Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reflections on the Old Testament: Continued-by Ruth Verrinder

“What have you to do with peace? Turn around and follow me.”

--2 Kings 9:18 (NKJV)

Before we are saved, we have nothing to do with peace. True peace can only be found in the Lord. He draws us to Himself and we ask: “Is it peace?” Then He says: “What have you to do with peace?” (For we are sinners.) We cower, because we do not know peace and fear that we cannot, but then He says: “Turn around and follow Me.”

Oh, blessed words! Turn from the path of chaos and enter the peace and rest of the Lord. Yes, it is peace. And when we go up to Him, we will not go back (2 Kings 9:20).

 “’But what shall we do…?’ And the man of God answered, ‘The LORD is able to give you much more than this.’”

--2 Chron. 25:9 (NKJV)

We should never worry about material things—“what we shall eat, what we shall wear”—for “the Lord is able to give you much more than this.”

He is ready, as soon as we look to Him, to shower us with spiritual riches, ten thousand times more precious than any worldly riches we may possess. If we appear, in this world, destitute, without a rag to our name, but are filled with the Lord, we are a great deal richer than many people.

“All…that a man purposes in his heart to bring into the house of the LORD…let them repair the damages of the temple, wherever any dilapidation is found.”

--2 Kings 12:4-5 (NKJV)

We, as Christians, are commissioned by God to give Him our all, that the damages of His temple, “wherever any dilapidation is found,” may be repaired. That is the purpose the Lord places in the hearts of His children.

“They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods.”

--2 Kings 17:33

It is not enough to simply fear the Lord—we must serve Him. Proverbs says: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD” (emphasis added), but we cannot stay in stage one forever. Good, you fear God; now continue on. Good, He is your Savior; now make Him your Lord. We have been fed the milk of the Word, but God bids us proceed to the meat. And why is it that we linger? It is indubitably because we are serving our own gods. Anything that keeps us from going deeper with God is a false god that we have put above Him. And, though we may fear the LORD, we can never serve Him, as long as that barrier remains. “You cannot serve God and mammon,” as Christ says. Whom will you serve? “Your own gods” or God Himself? It shouldn’t be a difficult decision. It shouldn’t be a decision at all.

“He…broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.”

--2 Kings 18:4 (NKJV)

The Bronze Serpent was a good thing, until the Israelites began to worship it rather than God.

There are a great many “good things” in this world, but we must remember that they are only things—they have no power. Anything that we place ahead of God is evil, and must be broken into pieces. This could be something that is actually considered good: family, Christian literature, and, yes, religion. For example, we should not worship the Bible, but rather the God of whom it speaks. The whole purpose of Christianity is putting God above all else, and bending only to His will.

Be careful not to worship the things of God rather than god Himself.

It is ironic that Sennacherib (see 2 Kings 18 and 19), after mocking the powerlessness of the foreign nations’ false gods and blaspheming the true God, should meet his death while worshiping in the temple of his false god (see 2 Kings 19:37).

That was God’s way of manifesting His superiority and reality as He dealt justice upon a wicked man. There are severe consequences for blaspheming God, as we see over and over throughout the Bible. We should never take such a sin too lightly.

We see a lot concerning words in chapters 18 and 19 of 2 Kings; Sennacherib’s boast and blasphemy, Hezekiah’s prayers, and finally the word of the LORD through Isaiah.

The LORD says, in 2 Kings 19:6, “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.”

We should never fear the words of men, for they have no power. God diverted the forces of Assyria through a rumor (see 2 Kings 19:7)—that is to say, words. Moreover, the LORD’s prophecies, as we see repeatedly throughout the Bible, are always fulfilled. “The Word of the Lord is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Upon hearing Hezekiah’s teary prayer in 2 Kings chapter 20, He chose to grant him another fifteen years of life—which seems only fair, considering Hezekiah’s righteousness and loyalty to God. And yet, if those fifteen years had not been granted, the Babylonian envoys would not have spied out the land (see 2 Kings 20:12-13) and Manasseh, who was probably the most wicked king to rule in Judah, would not have been born.

The LORD certainly foresaw this, so why did He not stick with the original plan and let Hezekiah die (2 Kings 20:1)?

The answer is simple. Hezekiah followed the LORD, therefore his request was granted and he enjoyed fifteen years of “peace and truth” (as he says in 2 Kings 20:19, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”).

On the other hand, the people of Judah were not so loyal. They followed every whim and wile of their kings, who, many times, did not serve the LORD. As punishment for this, God paved the way for Manasseh’s evil reign and Babylon’s attack by giving His servant Hezekiah an extra fifteen years of life. In short, those fifteen years were a blessing and reward for Hezekiah and a curse and punishment for the people of Judah.

King Josiah was God’s way of repairing—though only temporarily—the harm done by Manasseh. God never completely destroys anything, except evil; He always leaves a remnant, a reminder of His love and mercy.

“Look, because the LORD God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven.”

--2 Chronicles 28:9 (NKJV)

God has not called us to be fanatics. When God delivers opportunities into our hands, we think we have the right to rule them, to bend them to our will and take them as far as we like. This is not God’s plan. Yes, He delivers it into our hands, but it is still His. Everything we have is given to us by God, with the sole purpose of giving it back to Him—it is only in His hands that anything is of value.

The correct approach when God delivers something into our hands—indeed, the approach the Israelites should have taken in 2 Chron. 28—would be to receive it quietly, to look up at God and wait patiently for His orders, to fulfil these orders, and to humbly give it all back to Him.

“Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys.”

--2 Chron. 28:15
Jesus Christ designates His servants to minister to the captives of sin—just as He did. They are spiritually naked, hungry, thirsty, filthy, and feeble, and Christ is able to satisfy all these needs—let Him do so through you, His servant.