There are times the Lord allows the perfect storm because He alone has the perfect strategy.
We are a less-blessed people if we engage the belief that the desert is simply a desert…a dry, dusty, tiresome, boring, miserable, endless trek with no good purpose. Even the desert has its times of victory!
However, the only way we will see what the Lord has accomplished on our behalf is if we climb up and take our position at the place that overlooks the desert. From there we get a clear view of the deliverance the Lord has brought about by His own hand. I guarantee: it will usually be in a manner we could never have come up with by our own best reasoning or imagination.
I’ll let scripture tell the story because it is ever fresh and applicable even for us today…
II Chronicles 20 recounts the story of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and the vast army that came to make war on him. Alarmed when told the news of the approaching army, he did the wisest thing he could have chosen to do: he resolved to inquire of the Lord. Indeed, he gathered the people of Judah and they came from every town to seek the Lord. And when the Lord is sought, He answers.
As the men of Judah, their wives, children and little ones stood before the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon the prophet and the strategy was delivered…
- Do not be afraid (a command from the Lord)
- Do not be discouraged (another command; obedience is key to victory)
- There’s no denying it’s a vast army coming against you (reality check; denial places you in jeopardy)
- In this specific case, I want you to know that the battle is not yours, but God’s (will you step aside so He can be God in this situation, or must you insert your strategic self?)
- Tomorrow march down against them (He’s not leaving you out of the equation; there’s a job He’s requiring of you as well)
- Here’s where you will find them – at the end of the gorge in the desert (if it looks like the walls are closing in, they probably are; He delights in creating a way where there is no way!)
- You will not have to fight this battle (it’s advisable to step away and sheath your sword; to continue on with drawn sword may likely find you with the tip turned back against you)
- Take up your positions (do not try to take someone else’s place, let alone God’s; take up yours)
- Stand firm (you don’t like inaction? you’re chicken? “wavering” is one of your more highly honed skills? you feel the need to take the lead? Hmm…it will serve you best to do as God commands)
- See the deliverance the Lord will give you (here’s where it gets exciting…when you get to see with your own eyes what only God could bring about!)
- Do not be afraid
- Do not be discouraged
- Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you
And so He ends His strategy session by bookending His loving commands to not give in to fear or discouragement, but to get a move on nevertheless. If He has promised to fight this one for you, why would you not join Him in His strategy?
Back to our story (which I recommend you read; it’s chock full of more than I can tell here)…ones were appointed to sing and praise the Lord’s splendor, going out at the head of the army, “giving thanks to the Lord, whose love endures forever.” What was God’s response to such worship?
“The Lord set ambushes.” (verse 22)
He did what the men of Judah (or you and I) could not do. They were overpowered; note “vast army.” The walls were closing in; “the end of the gorge.” The once-roomy desert “box” was getting uncomfortable as it was being knocked down and folded up for the recycle heap. What was their (and should be our) response?
“They came to the place that overlooks the desert.” (verse 24)
And what they saw was a valley full of dead bodies. Having turned against each other because of God’s ambushes, they decimated one another until there was not a single survivor of the enemy army that had set out to kill, steal and destroy God’s people.
They who were powerless witnessed the deliverance the Lord promised. They had correctly assessed the situation – “…we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.” And they had rightfully responded, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (verse 12)
Often we are unaware of God’s plans for the seasons or situations that come upon us. He doesn’t consult us. He has a strategy all figured out that encompasses every detail. Sometimes He’ll give us pop quizzes to test our ability to respond to what He asks of us. And other times, He allows The Exam to approach us; ready or not, here it comes.
It is then that His mercy triumphs over judgment. His love says “I’ve got this one; you just stand firm and watch what I will do.” And in His eagerness to share the spoils of victory, He directs us to the place that overlooks the desert, where our eyes take in the plunder so great and valuable it takes three days to collect it all. (verse 25)
There remains then but one final act of victory: returning joyfully, giving all praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. To stop short of joyous gratitude renders us a desert dweller with a clogged up wellspring.
You may find yourself at any one of the bullet points of God’s strategy. Seek His face until you have come into agreement with Him, then move on to the next point. In such a way and in His strategic timing, you will see His deliverance.
Overlooking the desert with the One worthy of all my praise,
Read the ‘rest’ of Jehoshaphat’s and the people’s story in Rest on Every Side