Do you know what to do when you just don't know what to do? The key is where to look.
A life-threatening illness? Never-ending unemployment? Sooner or later we reach the point where we just don't know what to do. Lots of smaller things can push us to the edge too. For me it has been a furnace for a rental house. Three months, three repairmen and $500 later, it still doesn't work right. As I write this, winter is threatening to hit hard. Yet the repairmen assure me that it is such a simple furnace and I should trust them to yet fix it!
When we reach the point of total confusion and helplessness, we can grab our Bibles, get on our knees and turn to 2 Chronicles 20. Moab and Ammon were poised to attack Judah and its King Jehoshaphat. The threat of their armies would have caused anyone to start jumping! Thankfully Jehoshaphat cried out to God in verse 12: "O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do..."
What about us? Do we know what to do when we just don't know what to do? Actually we see in the last part of verse 12 that Jehoshaphat knew, even though he said he didn't: "But our eyes are upon You."
This is the solution: We must always rivet our eyes on God. This is our spiritual 20-20 vision (and we can use that thought as a memory device to think of 2 Chronicles chapter 20). Before we focus on the supporting points in this chapter, first let's turn over to John 6 to see some vital information taught by the One on whom we are to keep our eyes, Jesus Christ.
No Wonder Bread Here!
Jesus and the disciples had just climbed up a mountain and sat down when Jesus looked up and saw a "great multitude" (John 6:2) coming toward them. This was the same description used in 2 Chronicles 20:2. What is the great multitude troubling you? For Jesus and the disciples, rather than attacking armies, it was a hungry-looking crowd of about 5,000 men (John 6:10)—so possibly 10,000 or 15,000 counting women and children.
In verse 5, Jesus said to Philip ("authorized" version—that is, paraphrased by this author!): "I'm wondering where we can buy bread for these people to eat."
Philip might have been thinking, "How should I know, there's no Wonder Bread up here!"
But Philip took a caterer's approach when he carefully answered Jesus (verse 7). He noted that 200 denarii worth of bread would not be sufficient for them. Since a denarius was the daily wage of a farm laborer, this was a sizable amount of money.
It was obvious that Philip didn't know what to do. Ironically, unlike the disciples, the crowd had their eyes on Jesus—following Him around to see what miracle He would do next. But for Philip and the disciples, the obvious solution was to find or buy a lot of bread, and they couldn't see a bakery or Wal-Mart anywhere around!
Let's notice verse 6: "But this He said to test him..." If you're in a situation where you don't know what to do, first recognize that you're being tested—and then thank God you're in good company!
Now let's notice a second key point in John 6:6 that is so easy to read right over: "For He Himself knew what He would do."
Be assured that God the Father and Jesus Christ aren't stymied like we are. They already know what to do. They have the situation completely in control even when we're feeling out of it!
So at the exact moment of heightened confusion and troublesome perplexity:
• God knows all things work for good for the called—you! (Romans 8:28).
• God knows the trying of our faith and patience is more valuable than gold (1 Peter 1:7).
• God knows character and the fruits of the Spirit count most (Galatians 5:22-23).
• God knows we need to learn how to suffer in this life so we can serve the brokenhearted now and in the world tomorrow (2 Corinthians 1:4).
• God knows He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He lives in us (Galatians 2:20)—He can't get any closer than that!
Who Got the Leftovers?
When we reach the point where we just don't know what to do, we need to remind ourselves that God the Father and Jesus Christ know what to do and have already told us all the good things that are going to be the results for us!
Leave it to Andrew to unwittingly contribute a monumental lesson. He let Jesus know that a lad had five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:9). Probably the lad—and Andrew too—were thinking more "barely" than barley!
But the lesson is: Give what you are able. This is the same vital lesson members of God's Church review at every Holy Day offering: "They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). John Kennedy, who officiated at my wedding, was fond of saying, "Give God something to bless."
Because the lad did, Jesus fed the crowd and had an astounding 12 baskets full left over. Who do you think got the leftovers? Since Malachi 3:10 says, "'And try Me now in this,' says the LORD of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it,'" my hunch is that it went to the lad who gave Jesus something to bless!
Fast Without Delay
Jump back to Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. At the first sign of serious trouble, Jehoshaphat called a fast (verse 3). We must learn the lesson from Matthew 17:19-21 where the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon and He told them, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
Do we find ourselves thinking, "I should fast. Yes, but I'll start tomorrow"? The next day we find ourselves in worse confusion and kick ourselves for not starting the fast when we first felt spiritually called to do it.
My experience is that God answers prayers during a fast. I believe one of the reasons He does so is that He appreciates how difficult it is to fast voluntarily on our own. Any parent would give extra care and attention to a son or daughter who goes above and beyond. If only we would fast more for the Church's work of preaching the gospel and for others! But let's at least do it for ourselves because God wants to deliver us!
In 2 Chronicles 20:12, the people of Judah glued their eyes on the God of Israel.
In verse 16, they were instructed to go down against the invaders in the morning. As John 6 teaches, they would do what they could do.
In verse 17, Jehoshaphat told the people of Judah to position themselves. On our knees is a winning position! Solidly in God's Church is also a great position!
In verse 20, they rose early in the morning. But what do we do when we get frustrated, confused or discouraged? We tend to grow lethargic and just want to hide under the covers from our troubles. We need to rise to the challenge and give God something to bless!
When They Began to Sing and Praise
Verses 21 and 22 make a huge point to put into practice. At what point did God actually start the promised deliverance? The heavenly ambush began when the singers, who went out before the army, "began to sing and to praise."
Compare this to the dedication of Solomon's temple described in 2 Chronicles 5. At what point did the glory of God enter the temple? During Solomon's speech? During the arrival of the ark of the covenant? No, "indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD" (verse 13).
Does this give us an idea of how important our choirs are to God? How important the hymn singing in our worship services is to God? And how important singing hymns to praise God in our daily lives might be!
Lucky for us, being musically gifted isn't a requirement for our calling. And probably what God is waiting for has more to do with attitude and spirit of oneness rather than any musical oneness. Yet haven't we all appreciated some powerful moments when the whole congregation had it all musically together? Who knows what could be achieved with more purposeful preparation and self-control!
Away from services, it's so powerful for us to sing hymns because many are paraphrased right out of the Psalms. Even when we don't have a Bible handy and even though we may not have too much of it memorized, we are singing the Bible and that can really lift our eyes to our Great God! A good hymn would be "Mine Eyes Upon the Lord Continually Are Set," based on Psalm 25. Singing it reminds us to do it!
You Looking for Me?
Putting 2 Chronicles 20 and John 6 into action, now we know exactly what to do. Since we're spiritually pumped and ready to follow Jehoshaphat's example of fasting, let's turn over to Isaiah 58, which always amazes with some new insight about fasting.
Sure enough, verse 9 reinforces our absolute need to focus our eyes on God: "Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer."
Previously, I had read this as encouragement that God will answer when we fast. And surely God does answer. But the point here is that our eyes need to be riveted on the One who will answer—not on worrying about what the answer will be. Harking back to Philip in John 6, we need what Jesus already knows needs to be done rather than the bakery that humanly seems the obvious solution.
Whatever God wills, we confidently know that it will be according to a long list of good spiritual things we need more than the physical things our eyes humanly tend to be set on. He knows we need to "seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).
So the big surprise in Isaiah 58:9 is the perfect conclusion for what to do when we just don't know what to do. "You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am'"! UN