Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Valley of Blessings," By: Kelli Zaniel

Sometimes I feel weak. For example, last week a bottle of bleach was violently sprayed across my backside as I bent over cleaning the toilet. Nothing like a little bleach across the backside to a humble a girl, huh? Cause- Assault by squirting Lysol with bleach; Effect- my favorite lounging pants were ruined and my toilet was still dirty. I felt weak because I blew it and pitched a fit in front of my kids. Sometimes I feel strong. As I sit here trying to think of an example of me being independently strong, I can’t think of one thing. I am reminded that I am never strong without God, even when I feel that way. I am always needy, always incompetent, always inadequate, always desperately dependent on God. Without him I can do nothing. There has never been a time when I have been strong without the presence of God.

God’s people in 2 Chronicles 20 knew they could do nothing without God. The “Valley of Blessings” is an example of immeasurable faith, radical obedience and absolute surrender to the will of God. We pick up the story a few days before the big war. King Jehoshaphat (we will call him “Joe”) was King of Judah. I like to call him the evangelist of B.C. times because he loaded up the Book of Law in the ark and sent people out to surrounding cities to teach God’s commandments. King Joe prayed constantly to God and sought Divine counsel in everything. Joe honored God and God honored him.

One fateful night, messengers told King Joe that the armies of the Moabites and Ammonites were engaging him in war. Joe knew he was the underdog against this vast army and it would take nothing short of a miracle to defeat them. King Joe was in luck because God tends to be in the miracle business!

Before taking any action, Joe prayed for guidance and instructed all of the people of Judah to fast. Then he gathered his people together and they prayed to God for deliverance. Joe looked at his limitations and then looked to the Lord as the only source of his help: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." That's a prayer we should breathe every moment of every day, not just when our backs are against the wall. When that becomes our mindset then significant things will surely happen.

As the people prayed, the Spirit of the Lord spoke through one of the men and said, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours but Gods--you will not even need to fight!” God literally gave the people their marching orders that day. He instructed them to, “take their positions; then stand still and wait for the Lord’s victory” (see 2 Chron. 20:17).

After God told the people what to do, rational thinking took a step back and a big dose of faith stepped in. The people found themselves in complete reliance on the Almighty God for their ultimate survival. There was no questioning; no second guessing; no wondering if God would actually show up. The people embraced a high risk situation because they knew God would protect and deliver them. God loves when His people are in desperate need of Him because when he delivers and He WILL deliver, no one can steal His glory. I find myself in this place sometimes, don’t you? A place where you know God is leading but it feels a little too risky to go there. Sometimes, we tend to avoid situations where we really need God. Places which are just so uncomfortable that we tend to look the other way? Why? Maybe a small seed of fear takes root in our heart and we are deceived into thinking that if we fall, God will not be there to catch us. Maybe we are afraid of what God may require of us?

When the people heard this word from God, they didn’t march to war with butterflies in their stomachs, sweaty palms and brows…no, they marched shouting, singing and praising God! They actually praised God as they walked to war. A war that would have been lost had they relied on their own strength. They sang, “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever” (2 Chron. 20:21). When God heard his people praising Him, he made the other side begin fighting amongst themselves defeating each other! Once King Joe’s team approached the valley, there was no one left to fight against. The army took three days to collect the valuables of the enemy including gold, silver, and precious jewels. Hence the calling of the valley "The Valley of Blessing” (shown in the picture above as it looks today).

God is not confined to just using His people. God made the enemy His servant that day and used them to complete His purposes. God is the creator of everything--His creation is at his disposal however and whenever He desires to use it. When you feel God calling you into uncomfortable places, trust in Him, embrace His spirit in yours and sit back to see how perfectly He works.

Our God is awesome! The same God that defeated the Moabites and Ammonites to protect his people and their inheritance is looking for hearts that are fully committed to him today to strengthen and deliver (see 2 Chron. 16:9). I might not be able to handle bleach on my pants and dirty toilets but when I am weak, He makes me strong. God gives me the strength to battle through a bad attitude with grace. He empowers me to produce vibrant fruit in the midst of my struggles instead of killing it with my Lysol bleach!

Lord, help me to follow you into places where I NEED you. Places that are uncomfortable; places I would never go alone. Places where I cannot manipulate things in my own strength. Help me to stay dependent on you and desperate for you. Help me to remain humbly submitted before you so you always get the glory! Don't let anyone normalize me to stay passionate about you, sacrificial for you and radical because of you!

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