A couple of weeks ago, some guys from the low country of South Carolina asked if they could pray for me. We ‘FaceTimed’ and one by one, they prayed. One guy mentioned Hezekiah and how the Lord granted him 15 more years even after Isaiah had declared him terminally ill. So I thought it might be worthwhile to research this guy Hezekiah and understand his story.
Made king at age 25, Hezekiah was ‘all-in’ for Yahweh. The political division of Israel and Judah didn’t stop him from taking on evil and re-instituting the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Yahweh was the common ground and from his passion for God, he pulled the faithful together for the first time in forever. God blessed Hezekiah . . . everything he did was successful. Faced with almost certain defeat by the king of Assyria, Hezekiah (with the advice of Isaiah) called on Yahweh who consistently came through, often through direct intervention into circumstances. Hezekiah had it going on.
Then at age 39, he got sick. Isaiah told him to get his affairs in order . . . that he was going to die. Hezekiah went to the Lord, pouring out his heart, pointing out his faithfulness and asking that his life be extended. God responded, promising he would recover and live another 15 years.
So what did he do with his extra time?
He let pride and selfishness take over. When a delegation came from Babylon, he showed them all his treasures, never mentioning Yahweh. His pride got away from him. When Isaiah prophesied all the bad stuff coming in the future . . . stuff that would ruin the lives of his children’s children, Hezekiah responded with “Well, at least it won’t happen in my lifetime!” Amazing how we drift when things are good and we have what we want.
What can we learn from Hezekiah?
1. True faith in God can be a common denominator that attracts people and brings them together, even across hard, dark political lines. God blesses those who unashamedly pursue Him regardless of their station in life or their political persuasion.
2. It is okay to ask God for more time, understanding He is sovereign. He can say yes or no. But rest assured that either way, His answer will offer the opportunity to bring glory to God or to ourselves. If we use it to bring glory to ourselves, watch out!
3. It is NOT okay to ignore things that will impact future generations, e.g. our ‘children’s children.’ I read Hezekiah’s selfish, callous response to the future (II Kings 20:19) and thought “Wow, what a shmuck!” Then I think about the times I’ve said, “Well, someone else will have to sort that out after I’m gone.” I’ve done exactly what Hezekiah did.
In his prime, Hezekiah put God first. He was respected, fulfilled and blessed. But he didn’t finish well. He put himself first, becoming absorbed into the ‘here and now’ and the things God had given him. The blessings took the place of the ‘Bless-er.’ Let’s stay connected to people who will help us finish well.
Prayer – Lord, give us the courage to stand up and stand out for you. Give us the same courage to fight for your truth and righteousness when we’re old and on borrowed time as when we’re young and think we’re invincible. Please put an “Isaiah” in each of our lives – a Godly man who knows and loves us, who sees your Truth clearly, and who will challenge us when we turn prideful and selfish. Please help us finish well. Amen.
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“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room … and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
A young lawyer right out of law school was fortunate enough to have a very rich father who rented him as a graduation gift, entire floor of a beautiful downtown New York high rise building. The suite came fully furnished with some of the finest oak furniture. His father had even purchased a full library of law books that filled a whole wall toward the front of the suite.
As he went into his new office he went over to his executive leather chair fit for only the very best highly successful lawyers and sat down. He leaned back and began to day dream some more, picturing himself working cases and arguing before juries and then heard a person come in the front door into the empty reception area. Quickly leaning forward he grabbed the telephone and began pretending he was speaking with someone on the other end of the telephone about a law case. Knowing that the man in the reception area could hear him he spoke louder than normal trying to appear as important as possible. He was able to keep up this act for about two to three minutes before he finally hung up the telephone.
After hanging up he walked out to the reception area and apologized for keeping the man waiting. Still trying to impress the potentially new client he went on to tell the man that it was very hard to keep up with all the telephone calls while he was searching for another prominent attorney to bring on board with him. The brand new lawyer told the man that just any other attorney would not be good enough, he only wanted the best.
After going on about just how important the call was the he had just been on he asked the man how he could help him. The man smiled a bit and told the young lawyer that he was only there to hook up his telephones.
The lack of integrity is all about pretending to be something you are not!
On a regular basis, newspapers will headline various ethical probes in Washington, DC and around the country. When we hear the word integrity, in our minds we associate some moral code that one needs to have incorporated into their life. We generally want those in working in government using our hard earned tax dollars, those in schools teaching our children educational values, those who we look up to as our spiritual leaders and even those in our families, to have integrity. When we say that someone is a person of high integrity, we mean that person will make a personal choice to uphold themselves to consistent moral code, regardless of costs to them. To me, integrity stands opposed to hypocrisy. For the Christian man or woman, integrity is an imperative. Jesus was a man of integrity because He spoke honestly. His actions validated the truthfulness and accuracy of what He said.
Election year is going to be soon upon us. We want a person of integrity in the White House. The word integrity is derived from the Latin adjective ‘integer’ meaning whole or complete. We want to see in our political leaders this wholeness coming from qualities of honesty. We want to see in our spiritual leaders a consistency of character that shows us integrity. Our spouses want to see in us words and actions that result from values, beliefs and principles we claim to hold. The old adage of “Do as I say, and not as I do” is integrity corrupted.
Looking at King David’s life, even with all of the flaws, it is easy to see integrity running like a golden thread throughout his life. He was considered a great leader of integrity because he had a steadfast adherence to God’s moral code. And when he failed miserably, he then tried to hide his crime of passion which finally ended in murder, what did he do when exposed? His integrity came to the surface and he confessed.
Daniel was another man of integrity. Listen to what God wrote about Daniel: “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Because of jealousy, his colleges) tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. [Daniel 6:3-4 NIV] He was a hostage to a foreign power in a foreign land, but in the face of this he did his job with integrity. Those around him classified Daniel as a man of exceptional qualities, so much so that the king recognized this foreign prisoner as someone he could trust above anyone else in his whole kingdom. King Darius found in Daniel an excellent spirit and attitude [v. 3]. I know that this is a worn out clique, but it still seems to be true: “We can only fake a good attitude for so long before our real attitude comes to the surface.” What makes a person successful in the sight of God, who sees into the heart, is what we are like when alone where only God knows our actions. That is what integrity is all about.
Because Daniel’s attitude was in the right place, he was faithful to what God gave him to do [v. 4]. In today’s political and business environment, to find a man or woman in whom no corruption can be found is rare indeed. Whether I am in business, politics, homemaker or ministry, the question is always the same for God. Am I trustworthy as to my promises and not negligent in what I do? The practice of integrity produces unworldly wisdom.
Integrity starts and ends with the “law of God” [v. 5]. The verse does not say that directly but it is implied. Real integrity comes only from learning about the kind of integrity that God has in mind. What is interesting is that Daniel’s enemies had to manufacture a circumstance where Daniel’s pursuit of integrity to God’s law was tested by civil law.
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. [Daniel 6:10] His praying three times a day to God was not a sudden act of civil rebellion. Daniel did nothing more than do what he had always done. When he learned of the decree, he did not rush home and raise panic prayers to God. What is important to God is our consistent walk with Him, and that is what Daniel did in the face of death; “just as he had done before.” Those qualities of integrity: exceptional attitude, faithfulness and personal purity where the disciplines that enabled him in the moment of crisis to not panic and to continue to be “giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Without the foundation building blocks of faith, his attitude, his faithfulness and his trustworthiness would have gone out the window. Without the building blocks, the history of Daniel would have been far different. When the crisis comes, have you been building on the right foundation?
Some insights to Wisdom
- Old age is the number-one killer in the world.
- Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
- Give a person a fish and feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months and maybe years.
- Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday lying in the hospital dying of nothing!
- We should all take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
- In the ’60s people took drugs to make the world weird. Now they take Prozac to make it normal.
- The new worry about old age is that it doesn’t last long enough.
- A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.
- A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
- A diplomat is one who thinks twice before saying nothing.
- Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
- Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves; they will never cease to be amused.
Living the Christian life according to Biblical principles is counter-intuitive. Living a life that is reasonably pleasing to God flies in the face of what I naturally think is the way to live. There seems to be seven ‘wisdom’ mile stones that are involved in changing from doing things my way to doing things the way God intended me to speak and act.
- Healthy things grow.
- Growing things change.
- Changing things are a challenge.
- Challenge forces trust.
- Trust leads to obedience.
- Obedience leads to health.
- Health produces fruit.
My youngest daughter Teri is a gourmet cook. When I go to her house I can count on a marvelously tasting meal. Walking through the door creates anticipation as a plethora of delicious aromas just makes my mouth water. However, walking into the kitchen is to be met with what appears as confusion. It is a mess. Multiple used measuring spoons and mixing bowls piled in the sink, flower scattered over the counters and floor, pots and pans litter the counters and stove. It looks like a cyclone came roaring through the kitchen. Raw meat, partially prepped vegetables and uncooked dough is not what the meal will look like. But I have learned something. I have to wait. Out of this seeming mess comes something incredibly yummy.
When we come to the point in our natural lives where we realize that we need Jesus in our lives, we rarely realize that we are starting a counter-intuitive life. God is going to want us to change. That is an immutable fact. We essentially have two choices in living with God. When God produces the opportunity for change so we can become more like Jesus, we can either love it or fear it. Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It is the ‘remaining’ that is the change agent for our healthy growth. Let me unpack this a bit.
First, healthy things grow. Only healthy things can produce healthy fruit. Unlike plants, we are not just a physical being. We have this mysterious part of us that we call our spirit. Whether it is physical or spiritual conditions, there must be a healthy environment to maintain our health. For plants, there needs to be the right combination of fertilizer, moisture and light. For us, we need the right combination of emersion in the Bible [fertilizer], prayer [moisture] and fellowship [light] with other believers.
Second, growing things change. My growing will require my changing. Growing spiritually means expanding.
Third, changing things are a challenge. My changing will introduce challenges to my growth. Time is measured from one point to another. Any change in biology takes time. Want to change a habit? That takes practice. Practice takes time. Maybe you have heard the prayer of one Saint who asked: “God, please give me patience. And I want it now!” I have found the biggest challenge to my growth is being willing to endure the delay. I want the change to happen now, not tomorrow. Consider for a moment the oak tree.
An oak tree is a magnificent thing to see in the forest. But think about its beginnings. It starts life as an acorn, an insignificant small seed in a hard little shell. God never intended that acorn to stay as it is. God causes a wind to blow and at the right time it loses its grip on the branch. It falls to the ground. It is no longer connected to it past life. It dies. It get stepped on and pushed into the earth. Over time the right combination of fertilizer, moisture and light causes the hard shell to soften, a new life to grow and a healthy tree that produces some of the most durable wood stands tall amongst other trees. Down through the ages in stories and poetry, the oak tree has stood for might, strength and endurance.
Forth, challenge forces trust. In order to meet the challenges of growing I am forced to trust Jesus. How I handle delays in the process of changing will determine the way I experience coming to maturity in Christ. Let’s take a closer look at that acorn. This acorn had a brother. Imagine with me this conversation taking place between these two acorn brothers named John and Peter. They are hanging out on a beautiful sunny day.
“I love it that we have relatives nearby. It so homey and comfy here” remarks John.
“Yeah, I often think to myself that I want to be just like them someday” says Peter wistfully.
“Not me! I am staying right here.”
Peter looks at his brother in shock. “You cannot do that. That’s not natural.”
“I made a decision last night that I do not want to go through the process of maturing. I just want to be a magnificent oak tree that everyone will admire.”
“That is insane John. Acorns do not become might oak trees hanging around on twigs. They fall down to the ground. That is when they become like our relatives in the future.”
“I do want to be tall and durable someday. I just do not want to die. I have watched some of our cousins. That is a long drop and you can hear them thud on the earth. Horrible! Don’t even want to think about it!”
A Gently Breeze stirred though the branches whispering “You are designed to let go.”
“Did you hear that Peter?”
“No. I just felt a gentle touch of the Master’s hand. It time for us to let go.”
“No! No! No! Not yet. Life will be better not facing the challenge of change.”
“Change is necessary if we are going to produce what the Creator intended for us John.”
“I can’t! I like life as it is, hanging on a twig high above danger is better. If I let go I going to die.”
“You will be a mighty oak if you just let go John” the Gentle Breeze whispered.
God speaks to that little acorn words of encouragement. Did that little acorn listen? You be the judge.
Fifth, trust leads to obedience. Learning to trust Jesus will produce obedience in me. An acorn looks nothing like the oak tree it becomes. The same goes for us. The growth process that God has us go through is not what we will look like in maturity. God will introduce all sorts of things into our lives to help us grow healthy.
Sixth, obedience leads to health. Obedience to Jesus makes me healthy for further growth. Obedience teaches me that the natural things that I am inclined to do are health destroyers. Obedience is trust in action. It is listening to God and trusting that what He says, while counter-intuitive, doing what He says is the healthy thing to do.
Seventh, health produces fruit. God intends me to grow in order to produce fruit. When I took biology in high school, one thing I remember is that there is a basic rule of life: if a life form is not growing then it is in the process of dying. We are the same way. If we are not growing as God intended us to grow, then we are dying a slow death. We may feel healthy but we are dying.