When You Don’t Know what to Do.

Blind Faith (No. 7, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for February 16, 2017
When You Don’t Know what to Do.

Some situations find us at a dead end. We may face conditions
similar to those we have found our way through before – but this time seem
insurmountable. An unforeseen costly bill crashes your budget. Layoffs are
announced, and the job you have long thought to be secure is imperiled or
eliminated. A family member has an emergency that strains their own
resources and those of the whole family. The doctor delivers a dreadful
diagnosis and follows with a grim prognosis. Your crisis could be any one of
these or something totally foreign to anything you have anticipated. You
have survived severe trials before, but this time no strategies readily come
to mind. You just don’t know what to do!

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Cringing
paralysis is a frequent response that offers little hope and can worsen the
situation. Clutching glib answers from either well-meaning friends or
opportunistic predators may feed on false hope, leading to bad results.
Ignoring the challenge and forging ahead might give the illusion of success
but ultimately ends in exhaustion and emptiness. The crisis is real. You
have to do something. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

God’s people in Judah found themselves on extremely perilous
ground at the same time that their northern cousins in Israel were besieged
by their eventual conquerors, the Assyrians. Judah had known a time of
relative peace. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, had promoted faith in God, as
his father Asa had done. The southern kingdom of Judah was enjoying a
lengthy period of prosperity. As the northern kingdom of Israel appeared
soon to be defeated by Assyria, a triad of Judah’s neighboring countries
plotted to conquer Judah. Moab, Ammon, and Edom sent a massive military
force to invade Judah and to capture Jerusalem. Jehoshaphat’s military
analysts advised him that the invaders posed an overwhelming threat and that
Judah had suffered a wrenching surprise assault. No viable options for
defense from the attack were evident. The situation seemed to be
devastatingly hopeless.

Jehoshaphat’s response was neither panic nor paralysis. Instead,
the king who had sent teams of priests and teachers into the towns of Judah
to grow and develop the faith of God’s people led them to depend on their
faith in God when facing such a crippling dilemma. Jehoshaphat figured out
what to do when he didn’t know what to do, and we can learn to do what he
did when we face daunting situations.

First, the king called the people of Judah to gather for
worship, praise of God, and personal devotion. Jehoshaphat called for a
period of fasting throughout the kingdom and for as many as possible to
assemble in Jerusalem at the Temple. The response was striking: “The people
of Judah came together to ask the LORD for help; they came from every town
in Judah.” (2 Chronicles 20:4 NCV) Rather than steeling themselves to take
on a superior army with their own resources, or fleeing in panic, or
languishing in self-pity, they came together with other people of faith and
drew closer to God.
Second, Jehoshaphat led the people to pray for God’s guidance
and help. He admitted that he didn’t know what to do, but he staked his
future on God’s grace and goodness that had always been sufficient for their
deliverance in the past. He did this in a spirit of faithful worship and
thanksgiving to God as the people crowded the Temple in Jerusalem:
“Jehoshaphat stood up, {6} and he said, “LORD, God of our ancestors, you are
the God in heaven. You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. You have
power and strength.. {12b} We have no power against this large army that is
attacking us. We don’t know what to do, so we look to you for help.” {13}
All the men of Judah stood before the LORD with their babies, wives, and
children.” (2 Chronicles 20:5b-6, 12b-13 NCV) The worshipping congregation
shared genuine expectation that God would hear their prayers and that God
would do what they could not do by themselves.

Third, everyone attentively listened for what God had to say to
them in this hour of need. God’s word did not come through expected channels
– not the king, not any priests or prophets, but through a layman. He was
from a good family, a descendant ofAsaph, a popular songwriter and
choirmaster renowned for strengthening the faith of God’s people and
enriching their worship of God. He offered God’s word of hope and assurance:
“Then the Spirit of the LORD entered Jahaziel. [and He] stood up in the
meeting. {15} He said, ‘Listen to me, King Jehoshaphat and all you people
living in Judah and Jerusalem. The LORD says this to you: “Don’t be afraid
or discouraged.. {17b} Just stand strong in your places, and you will see
the LORD save you. Judah and Jerusalem, don’t be afraid or discouraged,
because the LORD is with you.”‘” (2 Chronicles 20:14-15a, 17b NCV) Hope did
not come through military strategists, or political counselors, or “focus
groups,” or anyone usually consulted in difficult times. God’s word came
through a godly member of the worshipping people. (Who do you listen to when
you don’t know what to do? Who do you find with God’s word of hope to
share?)

Fourth, Jehoshaphat and the people acted on what they had heard
from God They kept on worshipping and praising God while they were busy
doing what God had led them to do. This is true faith. They did not just
remain gathered in Jerusalem celebrating the wonderful worship service they
had witnessed. They marched out to meet the overwhelming force attacking
them, actively mindful of God all the while. But the triple alliance turned
on each other, obliterating the invading armies. Judah was spared from
engaging in warfare. Their obedience to God was saturated with
acknowledgement of their dependence upon God’s grace: “Jehoshaphat bowed
face down on the ground. All the people of Judah and Jerusalem bowed down
before the LORD and worshiped him.. {21b} Then he chose men to be singers to
the LORD, to praise him because he is holy and wonderful. As they marched in
front of the army, they said, ‘Thank the LORD, because his love continues
forever.'” (2 Chronicles 20:18, 21b NCV) Note that they gave thanks to God
and recalled God’s unfailing love as they were marching toward armies that
they assumed to outnumber them. To an outside observer, they appeared to be
heading into sure defeat. But God was with them, and that made all the
difference. Their active expressions of faith and praise kept their hope
alive and equipped them to do what God led them to do.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Turn to God,
especially with a community of faith. Pray, admitting your limitations.
Listen attentively for God’s assurance. Take action – stake your life – on
what God says to do. Continue to thank God and worship him as you do what he
says. How about trying this when you are at your wits end? Much better,
practice doing it before you find yourself not knowing what to do! God
always knows what to do.

-J. Edward Culpepper
(Originally posted August 30, 2012.)

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