Archive for July, 2011


When War Is Better Than Peace

I grew up thinking that pacifism was a higher calling than war.  Indeed, it is not politically correct to think that there is any need for war and fighting.  John Lennon kept trying to remind us of that.

But it is interesting to note it was Jesus who said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)  A close study of Jesus’ teachings reveals that he would rather fight intensely for what is right instead of compromising what is right in order to make peace.  Today’s passage points to more of God’s nature on this topic:

“The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service—able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle.  They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab.  They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.  They seized the livestock of the Hagrites—fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep and two thousand donkeys. They also took one hundred thousand people captive, and many others fell slain, because the battle was God’s. And they occupied the land until the exile.” 1 Chronicles 5:18-22

Remember – these are God’s people, and God is clearly giving them His support to wage war.  Doesn’t this turn on its head the modern idea that peace is above all?  When peace compromises God’s Law, war is a better option.


Why Is This Scripture In Here?

Sometimes I read a passage in the Bible, and wonder, “Why is that in there?”  Here is one:

In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month.  He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon.  So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.  Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.  — 2 Kings 25:27-30

Though the king of Judah had been taken captive by the king of Babylon, he was suddenly released, received an allowance, and ate at the king’s table.  Why?  What is God trying to tell us by allowing this to be included in the Bible?  One thing I believe – if it’s Scripture, it’s there for a reason…


God’s Mercy Is Not Infinite

Evil times are waiting for the people of Judah.  Jehoiakim becomes king, but the people are immediately on guard against the king of Babylon.

“During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.  The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets.  Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”   — 2 Kings 24:1-3

Notice how God’s mercy has finite limits – “and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”  When we don’t understand the God of the Old Testament, we might fall into the trap of modern thinking which says that “God’s mercy is infinite”, or that “all paths lead to God”.  Simply put, not all paths lead to Him – some lead directly away.  And God’s mercy has limits – his patience and tolerance with our sin WILL run out if we are unrepentant.


Josiah Gets It Right

Many kings have preceded Josiah on the thrones of Israel and Judah.  Some were good; most were wicked.  Those who were good were listed as “good” in a qualified way – that is, the Bible specifically tells us that they did not bring down the high places of worship which were sometimes used to worship gods other than the one true God.

Josiah is the king who will break this mold.  Was it because the Book of the Law was found in the temple at the beginning of his reign, telling him to “have no other gods”?  Did that concept get lost by the other kings because they had no written directions to consult?

Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.  He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD—to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.  — 2 Kings 23:1-3

These verses are followed by a specific account of all the places, idols and altars which were destroyed at Josiah’s instruction.  It is a great day of victory for the Israelite nation, as they are led, once again, by a king who understands the dedication required by God – to worship Him, and Him alone.


The Law Is Finally Found

A well-known story of the Bible, but one which cries out for understanding:

In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the LORD. He said: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the LORD, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people.  Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the LORD— the carpenters, the builders and the masons. Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are acting faithfully.”

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it.  Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and reported to him: “Your officials have paid out the money that was in the temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors at the temple.”  Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.  — 2 Kings 22:3-10

Questions begged to be asked when reading this passage.  How could the Israelites, who God saved over and over, have lost the Book of the Law of the Lord?  And how could it have been lost in the temple itself?  Did some priest just put it in a hiding place one day?  And why did no one, priest or non-priest, ever notice that it was not taken out and read before the people as in previous days?  How could God’s Word have truly been lost?  How did Josiah know how to be a good king without the direction of God’s Law at hand?  And finally, what might have happened to the Book if there had not been a good king on the throne at the time?


What Real Prayer Looks Like

I’ve pointed out on multiple occasions before how God appears to change His mind in certain circumstances.  To be clear, I do not believe that God hears our prayers, and thinks, “Wow, that’s a good idea – maybe I’ll take you up on that.”  Rather, God exists in all points of time simultaneously, so He knows exactly what He is going to do, even before that moment arrives in time – for those of us who are bounded by time.

Today’s passage demonstrates another example of this occurring.

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD.  I will add fifteen years to your life. And 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 20:1-6

This seems to be a test for Hezekiah – would he simply accept the word of Isaiah that he would die?  Or would he once again bow before his Lord and ask for life?  Hezekiah’s prayer life must have been incredible.  His humility and devotion to God serve as great examples for the rest of us.


How To Respond to A Direct Insult to the Lord

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is threatening the king of Judah if he will not bow to to him and become his servant, along with all the people of Judah.  The king of Judah, Hezekiah, is a good king – in fact the Bible tells us that, “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.” (2 Kings 18:5b).  Sennacherib sends a messenger to the people of Judah, and has them proclaim these words, in the language that every man of Judah could understand (to make sure that the message spread to all men):

Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria!  This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand.  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’  — 2 Kings 18:28-30

The people do not listen, and so Sennacherib sends out what he thinks is an even stronger message,

Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the Cushite king of Egypt, was marching out to fight against him. So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’  Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered?  Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my forefathers deliver them: the gods of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar?  Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, or of Hena or Ivvah?”  — 2 Kings 19:9-13

Note how the king of Assyria goes from casting doubt on King Hezekiah, to casting doubt on the Lord God!  How would you react if someone came to you and told you that God was deceiving you?  Would you lash out?  Or would you do as Hezekiah did, and kneel to pray?

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.  Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.  — 2 Kings 19:14-16

And Hezekiah’s prayer was effective, because we soon see the defeat of the king of Assyria at the end of chapter 19.

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