The God of the Old Testament takes a lot of heat from the modern conscience because He seems to be quite the God of war. Turn no more than a few pages in the OT, and you will see God once again commanding a battle, ordering a siege, or using the sword to either defend or discipline His people.
But buried among all these war narratives are a handful of the most hilariously wonderful battle stories you'll ever read. Because buried among the war narratives are a few stories of battles that Israel never fought.
One such of these stories is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20.
At this point, Israel exists as two tribes - Israel and Judah. Judah is generally the more faithful of the two; it is also the tribe over which a son of David still reigns, according to the promise God made to the second king of Israel. Jehoshaphat (we don't know whether he was jumpin' or not) was king, and the neighboring people were starting to come against the small tribe.
Jehoshaphat does all he knows to do and begins praying for deliverance from God, for protection and for victory. And the Spirit comes over one of the Levites, who begins to speak as the prophet. The word is essentially this:
Get ready. Dress yourselves, pick up your weapons, and prepare for battle. But you...will not have to fight it.
So they do. The military men of Judah put on their best fighting gear, pick up their sharpest weapons, and pull into formation, arrayed by rank. They also bring into their company a host of Levites, whose job is nothing else but to sing and praise the Lord on their way toward the battle. As the army approaches the invading peoples, as they come closer and closer the camps of their enemies, as they put their hands on the handles of their swords, still sheathed by their sides, something hilariously wonderful happens:
The enemy nations that have come against Judah start killing each other. Right there in the valley. Un- it seems - provoked. There's bloodshed everywhere. Men falling left and right. And Judah standing on the hill, watching it all, not having to lift a finger until it's time to carry away the spoils. All their enemies wiped out before their very eyes by, of all peoples, their enemies.
And all they had to do was dress themselves for battle.
The Bible actually talks about this kind of thing quite a bit. There are verses that say plainly, "The Lord Himself will fight for you; you need only to be still." But it's a little more even than that. You must also be ready.
This is the part that it's so easy for us to forget. This is the part that's it's so difficult for us to obey. Because we've heard so many stories like this. And because we hear the whispers and promises of God only in part. Most of us these days, we'd hear a word like God spoke to Judah on the eve of this battle, and we'd hear only the last part of it - you won't have to fight this battle. Great! we think. God's got this.
But somehow, we never hear the first part - dress yourself. We never hear what it takes from us for God to do what He's going to do. So we don't do it. And then we wonder what happens when our enemies start singing in their own camps. I thought God was going to take care of this? I thought God was fighting this one for us?
He is, but we must also prepare and go. We cannot sit back or stand down. God wants us close enough to see the battle; He wants us near enough to catch the glint of the sun off the swords of our enemies. He wants us there to see what He's going to do. He commands us to go, even if He's planning to fight for us.
Faith is not a spectator sport. It's not meant for those who want to sit back and watch. It's not meant for those who are comfortable in their sanctuaries and confident in their songs. We must be a people who still go out and sing them, who dress for battle and show up to see what the Lord Himself is doing, singing and praising as we go.
We must be a people who show the world that we're ready to engage them, wherever they may draw their battle lines, in order that they might understand that it is God who truly meets them there.