Before Tolstoy ever lived to pen his epic War and Peace, God had already put into operation the ebb and flow of wars fought, battles lost, victories won, and then… peace.
Last week’s post about Jehoshaphat and the vast army that came against him and God’s people (The Place that Overlooks the Desert) was full of a few months of Sundays’ sermon material. However, tonight’s focus is what happened beyond the “Great Ambushes of God” when the people discovered the war was over. The plunder had been gathered and there was great cause to rejoice. And rejoice they did as they came back to town and made a beeline for the temple of the Lord. There the atmosphere was electrified with the victory sounds of strings and brass (harps, lutes and trumpets back then; no doubt with drums and keyboards today!).
The news got out to the surrounding kingdoms of how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. In Bible times when “internet” was simply rugged men coaxing fish, any fish to swim into their mesh webbing, it amazes me how word of Israel’s numerous salvations spread like wildfire, but it did. God made sure it was heard for He held yet another facet of victory in His awesomely capable hands.
“The fear of God came upon all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” (II Chronicles 20:29-30 NIV)
There is no comparison to God-given rest.
It is not a “4 am came too early; I need a nap” rest. Nor is it a long-awaited unplugging from the routine. It’s not even the strength that God pours in during times of great stress or illness or grief. Though all of those are necessary and welcomed, they are short-lived respites.
The kind of God-given rest I’m referring to, and of which scripture testifies, carries with it the essence of entering a stage of completion; something finished; a long-awaited dream, goal or victory achieved where each puzzle piece comes together and one sits back with a satisfied sigh and says, “it’s done!”
“Rest on every side” rest moves you far beyond dreading when the next shoe is going to drop. “Rest on every side” rest believes the Lord watches over your life, even the daily and future coming in and going out (Psalm 121:7-8). “Rest on every side” rest gathers up the north, south, east, and west of your life into God’s everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV) He surrounds you, weaving everything together.
This kind of rest descends and encircles when you determine, as Jehoshaphat did, that you are going to walk in godly ways, not stray from them, and make decisions and take actions that are right in the eyes of the Lord. (II Chronicles 20:32 NIV)
And the best way to know what is right in His eyes is to fall so in love with Jesus that just a glance of His eyes is the only approval or caution you need by which to obey.
Others can wax eloquent on what is right; indeed, there are times we need the counsel of godly men and women or the simplicity from the mouths of babes. But to obtain that deep, completing, peace-filled “rest on every side,” only God can orchestrate its coming to fruition.
You hold the holy key of cultivating in your heart the atmosphere the Lord cannot resist.
Jehoshaphat, though alarmed, knew his and his people’s fate lay squarely in the hands of the Lord. He was devoted to the ways of God; he turned to the Lord at the first hint of danger; he worshiped in humility, lowered before the Lord; and he proclaimed his faith in the Lord both in his own hearing and that of the people he led. Ultimately, God gave him rest on every side and his kingdom was at peace.
We too live in perilous, angry, “vast army” times. But we also live in the days of God’s finest hour. When He finds a heart prepared for His residence, hungering for His abiding presence, “rest on every side” becomes a promised outcome.
Inviting you to join me in holy expectation,