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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For a lot of guys, living out the basics of the Christian faith just does not sound too exciting. Too insignificant. Not enough guts and glory. But it is the little things that usually stumble us. It happens in the spiritual world. It certainly happens in the natural world. Consider this:
In 1962, the Mariner 1space probe was launched to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there. It plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was initiated into the cause for the crash. What did these top minds find? They traced the fatal problem to the computer program directing the spacecraft. In the program, a single minus sign had been left out.
The way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution. How we handle the football determines how we will handle larger game in ‘doing life.’ Reality check: Do I have the same attitude as Naaman?
11-12 Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.
13 But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?”
[2 Kings 5:12-13 The Message (MSG)]
I would recommend reading the whole chapter. Really insightful.
Finding just one proverb to write on is like going into a candy story finding just one favorite candy in a store full of candy. So after wandering around the Proverb Candy Store, here is mine: Proverbs 12:22. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”
The word ‘abomination‘ is not a commonly used word in today’s vernacular. The word we us today is ‘to detest something of someone.’ Where I have most often heard the word abomination used is by Christians who misquote and misapply what God says is because they are on some righteous bandwagon [e.g.: the gay-lesbian debate]. They will say that God says that all gay people are ‘an abomination to the Lord’ [attempting to quote a 1611 KJV version that they probably have never read for themselves]. They quote this as if that were the ONLY thing that God detests. Shame on them.
Key Word: Abomination. It means abhorrence, disgust, an action that is vicious, vile; an intense loathing. It is a strong word and God does not sling it around randomly. Other words that help describe abomination would be: outrage, atrocity, repugnance, something detested. The opposite of abomination is love: consider John 3:16. This is the love that God exhibits as He overlooks and puts away our sin. Not only does he condemn the sin [not the sinner] but He eliminates the sin. Wow!
Two reasons that God hates lying enough to call it an abomination:  it breaks His Law. God never lies. God never misspeaks. God never has to go back and correct something He has said.  it is destructive to human society. We do not seek out liars to be friends with. We do not seek out those who we suspect might stab us in the back to share our lives with. No. We want to be friends with those who will be honest with us and that we can place confidence in.
Lying is so easy to do. We will lie because our pride prompts us to protect ourselves. We will lie because our pride tells us that we need to protect others; a mindset of “they cannot handle the truth.”
- Lying is an abomination because it is contrary to God’s nature. In His kingdom and in the final chapter of history as we know it, God says clearly: “… and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” [Rev 21:26-27 NASB]
- Lying is an abomination because it is contrary to community. Lying takes place in community; in relationships no matter how surface. Lying breaks the “imago dei” [Latin: asserts that humans are created in God’s image and therefore have inherent value independent of function.] in which we were created. But wait, is lying all that God considers an abomination; something that He detests vehemently? Consider Pr 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination…” Again, a form of lying in a community setting; e.g.: lying to another in a buyer / seller relationship. God also detests gossiping
- Lying is an abomination because it is contrary to the Scriptures that He has empowered to change our hearts. When God tells us the truth about ourselves, He tells us the whole truth. He leaves nothing to imagination. To tell someone a partial truth from God’s word [like Christians like to do with the gay-lesbian debate] is really lying to make a proud full point. And that is from the pit of Hell!
- Lying is an abomination because it is contrary to the essence of His Son Jesus, who is the embodiment of truth itself. There was always a harmony between the words that Jesus spoke and the inward intents of His heart. We need to be careful that our ‘favorite’ biblical truth is not taught to the exclusion of other biblical truths, producing a dangerous imbalance. We need to be careful that we do not teach a biblical truth in an exaggerated way, often going beyond what Scripture actually says, and in the end this does more harm than good. Many times clear, biblical warnings are ignored or reinterpreted so radically that they lose all impact or effect, leaving people vulnerable and exposed.
- Lying is an abomination because it is contrary to the Holy Spirit who is the One who leads us into all truth as seen in Jesus
The opposite end of the spectrum from lying is loving faithfulness, loving people enough to always act in faithfulness to truth which is the delight of God. John 3:21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Now I know that this is not directed toward those who have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it does clarify, if there was any doubt, about how God sees lying. It should give us pause to consider how well we tell the truth. Are we prone to misspeak and therefore mislead because our pride wants us to have the advantage in the relationship?
“This is my name forever…” Exodus 3:15
At some point in the future there will be one final word from a Name that will end all controversy for all time. We live in an apartment building where some apartments face inward to a courtyard with a fountain. For several nights now there have been loud collections of words being spoken till the wee hours in the morning. Loud obnoxious words without meaning. Words trying to drown out other words with their own noise. Words quoting resources. Words of anger. Words of surprise. Words rolling off alcohol saturated tongues. Words from many languages. Piercing words disturbing us in our sleep. Annoyed words thrown from quiet balconies to shut down the irritating words. Words, words and more words tossed into the night from voices in the dark. As I lay there trying to sleep, often I have asked the question: “In the multitude of words where is the wisdom? There is one Word that points us to the One Name that has the Ancient Wisdom. I AM. “This is my name forever…” Exodus 3:15 Many words try to explain or explain away I AM. Look into the past; examine the present; peer into the future … the Word forever accurately represents the Name. The Word did not grasp the Name on his own. “…he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.” Hebrews 1:4 “…God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name…” Philippians 2:9 So the next time that you hear words flowing around you, remember that this Name provides the final “say so” – the final word of I AM. “…keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus…” Hebrews 12:2 One Word. One Name. One Source. Amen!
Are there angels around us watching us work out our salvation? When we get it right and follow the Lord in faith do they rejoice with singing? Consider: Zephaniah 3:17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
I am finding that God has made life quite simple. When Jesus said that even a little child can understand salvation, it is true. Life is made up of a series of choices. The choices come to us in pairs. The follower of Christ is not faced with multiple choice but a choice of ‘either’ ‘or.’ That is what makes it so simple. When I find myself in a situation I have the opportunity to put feet to my claims of trusting in the Lord. I will do one of two things. Either I can choose my prideful way or I will live by faith.
Choosing to live by faith means that I am going to choose to trust in, rely on and adhere to the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith I am going to rejoice in the fact that God has plans for me because He takes great delight in me. Choosing to go my own prideful way will cause me to view the circumstance from my perspective. I immediately start the process of trying to sort out how to maybe avoid this altogether; or how to escape; or start trying to find the resources I can use; or trying to find any resources that might work; or just try to blame someone and become the ‘victim.’
Making the choice to live in faith or to live outside faith is difficult at first. Choosing to trust God works like this. I find myself in a circumstance that seems to be unbearable. I make the choice to trust God. I choose to believe God that He is not planning to harm me. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In the face of all that is surrounding me, I choose to acknowledge that God is going to do what He says and give me hope by building my faith. This could be through the loss of someone or the loss of my dreams or the loss of a job or the loss of my health or intense marital issues. It matter not what the situation turns out to be each of us. What matters is that I fix my eyes on Jesus. He promises me a future. He promises me He will quiet my troubled heart with His love…but I have to let go of my hearts’ desires.
The problem is as old as the human race. Even though God created us we still think that we know better. We think that God is not listening. We think that God does not care about me…that I am too insignificant or not good enough. These are all lies from the Accuser. We fail to see things from God’s perspective. We fail to lift our eyes and by faith hear God rejoicing with the angels when we grasp His ways.
Think about this quote from George MacDonald: “Those who think their affairs too insignificant for God’s regard, will justify themselves in lying crushed under their seeming ruin. Either we live in the heart of an eternal thought, or we are the product and sport of that which is lower than we.” Read that quote again. Are you being the product and sport of that which is lower than you are? Do you know who is lower than you are?
Here is the narrative about what Jesus did when He was tempted:
Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Mat 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Mat 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was marked by His baptism by John the Baptist. But before He could be allowed to start, there was one more test from God His Father. The Holy Spirit led [some translations will read “drove”] Jesus into the wilderness. This was not a friendly place to be. He was alone and there were wild animals that lived in the area. Once the Holy Spirit had taken Jesus to the location picked by God, Jesus started a fast that lasted 40-days. But the fasting was not the primary trial. After 40-days, a malevolent angel approaches Him.
We are not given much data from the Scriptures as to the physical appearance of the devil after his fall. But the words used in the Bible give some clues. Devil means slanderer in the Greek. In the language of Hebrew, it means “adversary.” He is an arch-enemy of God and is determined to undermine man’s spiritual interest. Matthew’s narrative is focused on what Jesus experienced and not on the evil one providing the temptations. It is clear from the narrative that the devil wants Jesus to act on His own outside the will of His Father. Jesus makes it clear by His responses that anyone can keep themselves from temptation if they focus on God and the Word that He has given us. Every quote used by Jesus was well known by the Jewish people. There is a clear lesson here for us today…but on with the narrative.
The devil thinks that Jesus will surely fail during one of three temptations. First the accuser tries to get Jesus to take matters into His own hands by creating bread…40-days without food would make for a famished man [v.3]. Jesus responds with a God-principle and does not take the bait.
Next the accuser tries to tempt Jesus into manipulating God to respond to Jesus doing an act of suicide. Again Jesus quotes another God-principle…reminding the devil that he was on dangerous ground.
Having failed twice, the devil now tries the temptation of power because he knows that power corrupts men because of their pride. One can almost sense from the narrative that the devil feels sure that this is the temptation that means success for him. But Jesus gives a command for Satan to immediately leave followed by a reminder of the 1st commandment…a command from God Himself. Satan leaves on Jesus’ command but his pride causes him to wait for another opportunity.
There would be other opportunities. Jesus walked and talked a life before God that was based on choice. He did not let hunger which put Him into a weakened state to and dominate His thinking. He kept His eyes on His Father. We face choices all the time. Do we think about where they might be coming from? Satan wants to accuse us. He wants to divide us. He wants us to take our eyes off of Jesus and look elsewhere for help. Everything about our life is a matter of choice. Follow Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.