Summary: Jesus became vulnerable so that we might become victorious. He put himself in harm's way to drive all harm away from us.
THERE’S A STORY in the Bible about King Jehoshaphat and how, one day, he was given some distressing news. Messengers came, and they told him that the massive armies of three – not one or two, but three – nations were coming against him. “A great multitude,” they called it, and the hordes were already near, almost at the gates (2 Chron. 20:2).
Maybe you have had news like that. Your life is going along as normal – not great, maybe, but not bad either – and then you find out that something unexpected, something unplanned for, is about to rearrange your life. Someone you love is in an accident, or you get an unwelcome diagnosis. An expense you hadn’t counted on drains your savings. One of your children makes a bad choice that threatens to ruin his or her life. A valued relationship comes to an end, and you feel to blame. It could be these or any number of other things, but, whatever the case, it is for you like it was for Jehoshaphat: “a great multitude is coming against you,” and you don’t know what to do.
The Bible says simply that the king “was afraid.” He knew that he could not withstand the force of the coming invasion. He didn’t have time to mount a resistance, and, even if he did, he didn’t have the firepower to succeed. But what he did have was prayer. So, he called to the people – the whole assembly of Judah – and “they came [together] to seek the Lord” (v. 4).
In his prayer, Jehoshaphat cried out to God. Disaster has come upon us, he said. And we stand before you…and cry to you in our distress, and we believe that you will hear and save…. O God, will you not come and help us? For we are powerless against this great force that is coming against us. We do not now what to do, but our eyes are upon you.
Then there was silence. We are told that “all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (v. 13). They were all so vulnerable, no match for the swarm coming against them.
Then, suddenly, the silence was broken. The Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men “in the middle of the assembly.” And he spoke so that all could hear. “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’” (v. 15).
That account is given in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. And if you read it, you will see that God did defend his people. He came to their aid. The armies that were marching against Judah were seized by a spirit of confusion, and they turned on each other and destroyed one another. King Jehoshaphat and his people didn’t even lift a hand in self-defense. They didn’t have to. They simply watched as the Lord won the battle on their behalf.
And, as they watched, Jehoshaphat called to the people and summoned them to praise. They began to sing, and the song they sang began like this: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever.” As it turns out, these are the opening words of Psalm 118. It’s the very psalm the people were singing as Jesus rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday. And in it are the words they shouted: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
It may not look like it, but Jesus was riding into the battlefield. This was an act of provocation. He had an ancient score to settle, and it was about to come down to a showdown. He was entering the heart of darkness. He was moving in on enemy territory. He was poking the bear, refusing to let sleeping dogs lie, carrying the battle with evil to its own soil, even giving it the home field advantage.
Long before this, at the dawn of time, “the great dragon…, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), entered Eden and deceived Adam and Eve with intent to harm. Jesus called him a thief, and “the thief,” he said, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). And that’s what he came to do. And when he was finished, our first parents stood before God, guilty and ashamed and undone. Sin had entered their hearts, and with sin always comes death. But God is the giver of life, and that day he made a promise. It was a threat, really, delivered to the serpent. “I will put enmity between you and the woman,” he said, “and between your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head” (Gen. 3:15).