Psalms 128-130 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is faithful to His Word, and we can count on Him

When a friend let me down many years ago, I ran to my mom crying with disappointment expecting some comfort from her.  She did console me somewhat but then informed me that all my friends would probably disappoint me at one time or another when I was counting on them; and furthermore, she said I would disappoint my friends.  In fact, she confessed that she, too, would disappoint me at times, but then she said Jesus was a friend I could depend on that would never fail me.  She was right.

@ Psalm 130
A few years ago I was going through a difficult time where I really needed the Lord’s help.  I had prayed and had done all that I could do in the situation.  In my daily Bible reading I came across this scripture in Psalm 130, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.” (5)  I wrote it out on note cards and placed them around my home so every where I turned I was reminded that I was trusting in the Lord, not in myself, my friends or anyone but Him.  I held on to this verse throughout the trial because of the hope that it gave me, and it carried me through to victory.

We find it easy to encourage someone to trust the Lord and to believe that they can count on Him, but so often they are hindered in trusting Him because of their past experiences.  A parent, friend, spouse or some individual they were counting on for love and support may have failed them at one time.  They find it hard to get past these moments of disappointment and really count on the Lord.  I’ve found it helpful to remember those in the Bible who faced the same thing.

Many believe that Hezekiah authored this Psalm.  He certainly was counting on the Lord to bring healing to His body when he was at death’s door, and God gave him 15 more years.  I think of the three Hebrew young men who faced the fiery furnace because of their faith but boldly declared, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)  These young men were counting on the Lord, but regardless of the outcome, they would serve the Lord.  I’m thinking that if they were able to trust Him in their dire need, surely we, too, can trust Him in anything that we may face.

Moses at the Red Sea, Joseph in prison and so many others were counting on the Lord to show up BIG in their lives, and He did.  Once again I find myself meditating on Psalm 130:5, memorizing my commitment to His faithfulness, “I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him.  I have put my hope in his word.”  Show up BIG Lord! 

Moving Forward: Today I declare it with my mouth that I am counting on Him to help me because I have put my hope in His Word. 

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 5-6

2 Chronicles 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His power is on our side to defeat the enemy

One of the best Christian songs of the 80’s was Carman’s The Champion, the battle of the ages between Lucifer and Jesus.  It reminds us of who our enemy is, but more importantly, it reminds us of Who our God is – The Champion!  King Hezekiah experienced God’s victory first hand when he trusted Him to fight his battle.

How refreshing to finally read about King Hezekiah, a king who was faithful to the Lord, a champion in his own right.  “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.” (31:21)  Hezekiah’s heart for God directed him to restore temple worship and once again follow the laws of God, and the Lord rewarded his efforts.

The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians, and now King Hezekiah and the Southern Kingdom were under siege by them.  Hezekiah encouraged his people with these words, “Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (32:7)

Hezekiah’s words were just what the Israelites needed as Assyrian King Sennacherib hurled his insults and threats at them, “What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power?…No god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!” (32:10,13-15)

Well, I can tell you I’ve been there.  The enemy comes around in the heat of the battle, pouring his lies and deceit to bring discouragement with a kidney punch or two.  Jesus called his bluff when He said of the devil, “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)  Really, why would we believe anything he says?

We could only expect the enemy to hit below the belt when he belittles the power of the living God.  How foolish! It is then that the Spirit of the Lord rises up within us and just like Hezekiah’s uplifting words, we can encourage ourselves with the Word of God.  “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)  “No weapon turned against you will succeed.  You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” (Isaiah 54:17)   “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”  (Revelation 1:17)  The Champion!

“And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land.”  (32:21)  Sennacherib was defeated, discouraged and down for the count because a godly king “sought his God wholeheartedly.”  And we, too, will be victorious and defeat our enemy when we refuse his lies and accusations in the midst of the fight and turn to the Champion of our Faith, the Lord Jesus Christ who will take him down. 

Moving Forward: I won’t even begin to listen to the lies of the enemy today, much less believe him.  I seek God with my whole heart because the battle is His, and He always wins – He’s the Champion!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 125-127

2 Kings 21-25 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He listens to our words of repentance no matter how evil our deeds

I’m going to go ahead and say it right here and right now – and living in the south this is pretty risky business – but I really don’t care for country music.  There!  It’s said.  No offense to the multitude of talented country music entertainers, but it’s difficult for me to listen to someone whining verse after verse about how “somebody done somebody wrong” as do many of the songs in this genre.  I’ve been there and know that it never really helps to cry in my…coffee.  I will agree, however, some of the things people do to each other are just plain wrong, and sometimes they are evil.  Today we read about a king in Judah who could have had “Evil” tattooed on his forehead; and it’s sad to say, a murderer of many.  I’m thinking this could be a theme for a country song…or not. 

@ 2 Kings 21
Hezekiah had been a good king, a king who did right in the eyes of the Lord which was something unusual in the history of Judah’s kings; but his son, Manasseh, was a mess. Crowned king at age 12, Manasseh’s was greatly influenced by his grandfather, evil King Ahaz. He rebuilt the pagan shrines, even building pagan altars in the Temple, and sacrificed his own sons to idols.  It’s difficult to get one’s mind around the vileness of such behavior when we would do anything in our power to keep our children from harm.

“He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics.  He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing His anger.” (2 Kings 21:6)  His willingness to trade the Divine prophetic word from God’s prophets for the uninspired lies of the devil who can only guess at the future is rather mind boggling, but people do it every day when they consort with palm readers and horoscopes.  I just don’t get it.

2 Kings tells a sad tale of the life and times of King Manasseh but only reveals a part of it, and we have to travel over to 2 Chronicles 33 to get the rest of the story. “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner…But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God.” (2 Chronicles 33:10-13)

How does God do that?!  How does He forgive such a vile man of his many sins?  And how can we refuse to forgive a repentant someone who has done so much less to offend us than Manasseh did to God?  No country song has ever told of anyone’s deeds equal to the evilness of Manasseh’s deeds.  Sacrificing his own children on the pagan altars, yet God listened to his prayer.

Forgiveness brought restoration, not only to Manasseh’s heart, but also to Judah. Manasseh rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, removed the pagan altars and, “Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings on it. He also encouraged the people of Judah to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 33:16)  When we follow God’s heart and forgive others for their unkind actions, we will bring about restoration not only in our relationship with them, but possibly restore their relationship with God, not to mention securing our own forgiveness.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14-15)  No Who done me wrong song for me, but rather the song of the redeemed – easy listening music! 

Moving Forward:  Today my heart is so filled with a song of praise about the goodness of God that it has no opportunity to sing any song of woe. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 90-92

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

 Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, explosive shoes and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path and as long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19