For people who enjoy God, worship is an offensive weapon.
For people who enjoy God, worship is an offensive weapon. They use it to push back the periodic encroachment of the blues, and so much more. The joy they share in God is like a well-manicured lawn. Worship is a pesticide that pushes away the growth of weeds. Unless they are carefully exterminated, we run the risk of their taking over the whole yard. Praise is the pesticide that pushes back the weeds of depression and doubt.
This is what the Psalmist said, (Psalms 42:11) “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” It is one of the rare examples we find in the Bible of a person talking to himself. As self talk goes, this is pretty good. Would that we could all learn to talk to ourselves this way when we are depressed.
“Why are you blue, self? What has gotten you down, me? Place your faith again in God; He is on the throne. I choose to praise God. I choose to worship. I choose tho throw my voice to the heavens and adore God. He is exalted! He is Lord!”
Praise was the offensive weapon employed by Paul and Silas in the midnight jail. Praise opened those prison doors.
Another example of praise as an offensive weapon is found in Psalms 9:1 – 3. The cause is in the first two verses: “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” The result follows: “My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you.”
The classic example of this principle is found in the story of Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20 . I have never understood why this story does not receive a place of greater prominence in our children’s books and in our preaching. I was in seminary before I knew this story existed, yet it screams to be taught. I believe this story, like many Old Testament stories is an historical event that God allowed to take place to prove a higher point. It is a living illustration of spiritual truth. Jehosophat is an incredible example of what praise can do in the life of a believer.
Jehosophat was in deep weeds. Two and a half armies were coming after old Joe. The text is clear, Joe was “alarmed” (vs. 3) by this. But Joe had the right instincts. He didn’t gripe and cry and complain. He didn’t call a committee to study the matter. He did not go out and count horses and chariots. He did not worry himself silly. Jehosophat’s knee-jerk reaction was prayer. “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” (2 Chronicles 20:3 ) That is the right reaction to problems, whether the problems have an external cause, like three armies trying to kill you, or are just the occasional “blues” that visit all of us from time to time prayer is the right reaction. It is not the last resort, it is the immediate reaction of those who enjoy God. (In the next two chapters we will look in more detail into the distinctives of Bible prayers.)
Jehosophat begins his prayer by worshiping God. He is pulling out the offensive weapon, “And said: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.“ (2 Chronicles 20:6)
He moves quickly to the brother of praise, thanksgiving. He recounts how God has come through for them in the past, (2 Chronicles 20:7) “O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”
He goes on to quote some promises that God had made previously, 2 Chronicles 20:8 “They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’” This is quoted from the time of the dedication of the temple.
Lastly, he is very humble in his request, 2 Chronicles 20:12b “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” Notice he does not say, “We have some strength, we just need a little bit of help here.”
How different from the prayer I heard about prayed at a national meeting of one denomination, “Lord, we may not be much, but we are the best you got.” As a Jew Jehosophat might have had stronger theological basis to make such a claim, but he was more humble, and had better understanding than that.
In answer to his prayer, God sends a prophet, Jahaziel, who says, (2 Chronicles 20:15) “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
And how did God fight his battle? What kind of political maneuvers did he make? I’ll give you a hint, they are similar to Jericho. The prophet gave the directions. He explains that they are to go into battle, but that they will not have to fight the battle, that God will fight it for them. I suspect that there were some who felt that if God were going to fight it for them anyway, why not stay home.
There was only one condition of their victory. They must believe, 2 Chronicles 20:20b “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
There is rich truth in what follows, notice it carefully. They go into battle singing a song of praise (2 Chronicles 20:21) “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” Their offensive weapon is praise. What I want you to see is that this specific method, singing this song on the front line of the battle field, was not mandated from God. It was their idea. What was mandated was that they have faith. You can almost hear Jehosophat sitting down with the troops and saying, “God will give us the victory if we will believe. How can we believe? How can we bolster our faith? “I know,” one of the soldiers responds, “Let’s go into battle singing. It is music that always bolsters my faith. Let’s go into battle with worship.” And praise strengthened their faith and won the victory. It became their offensive weapon.
In a similar way, people who enjoy God will use praise as a tool. We have to be careful when we look at it this way, because praise, in its truest sense is losing ourselves in God. It is doing something for God, not for us. It is giving glory to him, regardless of what it does for us.
But people who enjoy God realize you really cannot dissect it quite that cleanly. As Piper says, “He is most glorified by us when we are most delighted in him.” A detached, emotionless praise that seeks to do for God and receive nothing in return is no praise at all. That is certainly not what we find in this story. We find a people given a promise that if they will believe they will get the victory. Their motive is not this detached praise for praise’s sake, but to get a victory that will only be theirs if they believe. And worship in song is their way of bolstering their own faith.
Let me make this as practical as I can. People who enjoy God are not super human. They have no “S” (for super saint) on their T-shirt. They live in the real world where tires go flat, sinks clog up, and people lose their jobs. They struggle with faith at times like these.
But they have learned to say in times when they are tempted to be depressed, “Who you gonna call?”
I will call upon the Lord
Who is worthy to be praised
So shall I be saved from my enemies
I will call upon the Lord.
More times than not the enemy of depression goes into retreat. Another victory is at hand.
But he will be back. Depression has no permanent inoculant. That is why people who enjoy God seldom miss their time of personal worship with God. They feel they need it to maintain their victory. It takes a pretty impressive reason to keep them from worshiping God corporately with his people. Again, they feel they need it. And they keep a ready supply of praise tapes nearby when they need an extra arsenal of their offensive weapon: praise.