Tuesday, 10 June 2014

(162) June 11: 2 Chronicles 32-33 & John 18:24-40

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the desirable qualities Hezekiah and Manesseh display.

To ponder:
Believers are not guaranteed freedom from hardship. “After all Hezekiah had so faithfully done” Assyria still invaded. And at such times it is our response that makes the difference. Hezekiah acted wisely, blocking springs and streams so the enemy army couldn’t get water, fortifying Jerusalem and the city of David within it, and appointing military officers over the people, perhaps to help them fight if they needed to. Most significantly, he pointed them all to the LORD. His words encourage us as we face the forces of evil. We can be “strong and courageous” because there is a “greater power with us” than with any who oppose us. They are “flesh” but God himself is present to help us and fight our battles. So we should gain “confidence” as Hezekiah’s hearers did.
            The pressure however increases as later Sennacherib besieges Lachish and sends his officers to Jerusalem with a message. They explicitly say the people cannot be “confident” in God, misunderstanding Hezekiah’s reforms to mean that he had offended God by removing the means of false worship! They also declare, as do further letters from their king, that their conquering of other lands proved that “no god” could deliver a people from them. This of course sets them up to be proved wrong, and for the LORD to be seen as the only true God by delivering Judah (see 32v19).
            The author is almost blasé about the ease of God’s response. Hezekiah and Isaiah “cry out in prayer to heaven” where God dwells, and he sends an angel who annihilates the entire enemy force, and causes Sennacherib to be assassinated in “the temple of his own god” – displaying which God really rules. We therefore read “the LORD saved” Hezekiah and Jerusalem, and “from the hand of all others…taking care of them on every side.” The response of the people was to bring offerings by way of thanks. The response of the nations was to honour God’s king.
            Like Sennacherib, Satan uses others to ridicule faith, suggest sin, death and false worldviews are undefeatable, and so knock our confidence in God bringing doubt. But our confidence can remain for God’s Christ has promised God is with us, and those who oppose him will be overcome and destroyed, and their gods shown to be nothing (Matt 25v41). God will save and care for us.
            But, again, this doesn’t mean we will be free from hardship. Hezekiah almost died from illness. However, God healed him in answer to his prayer. But he then responded with pride. 2 Kings 20 suggests this was the pride of showing off his wealth to the Babylonian envoys (also 2 Chr 32v31). It is not clear how God’s “wrath” was then expressed to him and the people. It is possible this was it was in Sennacherib’s attack, which took place “in those days” (32v1-23, 24). Whatever, when the king and people repented God forestalled his wrath for the future – ie. the coming exile.
            This lesson in repentance is taught to the extreme by Manesseh. After Hezekiah’s general greatness is recounted, we read how the general mark of his son Manesseh’s reign was “much evil,”  provoking the LORD to anger. Not only did he reverse Hezekiah’s reforms but embraced the most depraved practices of the nations (33v1-9) causing the people to do “more evil” than those “nations” themselves. In grace God warned them through his prophets (33v18), but they ignored him. So Assyria attacked and took Manesseh into exile with a hook in his nose like an animal and shackles like a slave. Astonishingly, Manesseh then sought God’s favour and humbled himself in repentance. And in answer to Solomon’s prayer when the temple was dedicated (2 Chr 6v36-39, see also Deut 30v1-10), God brought him back and Manesseh knew he was God. He then acted like a righteous king, rebuilding the city of David, eradicating false worship, restoring the worship of the temple, and urging the people to serve God – although they continued to worship him at the high places.
This is an astonishing example of God’s limitless grace, and the possibility of repentance no matter how far we fall. Indeed, we are urged to that repentance all the more when considering that Amnon, Manesseh’s son, did not repent, only “increasing” his guilt. However, to the original readers, Manesseh’s experience patterns theirs, teaching that having returned from their exile, they are to know the LORD is God, restore the worship of the temple and urge one-another to faithfulness. Having experienced our own redemption through repentance from our captivity to sin and exile from Eden, we are therefore urged to do the same.

Praying it home:
Praise God for the ease with which he can deliver those who look to him. Pray that you would respond to his grace as Manesseh did.

Thinking further:
None today.
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