Sunday, 31 October 2010

But they would not listen

And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. – 2 Chronicles 33v10

Manassah was yet another wicked king. He set up altars to other gods in the Temple of God. He turned the people totally away from God. They were worse than the pagans.

But God was not willing to give up on them. Still God spoke to them. Still God told them what to do. Still He was willing to give them a chance.

But they would not listen.

How sad is that? God would not give up on them, but they would not listen. God was willing to teach them, but they would not listen.

Have you ever tried to talk to someone who was making foolish choices? You know it. You can see it. It has already started and they are already starting to suffer the consequences, but still they will not listen. Isn’t that one of the most frustrating situations to deal with?

Now think about God doing this. We are only human. We can only give the best advice we can. But God knows everything. He knows that what He says is best.

But still people do not listen.

If people do not listen when God Himself speaks should we be surprised when people do not listen to us?

Keep it up. All we can do is speak, people are responsible for whether or not they listen.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

But with us is the Lord

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles." And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. – 2 Chronicles 32v8

Here we see yet another example of Hezekiah’s faith. The mighty Assyrian army under the command of their wicked King Sennacharib had surrounded Jerusalem. They were a mighty, vicious, cruel, and sadistic army. They are known in history for their torture and mistreatment of captives. They are one of the most feared military forces in all of history.

They came from what is now Iraq and they had swept south conquering nation after nation. They had even conquered the northern nation of Israel. Their method of conquest was to displace their conquered peoples and swap them out so that no one could ever feel the affinity for home. The ten tribes of Israel had been dispersed all over the known world to the extent that their descendants still cannot truly identify their tribe.

This is the army that came upon Jerusalem and their godly king Hezekiah. There is no way they could have stood up to this mighty army. Their conquest was certain and the nation was paralyzed with fear.

So naturally they looked to their leader. He stood before them with confidence and said – ‘He does indeed have a mighty arm of flesh. But we have the Lord to fight our battles.’ Then the people were strengthened by the king’s words.

In some parts of the world true Christians still have a major influence. In some countries well over half the population claim to be born again Christians. In our land that number is the lowest in the western world. Less than one percent of the Irish population even claim to be born again believers. In a place like this we definitely don’t have the arm of flesh on our side.

But we do have the Lord on our side. That being said let’s take confidence. Let’s be strengthened by the words of the Lord. Let’s move forward with the confidence that our labour is not in vain in the Lord and that in due season we will reap if we do not give up!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Prepared hearts

For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying,"May the good LORD provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." – 2 Chronicles 30v18-19

Here we have an early example of the importance of a right heart over ritual. A great number of people who had responded to Hezekiah’s call and turned back to God. They came to Jerusalem and ate the Passover, but there was a problem. They did not wash themselves before the Passover contrary to the Passover Rules.

I am sure that there were some there who were shocked. There people, who had just turned to God, did not do it all just right. They crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s in the wrong places. They did not go through the purification process the way they were supposed to. All the guys who had it right surely condemned them for it. How do I know? They did the same thing to Jesus and His disciples when the disciples ate without the proper washings.

But Hezekiah had it right. He prayed that God would overlook their violation of the rituals because although they had not done it right, they had prepared their hearts.

God answered Hezekiah’s prayer.

God is much more concerned with our hearts than with complying with a list of rules and regulations. We can see people doing things in a way that we don’t like or is not the way we do it and react with judgement and condemnation.

If we are not careful we can also get so focused on the rituals and traditions that we can let our preparation slip into second place.

If we could just get the hearts right the rest would sort itself out, because eventually the heart produces results on the outside.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Some of them humbled themselves

So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD. 2 Chronicles 30v10-12

After God gave the offer of kindness from the Chaldeans for those who would turn back to Him messengers were sent out into the land with the message. As the runner went out the response was surly to be expected. After all the time without proper worship they could not have expected that everyone would just drop their ways and turn back to God.

So most of the people laughed and them and mocked them. They would not receive God’s word. The people mocked the messengers of God.

But some humbled themselves and came back to Jerusalem to meet with God. To them God gave a singleness of heart to follow the leaders and obey Him.

Some people were not afraid to go against the flow. Some were willing to follow Him not matter what anyone else did. God rewarded those who did.

A similar thing happened when Paul spoke on Mars Hill. Some mocked, some wanted to hear more, and some turned to God.

Does that sound familiar? When people try to share God’s word a bunch of people are going to laugh and mock us. That is the norm. As sinners we are not programmed to accept anything that is going to turn us away from the lives we choose.

As we try to share God’s word today the reality is that people are going to mock us. People are going to laugh. People are not going to like it.

But we have to take confidence and assurance that some are going to hear.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

God will not turn His face

For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him." - 2 Chronicles 30v9

It is coming close the end for Judah. They had ignored God over and over again, and yet God’s mercy was still there. He still wanted to take care of His people. He gave them a chance and told them that even in the upcoming captivity their captors would show compassion on them and eventually let them return to the land if they would turn to back to God.

The reason? God is gracious and merciful. He will not turn His face away if His people return to Him.

It is hard for our human minds to reconcile God’s justice with His mercy. The two don’t always seem compatible. But the truth is that God is always and forever perfectly just. He is also always and forever perfectly merciful.

God’s justice demands judgement. But in the midst of His justice He shows mercy to those who turn to Him. We read that it is not His desire that any should perish.

Praise God for His mercy and for the amazing truth that He will not turn His face away for those who turn Him.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Don’t be so stubborn

Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. – 2 Chronicles 30v8

I have had my own share of experiences with stubbornness. After six children, four (so far) grandchildren, and nearly more than three decades of working with and teaching children and teens I have seen all kinds of stubbornness. I can almost see that stiff necked set jawed look that says, ‘I am not going to budge.’

Its one thing when that attitude comes from children who don’t really know any better and who need guidance and instruction. It does show us that stubbornness is part of our human nature. No one likes to be told what to do, especially when it goes contrary to our plans.

Stubbornness is based on pride and self-will. It is a real problem when God’s people are stubborn and stiff necked with Him.

I think of the times when children have stood toe to toe with me in their stubbornness. They take a stance and stick out their jaw and just say no. Sometimes they are quiet in their stubbornness. Either way, it is still rebellion.

We don’t always stick out our jaw and tell God no. Sometimes we just quietly choose to do things our own way.

How many of us today are being stiff necked with God about a certain situation? How many of us are convinced that our way, and only our way is the right way, no matter what He says?

It is time to stop being so stubborn. It is time to yield to Him. It is time to go and serve Him.

Monday, 25 October 2010

In his distress he became unfaithful

Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD. This is that King Ahaz. – 1 Chronicles 28v22

King Ahaz was not a good king. He was not only not a good king but he was a not good king in a not good time (note to grammarians: all those negatives are intentional) . The nation was in a terrible state. The enemies just kept coming. Ahaz tried to buy them off with the goods from the temple. That did not work either.

So Ahaz gave up. In his distress and despair and he ‘became increasingly unfaithful. He saw what he perceived as the success of the pagans so he worshipped their gods. He went into the temple, destroyed some of the furnishings, sold some of them, and finally locked the doors of the temple.

Whereas Uzziah stopped depending on the Lord in his strength Ahaz turned from God in his despair.

How are these two men alike?

Both of them got their eyes off of God and on to themselves. Human success and human failure are both dangerous because they tend to get our eyes on us and not on God. When we do that we are doomed to failure.

So how do we avoid the pitfalls that these two kings fell into?

In the days of our greatest success we look to the Lord.

In the days of our greatest setbacks we look to the Lord.

Only then can we have real and lasting success.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Everything rise and falls on leadership?

And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done (although he did not enter the temple of the LORD). But still the people acted corruptly. – 2 Chronicles 27v2

One of my great memories of Bible college at Tennessee Temple was Dr Roberson saying ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’ Now, I have a very high regard for and great memories of Dr Roberson. There is some merit to what he says. His quote may have a general truth about it, but it is not an absolute. Sometimes leaders can do it all right and the people not.

Here we have King Jotham, who became king when he was 25 years old. We read that he did what was right in God’s eyes. We read that he was like King Uzziah, but that he avoided Uzziah’s sin of going into the temple to burn incense. He did all this right, but the people still acted corruptly.

I like to study leadership. I don’t know what happened here. Did Jotham do right, but not teach the people how to do right. Did they simply not follow his example?

On second thought, as I consider these things, maybe there is more to ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership’ than I first thought. Maybe the problem here is that a leader cannot just do right himself. He must also lead his people to do right in order to be a great leader.

Sure, a key aspect of leading is to lead by example, but that is not enough.

Maybe everything does rise and fall on leadership?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

When he became strong

But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. – 2 Chronicles 26v16

Martin Luther wrote something in his classic hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’ that came a couple of thousand years too late for King Uzziah. ‘If we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.’

Uzziah was an okay king. When he died Isaiah was distressed. But he had a major problem. As his power grew so did his pride. ‘When he was strong his heart was lifted up.’ But his heart being lifted up had a problem – it was ‘to his destruction.’

He went into the temple to burn incense to God. Burning incense was a good thing, but it was not his job. It was the priests’ job. Uzziah thought he was so great that he could do the job that God told the priests to do.

But he was wrong. For his pride he came down with leprosy. ‘Let him who stand take heed lest he fall’ was well suited to Uzziah.

I read the following in the Valley of Vision this morning. ‘May I love thee, my Benefactor, in all thy benefits, not forgetting that my greatest danger arises from my advantages.’

It is no wonder that God uses the weak, the base, and the foolish to do His work.

Let’s be careful that we never put confidence in our own strengths, talents, and abilities.

When we put confidence on our own abilities, our strivings are indeed losing.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Be right

And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart. – 1 Chronicles 25v2

Amaziah became king of Judah when he was 25 years old and he reigned for 29 years. His introduction is pretty simple – he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart.

Anybody can do the right thing. We see it all the time in churches and Christian schools for example. Some schools and churches pressure people to do right according to a while lis to of rules and regulations. And, as far as that goes, it works. We get them to behave in a way that makes them fit in and comply and if we are not careful we can think that everything is fine and they are sorted.

How many times have we heard the saying ‘do right’ or ‘do right till the stars fall.’ There is a children’s chorus that has the words ‘even though they laugh at me I will do what’s right.’

There is nothing really wrong with that if we understand the context. It is important to do what is right – but it is not enough.

As Amaziah’s life will show doing right eventually falls short. What is more important is that we be right and being right is based on having a right heart. Outside conformity is easy enough, but a real, genuine walk with God comes only from a right for, for out of it flow the real issues of life.

Be right till the stars fall.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

There was much money!

So it was, at that time, when the chest was brought to the king's official by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, that the king's scribe and the high priest's officer came and emptied the chest, and took it and returned it to its place. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance. – 2 Chronicles 24v11

Had an interesting day yesterday which really fits in to this passage. The setting is this. Once again work need to be done, this time to rebuild the Temple which had fallen into disrepair. When the need became known the people gave in abundance and money was ‘gathered in abundance.’ Somehow the people came up with plenty of money to do God’s work. It seems like very time work needed to done there was plenty of money to do it.

So let’s get back to what happened yesterday. I saw a comment on Facebook about how it is now taking missionaries an average of five years to raise their support and get to the field. The poster was properly lamenting the fact that people just are not giving to missions and the spread of the gospel.

As a result of that post and my response about people being too obsessed with their stuff to give, a friend recommended a book called ‘Radical.’ It is written by David Platt. I started it yesterday and his contention is that the church has it all wrong. Pratt contends that the church, especially the American church, is so busy with building elaborate buildings and running expensive programmes that they no longer even vaguely resemble the church in the New Testament.

I think back to some of the amazing church buildings I have been in. Everything is top notch and obviously very expensive. Everything seemingly has to be elaborate and impressive. They are millions of euro worth of the expensive cars in the car park. People have more stuff than they can possibly ever use.

In many cases the church has swallowed the world’s philosophy that success means you have the biggest and best of everything.

And yet it takes a missionary family five years to get the field. There are lighting fixtures that could pay for years of a missionary’s support. There are bathroom fixtures that could buy months of groceries for the poor and needy. Instead of settling for simple and satisfactory facilities that would do the job, we let missionaries struggle and the needy starve.

I contend that in many cases there is money in abundance. The problem is that it is misdirected.

Each of us, this missionary pastor included, needs to examine what we are doing with our resources, especially in these days of financial difficulties.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The impact of mothering

Ahaziah was forty- two a years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly. – 2 Chronicles 22v2-3

There is nothing more precious than a godly mother. One of the problem’s I have with the concept of Mother’s Day is that we can get the idea that one day a year is enough to make up for the other 365.

For a clue about how important a good mother is to look at a really rotten mother. Ahaziah was the 42 year old king of Judah. His mother was Athalia, the granddaughter of Omri. She would be the only king (I think) of Judah. She was a really wicked woman and her death would suit her life.

The impact of a mother is tremendous. This mother’s impact was tremendous in its badness. She advised her son the king to do wickedly, like the actions of Ahab.

I have not done a complete study, but I think that history would generally support my thoughts that a good mother is vital to success. In a Christian setting there is no doubt that the actions and attitudes of a mother can affect generations of people. In the long runs hundreds of descendents can be affected by the impact of one mother.

Mothers need to take this to heart. They need to realise just how important their task is, even on those days when it seems so thankless and trivial. There is no more important job than mothering, no matter what society tells us.

Those of us her are not mothers need to realise their importance. They need our help, our support, and our prayers in their vital task.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

To no one’s sorrow, he died

He was thirty- two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one's sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. – 2 Chronicles 21v20

Jehoram’s life is one of those tragedies that we come across in scripture. He became king when he was 32. He died when he was 40. When he died no one was sorry and he was not buried with the other kings. He, like Jehoshaphat married into Ahab’s family. His wickedness was like that of the kings of Israel. His death was a terribly painful one (see verse 18-19).

When we hear names like Hitler, Mussolini, Hussein, and Ceau┼čescu we think of wicked men who, when they died, they did so to know one’s sorrow. In fact, in most of these cases the majority of the world partied when they died. The sad thing is that their deaths gave the world good cause to rejoice. Jehoram was such a man.

When I think of these men I think of what happened to bring about such hatred. These were all little boys one day. They nursed at their mother’s laps, they played with the dog, and they ran around the house like all little boys. What happens to men like this between those times of childhood and being the most hated men on earth?

These men are all examples of what happens when sin goes unchecked. The amazing truth is that these are also men for whom Christ died. These were all men that God loved so much that He sent His Son to die for them.

When we see these wicked men in the news we can understandably respond by hating them. Kim Jung Il and his ilk are wicked men, but remember that Jesus died for them.

We cannot excuse their sin. Sometimes society has to hold them in check and hold them accountable by waging war and even executing them. That should not keep us from praying for them. When they do die, while we can be relieved that society has been spared their ills, we can still sorrow for their eternal souls.

Monday, 18 October 2010

God gave him rest

Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around. – 2 Chronicles 20v30

Rest. What a great concept. I think most of us can say that we look forward to rest. It might be finishing work for the day, it might be then end of a work week, or it might be a holiday, but rest is something that we all long for.

But then there is that deeper kind of weariness. It is not solved by days off or holidays. We all know the kind of weariness I am talking about.

Jehoshaphat was not perfect. He made foolish alliances; he messed up with his wives. But at the end of the day he had a deep abiding faith. He showed that faith when, faced with insurmountable difficulties, he trusted God with his everything. As a result, there was peace and God gave him rest.

God has a rest for His children. There is the current rest of being able to abide in Him, but there is a full rest coming one day. Our time on earth is nothing when measured with eternity.

One day, those of us who have faith in God to do what He says will have that full, abiding, deep, eternal rest.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

When they began to sing and praise

Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. – 2 Chronicles 20v22

I love this picture. I love the mental image it calls up. Here we have the setting for a mighty battle. On one side we have the allied armies of Moab, Ammon, and Mount Seir. On the other side we have the armies of Judah.

It wasn’t going to be much of a fight. Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir were mighty nations with huge armies. Judah was part of a divided nation engaged in a long going civil war with Israel.

We saw yesterday the encouragement that came from God. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ God said, ‘I will fight the battle for you.’ Jehoshaphat led the nation in corporate worship for all that God was going to do. I really like the idea found in scripture of worshipping before God answers. There is surely a pattern there for us.

That attitude was manifest the next morning when the battle lines were arranged. Battles can start in various ways. Back in these days you might just send your foot soldiers into the battle. Perhaps you might set up a long term siege by cutting of the enemy supply lines. You might decide to soften up the enemy with an archery barrage. There are plenty of possible tactics.

Jehoshaphat used none of them. Even Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’ would never have come up with this military strategy. It was nothing if not unexpected.

On the morning of the battle Jehoshaphat ‘appointed those who should sing praise to the Lord, and those who should praise the beauty of his holiness’ to go out before the army. The first group into the fight were the praise singers!

As they went they sang ‘Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever!’

Why would anyone do that? Logically speaking all the enemy had to do was pick off the praisers as they moved forward.

But what happened?

‘Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.’

When Jehoshaphat decided to praise God first and trust Him the battle was already over. When we knew that he could depend on his own strength the victory was won. When Jehoshaphat trusted God, God worked.

It is so easy for us to hold on to our own plans. We have a hard time taking our hands off and letting Him work. We want to follow our own battle plans.

Why do we have such a hard time rejoicing and praising God before the battle is fought and before He works?

There is only one explanation – we really don’t trust Him.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

You will not need to fight

And he said,"Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's. …You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you." – 2 Chronicles 20v15-17

The importance of this passage goes back a long way for me. I think I first became aware of it in the summer of 1977. Could that really be 33 years ago??

Anyway, I was in Chattanooga and Mary had gone back to Missouri for the summer. We were already dating and looking ahead to our marriage. We wrote back and forth almost daily and tried to share spiritual blessings.

I was going through one of those tough spells that we go through and just needed a boost. Mary didn’t know that, but she shared this passage in one of her letters (I sort of miss old fashioned letters, don’t you?).

The nation of Judah is looking at a seemingly insurmountable battle. There was no way they could win. After a time of national prayer and fasting the Lord spoke through Jahaziel to the nation. ‘Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed. The battle is not yours. It is God’s.’ In fact, in this particular case, God said that they did not even need to fight the battle. God would fight it for them.

That passage hit home for me all those years ago. It still comes to mind today when I face those battles that still sometimes seem insurmountable.

So many, many times through the years I have been grateful for a God who fights for me. Now if I could only learn to remember that when the next battle looms.

Friday, 15 October 2010

If disaster comes

If disaster comes upon us- sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine- we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save. – 2 Chronicles 20v9

What an appropriate passage for October 2010. ‘If disaster comes,’ certainly suits the day. Most folks acknowledge that the financial disaster where we find ourselves is far from over.

Who knows, really, just how bad this disaster is going to be? Disasters though are a part of life. They may be physical, economic, military, weather related, illness, terrorist provoked, emotional, or many other types. But they are part of what we have to deal with.

I love disaster films. I think have watched all of the major ones. I wish I could say I like them for some type of deep and intellectual reason, but I just like them.

No matter what the disaster someone always rises to the occasion. Sometimes it is the obvious hero and sometimes it is the one would least expect. After the inevitable conflict those who follow the leader (for the most part) survive and those who oppose him perish. They end with just a vision of hope the future and a good feeling that they have endured.

Real life disaster has a difference though. It is real life. There are things that we are going to have to face. The advantage for us though is that we have a hope that will never fail. Jehoshaphat rehearsed all that God had done, and then told the people how to respond. Jehoshaphat said that they would go to God, cry out to Him, and wait for His response. Later on in verse 12 we read that they were going to keep their eyes on the Lord.

Our real life disasters are much more terrifying than the worst disaster film. On the other hand the Hero of our disasters will never fail to carry us through.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A proper response to fear

Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar" (which is En Gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. – 2 Chronicles 20v2-3

Jehospaphat’s alliance with Ahab did not have immediate effect, and his weakness does not mean that he did everything wrong. If we could only learn from perfect men we would never learn anything.

News came to Jehoshaphat that a great enemy was coming to confront them. They were close by and there was really no time to prepare a response.

So what was Jehoshaphat’s response? Did rush out headlong without considering? Did he take matters into his own hand?

No, he was afraid. So what did he do about his fear? Did he run and hide and go into despair? You might think that would be a normal response. It is certainly one that I can identify with. When bad news comes my first response is that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that can almost make me ill. I can’t sleep. The fear takes control of my mind.

Jehoshaphat had the right response. He set himself to seek the Lord and he proclaimed a fast.

That’s not a half bad response to fear, is it? How much grief would we save ourselves if, instead of despair, we responded with seeking the Lord and fasting and prayer?

Despair comes when we rely on ourselves. That is always a big mistake.

Fear is natural. Our problem comes when we respond with self reliance instead of seeking the Lord.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

By marriage he allied himself

Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab. – 2 Chronicles 18v1

Jehoshaphat seemingly had it all together. He delighted in doing God’s work. He had riches. He had honour. He was on top of the world.

But he had a problem. He had a problem that a lot of men had. He had a problem with women.

I don’t fully understand how all the guys, even the godly ones, had a bunch of wives. I know all the pat answers, but I really don’t ‘get it.’

But I’ll leave that aside. The problem here was not the multiple wives, but how Jehoshaphat messed things up in his desire for wives. Here we read that He ‘by marriage allied himself with Ahab.’

No wonder the New Testament warns against being ‘unequally yoked with unbelievers.’ Marriage is a God ordained institution. It is not to be taken lightly. As Jehoshaphat hurried to build his stable of wives he compromised his delighting the Lord. Allying himself with Ahab just to get another wife was just plain stupid.

But then, men can do stupid things when it comes to women. God gives clear instructions about marriage. To the church marriage is a picture of Christ and His church.

A wife is intended to be a ‘good thing’ according to Proverbs. The result of marriage should always be joy and comfort.

Let us ever be on guard to ensure that our marriages are what God wants them to be.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

His heart took delight

And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah. – 2 Chronicles 17v6

Jehoshaphat was Asa’a son and became king after Asa died. The first thing he did was to set up his military defences, then he turned to setting things right with God. He did all the right stuff. He walked in the ways of David. He sought the Lord. He walked according to God’s commandments. Then this verse tells us why he did all that.

Jehoshaphat delighted in the Lord. His service was the ‘want to’ kind of service instead of the ‘have to’ kind of service. I think most of us who are honest will admit that sometimes our service can be the ‘have to’ kind. I do things, not because I delight in them, but because I feel like I have to do them.

We are never going to be perfect. There are going to be times when we just have to pick ourselves up and do the right thing. But if that is how we always serve there is something wrong with our walk with the Lord.

I want to be motivated because I delight in the Lord. I don’t want to serve because I fear repercussions or because I am a pastor or because of what some man might say. I want my service to be based because I love the Lord and delight in Him.

God give me a ‘want to ‘ kind of service.

Monday, 11 October 2010

To show Himself strong

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars." – 2 Chronicles 16v9

This is one of those sad passages that remind of the potential that we miss in doing things our way.

For lack of a better phrase, God wanted to do something to show Himself mighty on behalf of Asa, but Asa got in the way by insisting on doing things his own way. The result was a lack of the blessings that could have been there if they had just let God work.

We read a few times about the eyes of the Lord running to and fro for various reasons, but this one is somehow a special blessing. One of the reasons that God looks over the whole earth is for an opportunity to show Himself mighty on our behalf.

I just think that is pretty amazing. I think it is wonderful that God is looking for a chance to work on our behalf to show how powerful He is. I am sad when I think about how often we get in His way when we can’t wait for God to show Himself mighty, but we try to prove that we can sort things out on our own.

I wonder what would happen if we really stepped aside and let God show Himself mighty on our behalf. What if we were more concerned about His reputation than ours?

There is one other thing that we can take with us. Perhaps you are in a situation right this moment where it seems that there is no way out. Perhaps your strength has run out. Maybe you can’t see an answer. Maybe, just maybe, this is the time to ask God to show Himself mighty on your behalf!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

He took courage

And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded a the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the LORD that was before the vestibule of the LORD. – 2 Chronicles 15v8

I probably should have included this verse with yesterday’s passage. It goes will with it and it simply tells what our response should be when God tells us not to be weak or discouraged.

When Asa heard these instructions from the Lord he simply took courage and did what God wanted him to do.

I guess there is something specific to note here. It does us no good to just hear the word of God then go on our merry way. God’s encouragements are only useful if we are willing to act on them.

James tells us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only. The best evidence that we have not given up is that we do what Asa did. Take courage and get back to work.

True courage will always motivate us to action.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Do not let your hands be weak

But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!" – 2 Chronicles 15v7

One of the reasons why I think personal devotions are so important is that they give God a chance to give us just what we need at just the right time. It is a lot like eating. A lot of the time eating food just gives us the sustenance we need to keep on going. Sometimes we have a wonderful feast that really fills us with pleasure and we look back on it with fond memories.

They there are times when we really need a meal though. I think about times when I have been in a situation where I only had junk food for a few days. I remember craving a ‘real meal’ with meat and potatoes and vegetables. I remember having those meals and finding that it exactly suited what I needed at the moment.

I remember back in 2002 when it seemed like everything in our ministry had gone bottom up. Over and over during that time God used His word to encourage me. I still look back at those very special days when God met very specific needs in very specific ways.

My devotions the last few days have been doing that again. I have once again caught myself looking at circumstances and situations and found myself getting down. I have felt like I have ‘weak hands.’

The passage is set in a time of great trouble. War after war unsettled the people. ‘Nation was destroyed by nation and city by city…’ Circumstances apparently could not be any worse. The situation was dim. It must have seemed like a great time just to pack up and quit.

Then the word of God came – ‘Be strong and don’t let your hands be weak, for your work will be rewarded.’

We cannot help but be reminded of other passages; ‘Be not weary in well doing, for in due season you shall reap if you do not faint,’ and ‘Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’

God never promises that the work will be easy. In fact, if anything, He says exactly the opposite. It is going to be tough, but we can be assured that our in due season we will reap, our labour is not in vain, and our work will be rewarded.

So let’s stick to the task. Let our hands not be weakened, let us not be weary, let us be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Friday, 8 October 2010

It is nothing for you Lord

And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said,"LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!" – 2 Chronicles 14v11

A million man army from Ethiopia. Think of that. An army of one million men had moved from Africa with its eyes on the little nation of Judah. Judah could not depend on their Jewish brothers from Israel. They seemed to be constantly at war with each other. If you were in King Asa’s sandals how would you respond to their approach? What would you do?

Clearly there was nothing Judah’s army could do nothing to protect themselves from this onslaught. Surely they were doomed.

But Asa knew something we too often forget. When he prayed before the battle he said ‘Lord, it is nothing for you to help. It makes no difference whether you use a mighty army or someone with no power.’ Then he simply asked the Lord to help them.

I have been a little discouraged lately. The size of our little local assembly just seems to be staying the same. We have lost a couple of active families lately. Though I should have learned the lesson a long time ago, I still find myself battling discouragement at times like this.

But God knows my weakness and frailty. Every time I get like this God seems to intervene. Here He reminds me that God is able to do His work no matter what our numbers. It is the same thing Jonathan said to his armour bearer. It is the same thing Paul wrote about the weak, base, and foolish things confounding the mighty.

If God can deliver Judah from one million Ethiopian soldiers chances are that He can do the work through our little fellowship.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Because they relied on the Lord

Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD God of their fathers. – 2 Chronicles 13v18

When Judah eventually went to war with Israel, led by Judah they knew they went to battle with the Lord as their head.

They won the battle. Jeroboam and his forces were defeated. The children of Judah prevailed – because they relied on the Lord.

There were a lot of things they could have relied on. It could have been Abijah’s leadership. It could have been their military might. It could have been military strategy. But they only won because they relied on the Lord.

Like Judah we face many obstacles in our effort to serve the Lord. The world is not going to get it and it is certainly not going to support us. As we go to ‘battle’ we too have things we can be tempted to rely on. We can look to our own abilities. We can look to all the modern methods. We can look to our own resources.

The sad truth is that if we rely on any of those things we are doomed to fail. Our success and our victory only comes when we learn the lesson that only our reliance on the Lord can give us victory.

When we are ever going to prevail, it is only as we rely on the Lord.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

God as our head

Now look, God Himself is with us as our head, and His priests with sounding trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O children of Israel, do not fight against the LORD God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!" – 2 Chronicles 13v12

Abijah was now king of Judah while Jeroboam remained king of Israel. Another in a series of civil wars broke our between the two nations. Abijah tried to reform Judah and turn them back to God. He gave a speech that both nations could here. In it he blamed Jeroboam for the rebellion and claimed that Judah was going to depend on the Lord now. It was time for the nation to turn back to God.

At part of this very inspiring speech he said something interesting – ‘God Himself is with us as our head.’ I like this picture of headship. Headship, of course, implies control. The head leads and controls the rest of the body. The head tells the rest of the body what to do. Abijah’s claim was that since the Lord was their head, they could not fail. He warned the enemy – ‘Do not fight against the Lord, for you will not prosper.’

Isn’t it interesting that Christ uses the same analogy for His relationship to His church? He is the head, we are the body. He leads, guides, controls, and directs and we do His bidding. When a problem causes a part of the body to act seemingly independently there is a problem with the connection to the head. The same is true for the church. When we go off on our own and act contrary to the control of the Head there is something wrong with our connection.

Judah acted in response to the head’s control. Jesus’ body is called to do the same. Do we follow our head, or do we run off in some kind of unnatural self determination?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Because he did not prepare his heart

And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD. – 2 Chronicles 12v14

Despite the turning away and humility expresses above Rehoboam didn’t really get his act together. He still ends up being a wicked king. He did evil.

God allows us to find out the reason for his doing evil – he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord. In other words he left God out of his life. Once he left God out of his he was left to his own devices and the result was that he did evil.

I think there is a lesson here for us. Heart preparation is a key element to following the Lord. It is too easy to only conform on the outside and never do anything about our hearts. When we choose to do that we assure ourselves of never being able to follow Him and we put ourselves in a position to do evil.

We live in a wicked world. Evil is all about us. If we do not take care to prepare our hearts we will succumb to the draws of this world. If we are not ready, we will suffer defeat.

Monday, 4 October 2010

When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves

Now when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying,"They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. – 2 Chronicles 12v7

Rehoboam and the rest of the leaders came to Shemaiah the prophet to ask what could be done about God’s judgement coming on the nation. They came with humble broken hearts acknowledging God’s righteousness in dealing with them.

When God saw their humility He told Shemaiah to tell them that because they had humbled themselves He would not destroy them, but instead He would deliver them for the destruction.

It looks like Judah’s existence could have ended as soon as it started if the nation had not humbled themselves and turned back to Him.

God has always honoured humility. It is only through humility that one can come to the point where they can rely of God alone for salvation. The holy perfect God whose name is Holy and who dwells in eternity also dwells with those who have a humble and contrite spirit.

God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.

Might we say that in reality our relationship with God begins with and is based on humility?

Sunday, 3 October 2010

From start to finish

Now all the work of Solomon was well-ordered from the day of the foundation of the house of the LORD until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was completed. – 2 Chronicles 8v16

Solomon had his problems. There can be no doubt about that. He did however have one thing right – he finished what he started and he did it in an orderly manner. He did his job and he did it right.

I just like it when some one has a job and then sticks with it. Building the Temple was an immense work to oversee. There was a huge amount of work to be done – but he did it.

This character trait is a constant theme throughout the Bible. God wants us to finish the task He was set us to. God wants us to not be weary in well doing. He wants us to be steadfast, unmovable, always abound in the work of the Lord. He wants us to patiently run the race while we look to Christ.

Part of my goal in life should be that God could say of me when all is said and done – ‘Now all the work of Roger was well-ordered from the day he started until it was finished..’

Saturday, 2 October 2010

When they return

"When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness'; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You. – 2 Chronicles 6v36-39

So there is no one who does not sin. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one. The wages of sin is death.

That would be some kind of terrible news if that is where it stopped. Everyone one sins and sin condemns every one. Where does that leave us? Is there any hope?

There is hope indeed. Solomon’s prayer did not stop there. ‘When the people come to their senses, repent, and confess and forsake their sin. Hear from heaven and maintain their cause.’

The great truth is that even though there is no one who does not sin, God does not cast us off forever. Solomon knew nothing about the free gift of salvation in Christ, but He knew about the truth that God makes provision for forgiveness when we turn and repent.

The wages of sin is death…BUT the gift of God is eternal like through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Praise the Lord that there is room after ‘when they sin’ for ‘when they repent.’

Friday, 1 October 2010

When they sin

"When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness'; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You. – 2 Chronicles 6v36-39

The context has now moved to Solomon and his dedicatory prayer for the Temple. It is a wonderful prayer well worthy of our consideration.

At this point, after praying for military success, Solomon makes an interesting point. ‘When they sin against you…’ I find that intriguing. Solomon acknowledges that God’s people will indeed sin. He follows that with the words ‘for there is no one who does not sin.’

This truth is foundational to the rest of the word of God. If anyone ever would have ‘not sinned’ it would have been Adam and Eve. They had it made, they hade everything they could have wanted.

But even they failed. And, by one man, sin entered into the world and death by sin because all have sinned. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

This is not a very exciting or meaningful entry, but it is vital. Anyone who is honest with themselves will acknowledge that they are not perfect. In fact most of us would have to admit that we do not even come close.

But there is hope – and it is seen in Solomon’s prayer.