The news today is overflowing with fear-inducing reports of an invisible enemy that is on the attack. It has troops invading every corner of the globe. They have infiltrated our borders. We hear daily of how many lives have been lost to this deadly foe.
What about the fears we had before we had even heard of COVID-19? (It’s hard now to imagine a world without it!) Perhaps you had health concerns already. Maybe you were worried about how to pay the bills. Stressed about deadlines for work or study. Concerns about your future. Conflict and tension in relationships with friends, family, neighbours… Let’s face it, we had plenty to worry about before this virus came onto the scene.
How do we respond in fearful situations? How should we deal with a crisis?
A Good King
Perhaps we can learn something from King Jehoshaphat. He was king in Judah, the southern kingdom after Israel had split in two. And he was a pretty good king, as biblical kings go. The chronicler says:
“The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands … His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6)
That’s pretty high praise!
A Great Threat
But for all that he still faced trials.
One day, perhaps interrupting his morning coffee as he’s musing over all the good he had done for his country, a messenger comes. “A vast army is coming against you!” (20:2) Three of the surrounding nations had gathered their numerous troops and had even crossed the border into tiny little Judah. They were on their way, and they meant business!
How does the king react? He was scared witless! Wouldn’t you be?
A Good Response
Yet here’s where see Jehoshaphat shine. He’s afraid, yes. Look how he responds:
“Jehoshaphat resolved to enquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” (2 Chr 20:3b-4)
Instead of panic-buying, he prays. Rather than stockpiling, he proclaims a fast.
And the people come from all over the country. For some of them, it must have taken a few days to get to the capital, they didn’t have the luxury of empty trains to hop on. They gathered to seek help from God.
During this time of lockdown and social distancing, we may not be able to gather physically. But we have something they didn’t have – online methods of communication! We can still gather with others to seek help from God. We can “meet” with church, or a prayer triplet, or a friend and pray together.
A Good Prayer
How should we pray? Let’s take a leaf out of Jehoshaphat’s book.
- He remembers that God is in control.
“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.” (2 Chr 20:6)
He recognizes that the very thing that is coming to threaten him is under the rule of God. In fact, God doesn’t just rule those three countries that are attacking, but ALL the kingdoms. Nothing can get in the way of the Almighty!
- He remembers that God saves
So when the temple was built all those years before, they had prayed to God,
“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.” (2 Chr 20:9)
Friends, we have a God who hears our prayers! Isn’t that wonderful? Not only that but he has the power to save us!
Many of us are not having to face the sword or famine – thank God for that! For some of our brothers and sisters around the world, this is a terrifying reality. But a plague… that sounds about right, wouldn’t you say? But in the face of this plague, we can stand in God’s presence, seek his face, pray to him for help and know that He hears and saves.
Now, there’s no guarantee for us that we or our loved ones won’t get sick or die. But we can come to the new temple, that is, Jesus (John 2:21) in whose presence we stand by his Spirit with us, knowing that because of his death and resurrection, we know that God is for us and is working out all things, including viruses, for our good (Rom 8:28).
- He seeks God’s help
“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chr 20:12)
He asks for God to judge his enemies and rescue them. He acknowledges how helpless he is. But in his helplessness, he looks to God.
Can you relate? As you watch the numbers of the COVID-19 tracker rising exponentially, don’t you feel helpless? Like you don’t know what to do?
But our eyes are on you, Lord.
A Good God
God does hear, and he sends a message:
“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chr 20:15)
This causes the people to fall flat on their faces in worship. Then the singers get out their tambourines and start singing God’s praises so all the neighbours can hear!
Such was their faith and confidence in God’s salvation that the army sets out to face their adversary, with the choir marching out in front of the soldiers, praising God’s undying love – quite an unconventional military strategy!
Their confidence was well-placed. By the time, they reach a point from which they can actually see their opponents, they’re all dead! Not one of them is left alive! It such a great victory that it takes three days to gather all the plunder! And they didn’t even have to unsheathe their swords! Then they return to Jerusalem full of joy.
We might not be fighting against Moabites, but God gives us the victory over sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Cor 15:57)!
He fights for breath, He fights for me,
Loosing sinners from the claims of hell;
And with a shout our souls are free –
Death defeated by Immanuel.
Whether we’re facing an invisible army of COVID-19, or whatever fears we may be facing, let’s gather together and seek God’s face knowing that he is in control, that he is a God who hears and saves. Even if we don’t know what to do, let us keep our eyes fixed on our Lord and Saviour, and then praise and worship him in joyful confidence that the battle belongs to God. And if he is with us, we have nothing to fear!
UK Serve Asia Alumni Coordinator
Nathanael grew up in Japan (his parents were OMF missionaries there). He later went back there as an adult for 8 years with OMF alongside his wife Anna, where they mainly worked with students. They now live in Swansea with their four children.