Against All Odds

Bible Book: 2 Chronicles  20 : 1-37
Subject: Victory

Sir Edward Shepherd Creassey (1812-1878), a noted British lawyer, judge and historian, wrote a book in 1851 titled Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. In the Preface he cited the following line from A. H. (Arthur Henry) Hallam, Esq. (1811-1833), "those few battles of which a contrary event would have essentially varied the drama of the world in all its subsequent scenes." He began with the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) and ended with the Battle of Waterloo (A.D. 1815).

Doubtless, the battle mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20 would make a similar list of battles recorded in the Scripture. Dr. Otto Zockler (1833-1906), professor of Theology in the University of Greifswald, Prussia, writes, "Jehoshaphat's Victory over the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites: ch. xx. 1-30. --And it came to pass after this, after the events related in xviii. 19, which fall perhaps six or seven years before the death of Jehoshaphat, and of which the death of Ahab almost certainly falls in the year 897 B.C. A still more exact date for the present war results from the monument of victory of the Moabitish King Mesha, discovered three years ago [1873], which must have been erected very soon after Ahab's death, and shortly before the outbreak of the present war, and therefore about 896 B.C.”[1]

Our text begins with the phrase, “It happened after this” or “It came to pass.” No matter what you face remember, “it came to pass”, as Rev. Richard Baldwin Brindley former pastor of Castle Gate Congregational Church, Nottingham, England (1884-1901), points out.[2]

We will focus our attention upon Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Biblical biographies like this one yield some insight into the life of a believer.

I. Jehoshaphat’s Foes (2 Chronicles 20:1-2)

Jehoshaphat comes face to face with a formidable invasion of foreign foes against God’s people. Jehoshaphat faced heathen threats and insults.

C. J. Cairns writes, "Sometimes the enemies in life appear unbeatable. The odds seem too great and we feel like raising up the white flag of defeat. But often it is just at those moments of utter helplessness that we finally look to the Lord and see His mighty power. Why not look up today and give your battle to God?"

II. Jehoshaphat’s Fears (2 Chronicles 20:3a)

This is an infection of fear. Fear is contagious! David the psalmist writes, “Whenever I am afraid, / I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3) and “In God I have put my trust; / I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:11).

Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) advises, "Never act in panic, nor allow man to dictate to you; calm yourself and be still: force yourself into the quiet of your closet until the pulse beats normally and the 'scare' has ceased to disturb. When you are most eager to act is the time when you will make the most pitiable mistakes. Do not say in your heart what you will or will not do, but wait upon God until He makes known His way. So long as that way is hidden, it is clear that there is no need of action, and He accounts Himself responsible for all results of keeping you where you are."

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) states, "When walking on moorlands or over a mountain range, you come to bogs, the only way to negotiate them is to find solid places on which you can place your feet. The way to get across the morasses and places in which you are likely to sink is to search for footholds. So, in spiritual problems, you must return to eternal and absolute principles. . . The moment you turn to basic principles, you immediately begin to lose your sense of panic. It is a great thing to reassure your soul with things beyond dispute."

According to Rev. James Wolfendale, author of the Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy,[3] “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”[4]

On the phrase “The battle is not yours, but God’s”, Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902) writes, “The text addresses a word—1. To all who are bearing Christian protest against evil. 2. To all who are undergoing severe temptation. 3. To all who are labouring for the good of the world. 4. To all who are engaged in controversy on behalf of Christian doctrine.”[5]

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) shares this about the “The Lord’s battle”: “Luther’s strength lay in the way in which he laid the burden of the Reformation upon the Lord. Continually in prayer he pleaded, ‘Lord, this is Thy cause, not mine. Therefore do Thine own work; for if this gospel do not prosper, it will not be Luther alone who will be a loser, but Thine own name will be dishonored.’”[6]

III. Jehoshaphat’s Fast (2 Chronicles 20:3b-15)

This speaks of the institution of fasting, as praying and seeking the favor of God. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, / Call upon Him while He is near.” There is a time to seek the Lord and there is a way to seek the Lord. The psalmist writes in Psalm 66:18-19, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, / The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; / He has attended to the voice of my prayer.”

There is a time to feast and a time to fast. Some are feasting when then should be fasting. Fasting involves a focus on seeking the Lord.

Rev. Charles Henry Mackintosh (1820-1896), known simply as C.H.M., shares the following comment on 2 Chronicles 20:12, "This is the way to occupy God's ground, ever with the eyes fixed on God Himself. This is the true secret of stability and peace. The devil will leave no stone unturned to drive us off the true ground which, as Christians, we ought to occupy in these last days; and we, in ourselves, have no might whatever against him. Our only resource is in the living God. If our eyes are upon Him, nothing can harm us. 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.’ [Isaiah 26:3]"

IV. Jehoshaphat’s Fidelity (2 Chronicles 20:16-26)

This is an instruction to trust and obey God. This strategy is nonsense to any military mind. Singing and standing still to see the salvation of the Lord is an affront to the human mind. We find a partial summarization of his life in 2 Chronicles 20:32, where we read, “He walked in the way of his father Asa, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD.”

Commenting on 2 Chronicles 20:20, A. W. Joyce explains, "How often we have to confess what 'unbelieving believers' we are! We have trusted for eternity, but we doubt for time. We believe for our souls, but we fret for our bodies. We have committed to our heavenly Father the greater needs, but we are afraid to do this for our lesser needs and burdens of life. How valuable is that man or woman who can consistently and confidently exclaim from the heart, 'I believe God.'"

Rev. Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) explains, "Faith is not intelligent understanding; faith is deliberate commitment to a Person where I can see no way."[7]

Against all odds, God’s people will win. God’s Chosen People, Israel, will be victorious. In recent history, the 1967 War dramatically illustrates how God fights for this remarkable nation. Paul the apostle writes in Romans 8:31b, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

In 2 Chronicles 20:26 we read about “the valley of Berechah”. Berechah means “blessing”.

V. Jehoshaphat’s Future (2 Chronicles 20:27-37)

Reading verses 27 through 32 provides a storybook ending, where they lived happily every after. This is the way we wish the story ended. However, there is the rest of the story following the word “Nevertheless” in verse 33. Here we read, “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.” Peter J. Leithhart, explains the significance of taking way the high places. He writes, “Hezekiah's righteous reforms (destroying the High Places) as a sign that the people should not trust their king (2 Kings 18:17-35). The fundamental law in Deuteronomy 12:1-32 prohibits sacrifice at every place except the temple in Jerusalem; in accordance with this law Josiah, in 621 BC, Hezekiah's great-grandson, likewise destroyed and desecrated the altars (bmoth) throughout his kingdom.”[8]

Even though God gave them a great victory they were unwilling to acknowledge God wholeheartedly. If only, Jehoshaphat had removed the high places like Hezekiah and Josiah. This was bad, but this was not all.

Jehoshaphat foolishly brokered a business deal with Ahaziah. We read in 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted very wickedly. And he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion Geber. But Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.’ Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish.’” This business venture began by building sailing vessels in the shipyards of Ezion-geber and ended abruptly on a trial voyage. Jehoshaphat reigned as king of the southern kingdom, Judah, while Ahaziah ruled over the northern kingdom, Israel. God describes Ahaziah as a man “who did very wickedly” (2 Chronicles 20:35). God forbids such unholy and ungodly alliances. This account is a warning to believers, like Jehoshaphat, who receive proposals that call for a compromise of moral, ethical, and spiritual principles.

Many rationalize behavior clearly condemned by God. In an attempt to gain revenue, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, the southern kingdom, entered into an economic enterprise with Ahaziah, the ruler of the northern kingdom, Israel.

Dr. John Thain Davidson (1833-1904) shares the following outline about “The wrecked fleet”:

I. The disaster to Jehoshaphat’s shipping.

II. The cause of this disaster. A judgment from Heaven. If Jehoshaphat had been a mere man of the world probably this disaster would not have occurred, but God would not allow one of His own servants to prosper in such an undertaking.

III. The lesson which the disaster teaches. Do not choose your associates amongst those who do not fear God. Always safest to keep under Christian influences. You will do well even to sacrifice a measure of financial interest and worldly prospect rather than be associated in business with a man who is out of all sympathy with you in religion.”[9]

Jehoshaphat wisely broke off his business dealings with Ahaziah. We read in 1 Kings 22:48-49, “Jehoshaphat made merchant ships to go to Ophir for gold; but they never sailed, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion Geber. Then Ahaziah the son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Let my servants go with your servants in the ships.’ But Jehoshaphat would not” (1 Kings 22:48-49). He had to learn the hard way, but he did repent. Regrettably, some never do.

Dr. Joseph Parker warns about “an immoral fallacy”. He explains, “It will be said that business is business, and religion is religion, that there is a distinction between the merchant and the man. Let us admit that there remains this question: When the merchant is damned for his wicked deeds where will the man go?” Dr. Parker concludes the following about “evil associations”: “The principle of the text—I. Supplies a lesson for the young. What you have to settle first and foremost is, the moral basis on which you are proceeding; you must get the full consent of your judgment and heart and conscience before you give yourself up to any commercial course. II. Is expansive enough to include the subject of marriage. We do not hesitate to lay down the broad principle that where there is incongruity of religious conviction between man and woman happiness of the deepest and purest kind is entirely out of the question. III. Will permit an earnest word about evil companionship generally.”[10]


A Bible teacher wisely observes, "Sooner or later God will bring self-sufficient people to the place where they have no resource but Him: no strength, no answers, nothing but Him. Without God's help, they're sunk."

Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) states, “Jesus is all we have; he is all we need and all we want. We are shipwrecked on God and stranded on omnipotence!”[11]

Dr. Havner explains, "Jehoshaphat had reached that human extremity which is God's opportunity. Jeremiah (Lam. 5) and Micah (7) were shut up to God in holy desperation. Throughout the Bible, those who received God's blessing were desperate. Consider Jacob at Jabbok, Moses at the Red Sea, Gideon and his three hundred, David and Goliath, the four lepers in the gate of Samaria, or Bartimaeus, the Syrophenician woman, Jairus. The Rich Young Ruler missed his blessing because he was not shipwrecked on God nor stranded on omnipotence!"[12]

Dr. Theodore H. Epp (1907-1985) concludes a message titled "Stepping Stones of Faith", based on 2 Chronicles 20:1-20, in the following way: "Jehoshaphat believed God could do it, he believed God would do it, and he expected the answer from God. Even more than that, he accepted the answer and went forth claiming the victory. May we do the same in the spiritual battles we face."[13] John writes in 1 John 4:4, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Regardless of how things appear, God’s people will win, against all odds.

[1]A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical, with Special Reference to Ministers and Students, ed. Johann Peter Lange, Vol. VII of the Old Testament Containing Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther [Otto Zockler, The Books of the Chronicles: Theologically and Homiletically Expounded (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1877), p. 215

[2]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), pp. 92-93

[3]James Wolfendale, Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy (London: Richard D. Dickinson, 1887)

[4]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 94

[5]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 97

[6]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 97

[7]Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest “Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?” (John 11:7-8) March 28 reading Available from: Accessed: 10/16/11

[8]Peter J. Leithhart, 1 & 2 Kings, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2006), pp. 255-256

[9]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 101

[10]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Volume 5, 2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n.d. / London: James Nisbet & Co., 1886), p. 101

[11]1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, ed. Edward K. Rowell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2008), p. 83

[12]Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Notebook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), p. 138

[13]Theodore H. Epp, “Stepping Stones of Faith” (2 Chronicles 20:1-20)

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210

© October 16, 2011 All Rights Reserved