Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked!"

Day #97

Scripture Reading:  II Chronicles 33 - 36 ...

Reading the records of the kings reveals the principle which the Apostle Paul spoke about when he wrote to the believers in Galatia:  "Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).  God had chosen the people of Israel and of Judah as His people, but those who rejected God found that He also kept His Word when they disobeyed Him ... destruction soon followed!

First it was Manasseh, a young boy of twelve when he became king.  His reign in Jerusalem lasted for fifty-five years and he began his reign by doing evil in the eyes of the LORD.  His father, Hezekiah, had been a relatively good king when compared to many of the other kings of Judah and Israel.  He had demolished many of the idols of the false gods that the nations around them worshiped, and that some of the people of Judah had worshiped, too.  But Manasseh built new altars to false gods and practiced astrology, the worship of the stars, along with sorcery, divination and witchcraft and consulted mediums and spiritists, thus provoking the LORD to anger (33:3-6).  He even placed carved idols in the temple of the LORD, where God had said He would place His Name.

It was said of Manasseh that he "led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites" (33:9).  So God brought the Assyrians against them and they carried Manasseh off in shackles and took him to Babylon.  Then an amazing thing happened:  "In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.  And when he prayed to Him the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.  Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God" (33:12-13).  What a change of character and attitude!  Perhaps Manasseh realized that the words of Solomon in Proverbs  3:34 are true:  "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Now Manasseh got rid of the foreign gods and the statues and idols he had placed in the temple.  There had, perhaps, never been such a change in a king, from evil to good.  Surely the Spirit of God was behind the transformation in Manasseh.  The same could not be said of Manasseh's son, Amon, who reigned for only two years.  Amon did evil and did not humble himself, increasing his guilt daily, and his officials conspired against him and assassinated him in his palace.  Then God was again gracious to Judah and Amon's son, Josiah, became king at the age of eight.  Once again, God proved that wisdom does not always come with age.  Josiah reigned for thirty-one years and did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.  God's blessing followed!

Josiah was as close to a "great king" as you find in the latter kings of Judah.  He did something that no other king had done with such zeal and intention:  He celebrated the Passover and commanded all of Judah to do the same.  Josiah's revival followed the reforms he had made, beginning with the restoration of the temple.  You need to remember that the place of worship was the CENTER of life for God's holy people ... those whom He set apart for Himself.

As the temple had been abandoned, so God had also been ignored, and Israel and Judah bore the consequences.  Now, as the workers restored the temple, they FOUND the Book of the Law, the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses.  The book was brought to Josiah and read to him, and when he heard it, he tore his robes and HUMBLED himself before the LORD.  The people had not kept the law or celebrated the Passover.  Josiah renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD and called the people to serve the LORD, their God.  "As long as Josiah lived, they did not fail to follow the LORD, the God of their fathers" (34:33).  "The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah" (35:17-18).

And God was pleased.  The Passover pointed to the sacrifice Jesus would make hundreds of years later.  It was intended to remind the people continually of the need for forgiveness in order for God to dwell among them.  God had shown His grace in so many ways to these people, yet not until Josiah had the people responded as they did in this brief moment in time.  Revival reveals the work of God’s Spirit in the hearts of His people. Josiah's revival was a wonderful thing, but it would be short-lived.

Ironically, the celebration of the Passover, pointing to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, was followed by an attack from the king of Egypt.  Josiah was killed in battle and his son was made king ... for only three months ... and the downward spiral of Judah began.  Over the next twenty-plus years King Nebuchadnezzar took the remnant to Babylon, as King Zedekiah's refused to humble himself before the LORD.  With the nation crumbling around him, the king "would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel ... and all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which He had consecrated in Jerusalem" (36:13-14).

We read, "the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through His messengers again and again ... but they mocked God's messengers, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against His people and there was no remedy" (36:15-16).  Do not be deceived!  God is not mocked ... without consequences!!  Death, destruction and seventy years of captivity awaited them.  Still, God was not finished with these people.  He had promised to bring the Savior from the line of David and that is what He would do!

God always keeps for Himself a remnant ... it was true then, it is true now.  Those who humble themselves before God, confessing their sin and trusting in His promises, will be exalted.  Praise God for His grace!

"O Lord, my God, You are worthy of my praise and I give You thanks for saving me through the shed blood of Your own Son, my Passover Lamb, Jesus!  As You have revived my heart, so continue Your work in me that I may never turn away from You, but rather find my greatest joy in celebrating Your love and Your presence as I live each day to serve and glorify You, my God and my Savior, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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