The Bible says "the just shall live by faith." The righteousness of God is "revealed from faith to faith." Romans 1:17. Nothing can better illustrate the working of faith than some of the examples that are recorded for our learning, "that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4. We will take, first, a notable event recorded in the twentieth chapter of 2 Chronicles. Let the reader follow the running comment with his Bible.
"It came to pass after this, also, that the children of Moab and the children of Ammon and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon-tamar, which is Engedi." Verses 1, 2
This great host caused the king and the people to fear, but they took the wise course of gathering together, "to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." Verses 3, 4. Then follows the prayer of Jehoshaphat, as leader of the congregation, and it is worth special study, since it was a prayer of faith and contained within itself the beginning of victory:
"And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? And rulest thou not over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?" Verses 5, 6
That was an excellent beginning of a prayer. It starts with recognition of God in heaven. So the model prayer begins, "Our Father who art in heaven." What does this signify? That God, as God in heaven, is Creator. It carries with it the recognition of His power over all the kingdoms of the world and of the powers of darkness; the fact that He is in heaven, the Creator, show that in His hand there is power and might, so that none is able to withstand Him. Why, the man who can begin his prayer in the hour of need with such recognition of God's power has victory already on his side. For, notice, Jehoshaphat not only declared his faith in God's wondrous power, but he claimed God's strength as his own, saying, "Art not thou our God? He fulfilled the Scripture requirement, "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Jehoshaphat then proceeded to recount how the Lord had established them in that land, and how, although He had not suffered them to invade Moab and Ammon, those nations had come to cast them out of their God-given inheritance. Verses 7-11. And then he concluded, "O our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee." Verse 12. It is nothing with the Lord to help, whether with many or with them that have no power (2 Chronicles 14:11), and since the eyes of the Lord run to and from throughout the earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is entire towards Him (2 Chronicles 16:9), it well becomes those who are in need to trust Him alone. This position of Jehoshaphat and his people was in keeping with the apostolic injunction, "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2. He is the beginning and the end, and all power in heaven and earth is in His hands.
Now what was the result? The prophet of the Lord came in the power of the Holy Spirit, "and he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou King Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.” Verse 15. And then came the command to go forth in the morning to meet the enemy, and they should see the salvation of the Lord, for He would be with them. Now comes the most important part: -
"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth forever." Verses 20, 21
Surely, this was a strange way to go out to battle. Few armies have ever gone to battle with such a vanguard. But what was the result?
"And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, everyone helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch-tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped." Verses 22- 24
If there have been few armies that have gone to battle with such a vanguard as did the army of Jehoshaphat, it is equally certain that few armies have been rewarded by such a signal victory. And it may not be amiss to study a little into the philosophy of the victory of faith, as illustrated in this instance. When the enemy, who had been confident in their superior numbers, heard the Israelites coming out that morning, singing and shouting, what must they have concluded? Nothing else but that the Israelites had received reinforcements and were so strengthened that it would be useless to try to oppose them. Also a panic seized them, and each one looked upon his neighbor as an enemy.
And were they not correct in their conclusion, that Israel had received reinforcements? Indeed they were, for the record says, "When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir." The host of the Lord, in whom Jehoshaphat and his people trusted, fought for them. They had reinforcements and doubtless if their eyes could have been opened to see them, they would have seen, as did the servant to Elisha on one occasion, that they that were with them were more in number than the enemy.
But the point, which should be specially noticed, is that it was when Israel began to sing and to praise that the Lord set ambushments against the enemy. What does that signify? It signifies that their faith was real. The promise of God was considered as good as the actual accomplishment. So they believed in the Lord, or, more literally, they built upon the Lord, and thus they were established, or built up. Thus they proved the truth of the words, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4
Let us now apply this illustration in a case of conflict against sin. Here comes a strong temptation to do a thing known to be wrong. We have often proved to our sorrow the strength of the temptation, because it has vanquished us, so that we know that we have no might against it. But now our eyes are upon the Lord, who has told us to come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. So we begin to pray to God for help. And we pray to the God that is revealed to us in the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. We begin, not with a mournful statement of our weakness, but with a joyful acknowledgment of God's mighty power. That being settled, we can venture to state our difficulty and our weakness. If we state our weakness first and our discouraging situation, we are placing ourselves before God. In that case Satan will magnify the difficulty and throw his darkness around us so that we can see nothing else but our weakness, and so, although our cries and pleading may be fervent and agonizing, they will be in vain, because they will lack the essential element of believing that God is and that He is all that He has revealed Himself to be. But when we start with recognition of God's power, then we can safely state our weakness, for then we are simply placing our weakness by the side of His power, and the contrast tends to beget courage.
Then, as we pray, the promise of God comes to our mind, brought there by the Holy Spirit. It may be that we can think of no special promise that exactly fits the case, but we can remember that "this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15), and that He "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4), and we may know that this carried with it every promise, for "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32
Then we remember that God can speak of those things that are not as though they were. That is, if God gives a promise, it is as good as fulfilled already. And so, knowing that our deliverance from evil is according to the will of God (Galatians 1:4), we count the victory as already ours and begin to thank God for His "exceeding great and precious promises." As our faith grasps these promises and makes them real, we cannot help praising God for His wonderful love, and while we are doing this, our minds are wholly taken from evil and the victory is ours. The Lord Jesus sets ambushments against the enemy. Our ascription of praise shows to Satan that we have obtained reinforcements, and as he has tested the power of the help that is granted to us, he knows that he can do nothing on that occasion, and so he leaves us. This illustrates the force of the apostle's injunction: - "Be careful for nothing [that is, do not worry about anything]; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6