Three Pauses

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In 2 Kings 20 we read about Hezekiah becoming terminally ill and praying to God to be healed.
“Please LORD, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly and have done what pleases You.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 2 Kings 20:3
God hears, answers his prayer and send a message through the prophet Isaiah.
“Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, ‘This is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the LORD’s temple. 6 I will add 15 years to your life. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for My sake and for the sake of My servant David.’” 2 Kings 20:5-6
This is such a beautiful image. God saying, “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears” brings up swells of thanksgiving and praise in my heart. We don’t always receive the answers we request in our prayers like Hezekiah did this time, but God always hears our prayers and sees our tears. We might be tempted to stop here at the miracle of God granting him 15 more years of life, but let’s keep going.
While Hezekiah was sick, the son of the king of Babylon (Merodach-baladan) sent him letters and a gift wishing him well. Hezekiah thought this was a very kind gesture and invited Merodach-baladan to visit his house and showed him every treasure in it. In fact, there was nothing in his palace and in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. (v. 13)
This was my first pause. Why would Hezekiah do such a thing? When someone sends me a birthday gift or soup when I’m sick I usually just write them a thank you note. I don’t invite them over to my house and show them all my jewelry, plates, lamps and grandma’s china. I wonder if Hezekiah was feeling prideful (instead of thankful) that the Lord had saved him and just wanted to show off all he had in his kingdom. I’m not sure, but the story gets more interesting. . . .

Isaiah hears from the Lord once again and delivers the word of the Lord to Hezekiah after hearing about his show n’ tell.
‘The time will certainly come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the LORD. 18 ‘Some of your descendants who come from you will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’” (v. 17-18)
Wow, Hezekiah’s pride session just gave away the locations of the kingdom’s treasures. This is important because on the day the Babylonians would overtake his land, they would be able to march in and know exactly where to find it all. Then, Hezekiahs’ response gave me my second pause.
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good,” for he thought: Why not, if there will be peace and security during my lifetime? (v. 19)
What? Hezekiah gets a heads up on what will happen for future generations and says, “OK, that’s cool.” All while thinking “at least everything will be OK while I’m around.” My selfish alert just went off again. I think of my Dad who mourns for the way this country is currently headed with terrorism and corroded morals. He mourns not for himself (he is 87), but for me and my children who will have to live in the midst of all this mess and turmoil. Notice how Hezekiah said one thing and thought another. I think if Hezekiah said “what you have spoken is good” because he thought he deserved it after his prideful show n’ tell he would have thought “I really messed this up for future generations of my people. I need to keep my pride more in check.” Instead, he thought “Oh well, at least things will be peaceful in my lifetime.”
The definition of pride is: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired (bing online dictionary).
My third and final pause is this: How does my pride effect those around me in the short-term and the long? My children, husband, friends, family and all I come in contact with? How often has pride kept me from doing the right thing in God’s sight? Kept me from being a light in this dark world?
God, please shine a light on my pride so that every time it starts to sneak into my heart I recognize it quickly, pray for you to overcome it and remember that it is only by your power, your might and your strength that I can stand tall and be a light in this dark world. All I have, need and desire should be from you and you alone. I’m so grateful that it’s not up to me alone, that you walk each step with me, hear me and are always found in times of trouble. Amen

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Psalm 46:1

The Only Help

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Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the LORD’s help. Isaiah 31:1
I realize these passages describe the fact that God’s people where relying more on other countries and their resources for protection than they were God, but it made we realize once again how often we are just like Israel in our personal lives. Couldn’t this verse also read:
Woe to those who turn to shopping, busyness and depend only on themselves. They trust in self and the abundance of material things instead of looking to God for provision, protection and build up earthly treasures instead of Heavenly ones. Woe to those who have forgotten to honor the ways and laws of the Lord and have allowed their hearts to be swayed by earthly desires.
That makes it a little more personal doesn’t it? How often do we skip the most important step when faced with daily decisions big and small? How often do we allow pride to overtake our hearts so we fail to seek God’s desires above our own selfish desires? Yikes, right?! If you had my Bible in your hand, it would amaze you to see how many times the word “Yikes!” is written in the margin. It’s passages of scripture are a powerful and bold reminder that we must turn from other idols and only serve God. Repentance is non-negotiable! It’s a must! The Lord alone is the only one who can save us, redeem us and complete us.
Woe to those of us who forget to seek the face of God daily, but thankfully we have Jesus! So we can have faith that when we forget . . . . there is the blood of Christ that was shed for us so that we can have forgiveness and be reconciled back to Him with a simple, but humble request.

LORD, be gracious to us! We wait for You.
Be our strength every morning
and our salvation in time of trouble. Isaiah 33:2

Fall Away

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Reading the book of Isaiah has had a big impact on me. Over and over again it reminds us not just how far God’s people fell from His ways and laws, but how big and powerful God’s anger can grow when we continually turn away from Him after receiving warning after warning and 2nd chance after 2nd chance. It’s not a side of God I think about as often as I probably should. Isaiah was a prophet sent to warn the people to repent so they could avoid calamity, but the residents of Jerusalem would not listen. Isaiah 5:20-24 says this of the people:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight. 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, who are fearless at mixing beer, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deprive the innocent of justice. . . . . . for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of Hosts, and they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

It’s not this that strikes fear in my heart, it’s how much the residents of Jerusalem remind me of our country presently and how much the Lord’s anger burns against those who have rejected His instruction and despised His words. I won’t go into every detail here (I encourage you to read more of Isaiah on your own), but what Isaiah shares with the inhabitants of the land about what will come if there is no repentance isn’t pretty: mountains quake, corpses are like bodies in the street, cities lie in ruin, the land is desolate, etc. (Isaiah 25-30 is just a small part). Honestly, even though this is about God’s people from long ago, it has brought up some dialogue in my mind with God about redemption and direction our nation and the world are taking. Where do my family and I fit into all of this as we try to live lives worthy of the gospel. All that said, here are the words God revealed to Isaiah:

 For this is what the Lord said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people: 12 Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. 13 You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe. Isaiah 8:11-13

I wonder if Isaiah felt as I have when he received the news of the impending destruction? Did fear begin to creep into his soul? Was he wondering where he fit into this story and why bother trying to save people who didn’t want to be saved? I’m so thankful for God’s words in Isaiah 8. They are a reminder to me, and all of us, that as Christ followers there is only ONE we should follow and fear – Our Lord and Savior – all else should fall away. The ending of our story has already been written. The Lord has won! He has conquered so we need not fear what others fear. Amen!

 

Send ME!

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Recently, my husband and I had the privilege of being at home a few nights alone while our children were visiting their grandparents. On our second evening together, we sat in the window of a new Raleigh restaurant we decided to try at the last-minute. It was quiet and lovely with a view of the street. We had just finished eating our dinner when I looked up and noticed an elderly woman who was trying to traverse the gravel drive and cross the street with a package in one hand and a cane in another. She was shaky and I knew if she fell she would never make the dinner party she was surly trying to attend. As I watched, I heard God whisper, “Who should I send?” I quickly and apologetically looked at my husband and said, “I’ve got to go. I’m going to help that woman cross and street and get into the restaurant. I’ll be back.” As I approached I explained my desire to help her make it to her destination. She graciously allowed me to carry her package and took my arm as we slowly made our way to another restaurant nearby. As it turned out, she had made a very special effort to attend a dear friends birthday dinner. I got her all the way to her seat, wished her friend a happy birthday and rushed back to my husband. It’s not always convenient to answer God’s call, it can even be a little intimidating and awkward (like the day I prayed with a woman who was getting her first mammogram in the middle of the waiting room while we were clothed in our matching pink tops), but OH MY GOODNESS it is always such a blessing and feels amazing to know that God can use this sinful and unworthy servant to do His great works.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me. Isaiah 6:8
Unlike Moses and Jeremiah, Isaiah was ready to roll when God called upon him to share His message with Israel. I love how Isaiah never questioned God or his own capabilities. He probably knew that his message would not result in leading God’s people to repentance to avoid destruction and catastrophe, but he went anyway. He shared, he prophesied, he tried! Most of all, he answered God’s call. “Who should I send? Who will go for us?” said the Lord. I pray we all stand up tall and answer, “Send me, God! Send me!”