Sunday, April 3, 2016

"Learning from the mistakes of the past …"

Day #95

Scripture Reading:  II Chronicles 25 - 28 ...

Why do people do it?  The longer I live the more clearly I see the utter foolishness of mankind's rejection of the one true God, which some days leads me to become so frustrated with people that I long for God to reveal Himself in such a powerful way that people would HAVE to take notice!!  Of course, that would mean Jesus would have to return ... and that would mean that millions upon millions of people would face the same fate that many in our reading today faced:  the swift and awesome judgment of God.  So very often these days I think of mercy.  I think of God's mercy for me and of His desire that I show the same mercy to people that HE has shown to me in Christ.

Reading through the lives of the kings is always a bit depressing.  There are those rare moments when God worked in one of the kings of Judah to accomplish some good, but even then you still see glimpses of the remaining sin of the human heart that insists on doing its own thing and going its own way.  King Joash (Chapter 24) had done many good things while Jehoiada, the priest, was still alive, but when he died, Joash actually had Jehoiada's son stoned to death.  Joash, too, would die in disgrace, and his son, Amaziah would take the throne.

It was said of Amaziah that "he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly" (25:2).  Isn't that a commentary on so many who "believe in God" today?  Like many of the other kings, Amaziah didn't trust in the Lord, but actually hired soldiers from Israel to help him fight against his enemies.  God wasn't impressed.  He told Amaziah to send them back, but when he did, these soldiers (who had already been paid) attacked some cities in Judah and killed 3,000 people and carried off plunder for themselves (25:13).  Such ungodly activity is "normal" for the sinful nature of men whose hearts are not on serving the LORD, our God.

Yet, what is even more astounding than such behavior is that of King Amaziah.  Having defeated the Edomites, "he brought back the gods of the people of Seir.  He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them" (25:14).  God asks him the logical question:  "Why do you consult this people's gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?" (25:15).  Throughout the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah God sent prophets to call His people to return to Him and to warn of judgment if they didn't.  Rarely did they listen ... and all of this is an illustration for those who are God's people TODAY!

It's so easy to go on about our lives and forget that God speaks to us today through His Word.  The more you read God's Word and know God's character, the more you pray and seek His wisdom and guidance, the more you hear His voice as He directs you through each day.  But how few listen?  Being devoted to God requires shutting out the other "voices" and being devoted to Him.  That's why Paul writes, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Colossians 4:2).

After Amaziah died, his son, Uzziah, became king in Judah.  His was one of the longest reigns - fifty-two years; and we read that "he sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God.  As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success" (26:5).  People look for a "formula for success" these days ... here it is!  Seek the LORD!!  Pray for wisdom.  Devote yourself to serving God every day.  Live for HIM, rather than yourself.  God was blessing Uzziah and He gave him "fame and fortune" and victory over his enemies.  So what do you think happened then?  "After Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.  He was unfaithful to the LORD his God" (26:16).

Pride is itself such a foolish response to success in life.  Anything good that you and I accomplish is done only through the wisdom and strength of God.  Our "boasting" can only be that God is with us and that in His grace He has used us for His glory.  We can accomplish nothing by our own strength and our wisdom is like nothing compared to His!  Uzziah fell prey to pride like so many before and after him because he took his eyes off of God and looked at himself and his accomplishments.  Never ... never follow that example!  It leads to ruin every single time.  In his foolish pride, Uzziah entered the temple to offer his own sacrifices and God struck him with leprosy ... and that's how he died.

At least his son, Jotham, learned from his mistake.  But the people of Judah continued in their sin and rebellion.  As we read through Kings and Chronicles don't you long to get to the New Testament?!  Don't you long to hear some GOOD NEWS?!!  Yet, even in the Old Testament God offered hope through the words of the prophets for those who drew near to Him.  God always has a remnant, a small group of people in whom He is at work by His Spirit.  Are YOU one of them?  Each of us makes many choices each day ... hundreds of them each week.  Where is God in the midst of your choices?  

Though there were certainly no perfect kings in Judah or Israel, there is a pattern of blessing for obedience and judgment for disobedience that follows both the kings of Judah and the people of Judah. Thank God that He does not always deal with us as our actions deserve.  Jotham's son, Ahaz, became king after him and he turned away from the LORD and worshiped idols.  God used Pekah, king of Israel, to bring His judgment on Ahaz and Judah, and here we see another important lesson:  a lesson on MERCY.

God had used Pekah to judge King Ahaz and Judah.  King Ahaz was allowed to live, but instead of thanking God for His mercy, "in his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the LORD" (28:22).  Don't repeat the mistakes of those in the past who ignored God's warnings and offered Him half-hearted devotion!  Devote yourself to the Lord, your God, remembering the words of the prophet, Micah, "He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD requires of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

"Heavenly Father, You have placed within my heart the desire to please You, to follow Your commands, to be merciful to others as You have been merciful to me. Fill me with Your patience and balance my zeal for Your glory with Your love for those yet lost and in bondage to sin.  I humble myself in Your presence and thank You for Your grace.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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