Archive for May, 2013

2 Chronicles 30

2 Chronicles 30 has Hezekiah continuing to lead well.  He has taken the throne after a long and very bad set of leaders, and is completely turning the kingdom back to God.  “Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover to the Lord”.  Can you imagine the questions people had?  Years and years of walking away from God, and now this new king wants them to return to the ways of their ancestors.  The truth is “they had not kept it as often as prescribed” but that is all going to change.

Hezekiah didn’t sugar coat it either.  “Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord….Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God”.  The message was clear – we need to change the future and get away from the past.  Hezekiah wants all to serve God.  But he doesn’t just tell them they have to change their ways.  He tells them why, and it is a very compelling reason.

For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him”.  We serve the same God.  He will treat us exactly the same way.  Scripture promises it over and over – if we come back to God – He is there waiting to receive us.  He never leaves.  He never changes.  He just is!

Hezekiah goes further in his leadership.  He covers the people who haven’t yet quite figured it out.  “Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.”   That is true leadership.  Hezekiah showed them what to do, sent people throughout the kingdom to make sure they knew, led the leaders in returning to their walk with God, and now prays for all the people in his care.  He shows true servant leadership.  And check out the result: “the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people”.  That isa true leadership and a fantastic outcome.  And the people got it.  They “praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord”.  No going through the motions here.  They understand that they have been walking in darkness and are now back in the light.  Hezekiah leads them well!

2 Chronicles 29

2 Chronicles 29 shows us how Hezekiah changes the course of history, which was on a bad course when he came into power at age 25. We learn that “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done”.  This is a complete turnaround from the past.  Scripture tells us that previous generations “have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God”.  So this is a complete 180 and he does it immediately.  There is no pause to evaluate the course.

“In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them”.  Hezekiah was all over it.  He didn’t take time to call for evaluation or a meeting to determine a course of action, he just got after it.  He called the troops together and said “consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord”.  This wasn’t just a personal mission for Hezekiah for himself.  It was a new way of living he was going to instill across his kingdom.  He knew that the problem was that “our fathers….They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs”.  And he was going to fix it.

He knew what had happened as a result of their sin.  “Therefore the wrath of the Lord came”.  There is a consequence to sin.  And Hezekiah was going to change it.  “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us”.  Hezekiah was on a new course.  He was going to heal his land and make things right with God.  And he started with those who were to lead the people in the worship of God.  He gives them a direct command: “My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him”.

He started with the priests, but Hezekiah was quick to take the new direction to all the people.  “The king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel”.  While he knew it started with leadership and at the top, this problem had penetrated all the people.  So he was going to address it throughout all the kingdom and all the people.  The priests sacrificed and involved everyone in getting things right with God.  And once they had, “the whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang and the trumpeters sounded”.  They celebrated their new direction and relationship with the living God.  “When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped”.  He led the way.  He demonstrated how to worship the Lord.  “And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had prepared for the people”.  It was a new way and a great place for the people to be!

2 Kings 18:1-8

2 Kings 18:1-8 takes us back to the story of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Judah.  He took the throne at age 25 and left quite a mark during his 29 year reign.  Here is what scripture tells us of him: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done”.  What a refreshing example Hezekiah sets.  So many kings did evil in the sight of the Lord, but he did what was right.  How did he manage to do it?  He understood what David had done.  He studied and knew God’s commandments.  And he chose to obey.

We get some further insight into Hezekiah: “He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses”.  Here is a textbook lesson on how to walk well with God.  It was based on trust – Hezekiah trusted the Lord.  And he also held fast to the Lord.  He stayed connected.  He did not waver but walked completely with Him.

The formula from Hezekiah is also the tune to an old song – trust and obey.  There really is no other way to walk well with God.  Scripture describes Hezekiah in exactly those terms.  He trusted, he held fast, and he obeyed.  How are you doing in your walk with the Lord in those three areas?  Do you truly trust Him?  Are you holding fact to His every word?  And do you completely obey Him by keeping His commandments and walking in His plan as the Lord of your life?  That is how we do it well.  Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Why?  Scripture is clear that the benefits of walking with God are amazing.  “And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered”.  God walks with those who walk with Him.  God is faithful to His people.  And He also goes with us, ahead of us, wherever we go, He is there.  The third result of walking with God was that Hezekiah prospered.  God blessed Him indeed.  He touched Him with His hand.  He loves to bless His children.  He loves to reach down from heaven and touch us.  Walking with God is full of blessing and joy.  How is your walk?

Isaiah 27

Isaiah 27 talks of God’s overwhelming authority.  It reminds us that He is greater than the enemy and has the power to “punish Leviathan, the fleeing serpent”.  God is in control.  He is the ultimate power.  Satan may cause us all sorts of grief, but at the end of the day, God alone is on the throne and in control.  The enemy can disrupt us and tempt us to sin.  But God is more powerful and has won the war.  Jesus defeated Satan once and for all on the Cross and has set us free from sin, if we cling to His saving grace.

God is also our keeper.  “I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day”.  He is always there caring for us.  He is always in charge and absolutely in control.  God is our source of life and will care for us.  We need to seek Him and come to Him for our sustenance and help.  He is our keeper.  He never takes a holiday.  He never is off duty.  He is there day and night and ready to care for our every need.

But just because God has defeated evil, and is there to care for us, doesn’t mean we will experience that goodness automatically.  We need to realize that there is action required on our part.  “The guilt of Jacob will be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin”.  Jesus paid the price.  He has atoned for our sin.  But we have to receive that gift of grace.  We have to make it our own.  The fact that we live and breathe is not enough.  We must also believe and receive.

God has made a way.  If we don’t, we will become like the fortified city “a habitation deserted and forsaken”.  God is love, but that doesn’t mean He forces Himself upon us.  We have to accept His love and gifts.  We have to receive His salvation and grace.  We must make it our own.  It requires a personal relationship with the Savior and a confession of sin and a repentant heart.  But God has done more than His fair share to make it possible.  He has made a way.

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26 gives us some great insight into God and our walk with Him.  First we are reminded that “He sets up salvation”.  It isn’t our idea.  It isn’t something we can do.  It is all God.  He alone can determine the payment for sin.  He alone is the author or salvation.  We also learn that the ways of a nation are part of His plan.  “Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in”.  There is real power in community and a people that gets their priorities right and their relationship with God where it belongs.  Oh that we would realize just how important the righteousness of a nation is.  We must guard that and not walk at odds with God.

Ever wonder what it looks like to really walk with God?  Isaiah paints the picture.  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock”.  Perfect peace…everlasting rock.  What a promise!  And how it works is pretty simple….we need to keep our mind on God and focus on Him…..and just trust.  Trust is such a powerful thing.  It means that we realize that we aren’t in control, but God is and we believe that He is at the helm and has our situation well in hand.  It’s the opposite or worry.  It is faith that God is who He says He is and has our life in His hands.

But wait, there’s more.  Isaiah writes “The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous”.  Can you envision this?  God out ahead of us knocking down those things that might disrupt our path.  Him being in control and creating a smooth and level road.  Is it always that way?  No, but if we learn to walk with God and trust Him, it certainly will be much more so than if we go it alone.  And how to we really walk with Him?  “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you”.  It’s about relationship.  It’s about seeking God first and spending time with Him.  It is about time with and focus on the Father.

Lest you think that everyone will automatically receive this kind of peace and level path, check out what Isaiah tells us here: “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness….Let them see your zeal for your people”.  Not everyone is God’s.  And the wicked will be taught a lesson – God is in the business of teaching us to be holy and righteous.  And He won’t just look the other way.  He will instruct us and bring us to our knees.  The reality is that judgment day is coming.  There will be a reckoning for how we choose to live.  God wants us to walk in relationship with Him and experience the goodness of that.  But if we don’t make that choice….”the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain”.  Payday is coming.  Evil has a price.  And God will not give any passes. 

Isaiah 25

Isaiah 25 reminds us of a key truth.  Isaiah says “you are my God”.  Our relationship with God is personal.  It isn’t inherited.  It isn’t something we get by walking into the church.  It is because we choose to have a relationship with God.  It is because we make a choice to put God where He belongs – on the throne of our life – and we walk with Him in His ways doing His will.  That is what Isaiah is doing.  He is making a statement about the walk He has with God.  Personal, and focused.

He goes on to say:

–       “I will exalt you

–       I will praise your name

Why?  Because “you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure… have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat”.  God deserves our praise.  God deserves our focus because He is in control of all things.  He has done so many wonderful things for us continually.

So where do you stand with God?  Is He yours?  Have you got a personal relationship with Him?  Have you made a choice to make Him the center of your world?  He is the source of every good and wonderful gift.  He is the One who has continually been the source of blessing.  And the biggest reason for all this is that “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces”.  Isaiah reminds us that God is the one who also controls death and what happens through it.  God is the controller of all things, and if we don’t deal with sin, death becomes a real issue.

Death takes us to the place of separation.  If we have dealt with our sin, we will spend eternity with God.  If we haven’t covered our sin, we will live apart from God forever.  So death is swallowed up by God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  It was the shed blood of Christ that will give us the opportunity to overcome death and have eternal life.  So the really big question is – what have we done with Jesus?  What have we done with the only way for us to overcome death?  Are you ready?  Have you taken the one step that gives you eternal life?  It’s all about a personal relationship.  If you don’t have that, today should be the day you pursue it.  It could be your day!

Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24 lets us know what is to come.  “And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor”.  All of a sudden, everything will be equalized.  God is the great equalizer.  We all will be cut down and scattered.  The past will catch up with us and we will be faced with the punishment of the Lord.

Why?  “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant”.  In a word – sin.  We have broken God’s laws and failed to keep the covenant.  We have missed the mark and failed the test.  We will pay a price for our sin.  God will deal equally with all of us.  There are no passes.  There will be no favoritism.  We will stand before God and have to answer for our sin.  And when we do, we’ll be faced with punishment.

Of course, God has made a way for us since Isaiah wrote these words.  God realized that everyone would be falling short, so He sent His Son as the payment for our sin.  He sent Jesus to the Cross to deal with our transgressions.  He has paid the price through the shed blood of the Savior and has given us a way to overcome the bleak future that Isaiah paints.  But we have to receive the gift.  We have to take the grace and make it our own.  We have to come to a saving relationship with the only solution to our sin problem.

The outcome will be fantastic if we get it right.  We will “give glory to the name of the Lord” and receive grace by the shed blood of the Lamb.  Isaiah paints the picture correctly – we will be faced with God’s wrath because of our sin.  But there is a solution – the saving grace of Jesus.  We have the opportunity to overcome the past and have a bright and eternal future with our God where we will be in His presence for eternity and bringing Him honor and glory and praise forever!

Isaiah 23

Isaiah 23 has an oracle from Isaiah about Tyre.  It was a great city – one with many merchants and much happening.  And how “Tyre is laid waste”.  Isn’t it amazing how the things of man that seem so powerful and mighty can be changed in an instant by God – the true power of the universe?  We can do all sorts of things – create commerce, build things, generate money – we can even create wealth but none of it is ours and none of it is secure by us. God alone is the provider and keeper of all things.

Tyre was on top of things.  How could destruction come?  It begs the question Isaiah asked: “Who has purposed this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth”?  He knew the answer, and there was only one possibility.  But we sometimes forget that God is the giver of all things.  He alone creates kindoms and princes and traders. He is the one who enables all great things to happen.

So when it comes to changing that situation, it only makes sense that God is involved and in fact the source of those changes.  It wasn’t man who changed the game, it was God.  “The Lord of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth”.  If you think that what you know and have is yours forever, wake up.  It isn’t yours.  And your ability to have is determined by God, not you.  It all belongs to Him. He alone determines what happens.

The truth is that a once mighty city, which was actually a stronghold, is no longer such.  “Your stronghold is laid waste”.  What seemed secure and dependable is now changed.  It happened because they forgot who was truly in charge.  They allowed the pride of life and success to get in the way of the truth that everything belongs to God.  They laid claim to what had happened and the blessing they had experienced, and God quickly brought them back to reality to taking it all away.  Don’t forget it is God’s economy.  It is His stuff.  We are simply stewards as long as He allows.

Isaiah 22

Isaiah 22 is about the “valley of vision” and what is happening there.  It was a prosperous place, at least for a while.  But it too began to fall apart because the people lost sight of what was important.  They began to believe in themselves rather than God.  And the enemy came against them and there was a “battering down of the walls” and soon it became evident that the safety of the city was at risk.

Vision is the ability to see beyond the current to the future.  “You saw that the breaches of the city of David were many”.  The enemy has battered the wall and created a situation that was leaving openings that could be penetrated.  But with vision, you can see beyond the immediate to the good of all.  And because of that, “you broke down the houses to fortify the wall”.  Sometimes we have to sacrifice something that is precious to us to deal with a problem that can be more damaging and painful.

Is vision easy?  Absolutely not.  It requires us to see well into the future and not be controlled by the past.  “You did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago”.  We have to take action in the immediate with our eyes on the future, often forgetting the past.  We can’t get caught up in what has happened before.  It gives us reference, and history can be such a great learning tool, but we can’t rest on the past or expect those who have gone before us will be able to come and save us in the future.

We need to be careful not to take on the attitude of hopelessness. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” is not an approach with vision.  It is focused completely on the present without regard to what God can do.  We need to realize that when God is involved, anything is possible.  When we are walking with Him and in His vision for our situation, there are no limits.  “He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”.  God is the source of vision.  It is seeing things from His perspective.  We need to stay focused on that!

Isaiah 21

Isaiah 21 has several oracles from Isaiah of what is to come.  He preaches about destruction and siege, about traitors and the ending of kingdoms.  When people refuse to walk with God and make themselves the center of their own world, bad things happen.  Bad choices are made and people fall away from God.  When “I” is on the throne of my life, it doesn’t go well.  And it ends even worse if that is not corrected.  Isaiah paints a picture of how poorly it can end – “like the pangs of a woman in labor”.  It isn’t pretty, but it is painful.

So what do we do to prevent letting self get on the throne and move us away from God?  We need to guard our hearts.  We need to “set a watchman, let him announce what he sees”.  We have to watch those things that will lead us away from a right relationship with God.  We need to watch for others that might lead us the wrong way.  We need to pay attention to the world around us and the draw it has to walk away from God.  We need to carefully and continually pay attention to the influences in our life.

It is often the people we associate with that can pull us away from God.  They can’t make us choose to sin – we own that all by ourselves.  But their influence can lead us to places where that choice is much easier, or where our defenses may not be ready to deal with the temptation.  We have to always be on our guard.  “Upon a watchtower I stand… my post I am stationed whole nights”.  The enemy comes at us from all directions at all times.  It isn’t predictable and not flashing warning lights go off.  We just need to be alert.

Scripture tells us that we can win the battle with sin.  Temptation does not have to get the best of us and draw us to a choice to disobey God and fall into a very bad spot.  The enemy doesn’t give up, and will continue to pursue us.  But at the end of the day, we have the opportunity to choose obedience rather than sin. We can make a choice to walk with God and live His way every time.  We aren’t forced.  The devil can’t make us do it.  But we will fall unless we are diligent to walk with Jesus and keep our eyes focused on Him and His Word and Truth!

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