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Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 205: Formula for Deliverance

Today's Reading: Isaiah 37-39; Psalm 76

Have you ever been at your wits end?

Have you ever felt surrounded, hemmed in on every side with no where to turn?

Have you ever thought, I’m never going to get out of this mess unless a miracle occurs, and miracles seem in short supply right now!

Imagine that situation.
Go back to that place.
Or perhaps you are in that place right now.
Boss unhappy.
Out of work.
Taxes due.
Bills piled up.
Child sick.
Loved one dying.
Marriage crashing.
Huge mess.
Overwhelming challenge.

Now imagine someone offering you an out.
Someone saying, I’ll take care of everything for you.
Just sign over a little bit to me
And I’ll take away all your problems.

That someone might ask you to just cheat a little.
That someone might ask you to rebel a little.
That someone might ask you to gamble and take a chance, just this once.
That someone might ask you to drown your sorrows, just this once.
That someone might ask you to be unfaithful, just this once.

And in the asking,
That someone will tell you you have no other choice.
You’d be foolish to pass up their deal.
You’re obviously trapped.
They have you pegged.

That someone, might not be a “someone.”
It might be that inner voice of pride
Or fear
Tempting you to take the wide and easy road
Which sooner or later leads you right into the destruction you are facing.

Com' on, says the Tempter, Let’s make a deal.
You give up your freedom
and I’ll give you the comfort you want in this moment.
Sound good?

This past week we have been reading about Hezekiah,
Acclaimed in the Bible as the most righteous king of Israel.
He had brought about revival and renewal.
He had abolished idolatry.
He had turned the kingdom back to the worship and honoring of YHWH.

But because of the sins of his predecessors,
He was under some nasty contracts.
Previous kings, in order to feel safe, had made alliances with Assyria to the north east and Egypt to the south west.
Now, Assyria and Egypt were at battle over the land between their two kingdoms,
The land of Judah and Israel.
Assyria had already wiped out Judah, taking all her cities captive.
Egypt was pressing in on the other side.
Israel was trapped in the middle.

The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, sends a letter via his commander to Hezekiah.
Where is your God now?
He cannot protect you.
Join me and I will protect you.
I will give you all the horses and chariots you need.
Together let us fight against that Cushite, Tirhakah, the king of Egypt.
You cannot stand against him or me.
You have no choice except to choose one of us.
It might as well be me.
I am the kinder of the two.
Allow me to comfort you and fight the battle for you.
All you have to do is give me everything.

Hemmed in.
No rescue in sight.

What would you do?
How long do you wait for God’s deliverance?
How long do you trust God?
At what point, do you cave?
What do you do?

Today, we have the opportunity to witness the wisdom of a righteous man.
Hezekiah acts in a bold and faithful way.
This is what he does.

First of all, Hezekiah does not answer his enemy.
The people (of Israel, upon hearing the taunts of King Sennacherib) remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king, (Hezekiah), had commanded, "Do not answer him."
Isaiah 36: 21

Hezekiah and his people listen but they do not reply.
This takes great courage and willpower.
When someone is taunting or tempting you,
It is hard not to get caught up in the fray.
It is hard not to get scared.
He stands silent before his enemy.

Hezekiah expresses his grief, goes to the temple and sends for his faithful, godly counselors.
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.
Isaiah 37: 1

Hezekiah does not avoid the situation by withdrawing into despair or by drowning it in pleasure, he realizes the gravity of the situation. He tears his clothes, the ultimate expression of sadness, grief and humility. This act is a statement: I am naked; I have nothing; I am empty.

Hezekiah then moves from his despair to the place of worship. He physically goes to the holy place to meet with God. He picks himself up and moves toward the only one who can help him.

Hezekiah shares with his faithful godly counselors. He does not try to handle this on his own. He has cultivated trusted and wise accountability partners with whom he can pray and from whom he can hear God.

Hezekiah listens to God’s prophet.
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 a spirit in him so 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.' "
Isaiah 37: 5-7

God’s messengers always speak against fear. This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid. Fear not! When we focus on God and put our trust in God for our future, fear vanishes. Trust is an act of the will. It is a movement out of the camp of fear into the camp of God’s sovereignty. Trusting in God puts all things in order.

Praying, “Thy will be done,” is a prayer that catapults us out of fear.

God’s messengers always point to God as the deliverer. As we trust in the LORD and align ourselves with God instead of the tempting enemy, God fights the battle for us.

Hezekiah prays.
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 Almighty, 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 all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.
"It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 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. "
Isaiah 37: 14-20

Hezekiah spreads all His problems out before the LORD. Cant’ you just see him unrolling the scroll on a large table. It is as if he is unrolling all the charges of the enemy in the command center of the most High God. He says, Here it is, God. This is the situation. I will not hold anything back. I offer it all up to you. Look at it with me. Tell me what to do. Here it is, it is yours.

Hezekiah prays a prayer of adoration. Hezekiah names God’s attributes. You are LORD, You are ALMIGHTY (the most powerful one), You alone are God. You are the king of all kings and of all kingdoms. You are the creator of everything. In saying all this,
Hezekiah reminds himself of God’s power
God’s sovereignty and
God’s authority over all authorities of this world, or in heaven above…over every created thing.

Hezekiah acknowledges that a threat against one of God’s own is an insult to God. Temptation, fear, destruction and faithlessness are all the arrows of the powers and principalities of this world. They are the spiritual weapons of our greatest enemy. And though they seem to be aimed at us, they are really challenging God’s authority and sovereignty. Hezekiah once again moves to stand behind the shield of God. “This is your battle,” he says. “Not mine.”

Hezekiah prays for deliverance. Deliver us so that all may know you are God. Our deliverance from all our trials, sorrows and temptations is not just for a moments respite from our own grief and discomfort. It has eternal value in the glory of God. Our deliverance is the witness, the testimony, to God’s identity.

God delivered Israel from the hands of Assyria and Egypt. God did it all.

This passage from Isaiah teaches us how to handle trials. It teaches us how to pray. It mirrors the action of Christ when he faced his greatest trial.

Jesus remained silent before his accusers when he stood before them with a crown of thorns.

Jesus expressed his grief to his Father and sought God’s counsel.

Jesus played the words of the prophets in his mind, speaking them as he hung on the cross.

Jesus prayed. He cried out his situation to his Father. He acknowledged God as God. He realized the sin of the world was an insult to himself and He delivered his people from their greatest enemy, sin and death.

My dear friends, today, as always, we receive the path of righteousness from God’s word.

Let us go into the week and face each day without fear, acknowledging our heavenly Father who is the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, the King of all Kings, the authority above all authority, the one and only God, Our great deliverer.

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