Saturday, December 29, 2018

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2018

Matthew is the first of what is commonly called the “Synoptic Gospels”. “Synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective synoptikos, which is from two words syn and opsesthai, “to see with or together.” While Matthew, Mark, and Luke have distinctive purposes, they nevertheless view the life of Jesus Christ in a common way. There have been multiple arguments concerning why they are similar and yet also different. Everything from there supposedly being some mysterious other source document known as “Q” no one has ever found a single scrap of to the notion that it was all made up. None of these are correct. The Gospels are similar and yet different simply because they were written by different individuals who either used firsthand accounts they remembered or the testimony of others.

When my brother, my sister and I get together we often share common stories of our youth. While we may share the same events we experienced each one differently and therefore remember them differently from one another. What seemed important to me was not so much so with my other siblings, and vice versa. This is why we have slightly differing accounts of the birth of Jesus and in some instances which are not even mentioned by the authors. However the birth of Jesus is important, so let’s see what Matthew recorded and why he did so…

READ: Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew is one of the earliest narratives written concerning Jesus. In fact there exists a portion of Matthew’s gospel in a small university library in England which strong evidence suggests that it may either be a part of the original gospel or one that was a first copy. Here we discover that…

I. Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! (Vv. 18-20)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

  1. Never has there been a birth that has been written about, commented on, and philosophized on more than the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. We must never forget the significance of this birth because it is the birth of the “Christ” the Messiah of the entire world. Now whether one believes in him or not does not change the fact that he is the Messiah; and so we are first introduced to his linage and then to the fact that “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about”. We discover that “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” The virgin birth is central to the nature of who the Messiah truly is; he is God in human flesh. Contrary to political correctness or socialistic nonsense God did not rape Mary. She was a willing vessel for the God she worshipped, honored and loved. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. Most men upon hearing their future spouse was pregnant and not by them would have immediately divorced them. Not Joseph “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” He chose not to create a public scandal by exposing her condition to the judges at the city gate. Such an act could have resulted in Mary’s death by stoning. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

  EXAMPLE: These words from the messenger of God must have brought to Joseph’s mind the promises of God through Jeremiah to provide salvation through the New Covenant: “The time is coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV).” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

Names have meaning for the child who receives them and for the future of their lives. Sadly, many have forgotten this fact in our day and age and often name their children without any thought for the child or their future. We learn that…

II. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! (Vv. 21-23)

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”--which means, “God with us.”

  1. The angel of God tells Joseph about the importance of Mary’s pregnancy in both matter of fact terms and in the terms of prophecy fulfilled: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The baby in Mary’s womb would be unique and special. He would be a child of God born through the presence and power of God. His name would be literally Yeshua or Jesus in the Greek meaning “God saves” and in this case the salvation he would bring would be salvation from our sins. The unnamed angel also told Joseph that this was in keeping with God’s eternal plan, for the Prophet Isaiah had declared 700 years before that “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”--which means, “God with us.” No greater truth or greater prophecy was ever told and fulfilled. This baby inside of his mother would become a man who would die on a cross and rise from the dead to show the world that he was indeed the salvation of all mankind. Mary’s miraculous conception fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, and her Son would truly be God with us. In light of this declaration Joseph was not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. Jesus would later teach his followers, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV)” and that “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” The very notion that God would do such a thing is contrary to all that people think about gods. There are those who desperately try to suggest that this is nothing new by relating the fables and myths of false deities but they read like science fiction or fantasy. Only here within the gospel of Matthew do we find the Creator becoming man and the narrative rings true because of who Jesus is and what he would finally accomplish. Any other story is but myth and fable. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

  EXAMPLE: I was watching a movie the other day and I can’t remember the name of it but the characters were trying to escape the bad guys and one of them fell off a ledge but was able to grab on by one hand. His rescuer reached down to pull him up and yelled, “Just take a hold of my hand!” I was reminded of a big old rock my brother and I used to play on near our house in Leavenworth, WA. We’d climb on top of it and play like we were going to fall off while the other one would hold out their hand to “rescue” the other from certain death. For that one moment we became to hero who saved someone. While our rescue was make-believe Jesus’ was not. His was physical, spiritual, and eternal. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

III. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her! (Vv. 24-25)

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

  1. First time fathers always have tough decisions to make. It is all new for them from the birth of their first child to the daily care and fostering of them fatherhood is both new and challenging. For Joseph it became even more so. Not only was he newly engaged he discovers that his young bride to be is pregnant. He was probably incredulous, hurt, and then perhaps even angered; but Joseph was also a godly and kind man. We know this because of his actions and that God had chosen him to be the adopted father of the Messiah. Joseph had gone to sleep troubled but being a righteous man and did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However as God usually does he sends a loving message to those who are willing to do his will. As Joseph sleeps he is told the child Mary carries is conceived by him for his purposes. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Faith is often found in obedience even when one does not understand why at the time. Joseph had a decision to make and he makes the right one. Joseph follows through on what God desires of him but he goes a step further to make sure that no one would question his devotion and Mary’s condition; “he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” Joseph violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Joseph was probably thinking of what would be best for Mary in her condition. He brought her home and began to care and provide for her. But there was no sexual relationship between them until after the birth of Jesus and “he gave him the name Jesus.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we find no manger, no shepherds, no Wisemen but only a righteous man who follows through on his faith. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

  EXAMPLE: “Here I come to save the day!” was part of an old time cartoon called Mighty Mouse. It was during a time when Superman was a big time hero. My brother loved the TV show and used to run around the house with a bath towel tied around his neck like a cape singing the song at the top of his lungs. Of course I was the victim of his physical prowess since I was skinny enough and light enough to throw around like a pillow. Unlike these super heroes Jesus isn’t made up or fictional as some would like you to believe. Joseph may not have has super powers but he was a righteous man who followed God and loved his wife to be. In his selfless act he saved both Mary and the future Messiah. That’s what real sure heroes do. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

Conclusion:

Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

4th Sunday of Advent - The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20

4th Sunday of Advent - The love of God fulfilled – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 23, 2018

There are certain dates in life that stand out. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about what they were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I remember watching the first American go into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. On a happier note, I also remember the day I was married, when we brought our daughter home, and when my grandchildren were born. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should remember the birth of Jesus?

On the fourth Sunday of Advent we pause as Christians remembering the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out presents, drink the hot cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christmas. It’s the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s see how…

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

  1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this also, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” should be more correctly translated “before”. Therefore Quirinius was governor before the census which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was Joseph’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. And so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for his perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

  EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) History reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Alexander the Great had conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. The Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries and a unifying language. God had put all the pieces in place at the perfect time to send his Son. The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

  1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare his ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of his son to. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger out of the blue comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chooses to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of the world? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words his Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” An animal’s feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

  EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you've just got to hear! It makes no sense we're sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

  1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people's chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great King Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” And in the midst of this wonderful story of simple shepherds is a precious truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah and here he was in her arms! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever watched YouTube flash mob videos? There is one of people in a mall food court where suddenly someone stands up and boldly begins singing the Hallelujah Chorus. To the surprise of everyone, another person gets up and joins in, then another, and another; soon the food court is resounding with the harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers. “Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

3rd Sunday of Advent - The Joy of our worship - Matthew 2:1-12

3rd Sunday of Advent - The Joy of our worship - Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2018

Though not everyone agrees on the timing of the arrival of the Magi from the East, they apparently came sometime after the birth of Jesus. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, though still in Bethlehem, were now in a house (oikia) or residence. Matthew could have simply been describing where Mary and Joseph were staying. Jesus was also called a child (paidion) rather than infant. The focus is the Magi’s joyous worship.

When Denise and I first began to date, I would drive hundreds of miles, often times during very bad weather just to see her. I wrote her letters where I painstakingly drew cartoon characters just to make her smile. I was and am willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and contentment. Why would I do this? I did it because I love her. She is the joy of my life. And isn’t that the way believers should respond to the joy of their worship as well? Let’s discover just what the joy of our worship should be…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

In the musical The Sound of Music the song “Climb Every Mountain” states that we should “Climb every mountain, search high and low; Follow every byway, every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we discover the Magi were willing to do just that. They teach us that the Joy of our worship…

I. Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

  1. The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to establish, though several ideas have been floated over the years; everything from a secret society, magicians, wizards, or simple wealthy truth seekers. They have been given traditional names of Gaspar, Melchior and; Balthazar; and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. None of this is true. This notion is from about the 7th century. More likely they were pagan Gentiles of high position from a country, probably Persia, northeast of Babylon. Maybe they were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This may simply have been revealed in the sky, as indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East. Those who wanted to learn more about the world around them often read the manuscripts of differing religions, histories, or literature of other nations. Some think the Magi’s comments reflect knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Whatever the source, they came “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.” And we discover the main reason is stated in their question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” These men had to travel a long distance (between 550 to 600 miles), mostly walking or perhaps riding, and endured the hardships of thieves and robbers, weather and dirt, and weeks if not months of travel. They left the safety of hearth and home in search of a child and for the mere chance “to worship him”! The Joy of their worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle!

  EXAMPLE: There are many who search for truth, but some never recognize it. Some give their lives serving others, like Mother Teresa who constantly agonized over whether she truly had done enough “good things” for Jesus to love her! There are those who live a lifelong journey of bellybutton introspection focusing on self and emptying themselves of all worldly desires to find a sense of wholeness. Some think happiness is only found in the moment. Here we find traveling Wisemen following a heavenly star hoping to kneel before a child on the chance that he might be the One they sought. That’s what the Joy of worship does; it inspires us to overcome any obstacle in order to worship Jesus!

There are those who say they have found the object of their worship, but when one takes a closer look all you see is them! We can mouth Christian platitudes, wave our hands in the air, sing all the choruses we know, and even quote Scripture verbatim but not know why we are to worship because we truly do not know Jesus whom we are to worship! The Joy of our worship…

II. Is more than counterfeit comprehension! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

  1. King Herod knew what he worshiped and this is why, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was shaken to his core. It was said that it was better to be a pig in Herod’s household than to be one of his children! Herod in his paranoia had two of his sons and a wife murdered. Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and was an Edomite. This is why the Jews hated their king! Herod however was crafty and in fact did a lot to build up his nation militarily, financially, and physically. “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ (Messiah) was to be born.” Herod in his paranoia wanted to know who this threat to his throne was. They give him the answer gleaned from Micah, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Both Herod and his advisors had a counterfeit response and reason for their belief. The people’s chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to show off their knowledge to their King and Herod wanted to thwart any opposition to his reign! What he learned was soon related to the Magi, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.” He was already planning his infanticidal response whereby “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity (that) were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16 NIV) So, Herod sends them to Bethlehem and tells them, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He only wanted to “worship” him at the end of a sword. The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

  EXAMPLE: There is an atheist group who has paid for giant billboards with the message, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” Interestingly, American Atheists President David Silverman, whose heritage is Jewish, says they are trying to focus only on the “fun” parts of Christmas. And sadly, this is what many folks, including Christians, do as well. They focus only on the “fun” parts forgetting that worship of Christ is more than head knowledge or showing up once a year. Some view worship as a country club experience where they pay their dues for the benefits or grand show; it is more about receiving than giving, rights instead of responsibilities, entitlements instead of sacrifice, and being served instead of serving. They might as well be atheists asking, “Who needs Christ during worship? Nobody!” The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

Author Greig Beck in his thriller novel “Dark Rising” writes, “Without sacrifice, there is no freedom. Without freedom, there is no life. God bless them who give their all for us.” He wasn’t writing about missionaries, instead he was writing about those in the military who sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom. Should this not be said of the believer? In the story of the Magi and this third Sunday of Advent, we discover that the Joy of our worship…

III. Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

  1. Simple trust is an amazing thing. We discover it in children and are often silenced by it. We discover it here with the Magi and it should cause us to pause, because, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way.” At this time, they did not know Herod’s intent they only wanted to continue their journey. They followed the star they have seen earlier and wonder of wonders, “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was!” Stars, like planets, usually go from east to west because of the earth’s rotation, not north to south! Could it be therefore that “the star” which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God or one of his angelic messengers? -- Possibly. But “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” They knew what it meant! It was showing them the way to the One they sought! The same God who had lead the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, now lead these Wiseman. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” They did not pause to worship or recognize Mary nor Joseph. The mother and father are of little importance to those who seek the Messiah. They immediately went to the object of their search! “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Some believe the gifts signified the character of Jesus’ life. Gold might represent his deity or purity, incense the fragrance of his life, and myrrh his sacrifice and death. Scripture does not say and therefore it is speculation. However, it speaks volumes on how these men were willing to enthusiastically sacrifice their time, talents, and treasures in order to worship Jesus! “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” The joy of our worship makes us enthusiastically sacrifice all that we have for Him!

  EXAMPLE: How about you? What do you sacrifice for Jesus? Maybe you are more like the four blind men in the Asian myth who come across an elephant for the first time. One grasps the trunk and thinks it’s a snake; another, touches the elephant’s leg and says it’s a tree. A third finds the elephant’s tail and concludes it’s a rope. The fourth blind man finds the elephant’s side and assumes it’s a wall. It is not as some think differing religions describing the same thing in radically differing ways. The truth is that spiritually blind folks cannot make sense from that which they are blind to! Jesus correctly asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 NIV) and of course the answer is “yes”! Stop being blind, the Joy of your worship should make you enthusiastically sacrifice all that you have for Jesus!

Conclusion:

The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle; it is more than counterfeit comprehension and it makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! Just like the Wisemen.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

2nd Sunday of Advent - The peace of God - Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent - The peace of God - Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 9, 2018

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

  1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw his people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of a perfect Lamb could! This is why the writer of Hebrews would later write, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when it happened! Isaiah was told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

  EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that...

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

  1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they would proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

  EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John knew that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” In fact it was Jesus who “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

  1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

1st Sunday of Advent - Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:1-7

1st Sunday of Advent - Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 2, 2018

We should not allow outside circumstance to dictate how we respond to life. Recently however the political and social climate of our nation has caused many to become full of gloom and despair. There are those in the political arena that encourage their constituents to be despaired by their opposition simply because things are not going the way they want. Life hardly ever does, yet on the 1st Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking; it is the outcry of the human heart and the certainty of God's promise. We as his children hope in him because we know who he is and what he has done. The Israelites of Isaiah's day had no such experience. They should have been able to trust God and the promises he made from knowing their own history, but in the midst of war, famine, and the threat of enslavement it can be tough to see God or his promises. Perhaps this is where you are today. Take heart, there is hope. Let's discover what Isaiah tells us during this day of Advent concerning hope…

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

In a world where we find self-centerness at the forefront of the human condition it is often hard to find hope in the world. But today we can discover anew just what it means to have hope in what may seem a hopeless situation. Isaiah tells us that…

I. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! (Vv. 1-3)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

  1. There would come a time in Israel's history when instead of asking God they would consult with "mediums and spiritists" to seek what the dead had to say concerning the living. Because of their fickle nature concerning the word of God and not following him alone they would go hungry both physically and spiritually. Things would get so bad they would become bitter and blame God for their own faithlessness!  The coming Messiah would be their hope of joy and "there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress." The Israelites could now look forward to the Messiah's coming which would bring renewed joy. In fact even the non-believing gentiles would find the joy of God and so Isaiah tells them that "In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." The wonderful truth would be that something good would indeed come from Galilee of the Gentiles. He would be from there and out of what the Jews considered to be an area of spiritual darkness, there would be the light of life, Jesus Christ! Death was an ever present shadow in the life of those who could not or would not trust God; however, a new light would dawn. God would "enlarge the nation and increase their joy" because of those who would now trust in the one coming. Isaiah foretells that the nation of Israel would "rejoice" before God "as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder." What a wonderful time Isaiah spoke about! The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

  EXAMPLE: Christmas is that time of year when children began making wishes and wants made known. They long for something wonderful to unwrap on Christmas Day. With excitement and anticipation their longings turn into hope and when the day arrives, it turns into joy! When Jesus came as a baby in a feeding trough the world did not know that the hope it had long awaited for had arrived. Yet all of creation paused on that one moment as a child was born and the hope of the ages came true. Matthew fittingly applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

Certain religions encourage the spiritual enslavement of their adherents. Islam, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others do this through the deliberate distortion of Biblical truth. Throughout the history of the world sinful mankind has used whatever means, including religion to force others into slavery. However, Isaiah tells us that…

II. The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

  1. We truly do not understand what it means to be enslaved; even those who would like to riot or feel justified in their marching against racism, do not know the injustice of enslavement. Yet, we are all enslaved until we are set free from the bonds of sin. And sadly, even fewer folks understand their enslavement. However, the Israelites did and they longed for their freedom from not just physical oppression but from their bondage to sin. Here, Isaiah proclaims to them they have hope because just "as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor." The Messiah would bring an end to their bondage! Midian had been a thorn in the side of the Israelite's flesh for years. Because of the Israelite's own sin God allowed the Midianites to so oppress them that they had to prepare "shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds" and "Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help." (Judges 6:1-6 NIV) God rose up Gideon who would resoundingly defeat thousands of them with only 300 men, but now they would have a new Deliverer. He would completely shatter their yoke of slavery that burden them and the rod of their oppressor would be gone! In fact, the hope the Messiah would bring about would do away with the reminders of war! "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire." These things would now only be good for the flames of a funeral pyre; the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

  EXAMPLE: Some think that it was Christians who began the Crusades; this is an outright boldface lie. The Crusades began as a response by believers for the decades of war and enslavement the forces of Islam brought to the Christian world. Wherever the armies of Islam marched, you either submitted or died. When they finally came to the shores of Italy and had forcefully taken over most of Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Pope responded by raising armies to fight the threat. Many of the areas Paul and the other disciples had won to Christ fell under the heavy boot of Islam and never returned to the truth of Christ. Isaiah's nation now faced similar circumstances and longed for real freedom. He tells them that the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

True freedom is found in trusting Jesus, but freedom without peace is little freedom. However, the freedom Jesus brings is spiritual first, which influences the physical nature of the world around it when it is applied to the lives of those he influences. But Isaiah now turns to a new truth concerning the coming Messiah. He would be more than just a king or leader; Isaiah tells us that…

III. The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

  1. Now Isaiah proclaims to them such a wonderful thing that many found it hard to believe. They were now living much as their ancestors did; under the oppression from their own rulers like Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and the threat of coming annihilation from Assyria and finally Babylon. They were not to trust in others like Egypt to save them, but instead rely on God alone. However, here Isaiah goes beyond their current circumstances and looks to the future of his people. He foretells that "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders." The one to come would be their ultimate ruler; but more than being simply a king or monarch, the one to come would "be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace." These are not the common titles or monikers for cruel kings but the wonderful names for one who would be concerned and care for his people! The Messiah would be the "Wonderful Counselor" of God (Holy Spirit), he would be "Mighty God" (God himself), the "Everlasting Father", and the "Prince of Peace" (the Son of God)! All three personalities of the trinity are named and actively involved! However, the peace the Messiah would bring would not be like the world gives, Jesus would declare, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27 NIV) In fact, Isaiah declares that the ministry of the Messiah would be different from any earthly ruler: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." His rule and reign would not last just a lifetime, it would be forever! His rule and reign would bring a lasting peace no one had ever experienced before! The coming Messiah would be God in human flesh and "The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

  EXAMPLE: It amazes me that whenever someone is faced with the truth of a situation they often get angry. I was speaking with someone the other day about how the healthcare system has been destroyed; how it has affected me and my brother as well. His retort was not just confusing, it grew louder as he spoke. I have learned the volume of your response does not mean you are right. The frustration of one's soul is calmed by the presence and power of the Spirit. As the saying goes, "No God no peace, know God know peace!" The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

Conclusion:

The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! That is what this day of Advent is all about; hope.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Renewed by the Word! -- 2 Kings 22:8, 11-13a; 23:1-6

Renewed by the Word! -- 2 Kings 22:8, 11-13a; 23:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 2018

The English preacher G. Campbell Morgan was known as the “prince of expositors” in his day. When he was a young man, he went through a period of doubting the truthfulness of God’s Word. To find some answers for himself, he locked away all of his books and bought a new Bible. He committed himself to studying it until he knew if it was God’s Word or not. The result was clear. He said, “That Bible found me.” Morgan devoted the rest of his life to studying and preaching God’s Word.

Hilkiah found the book of the law while making repairs to the temple. When the book was read to King Josiah, it “found him” and became the blueprint for his reign. His grandfather Manasseh worshipped Baal, Asherah, practiced the worship of stars, participated in sorcery, consulted mediums and spiritists, and sacrificed one of his own sons in the fire! Though he turned to the Lord at the end of his reign, Scripture blamed him for Jerusalem’s and Judah’s destruction. His successor Amon followed in his father’s evil footsteps. After a short reign, Amon’s officials assassinated him (2 Kings 21:1-26)! Amon’s son Josiah became king afterwards. Josiah was renewed by the Word! Let’s discover how…

READ: 2 Kings 22:8, 11-13a; 23:1-6

Amon’s son Josiah became king after Amon’s death. Josiah walked in the ways of his forefather David, instituting some far-reaching religious reforms in Judah. He based his reforms on the book of the law that Hilkiah the high priest found in the temple. We discover that…

I. Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves! (2 Kings 22:8, 10-13a NIV)

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… When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.”

  1. The renovation of Solomon’s temple was taking place after many years of neglect and pagan worship being set up inside it walls. Remember that Hezekiah’s chief influence seems to have been the prophet Isaiah but his grandson Josiah’s chief influence was the law book discovered in the temple. Second Chronicles 34:3 records that in the eighth year of his reign (at age 16), he began to seek the Lord. That search led Josiah in the 12th year as king (at age 20) to begin purging Jerusalem and Judah of all practices and places that had to do with the worship of Baal. In the 18th year of Josiah’s reign (at age 26), Hilkiah the high priest found the book of the law while repairing the temple. The book of the law was Scripture, most likely part of Deuteronomy or possibly the entire Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. “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.” It is amazing that the Word of God can have such an impact but it does! Shaphan cannot keep the words to his self and he reads them to his king. “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes.” It was an act of contrition and repentance. The Words of God have that effect. Some believe it might have been the temple copy mentioned in Deuteronomy 31:25-26. The word translated book refers to a written document that was in the form of a scroll, and it probably was written in columns. The king then “gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: ‘Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.’” The king is jubilant because renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves!

  EXAMPLE: When we are confronted with God’s Word in our lives we have to decide whether we will follow it or not. A halfway commitment is like a lukewarm cup of coffee—worth only to spit out! Jesus spoke to the church of Laodicea in Revelation concerning this: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)” He rebukes them: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:19-20 NIV)” Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves!

To be renewed by Scripture, God’s people must encounter the Bible by reading and hearing it taught and preached. Through this God’s people can learn what the Lord thinks about their actions and lifestyles. Scripture warns them of the tragic consequences of sinful actions and the positive consequences of obedience to God’s Word. We discover that…

II. God’s Word brings us to make a commitment! (2 Kings 23:1-3 NIV)

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.

  1. Josiah commanded Hilkiah and some of his officials to form a commission and investigate further into Judah’s guilt and what ought to be done. “Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.” They were to seek answers from God, not from some idol or through divination. God’s Word had disturbed Josiah and caused him to encounter God in a way that made him reevaluate his actions and lifestyles as well as those of his people. This is why as king, “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.” All of Judah was called to a public assembly. The circle widened from the king to extend throughout his kingdom. “He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD.” When everyone was assembled, Josiah read from the book of the covenant that Hilkiah had found in the temple. The public reading of Scripture was a vital part of the spiritual renewal. The people heard what God required and prohibited, and Josiah had those commands implemented. “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.” Josiah stood by the pillar before his people and made a covenant in the presence of the Lord and the people. The pillar was probably one of the two bronze 35-foot tall bronze pillars that stood on either side of the temple’s entrance and were named Jachin, meaning “he shall establish,” and Boaz, meaning “in the strength of.” The King in his wisdom knew he had to lead the way and he was more than willing to do so. And after the people saw he was willing to be true to the Word of God, “Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” as well! We discover that God’s Word brings us to make a commitment!

  EXAMPLE: In the past many Baptist churches had a “Church Covenant” that listed responsibilities a person assumed on becoming a church member. Some churches would display a large copy of that covenant on the front wall of the sanctuary facing the congregation. It reminded the people of their decision to follow the Lord and what it meant to be a member. The covenant was often the basis of church discipline against one who was accused of not carrying out these responsibilities. We discover that God’s Word brings us to make a commitment!

Encountering God’s Word led Josiah and his people to recommit themselves to the Lord and to the purposes of his kingdom. A fresh encounter by God’s people today with his Word will lead them to recommit themselves as well. Sometimes we can be reminded by the Word that we have things that hinder our relationship with the Lord. We discover here that…

III. Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes! (2 Kings 23:4-6 NIV)

The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel. He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem--those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people.

  1. The Word of God has a tendency to bring about change and often the very first thing that has to occur for that change to take place is for the recipient to get rid of anything in their life that hinders the work of God. This is why “The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts.” We discover that the change began with the Temple itself. All of the article that referred to pagan worship were to be removed, but Hilkiah goes a step further, “He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron Valley and took the ashes to Bethel.” The fields of the Kidron probably referred to the place where dead bodies were cast as well as ashes of various kinds (Jeremiah 33:5). Sweepings of the temple and refuse of the city also were carried there. The place known as Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom was nearby. The whole area was considered to be defiled. Josiah took the objects of idolatrous worship that had defiled the temple to where they belonged—in the place of defilement, where he burned them. In Jesus’ day it was known as Gehenna. Then the king carried their ashes to Bethel where Jeroboam I had first officially sanctioned idolatry in Israel. Taking the ashes to Bethel was a way to desecrate one of the sites of idol worship. After removing the various objects associated with idolatry, the king did away with the idolatrous priests the former kings of Judah had appointed to lead in idol worship, “those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah Pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there.” Josiah removed the pole once again and threw out its ashes where it belonged—with the dead. But he went further and “He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people.” Grinding the ashes to a powder was a symbol of absolute destruction. Scattering the ashes over the graves of the common or regular people was an act of desecration of the idol and also of all the people who were guilty of idol worship. Encountering God anew in his Word led Josiah to remove everything that competed with giving first and absolute loyalty to the Lord.

  EXAMPLE: If you want to restore a piece of furniture to its old glory you have to be willing to put in a lot of “elbow grease”, meaning time and effort. Stripping, sanding, and gluing joints. Then comes the process of refinishing with several coats of finish, in between sanding, and polishing. In order to restore something back to its original condition it takes removing anything that interferes with the finial finish! Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes!

Conclusion:

Renewal comes when we evaluate God’s Word for ourselves! God’s Word brings us to make a commitment! Encountering the Word of God causes us to remove anything that interferes!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Tripped up by pride! -- 2 Kings 20:1-19

Tripped up by pride! -- 2 Kings 20:1-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 18. 2018

A religious leader was talking to a group of people who were about to enter a new phase in their lives. They had been poor and restricted in opportunities and were headed for lives of unparalleled prosperity. These people also had made recent commitments to the Lord. The leader warned they would face new temptations of pride when they became successful and began to accumulate material things. They would congratulate themselves on their abilities and forget the Lord. The speaker Moses proved to be correct. Most of the Hebrew people in their pride forgot God.

These verses show how King Hezekiah responded to God’s miracle of healing in his life. Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, he became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. Let’s discover what happened and how to remain humble before the Lord instead of being tripped up by pride…

READ: 2 Kings 20:1-19

Isn’t it interesting that when folks who never give a hoot or a holler to their relationship with God in life all of a sudden desperately want a beneficial answer from him when life goes bad? Perhaps our pride gets in the way? We see this with…

I. Hezekiah’s prayer! (2 Kings 20:1-3)

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.

  1. Sennacherib had been stabbed to death by his own sons while he was worshipping. Israel was safe for the time being. The writer of 2 Kings tells us that “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death.” We later learn it was a disease that caused skin boils. (Eww…) What would Hezekiah do? Who could he turn to during this desperate time of need? Most illnesses during these times resulted in a person’s death; medical science not being what it is today. I often laugh at how some folks put so much trust in old time or natural cures when in fact most do not do anything at all. We discover however that “The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him”. I am sure that when Isaiah first showed up in the king’s court he was seen gladly. Perhaps he had a message from God that would cure Hezekiah? And yet any serious rejoicing was soon dowsed when Isaiah said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Wow, Isaiah does not have very good bedside manner, does he! Just what a sick person wants to hear from someone whom you hoped would bring you an answer. It is kind of pathetic and sad because this great king does what most folks would probably do in this situation: “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD”! Who else could he rely on if Israel’s prophet brought him such horrible news? Hezekiah does what he should have done all along, he prays, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” He reminds the Lord that he tried his best to walk with him even if he did stretch the truth of his relationship just a bit. But isn’t this how most of us view ourselves? And then the realization of what is going to happen and the words of the Prophet Isaiah sink into his prayer and “Hezekiah wept bitterly.” It is never the least thing we can do; it is the most important thing to do. We should never be so prideful that we cannot pray!

  EXAMPLE: Why do you pray? Do you see prayer as a means to perhaps change God’s mind on an outcome in life you disagree with? Do you pray in order to discover more about the Lord and develop your relationship with him? Or do you pray because it is expected of you and you have a list to check off each day? Prayer is to be our constant conversation with the Lord when we seek his face and discuss with him his will and his ways. We should never be so prideful that we wait to pray only when we have a desperate need. Pride should never get in the way of our prayers.

We forget that God does indeed answer the prayers of his people. He can say “yes”, “no”, “wait”, or say nothing at all. He often does not give us an answer when we already know it. Hezekiah’s prayer results in an unexpected answer. When one is willing to humble their selves and seek God’s face God will answer them. We find the answer from the Lord in…

II. Hezekiah’s healing! (2 Kings 20:4-11)

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.’” Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.” Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

  1. God answers Hezekiah’s prayer almost immediately. We discover that “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.’” Notice God qualifies his answer to this king: “tell the leader of my people”. This was the God of his “father David” answering his prayer and not some false god or idol. “I will heal you.” No sweeter words were ever spoken to this mighty king. When God answers he gives us specifics. He never makes us guess. God is not some game show host making us try to discover what he wants. God bluntly tells Hezekiah through Isaiah, “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.” God wasn't just healing Hezekiah because he liked him; he was healing him and rescuing his people “for my sake and for the sake of my servant David”! God had made a promise to David that out of his linage the Messiah would come, and God was going to fulfill that promise in spite of Hezekiah. Isaiah commands that a “poultice of figs” be prepared and applied to Hezekiah’s boils and he recovers. Hezekiah’s curiosity gets the better of him and he asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” There is no better place to be than in the center of the will of God. Hezekiah’s pride was getting in the way again, but God is patient. Isaiah answered him, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” Not seeing how God is working fully Hezekiah remarks, “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps, rather, have it go back ten steps.”   The Lord had heard Hezekiah’s prayer and had seen his tears. God saw the king’s outward appearance and also his heart and knew the words expressed his heart’s deep desires. God said, “I am healing you.” Yet Hezekiah wants proof. When God answers our prayers our pride should not get in the way of our healing!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who think they can make a deal with God. Hezekiah was truly humbled by his ailment. We forget that everything is for the glory of God. Our life, all of creation and everything that happens is part of the work and will of the Lord. We have a tough time when it involves violence, an act that we cannot fathom, or an act of nature that destroys everything we own. We wonder how a good God can allow bad things happen to good people. We forget that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Our pride should not get in the way like it did with Hezekiah’s healing!

How do you respond when God answers your prayers but it isn’t the way you wanted? Hezekiah received a deathbed healing from God! The king should have remembered this healing and past blessings and deliverances from God with humility and gratitude so as to avoid becoming puffed up with pride. Past blessings are God’s accomplishments, not a person’s achievements. We see it in…

III. Hezekiah’s pride! (2 Kings 20:12-19)

At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses--the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil--his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.” The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely 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. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

  1. Often when we become ill folks will respond. Especially if the one who is sick is a leader of a nation like a king or President! Interestingly we learn that “At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness.” Remember Assyria had been a threat and now we discover visitors from Babylon bringing “letters and a gift” to a sick king of a tiny but strategic nation. Is Hezekiah cautious? Nope. “Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses--the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil--his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” Is his guy dense or so full of himself that he simply cannot help it? God’s Prophet is not so stupid and he goes to Hezekiah and asks, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” Hezekiah responds, “They came from Babylon!” The king of Babylon heard of Hezekiah’s illness and sent letters and a gift. The Babylonian king also wanted to learn more about the miraculous sign of the shadow moving backward (2 Chron. 32:31). In addition he probably was trying to enlist Hezekiah’s help in resisting Assyria or how well defended Israel was. They now knew how rich this little nation was; a prize for the picking. The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Hezekiah was focused not on how God had blessed him but on what he thought he had accomplished; including his healing. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely 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. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” We learn that “Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:25 NIV) Hezekiah referred to his blessings as “my treasures”. Hezekiah’s heart was prone to sinful pride. God had made Hezekiah successful in everything he did because of his devotion to the Lord. Yet Hezekiah failed to attribute all of this to the Lord. Thus the Lord’s wrath was on him because of his sinful pride.

  EXAMPLE: Did Hezekiah weep again? Did he seek God’s face? Nope. He pragmatically responds, “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” for he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Hezekiah’s response can be understood in three possible ways. Perhaps he was being smug and self-serving. Or, he was praying the disaster would be delayed as long as possible. Or, he accepted the inevitability of judgment but was grateful it would not come until after his death. The last response seems to fit the king’s character. Though Hezekiah’s motives may not have been totally pure, he did humbly accept the Lord’s correction of his pride. Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD's wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NIV)”

Conclusion:

Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, Hezekiah became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. We learned this in Hezekiah’s healing, Hezekiah’s prayer, and Hezekiah’s pride.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Trusting in God! -- 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

Trusting in God! -- 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2018

Cancer has claimed the lives of many. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and even siblings have been struck with this disease. When diagnosed there is fear, frustration, and wondering why. Often family and friends are called, church family and fellow Christians are asked to pray. For those who know the Lord there is comfort in friends and fellow believers praying for you. One such person I knew who was told she had cancer told me later that she found comfort in the Psalm, “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2 NIV)” In times like these trusting in God gives us comfort and strength.

The Assyrian King sent his supreme commander to the gates of Jerusalem. There he delivered a message to Jerusalem and her king. His words were designed to undermine their confidence and to encourage them to oppose Hezekiah’s decision to resist. He claimed Hezekiah and their God did not have the power or ability to deliver the city! Soon they would be besieged and the defenders would “eat their own filth and drink their own urine”! (v. 27) In the midst of a dire situation Hezekiah asked his people to trust God. Could they place themselves in God’s hands and trust him? Let’s find out…

READ: 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

At Sennacherib’s threat, Hezekiah sent word to the prophet Isaiah to pray for those in Judah who had not been conquered. Isaiah told the king to trust in the Lord and not to be afraid because God would protect Jerusalem. No matter the circumstances we are asked to…

I. Trust in the Lord! (2 Kings 18:30)

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.’

  1. Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah ever had. He destroyed pagan worship and defeated the pesky Philistines and unified the people to worship the Lord and him only. Assyria marched down from the north and utterly defeated Israel to the north and took captives back to Assyria. Soon, they turned their eyes toward Judah and King Hezekiah. Hezekiah had tried to unite the surrounding nations to stand up against Assyria but it did not work. They destroyed every city and army sent against them. In order to save his nation and his people he decided to pay tribute to Assyria. He stripped the gold and silver from the Temple and his own palace to appease the Assyrians. It did not work. Bullies always want more. So “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.” The field commander mocks Hezekiah and the Lord God. He derisively tells them “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.” (v. 25) He meant that his king was his god and his god told him to attack them and he would succeed. So this supreme commander mocks the people behind Jerusalem’s walls by telling them, “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.’” This commander’s threats were very real. The army he commands could utterly destroy Jerusalem and take all of its population as prisoners back to Assyria. What were they to do? This commander did not know Hezekiah or the Israelite people nor did he know God. Because their king was such a godly man and because he asked them to, they were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were willing to trust in the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: We were on vacation and took a rail tram up a steep mountain grade to reach some caverns, my mother immediately wanted off. The park ranger noting her discomfort remarked, “Don’t worry Red (she had red hair) it’s only one scream to the bottom!” She began to chuckle and not be as afraid. When unexpected difficulties occur, the Bible reminds us that our best recourse is to place our trust in God. It was in a tumultuous time when invasion threatened his country that the prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit, discerned this powerful promise from the Lord: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isa. 26:3). It was during this same time that Hezekiah learned to be willing to trust in the Lord!

One way to show we trust God in dangerously threatening times is to publicly announce our trust. Sennacherib’s field commander warned Hezekiah’s officials they had no chance. But Hezekiah believed in the Lord and declared his confidence that God would help them. A sincere public testimony of faith in the Lord and his power can encourage others and it often begins with…

II. Admitting our weakness! (2 Kings 19:1-3)

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, ‘This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.’”

  1. Hezekiah might have been a king but he was also just a man. He loved his nation and he wanted to honor God but what could he do? The largest and most aggressive army known to man was at the gates of his capital city! They had marched across the landscape like locusts devouring every city and army they faced! Hezekiah does the one thing he should do, he turned to the Lord! Often when we have nowhere else to go we will go to the Lord. Why is that? Shouldn’t we always seek the Lord and speak to him daily? Yet far too many of us wait until things get really bad before we meet with God in prayer or seek his face. Hezekiah did try to honor God but now his nation was in the midst of horrible circumstances. So, “When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD.” Sackcloth was a garment of coarse material often made from goat or camel hair and worn as a sign of mourning or anguish. Hezekiah was showing God his mourning for his nation! Though the king was strong in faith, he also was aware of his weaknesses and the weaknesses of his nation. Therefore he dropped all he was doing, prepared himself to fast and to seek the Lord, and went to the temple to pray. Hezekiah also sought the Lord’s help by going to the Lord’s prophet for prayer support. At the king’s command, Eliakim, Shebna, and the elders of the priests all put on sackcloth and went to Isaiah the prophet. Have you ever had an overwhelming experience where you keenly felt your weakness? Did you admit your weakness or did you try to cover it up? Hezekiah immediately uses three words to describe his weakness: “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.” He was like a weakened mother giving birth to a baby and had absolutely no power to deliver it; he was unable to save his people only God could! In admitting his inability to save his nation or himself Hezekiah shows us what needs to take place in our lives when we desire God to act in our lives. It begins in admitting our weakness!

  EXAMPLE: A few years ago our Men’s Group undertook a rigorous hike. It was tough, beautiful, and long but each of us had brought enough water to refresh ourselves and stay hydrated. There is a good reason the Bible refers to God as the spring of living water and refreshing restoring the soul. In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian arrives at the foot of a steep ascent called the Hill Difficulty, “at the bottom of which was a spring… Christian now went to the spring and drank to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill.” Perhaps the difficult hike you face is a rebellious child or a serious medical diagnosis. The challenge seems more than you can endure. Before you face your difficulty, come to God with all your weakness, weariness, helplessness, fear, and doubt. Then drink deeply of his power and strength. God knows your circumstances and will supply strength, comfort, and relief. He will give you strength to go on but it begins in admitting our weakness!

The Assyrians had Judah between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” Sennacherib’s commander had presented a convincing argument based on the facts and background that he knew. His error was underestimating God’s power. He did not know God and could not understand his power. However Hezekiah did and therefore in trusting God he…

III. Willingly asks for God’s help! (2 Kings 19: 19:5-7, 14-16, 19)

When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard--those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”… 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…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

  1. Hezekiah immediately sends his officials Eliakim, Shebna, and leading priests from the temple (v. 2) to Isaiah the prophet to ask him to pray for Judah in the face of Sennacherib’s threat. When they get to Isaiah we learn that God is already in control of the situation. And this is just as true today. “When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Tell your master, “This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard--those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”’” God encouraged the king not to fear the blasphemous words of Sennacherib’s “underlings.” He may have been a supreme commander in Assyria but he was nothing to the Lord. God had a personal message to the king of Assyria, “Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.” God would send a thought into Sennacherib’s mind that would cause him to call off his threat against Hezekiah. That thought was a rumor that the king of Ethiopia, was marching out to fight him. When Sennacherib heard that report, he decided not to invade Jerusalem. When “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.” Hezekiah could not believe it! God was not only God over Judah but also Assyria! As Creator and Sovereign God, he had the authority and power to deal with Assyria. Hezekiah asked for the Lord’s help, asserting he knew God had the power to deliver Jerusalem. Hezekiah cries out to God “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…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” Hezekiah made the petition for himself – he wanted the whole world would know the living God because of his answer! At the beginning of his prayer, the king referred to the Lord as the answer to his need. Hezekiah willingly asks for God’s help!

  EXAMPLE: God does not answer all prayers of faith in the manner that he answered Hezekiah’s. But he does hear every prayer and respond according to his will. That night, the angel of the Lord went among the troops in the Assyrian camp and put to death 185,000 men. When Sennacherib saw all the dead bodies the next morning, he broke camp and went home to Nineveh and stayed there (vv. 35-36). God delivered Hezekiah in that threatening situation because he put his trust in the Lord and willingly asked for God’s help!

Conclusion:

Trust in the Lord! Admitting our weakness! Willingly asks for God’s help!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.