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2 Chronicles 32:1-33:13 ~ Romans 15:23-16:9
Psalm 25:16-22 ~ Proverbs 20:16-18
Old Testament - Well, it was bound to happen. Assyria conquered Israel. They were bound to go after Judah / Jerusalem soon enough. Tough to stop an ego / power like that. It's "never enough". So, we get the bold boasts before the walls of Jerusalem by King Sennacherib of Assyria's representatives in Second Chronicles 32. Verse 14 includes this boast, which probably didn't make God too happy - "Name just one time when any god, anywhere, was able to rescue his people from me! What makes you think your God can do any better?"
It's great to see that Hezekiah took all of this to God in prayer in verse 20 - "Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven." Good move! How often in our lives today, when challenges come our way, do we take the challenges everywhere else BUT to God? Wouldn't it be easier to take them directly to God? Why do we turn to alcohol or drugs or food or worrying or whatever - can we simply take our challenges to the one true living God who can actually do something with them? Below is a painting of "The destruction of Sennacherib and his army" by the artist Rubens (1577-1640), which is currently at the Alte Pinakothek Museum in Munich -
Hezekiah later in this chapter receives envoys from Babylon. You'll recall from our Second Kings readings (full details are in Second Kings 20:12-20) that unfortunately, Hezekiah is a bit too hospitable with these envoys. He believes showing off his wealth will prove that he has worldly power and that the Babylonians will respect him and Judah. Isaiah sees that Hezekiah is relying on worldly wealth and not God, and Isaiah delivers a word from God that Judah will be exiled to Babylon. Indeed, this comes true in 115 years from when Isaiah delivers this word. How about us, in our lives today – do we try to impress people with our worldly wealth or toys or stuff, like Hezekiah was trying to impress the Babylonians? And further, do we actually try to rely on this worldly stuff rather than rely on God?
New Testament - Paul's words in Romans 15 verse 30 stood out to me today - "Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit." The thing that stood out to me in these verses is Paul's encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Rome to pray for him. Not only to pray for him - but to "join me in my struggle." That is pretty powerful to consider. That we can actually join someone in their struggle - in their work for the Kingdom of God - by praying for them! And I'll be honest - I do not do this enough. I rarely join my pastors and family and friends and spiritual mentors in their struggle by praying to God for them. I rarely join my missionary friends in their struggle by praying for them. I rarely join my brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted in other countries for being Christian by praying for them. I simply do not pray for others enough. And in not doing so, I honestly think I am missing out on something powerful. I am missing out on joining them in their struggle for the Kingdom of God! My selfishness in not praying for others doing Kingdom work in this world is my loss. But - this actually sounds selfish - "my missing out - my loss." Sometimes I guess I try to trick myself into doing something good (praying for others) by attaching a selfish reason (so I won't miss out). The truth here is that our pastors and priests and missionaries and spiritual mentors need us to take up the struggle with them by praying to God for them. Even Paul needed this prayer coverage - and he asked for it! I am afraid that too often our pastors and priests and missionaries and others doing God's work may not ask us for our prayers. But they need them! So - are you regularly praying for others in your life who are in ministry? Are you joining them in their struggle? Will you begin today / tonight by praying for someone in your life that you know who is in ministry? Will you take up the struggle with them?
Psalms - Psalm 25 verse 22 really jumped out at me today - "O God, ransom Israel from all its troubles." As I read this, the Christmas carol, "O Come O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel" comes to my mind. Indeed, God would answer this prayer of King David's and send his Son to ransom Israel.
Proverbs - I love Proverbs 20 verse 17! What a great analogy - "Stolen bread tastes sweet, but it turns to gravel in the mouth." Stealing is obviously a sin. And the spoils of this sin may taste sweet at first - but quickly turn to inedible gravel in our mouths. Well, I think this analogy works really with any sin we might commit. For one brief moment it seems sweet. But it quickly rots! Why do we sin in the first place? I think we're obviously looking for something. We're thinking the sin is going to deliver us something we're missing. But, of course, it doesn't deliver. It's empty. And sin can only pay the wage of decay and death. Only God can deliver what we mistakenly look to sin to deliver. Will you repent of sins you are committing? Will you instead turn to God to deliver what you are looking for? He will deliver. Will you stop building upon any mountains of sin in your life that turn quickly to nothing but mountains of gravel?
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!