Friday, December 18, 2015

A Christmas word from 2nd Chronicles?

As far as Christmas devotions go, my guess is 2 Chronicles doesn't make the list.  Save a yearly reading plan, you wouldn't find many people period who've even opened the book of 2 Chronicles.

It has a title but its author is unknown.  The Babylonian Talmud suggests Nehemiah but that's as close as we come to conclusive evidence.  It's written to a post-exilic audience, i.e. those Jews who returned to the land from Babylon/Persia.  The theme focuses on God's commitment to the promise He made to David in 2 Samuel 7, otherwise known as the Davidic Covenant.

So even though David's successors sin beyond any previously known capacity, the Lord is still gracious.  Most of the kings are downright evil but a few choose well and as a result shine like the stars.  They stand as proof that God has not abandoned His people.

One of those bright spots is Hezekiah.  He reigned from 729 to 696 BC and is best known for his showdown with Sennacherib of Assyria, a time of desperation and deliverance, but what strikes me as encouraging was his view of God and the difference that made not just in himself but in the people under his care.

He comes to power in chapter 29.  V. 1 says that he was 25 years old when he became king.  In his very first month, he opened the doors of the temple, gathered the priests together, and had them cleanse every inch of God's house because, "it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel that His burning anger may turn away from us."  He then restores temple worship with its requisite sacrifices and singers and commands Israel to celebrate the Passover once again.

Hezekiah saw God as glorious and mighty.  He saw the northern kingdom's demise as divine judgment on disobedience.  He knew his country's sin was a serious offense and did not want to see Judah suffer the same fate.  He did what leaders are supposed to do and called his people to worship and look at what follows.

In chapter 31, the people destroyed their idols.  The pillars were broken.  The Asherah poles were cut down.  The various altars spread through the land were eradicated from existence.

Starting in v. 4, the king orders that tithes be brought in so the the priests might devote themselves to the service of the Lord.  So much came in that, "this great quantity was left over." (v. 10)

Lastly, when Sennacherib came from Ninevah with an army whose horses shook the ground, when he came mocking Jerusalem and her God, callously claiming that if all the other gods of all the other peoples he'd conquered had been powerless to stop him why would Israel's be any different, Hezekiah stood his ground.

He did not give up.  He did not give in.  32:20 says that he and Isaiah the prophet (what a team!) prayed and cried out to heaven and the Lord responded.  V. 21, "And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander, and officer in the camp of Assyria."  Sennacherib himself would not survive.  After he returned home and prayed to his own god, his own children killed him in the temple with a sword.

I know it doesn't always work out like that.  The endings are seldom happy but what is inevitable, is that our view of God will lead to our worship of God or lack thereof.  If we see Him as glorious and mighty, as the song goes, awesome in beauty, greatly to be praised, then we will worship and if we worship, I believe there will be necessary consequences.

I believe whatever competes for our attention will evaporate like the morning dew.  Do you struggle with idols?  Make much of God.  Meditate on His attributes.  Read from the meditations of those that have gone before you.  Memorize the passages that extol His glory.  Sing His praises.

I believe you'll see God's work in your midst.  He will never lack what He needs to do whatever He wants done.  He's God.  He's self-sufficient.  He doesn't need anything, ever, but He has chosen to use us in the execution of His will.  When we worship, we become willing to part with ourselves, whether that's in the form of our time, our talents, or our treasures, and that opens the door for us to be involved, like the Israelites of Hezekiah's day, to see the ministry of the Kingdom expand.

Finally, when trials come, worship frees you to stand your ground.  Rather than give in to doubt and despair or the temptation to numb the pain with the pleasures of this world, worship leads to seeing one's sufficiency in Christ.  I have you Jesus.  I do not need what will simply be gone tomorrow.

I don't want to be cliche or trivial about whatever it is you may be going through this Christmas season but I know that God is great.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the King of Kings.  When I don't ask or trust, it's usually because I doubt His care for me.  When I look at the extent to which Jesus went for me, those feelings become silly.

Fill your field of vision with Him.  Worship Him and watch where He takes you.  

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