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01 August 2008

A Very Loud Shout

Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. He prayed, "O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! ... O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help."

As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.

He said, "Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!"

Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.
- 2 Chronicles 20:5-6, 12-19 (NLT)

I wanted to include a large part of the passage for context, but I left out some very moving parts of the prayer of Jehoshaphat. You should read the whole chapter.

The king had ordered everyone to fast and to seek the Lord; a large army was headed their way and the people of Judah were not equipped to defend themselves. They fasted, prayed, and assembled together, and God gave a word to one of the men there. This is all great stuff, especially the simple instruction to "stand still and watch the Lord's victory."

But the thing that capped it off for me is imagining what it must have been like to be present that day and to see and hear two clans of Levites stand and praise God with "a very loud shout." A shout to the Lord -- not like the Darlene Zschech song, but a real, live shout. Years and years earlier in the days of the Tabernacle, Kohath's descendents alone had topped 8,000 men, and at one point they had been given ten towns in which to live. Even assuming that every member of these clans wasn't in the group of shouting men, there were likely lots of them.

Was it rehearsed? Although it's not stated, I'd imagine so. With that many people, it would almost have to be. What exactly did they shout? A common theme was the phrase, "Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!" but that's what they sang the next day. It's my guess that if this is what they shouted, it would have been written down (because it's written down so often in other places).

This passage may not have been written to give us the framework for a worship service, but in the end, doesn't it do just that? The congregation assembles after fasting and seeking God, then they seek God and pray together, and then a priest in the assembly says, "Hey, I have a word from the Lord!" and (suddenly?) in response to God's Word, the designated priests stand and shout out to God in praise.

I imagine it would completely freak people out if I felt led to have the choir shout "Shout to the Lord." I'd just need a few thousand more people to make it have the fullest impact possible.

Note: I resisted the urge to include a photo of an old Tears for Fears album. Not everyone would have gotten it.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you have no idea how much I needed to read that scripture and I never would have "happened" upon it today if I hadn't read your blog. I had some very disturbing news today and know that only God can make a way of victory through the mess. In fact, it is so hard for me to digest, that I haven't even sent out a prayer request for fear that I would sound muddled and only get discouraged in the sharing. I needed to read that passage of scripture.


Jan said...

I have often thought we might experience something powerful in worship if we would "let loose" a bit more. I think "cheering" and exclaiming aloud to God is a very acceptable form of worship and it gets us "out" of ourselves.

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