammonites, and the Meunites, were encamped at Engedi. This was a great multitude. They knew that Jehoshaphat kept a great and mighty army ready, so they had to be great in number to believe that they would conquer this mighty and feared king. They were great in numbers and great in their boasting. The word used here as multitude in the original language means to roar, be loud and boasting and an abundance in numbers. Have you ever noticed that when the enemy comes against you, the more they are in numbers or the smaller they think you are, the louder they get? Have you ever been faced with a bully by the flagpole after school? Remember how the crowd quickly formed? Remember how the more people gathered around the louder the bully got and the more the bully promised to do to you? If you’ve ever been in that situation, do you remember how you felt? I do. How you felt alone? Unsure of yourself and whether you showed it or not, you were fearful? Even though my brother taught me to hit first when I saw the whites of their eyes, I was still fearful until that first lick passed.
That’s what Jehoshaphat felt when the intelligence report of the impending attack was given to him. The Bible says that Jehoshaphat was afraid, terrified. But Jehoshaphat did not let fear stifle him. How do I know this? Because in verse 3 the Bible says that he was afraid and – and, the little conjunction that ties two things together tells me that he was both afraid and something else at the same time.
You see, when you are faced with this type of fear, this type of terror, this type of dread, many things can go through your mind in a matter of minutes, even seconds. You’ve heard people who have been faced with life threatening situations say that their whole lives passed before their eyes? This is what happened to Jehoshaphat. As soon as the fear hit, his mind went into action and gathered some information that led him to take a decisive action. He informed the people, called for a national fast, but Jehoshaphat also sought God. Let me break this down for you by unlocking the truths from this passage that are necessary to face in order to reach the same decision as Jehoshaphat. There were three truths that Jehoshaphat acknowledged that prompted his decision.
First, Jehoshaphat realized his position: He was afraid, he was terrified. He was astounded at the brevity of this army that would dare to come against him and his mighty fortress. Many of the leaders of these armies were former allies with him. Forgive my vernacular, but everybody that pats your back ain’t your friend. People that you think you know are sometimes just pretenders.
Their roar, their boasting and their abundant numbers gripped his very soul into terror. It’s bad enough when your known enemies come at you, but when people you thought had your back join them, you just might feel frightened. Had they not heard of his prowess ness? How dare they not fear his much experience? He had been held in high regard by the surrounding nations, now they join forces together against him? It can be a frightening thing when your friends turn into your worse nightmare.
Can I be real for a moment? A long time friend who you often shared secrets tells and distorts the truth; persons fueled by jealousy, envy, greed, and covetousness; someone who has been welcome to dip into your pot in your kitchen has been dipping with your spouse; or a buddy at school values association with the popular kids more than your friendship and accomplishes this at your expense; any of these people can cause great concern when they turn on you.
Jehoshaphat was afraid but he was not too proud to admit it. He was afraid but he knew what to do about it. He took his fear to God. He gathered the people of Judah around him and instructed them to seek the Lord in the face of fear. He did not hide behind a wall of false faith, rather he told his people, those he led, y’all need to pray. This situation is bigger than we are. He admitted that he needed outside resources, unlike the little boy in the sand box.
The story is told of a little boy was spending his Saturday morning playing in his sandbox. In the process of creating roads and tunnels for his toy cars, he discovered a large rock in the middle of the sandbox. The boy dug around the rock and dislodged it from the dirt. He pushed and nudged the rock across the sandbox using his feet. This was a very large rock, and when he got it to the edge of the sandbox, he found that he couldn’t roll it up and over the little wall.
Determined, he pushed, shoved and pried but every time he thought he had made progress the rock fell back into the sandbox, until he burst into tears of frustration.
All this time the boy’s father watched from the living room window. At the moment the tear fell, a large shadow fell across the boy and the sandbox. It was his father. Gently but firmly he said, “Son, why didn’t you use all the strength you had available?”
Defeated the boy sobbed, “I did, daddy, I did. I used all the strength I Had!” “No, son,” corrected the father kindly. You didn’t use all the strength you had. You didn’t ask me.” Then the father reached down, picked up the rock and removed it from the sandbox.
That’s what Jeohshaphat did. In the face of fear, he sought the strength of his father, and his Father removed the rock for him!
Jehoshaphat acknowledged his limitations. As he prayed to God he acknowledged that he was powerless against his enemy. The Bible says that a wise man will count the cost before beginning to build his house. Jehoshaphat counted the cost and determined that he could not pay the price.
There is an old saying that “you can’t fight city hall”. There are just some situations that you just can’t handle. You can’t make your unsaved spouse come to Jesus and you can’t live with him or her in peace on your own accord. You can’t talk a wayward child that your have ignored for many years into turning around by yourself. You can’t put bread on the table when your entire check has to go toward the rent to keep a roof over your head. You can’t make cancer go away. You can’t make hair grow on a baldhead. You can’t stretch your height one inch. You can’t make a blind man see. Some things need the hand of the One who created a black and white cow to eat green grass and give white milk; the One who holds the sun and the moon in the heavens; keeps the earth on its axis and in perfect rotation; the One who makes fish live in water and man to die without if. Some things just need Jesus.
Lastly, Jehoshaphat confessed his ignorance. It is hard for people to admit ignorance. It has been my experience that it is twice as hard for many men to admit it. To say the words – I don’t know, takes a true act of the will for many persons, but this is precisely what Jehoshaphat said; “I don’t know what to do”. Pride can rob you of victory and enlightenment. False knowledge will kill your reputation with yourself. There are three types of ignorant people: Those who don’t know and don’t know that they don’t know; those who don’t know but think that they know; and those who don’t know and know that they don’t know. You can work with the last kind. That’s who Jehoshaphat was. He didn’t know what to do and he knew that he didn’t know. But he knew who did and he was willing to listen and learn and to be obedient.
I believe that’s the place we all have to come to in the kingdom of God. We have to admit that we have none of the answers to life’s questions; that we have no way to get to heaven on our own. Sometimes I become so bewildered with today’s Bible scholars. They debate pre-trib, post-trib, and no-trib. Will Jesus actually place His foot on the Mt. Of Olives when He returns or is that just a metaphor? Were the nails in His hands or His wrists? Does the rapture really mean to be caught up in the air? Is there a literal hell?
You know what? I don’t know! But I do know that Jesus is coming back again. Pre-trib, or post-trib, it doesn’t matter. He will come again. Whether He sets His foot on the Mt. of Olives or downtown San Bernardino, when He comes, everybody will know it! Whether the nails ere in the fat part of His hands or in His wrists, you will be able to see the holes that will prove that nails were somewhere.
There have been times when I did not know how I was going to feed my family, but I had met a Man named Jesus who through a man named Paul said that I could come boldly to the throne of God to find grace to help in my time of need.
When I had cancer in my body for the second time, I didn’t know what to do, but I knew a Man named Jesus who had been wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities and by His strips we are healed! I’ve been lost and couldn’t find my way; I didn’t know up from down or right from left; but somebody told me about Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. There is nothing wrong with not knowing as long as you know the One who knows all and is wiling to be at your side every step of the way.
In conclusion, we were faced with a question: What should we do in the face of fear? Keep your eyes on Jesus. How?
1. Realize your position – There are some things that you just can’t fix by yourself. In fact, most things are beyond you. You are in need of help, in need of a Savior, in need of the Great I Am.
2. Seek God – Forgo any and all hindrances and distractions. Focus on Jesus like He is piped in music, like listening to earphones; (example on train). Ask Him for whatever you need. He is your Savior, and He will never disappoint you.
3. Watch God Work - Jesus is the X factor (algebra) whatever the sum of your experiences, x+10=100; Jesus is the X factor that can balance the equation. Is your life out of balance, Jesus is the x-factor. Have you been trying to figure things out yourself? Only Jesus can bring the balance you desire and need.
Then, you can experience the great news, the wonderful intervention and experience that Jehoshaphat experienced. You will realize:
4. The Battle is not yours – It is the Lord’s and He is with you.
Keep your eyes on Jesus and you will see the salvation of the Lord. We can learn from the many who were before us and kept their eyes on God and experienced His victory in their lives.
How could David be so sure to say in Psalm 37: “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart? For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land?” His eyes were watching God.
Shadrack, Meshack, Abednigo were able to refuse to worship the king and declare, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t we will not worship you” because their eyes were watching God.
Isaiah was able to recognize God in His temple; that He was High and lifted up because his eyes were watching God.
And don’t forget about Paul who proclaimed, “I press toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus. The word used here for mark or goal in the original Greek means a mark or watchman with his eyes fixed on the goal. Paul’s eyes were watching God.
Maybe you don’t know Him today, or maybe you don’t have a clear view. Let me paint a picture for you:
I can see Him – walking down the road to Calvary, Golgotha Hill in full view before Him; bearing the crossbeam on His shoulders, His knees buckling under the pressure of the beam, His strength weakened from the scourging, and the beatings; the only moisture on His body is from blood, sweat and spit from some of the very persons He was now going to die for; see Him with me as He is being nailed to the cross with nine inch square Roman nails in His wrists and longer ones in His feet; being thrust into the air and dropped to the ground on the cross, hanging there in the midst of two thieves who would continue to torment Him even as He was dying for their very sins, hanging there in a most cursed manner even though He could have come down at will; hanging there from the sixth to the ninth hour; hanging there forgoing the fellowship of His Father, hanging there for you and for me.
Someone has said that there were three cups at Calvary that day: the cup of charity, grape juice mixed with yeast offered to dull His pain. He did not drink from this cup. He was not looking for charity, He was dying for it. The cup of sympathy was offered from a sponge soaked in vinegar to dissipate His thrust, but He did not drink this cup either. It only served to fulfill prophecy. And the cup of iniquity, filled to the rim with your sin and my sin and the sin of the world; this cup He drank completely and totally. How do I know? Because as he gave up the ghost, ensuring that no man took His life but that He gave it as a ransom for many, as He secured His spirit into His Father’s hands, He said, “it is finished!” He died that day so that you could live today and eternally.
Can you see the tomb where they laid His body; where it laid for three days and three nights? Can you see the tomb on the third day morning, that the stone is rolled away so that you can see that he is risen from the dead? Risen to say “O grave, where is your sting, O death where is your victory?
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Don’t let them wonder after the things of this world, or the circumstances that come your way. You don’t have to fear. The battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s and He will be with you.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. Stand today with your eyes fixed on Jesus. He’ll fight your battles and He will lead you safely home.