That’s Ridiculous!

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy”

2 Kings 5:3

These few words from a young Jewish slave girl led to the salvation of a leprous commander of the Syrian army, Naaman. Eventually the leprosy would make it impossible for him to hold this position or he might be killed in battle.

The young girl’s words to her mistress were passed to her husband. Naaman then spoke to the king of Syria. Surprisingly each person along the line believed the words of a young slave girl. Perhaps we underestimate the power of a word spoken in or out of season. This girl apparently spoke out of compassion and may not have thought more would come of it.

It may be that we think evangelism means sharing the whole Gospel story at one time. If the opportunity affords that is great but such occasions may be rare. It may be that we sometimes say nothing because the circumstances don’t allow for a full explanation at that time. This young girl shows us that our part may be just a few words of hope at a time of perceived or real need.

Naaman was without hope regarding his leprosy. There was no known cure. He was a proud man so the Lord took him through steps that humbled him until he knew that the only God is the God of Israel (v 15). Sometimes a little nudge is all that is required to get the ball rolling. We may only have a moment to say one or two sentences but that may be enough.

These few words triggered a whole series of events that reveal so much about our God, about people and the way of salvation. Eventually, not without hesitation, Naaman humbled himself and obeyed the word of the Lord even though it seemed ridiculous in the extreme. When, in limited faith, he obeyed God’s word, God healed him. Then he glorified God.

Moses asked the people to look in faith at a serpent on a pole (Numbers 21) and Joshua asked the people to march a total of thirteen times around Jericho (Joshua 6). These also seemed ridiculous but God was, and always will be, faithful to His word.

We may make just a comment or two and then God will send it on its way. The present circumstances may stir some to seek the only effective remedy. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Ask and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7).

The Lord Tests our Heart

“God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” 2 Chronicles 32:31

King Hezekiah went further than any of the other kings of Judah in turning the people back to worshipping the Lord. “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord” and “he removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it. … He trusted the Lord … he held fast to the Lord” (2 Kings 18:3-6). Hezekiah did all he could to rid Judah of idolatry and return the people to worshipping the Lord. For this reason the Lord was pleased to bless him and preserve Judah for His own name’s sake (19:34).

There came a day when Hezekiah was so sick that he sought a word from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah as to whether he would recover or not. He was told that he would not recover. The Lord put this test to him to reveal what was really in his heart. He didn’t know that it was a test or that it was from the Lord.

We should note that this test came after a life that testified of his love and dedication to the Lord. There was still a matter of the heart that the Lord wished to address before Hezekiah came into His presence. Hezekiah asked for more time on earth before he came into the Lord’s presence. His motive is revealed in subsequent events.

After he recovered from the illness he began to boast in the prosperous life the Lord had given him. As an expression of that he displayed all the wealth he had acquired during his reign. In so doing he accepted personal praise for the nation’s peace and prosperity. He was in fact stealing glory that belonged to the Lord.

The test the Lord brought to Hezekiah in the latter part of his life revealed that pride was still alive and well in his heart. His act of pride and boasting was the final straw that led to Judah’s exile. The Lord did delay the exile because Hezekiah gave evidence of repentance when he believed the word of the Lord (2 Kings 20:18, 19).

Just because we have been walking with the Lord many years is no reason to suspect that we will not face more tests to see where our heart really lies. In reality, it is our latter years that our motive for serving the Lord in the earlier years is revealed. That which we have sown we shall reap up to one hundredfold. We may conceal bitterness, anger, envy, jealousy, pride and a host of other secret sins but if they are not dealt with in confession and repentance in our earlier years they will manifest their fruit in our later years. Likewise, genuine faith, trust, humility and submission to the will of God will also bear its fruit.

If we think we can step back from serving the Lord in our latter years it is because we think Jesus owes us something for our years of service. This may reveal that we have a big heap of wood, hay and straw for His fire and not so much gold, silver and precious stones. It may also reveal that we have been serving Him for our benefit and not out of love and gratitude. Let us put it right through confession while we can and before we reap a harvest we do not want.

The Best Outcome

“I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord”   2 Kings 22:8

It is always an interest of mine to notice the effects one generation has on the next to see what impact there is. Key to this is to discover who influenced a person when they were very young. In the Bible it is sometimes impossible to know and other times it may be little more than a guess but there are some clues given.

Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king of Judah. His father, Ahaz, had introduced Judah to a syncretic religion, a blend of the Law given through Moses and other religions of the region. We are told that Hezekiah’s mother was Abi, a daughter of Zechariah. This suggests that Hezekiah may have been influenced more by his grandfather (on his mother’s side) than by his father.

Hezekiah went further than any king since David to cleanse Judah of false religion. He developed an intimate walk with the Lord, trusting and obeying the Word of God.

Assyria had already displaced the northern tribes of Israel when Sennacherib came against Judah. Hezekiah demonstrated his trust in the Lord by resisting Sennacherib and seeking counsel from the Lord.

Later, however, when told by the Lord of his imminent death Hezekiah asked for healing. The Lord gave him an extra fifteen years. Almost right away Hezekiah demonstrated that pride was the reason he did not want to go and be with the Lord. He loved the glory of wealth and power and took credit for his success forgetting that it was the Lord who had given him all. God forbid that we should prefer to remain in this world rather than be present with the Lord.

Hezekiah turned from trusting the Lord and it was in that time that he bore a son, Manasseh, who would become king at just twelve years of age. He was raised by a father who was attempting to steal glory that rightly belonged to the Lord and had turned from following the Lord.

The outworking of that is that Manasseh did evil, returning Judah to a syncretic religious state. His son Amon was born and raised in that environment but a few years before his death Manasseh repented and turned to the Lord. It was in these years of revival that his grandson, Josiah, was born.

Amon was a wicked and evil king but fortunately reigned only two years. Josiah began to reign at just eight years of age. He may have been influenced by Manasseh’s repentance and did more to cleanse Judah than any before him.

How each of us live our lives will affect our children and grandchildren. The best outcome for our children and grandchildren will always be if we continually trust, obey and walk with the Lord.

Prospering Under Wrath

“But still the people acted corruptly” (2 Chronicles 27:2)

It may often be assumed that people adopt the behaviour and attitudes of their leader but that is an unwarranted assumption. Whenever we read of or hear a sermon on the kings of Judah and Israel the focus is usually on the king. But did the people always see eye to eye with their king?

In the case of King Jotham the people disregarded his godliness. This should open our minds to the fact that a good king does not necessarily mean the people do right and that an evil king does not necessarily mean the people do evil.

Jotham was unable to remove the “high places” (the places of pagan worship 2 Kings 15:35) in Judah and this was possibly because the people resisted any effort to do so.

Jotham’s heart was right before God and the Lord graciously prospered him and the kingdom for his sake in spite of the corruption of the people. The people did not realise that though they were prospering the wrath of God hung over them restrained only for the sake of a godly king.

Sadly there have been and are churches that are just like Judah was at that time. They have a godly leader but they act corruptly. They may sincerely believe that their prosperity is God’s response to their righteous living when such is not the case.

A godly pastor does not produce a godly church and neither does a pagan pastor make a pagan church – though both will exert considerable influence. It is the corporate body that determines the character of the church. Each person choosing to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ individually will produce a corporate godly church.

Is it possible that you are receiving God’s blessing because of the faithfulness of others while you continue to worship the gods of this world? You cannot serve and worship God while going after and rejoicing in worldly pleasures. Let us be very careful in our assessment of the reason and source of God’s gracious blessing.

Esau suffered because he sought the blessing and not the One from whom all blessings come. The outcome was that he ended up with neither.  Give priority to seeking the kingdom of God bearing in mind that the kingdom is where the King is. The true blessings will come when we seek Him and not the blessings.

Prayer Hazards

“Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh.” (2 Kings 24:3)

Last week we noted how refreshing it was to read of a king who sought counsel of the LORD. How is it then that the sins of his son were the ‘last straw’ with the Lord’s patience?

Young or prospective parents would do well to note the circumstances of this grievous transition.

Manasseh’s father, King Hezekiah, had been faithful to the LORD; however, in his later years something changed and it is revealed in a prayer.
There are a number of prayers in the Bible in which the motive was sinful yet the LORD gave the request. In each case there was a sad consequence. Israel prayed for a king like the nations around them, contrary to the will of God, and He gave them their request to their sorrow. Gideon prayed for signs and God gave him his request. Signs are for the unbelieving and Gideon’s family suffered grievously because of his unbelief.

In Hezekiah we have a similar situation. He is sick and had been informed he will die so he pleads with the LORD to live. The Lord grants his desire. Can there be anything wrong with praying to live longer? It pleased the LORD to raise Dorcas from the dead through Peter (Acts 9:36-43) so what could be wrong with Hezekiah praying such a prayer?

The answer is in motive. It isn’t what we pray but why we pray what we pray.

As we read on we discover that the motive for Hezekiah’s prayer was not for the good of God’s people but so that Hezekiah could boast of his achievements. Pride had risen in his heart and instead of preferring to be with the LORD he preferred to revel in what he thought was his glory.
What has this to do with Manasseh? Manasseh was born three years after Hezekiah prayed. He did not witness all the good his father had done. He only witnessed his father taking glory for that which God had done.

Although Manasseh did repent late in his life, the damage was done.

By all means pray and keep praying but always guard your motive. Is it to bring glory to the LORD or to me? Beware the deceitfulness of the heart when discerning your own motive. Ask the Holy Spirit to search for wrong motives and correct them.

It seems to this writer that God intended to keep Hezekiah alive so that Manasseh would be born because he is in the royal line to Messiah (Matthew 1:10) so the prayer needed to be prayed. It was Hezekiah’s motive that brought things undone.

No One Else

“The king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God” (2 Kings 19:4)

It is very refreshing to come to King Hezekiah as we read through the books of the kings. The kings of Israel did not do what is right in the sight of the Lord and many of the kings of Judah either failed to do so or only partially or superficially had an interest in obeying the Lord.

Hezekiah sought counsel from the Lord when under threat from Assyria. Unlike many of his predecessors and the kings of Israel he did not trust in his own wisdom, neither did he try to buy off the Assyrians with the temple gold and silver, and neither did he try to make an alliance with another nation. He chose to entrust Judah and himself to the Lord.

The Assyrians had provoked the people of Judah to not trust the Lord and surrender but Hezekiah resisted that pressure. What could possibly motivate any man to go out on a limb like that?

It was Rabshakeh’s, Sennacherib’s representative, persistent and consistent  blasphemy that provoked Hezekiah to a decisive stand. He could have been equally motivated to surrender since Israel had already been taken captive by Sennacherib’s forces

The answer to Hezekiah’s motivation is revealed as he ends his prayer. It was “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God. You alone” (2 Kings 19:19).

As it was in Hezekiah’s day we have a multitude of gods worshipped in the world now. Where are the men who will go out on the limb of faith in God and His Word so that people can see that there is no other God but the Lord, God of Israel, revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps it is because we have surrendered to the blasphemous taunts of the Rabshakeh’s of this world and are ashamed of Christ who died for us.

As we approach Christmas Day, let us be confident in faith in the truth and courageous in witness to that truth so that the people we rub shoulders with will know that the Lord is the one and only God and besides Him there is no other.