Archive for December, 2012

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013The single best way to get to know God is by reading His Word. It is through His Word that we learn who He is, how He thinks (including how very much He loves us), and He wants us to live.

Resting at the River’s Edge provides a systematic way to read through the entire Bible. We are currently in the middle of a two-year plan – reading the New Testament each year and spreading out the reading of the Old Testament over those same two years. We started in 2012 and read through the New Testament and half the Old Testament. This year, we’ll read through the NT again and read those books we didn’t read last year. However, we’ve included “Additional Readings” in the Resting at the River’s Edge monthly schedules. If you read these additional readings as well as the scheduled ones you’ll read through the entire Bible this year.

I hope you’ll consider joining us as we read through the Bible this year. I am fully confident that God will speak to you personally as you read. You may not hear His voice daily, but as you grow in your habit of daily reading, I know He will speak to you over and over again. You’ll also find that many of the blogs I write throughout the year come directly from one of the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that day or week. The reflect Truths God is impressing upon me and lessons He’s teaching me.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the January-February bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the January-February 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

I hope you’ll join us as we read together each month. Feel free to e-mail me, leave a message on my Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. I’d love to hear how you’re doing and what treasures you’re finding as you read with us. I look forward to hearing from you.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for January is below.

RARE: January 2013 Recommended Readings

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Looking toward 2013 – Fear isn’t Part of God’s Plan, Don’t Make it Part of Yours

24Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT)

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27), the third servant did not use the talent given to him because he was afraid (Matthew 25:25, Luke 19:21). I wonder how often we let fear cripple or hinder us? Or how often is it an excuse for laziness? The master responded to the servant by calling him lazy (Matthew 25:26, Luke 19:22).

As we look toward 2013, I don’t want us to lose out on God’s tremendous plans for our lives because we are afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure or afraid of plain old hard work. I want to approach the new year with an attitude that says “Yes!” to whatever God has in mind. I suspect that will mean looking fear square in the face sometimes…

If that’s the case, perhaps it will help to remind myself what else Scripture has to say about fear. Here are a couple of verses:

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God=s sons and by the Spirit=s power we cry to God, “Father! My Father!”
Romans 8:15 (TEV) (or “Abba! Father!”)

What a picture of God’s love! Think of the small child who is frightened – he runs to his papa, throws his arms up and cries “Father! Father! Protect me!”

And He will! We’re also told in John 16:33 “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are 2 parts to this verse:

Part 1: Jesus promises us peace
Philippians 4:7 says that His peace, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When will this happen? Philippians 4:6 says it will happen when we reach up to Jesus, crying “Father, Father! Protect me!”

Part 2: Jesus tells us to take courage – He has overcome the world.
1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (See Romans 8:14, 1 John 5:6 for more.)

If fear is not of God, what is its source. Its source is satan. Satan has a very poor substitute for everything God has – his substitute for faith is fear! Fear is really faith that satan will win instead of God! But God tells us that the victory that has overcome the world is our faith – our faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father to do what He promises to do:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

In light of all this:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whew! Lots of Scripture in this blog! Meditate on them if you feel yourself being pulled toward fear. Don’t go there and don’t let satan take you there!

Friends, let’s look toward 2013 with a “yes” in our heart to the things of God. Don’t let fear cause you to lose the tremendous blessings He has for you.

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This song has been blessing me this Christmas season. How Many Kings, by DOWNHERE.  Close your eyes and listen or watch the video. Or do both.

Some of the images really brought a reality to all that Christ abandoned to be born as a child and to how very much He loves us.

BTW, DOWNHERE is currently having a 30% off Christmas sale from their website. Click here for details or to purchase their songs/CDs.

Replay!
OK, so after writing this, I was telling my hysband about writing it and he said “didn’t you do the same thing last year?” Oops! I did! Well, I guess I’m still being impacted by the song. Click here to see what I said about it last year or to check out DOWNUNDER’s video of a live performance of the song.

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The three wise men

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1 (NLT)

As I sat down to write a blog to post on Christmas Eve, I realized that there were many places that I could take it. As I considered the thoughts I’ve had about Christmas this year and looked at notes I’ve made in my journal, I was drawn to an unlikely passage for a Christmas blog. Yet this passage has Christ woven throughout it. It begins and ends with Christ…it’s just that the Israelites didn’t know Him as Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, their Messiah – at least not in the way that we know Him.

When I read Isaiah 43 a week and a half ago as part of our Resting at the River’s Edge readings. I copied the entire chapter into my journal with a note that it might be perfect for a Christmas blog. As I’ve been reading it again, it still seems perfect. Let me quote extensively and simply add my commentary. I love the promise of the coming Christ in this Old Testament prophecy and it’s portrayal of God’s tremendous goodness to His people.

As you read the passage, understand that it was written to Israel – that is, God’s chosen people. Remember, though, that as Christians – as people who have chosen to make Christ the Lord of their lives – we have been grafted into the branches of God’s chosen people. The promises He made to them now apply to us. The love He has for them He also has for us. Let’s read about it:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1 (NLT)

God created us. We have a special affinity for things we’ve created – things we’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into. God has that special affinity, that special love, for us.

Let’s personalize. God created me. He formed me. As the master potter, He said as He worked “This one, the one whose parents will name her Sandy – she will be a woman about 5’6″. She will be independent and strong. Let’s give her the gifts of administration and preaching. I know the challenges she’ll face, so let’s give her a worshipper’s heart to sustain her.” That’s just a little of what God said as He created me. What did God say when He created you? Maybe he talked about putting into you gifts of mercy and helps with a strong dose of generosity. Maybe He made you into a catalyst – a person who sparks things in other people. He made each one of us, and as He formed us, I believe it’s quite likely He spoke our talents and gifts and personality into us. In the creation story, God spoke each part of the world into existence. Imagining God speaking as He formed me brings an intimacy to my creation story that makes me breathless – wow!

Israel was no longer a child when God spoke this prophecy to her, and He said “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.” God has paid a ransom for Israel. This was spoken before the days of Christ, but God sees time differently. He knows the whole story and the plan is in motion. The ransom He has paid is the future crucifixion of His Son. It is Jesus who gave His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). A ransom is “a consideration paid for the release of someone from captivity” (www.merriam-webster.com). Do not be afraid, friends, because God has ransomed you. Jesus was the “consideration paid” for your release from captivity. The One who formed you, then bought you back. Wow!

Why? Because He has called you by name. You are His. There is such a definitiveness – an “it-is-finished-ness” in that phrase. It is the owner of an item that has the right to name it. I cannot name your child. The local sports arena isn’t called Hovatter Field because I haven’t bought it. God formed us. Then He ransomed us. He has the right to name us. We are His.

What a strong way to start a message. God began by making it clear to the Israelites, and by extension to us, that (1) We are precious to Him (i.e., He ransomed us) and (2) by rights, He owns us (we are His). He is the King, we are the servant. What will He demand? Let’s read on:

“2When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:2-3a (NLT)

This One who ransomed us didn’t do it so that He could Lord it over us. He has ransomed us to be with us and He promises to be with us in our darkest and most difficult times. When we go through deep waters, rivers of difficulties, fires of oppression – He remains our Savior. Many will read the Christmas story this week – how the child was born in a manger – and they will wonder at what God has done. God has ransomed us and having done so, when we walk out of captivity toward Christ, He promises to be with us through all the challenges we face in life. He didn’t pay the ransom and then walk away. I like that about God. A lot.

The passage continues with examples of how God ransomed the Israelites throughout history, summarizing:

“Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”
Isaiah 43:4 (NLT)

Has there ever been a more significant love letter written? Perhaps the one Jesus recited to Nicodemus:

“16For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
John 3:16-17 (NLT)

God ransomed us by giving His one and only son, and he did it because He loves us. He ransomed us to give us eternal life. He ransomed us not to condemn us, but to save us.

Just in case the Israelites weren’t getting the picture, God repeated himself a few times in the Isaiah passage:

“7Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them…10bYou are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be. 11I, yes I, am the LORD, and there is no other Savior… 13From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.”
Isaiah 43:7, 10b-11 (NLT)

The Israelites were made for God’s glory. We have been made for God’s glory. “What is the chief end of man?” the Westminster catechism asks. “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We were created for the purpose of glorifying God. He has saved us to enjoy Him forever. We have been chosen to know Him, believe in Him and understand that He alone is God. And when we respond to His choosing – when we believe in Him, understand that He alone is God and live our life accordingly – He gives us eternal life. Hallelujah!

God continues by reminding the Israelites of His faithfulness:

“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea.”
Isaiah 43:16 (NLT)

If this were God’s love letter written specifically to you, what might you substitute for this verse? What seemingly hopeless situation did God rescue you from? Pause now to take a few minutes to remind yourself of what God has done for you.

Are you remembering? This is an important step because what follows builds on it. Don’t just read ahead. Pause here to remembering some of the times and situations in which God has saved or rescued you.

Have you remembered? Well, read on…

“18But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 20The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
Isaiah 43:18-20 (NLT)

Wow! Having reminded the Israelites about how He saved them, God then says “Forget about all that! It is nothing compared to what I am about to do. Something new has already begun!” Can you believe that for your life? That God is already working on something new for you? Can you believe that God is already creating pathways through the problems you will face tomorrow, next week and throughout your life to come? That’s what He promises. It was back there in His words in verses 2 and 3:

“2When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:2-3a (NLT)

It was right there in Jesus final words to the apostles recorded in Matthew:

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20b (NKJV)

Jesus was part of that “new thing” God was doing to bring salvation to the Israelites. A plan was in motion that would bring a Savior into the world – One who could permanently save His people from their sins and then remain with them even to the end of the age. One who made it possible for God to forgive their sins not just until the next sacrifice was required, but for all times:

“I — yes, I alone — will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.”
Isaiah 43:25 (NLT)

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember God’s promises to the Israelites and to you. That He who created you has also saved you and promises to be with you forever. That you are precious to Him and even though you have sinned, he promises to blog out those sins. Christ came to make this possible. The heavenly King became a baby. The heavenly King gave up the glories of heaven to live in this fallen world, subject to all the indignities of this world, experiencing the challenges and joys of this world as we do, so that we might experience the joys of fellowship with Him forever.

God is faithful, loving and kind. Christ is just one proof of that.

Praying that you have a joyful celebration of the Christ child being born.

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As I looked at the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule this morning, I was stuck by the fact that we have exactly one week of reading left for 2012. Yes, I know it’s the Saturday before Christmas, and yes, I know that there is one week between Christmas and New Year’s. Still, sometimes things bring truths home to us more starkly than others. In this case, it was looking at the RARE schedule that screamed “only one week left in 2012!”

And as I looked at the calendar, I also realized that it is December 22 – and the world didn’t end yesterday as some predicted! (No, I was not expecting that it would.)

So today, I am impressed that we have the opportunity to start anew. Even here in the last week of 2012, one week before the beginning of a brand new year and right in the final rush of Christmas preparations. We have the opportunity to start anew. Just like we have every day – we can start anew with our whole future in front of us.

God’s promise is that His mercies are new every morning.

22The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV)

I can’t help but note that this is from the book of Lamentations – a book written by the prophet Jeremiah in which he weeps and mourns over the fate of Judah. The word lament means “having remorse for what could have been but wasn’t realized.” In the midst of this mourning, Jeremiah turns to the promises of God and makes the strong statement that His mercies are new every morning.

Some mornings I need that new mercy more than others! Whether I feel like I need His mercy or not, however, His mercy is there – every morning. And it’s there every morning because I do need it every morning. Even those mornings when I wake up feeling on top of the world.

I’ve come to understand and accept that my feelings are quite fickle and fragile. The sense of being full of life and energy that I sometimes wake up with can quickly deteriorate with a single phone call or misstep or even the stray thought that wanders into my mind. God’s mercies are there for me at those times.

This morning I was journaling about a specific challenging situation in my life. Here’s a sanitized version (to protect the innocent) of what I wrote:

This situation makes me so sad…but perhaps for the first time, just now – this very minute – I felt a hint of excitement for something different in the future. What could it be? Lord, speak, for Your servant listens.

As I listened, it was only moments before satan whispered into my ear discouragement and condemnation because of my role in the situation. If I hadn’t recognized it as the voice of satan and not God, the discouragement and condemnation could have been devastating.

My emotions are fickle and fragile! Even when I am steadfastly pursuing God’s purposes, satan can slip in that one sentence that brings discouragement. It’s at those times that it’s important that I speak Truth to myself. Truth with a capital “T” – Truth that comes from God’s Word.

The world didn’t end yesterday as some predicted. They were predicting the end of the world based on something other than God’s Truth. Someone asked my husband if he thought Jesus would come on December 21, the day many thought the world would end. His response was that December 21, 2012 was pretty much the one day that he could guarantee that Jesus wouldn’t come. Because Scripture – Truth – is clear that no man knows the day or the hour of His return (Matthew 24:36). Those who don’t know that truth were preaching deception.

Truth is that I am a child of God and that He has good things for my future. Truth is that discouragement is from the enemy. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” wrote King David. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Psalm 42:11 (NRSV)

On those mornings when I wake up tired and defeated feeling, God can speak a single word and everything is changed. Because His mercy is new every morning. It always has been true and it will continue to be true.

As you prepare for this last week of 2012, let me again encourage you to take some time away with God. Check out this this blog from a few weeks ago for some ideas about how to spend your time. Take some time to apprehend those mercies that He has for you today. In the hustle and bustle of Christmas, in the challenges of attending yet another gathering, in the face of loneliness or defeat, we need them more than ever.

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About a week ago I blogged from Psalm 123:2

We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.
Psalm 123:2 (NLT)

In looking through some old notes, I found a link to this Chris Tomlin song with a note to add it to the end of the blog. Didn’t happen. But it’s worth adding even if it is a week late.

We’re to watch our Lord intense focus that catches His slightest move. The words to Tomlin’s song give us the purpose for our watching:

“Where You go, I’ll go. Where You stay I’ll stay. Where You move, I’ll move. Who You love I’ll love. How You serve I’ll serve.”

Lord, help me to watch You so that I can follow You. More today than yesterday, more tomorrow than today.
.

Sit back and take a four minute worship break. Or make it eight minutes and commit again to follow Him.

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“Then war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels going forth to battle with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no room found for them in heaven any longer.”
Revelation 12:7-8 (AMP)

This blog post, titled The War Over Reality, by Francis Frangipane caught my attention this morning. It has been adapted from his book The Three Battlegrounds, available at Arrow Publishing’s online Bookstore.

While its message feels especially appropriate during this Christmas season, I know it is a life message appropriate for the whole year. Jumping off the phrase “there was no room for them in heaven” (Revelation 12:8, AMP), Frangipane writes about spiritual warfare in a unique way.

“This war in Heaven is difficult for us to comprehend. How do angels and demons, beings who do not die from wounds, wage war? With what do they do battle? And how do they conquer one another? Without exceeding the bounds of our knowledge, we can safely say this: All spiritual warfare is waged over one essential question: Who will control reality on earth, Heaven or hell?”

Christmas is pregnant with possibilities – the possibility for family dissension at annual gatherings; the possibility for personal meltdowns caused by unmet expectations or grief; the possibility of illness brought on by over-stressing our bodies, minds and spirits as we attempt to do all things and be all things to all people.

Who will control your reality? Will it be the influences of the world or the influence of God?

“We should also recognize that the ancient Greeks, in whose language the New Testament was written, had no word for ‘reality.’ To them ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ were the same essence. If we seek to experience the true work of the Holy Spirit, we should understand that the Spirit has been sent to establish the reality of God’s kingdom in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Thus, as we become one with the Spirit of Truth, and as we fully embrace the Word of Truth, we are brought into the reality of God Himself!”

Let me again encourage you to spend time with God during this busy season. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring God’s reality into your world.

And as you attend to things in your every-day, Christmas-season life – those activities and events that are routine and those that happen only during this season – take His truth – that is, reality as only Believers can know it – with you.

“We do not fall in sin as much as we are seduced by it; every sin is cloaked in some measure of deception. But as these lies are uncovered and destroyed, as our thought-processes are freed from illusions, we will discover the blamelessness, perfection, and truth of Christ in us, the hope of glory (see Colossians 1:27).”

Take Christ with you this Christmas season.

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As I completed yesterday’s blog, I was immediately reminded that it is not only me watching God. It is also God watching me. And He isn’t distracted by bright shiny objects as I am! It’s not only you watching God. It’s also God watching you. And nothing distracts Him from His focus.

We’re to watch Him “as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2b, NLT). We’re to watch Him closely – never take our eyes off Him. Yet we do.

Still, He watches over us with a tenderness and a constancy that exceeds anything we can fully comprehend. Think of the perfect parent, combined with the perfect protector, combined with the perfect coach combined, with the perfect husband. That person watches with perfect tenderness, perfect love, perfect protection and perfect compassion, yet his love doesn’t smother us because he wants us to grow into a person who is better than we can ever imagine ourselves being. That’s a glimpse of God.

Somehow that description doesn’t convey the love that is at the heart of it all. Jesus said:

29What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)

If not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without God knowing it, I would think that a whole flock of them would have his full attention. And I’m worth more than that to Him. He’s got His eye on me. All the time!

The Psalmist wrote this:

6Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, 7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care…
Psalm 95:6-7a (NLT)

He watches over us. We are as a flock under his care. Shepherds and ranchers watch over their flocks and herds carefully. They watch to see that they are well fed, healthy and protected. They move them from place to place to provide the best food, sufficient shade, and protection from wild animals. They care for them when they are sick. God is our heavenly shepherd. He watches over us. All the time!

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Watching Eye - Gray Background

1I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.
2We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.
Psalm 123:1-2 (NLT)

Verse one made me smile. Because I love the imagery, He is enthroned in heaven and I know the peace that lifting my eyes to Him can bring.

Verse two challenged me. Because I know I don’t keep my eyes on the Lord as closely as servants watch their masters for the slightest signals.

All those movies about body guards and the Secret Service come to mind. Movies in which the protector watches the one being protected closely – their eyes constantly moving over the crowd for the slightest move or item out of place that might indicate a threat. Ready to spring into action. Always watching.

That’s how we’re to be with the Lord. Not watching the crowd for a disturbance as the Secret Service, but always watching the Lord for the slightest signal – watching for His mercy – watching so that we will recognize it when it arrives, watching so that we’ll be in the right place to receive it.

Of course we’re to watch for more than His mercy. We’re to watch for His signal to act, watch for opportunities to serve Him, watch for hints of His grace in our every day lives.

Are your eyes on Him so constantly that you see His hand in your circumstances? Are your eyes on Him so constantly that you see the sliver of light as He begins to crack open doors in the process of flinging them wide open? Are your eyes on Him so constantly that you see the twinkles of humor and love in His eyes as He watches over you and leads you?

Lord, teach me to keep my eyes on You.

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14After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: 16“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. 17Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

18“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. 19And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. 20Now, 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.”
Isaiah 37:14-20 (NLT)

I’ve always loved this passage from Isaiah. The Assyrians had conquered towns in Judah, then headed north to conquer Israel. They called out King Hezekiah with a speech that challenges him in front of his people. A distressed Hezekiah sent for Isaiah who delivered a prophecy from the Lord that promised  He would rescue Israel. But the Assyrians kept up their taunting:

10“This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all!
Isaiah 37:10-12 (NLT)

That’s when King Hezekiah went up to the temple, spread the letter out before the Lord and prayed. I love that picture. He doesn’t just stay at home and pray. He doesn’t just go sit in a pew and pray. He goes to the altar, spreads the letter out and then prays. I see him unfolding the letter, laying it on the floor, then flattening it out with his hands before he takes a step back to pray. It’s as if he’s laying a gift at the altar. It’s a petition, but also a gift. Hezekiah is treating the message from the Assyrian king with respect, but he gives it to the One who deserves greater respect.

But after spreading the letter carefully out before the Lord, He doesn’t say “Lord, I’m in a real spot here.” He doesn’t say “Lord, help me. Rescue us from our enemies.” No. He says “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.”

Hezekiah worshipped. When we’re in a jam, aren’t we so tempted to get right to the request? Perhaps it’s because our focus is on our need and not on our God. Hezekiah knew his need was great. But he knew His God was greater. So he first declared that.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – start by praising God.

Hezekiah continued “Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.”

Hezekiah puts the taunting in perspective. No ego here. Hezekiah doesn’t say “Lord, do you hear what they’re saying about me and my leadership?” No, he says “They are defying the living God.” Hezekiah is offended that His God has been insulted, not that he’s been insulted. The battle is not ours, but the Lords.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – put it into perspective. Whose battle is it?

Hezekiah isn’t finished praying. He has more reframing to do:“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands.

Hezekiah brings truth into the situation. He acknowledges that what the messenger said was true – all the other nations and their gods were destroyed by the Assyrian kings. But that’s only half the truth. The full truth is that the gods of these other nations weren’t true gods. They were only idols made of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Of course they could be destroyed by the Assyrian army.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – spell out the truth about your enemy. I don’t know who your enemy is, but I know without a doubt that your enemy is not greater than the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, Ruler of all the nations of the earth, Lord of heaven’s Armies.

Hezekiah finishes his prayer with his request “Now, O Lord, rescue us – then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone are God.” A simple request for a mighty need. A simple request with an eternal purpose – so that all may know that He is God. If the Assyrian army wasn’t so powerful that it conquered every country it attacked, it wouldn’t be so well know for it’s might…and it wouldn’t bring such glory to God when God defeats them.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – remember that you don’t need a miracle until you need a miracle. God’s glory is shown greater when the need is greater.

By the way…after his prayer, the Lord had another message for Hezekiahi:

21Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, 22the LORD has spoken this word against him: ‘The virgin daughter of Zion despises you and laughs at you. The daughter of Jerusalem shakes her head in derision as you flee.’”
Isaiah 37:21-22 (NLT)

Did you catch the phrase at the end of verse 21? “Because you prayed…” I love it. Because Hezekiah prayed, the Lord had a message of humiliation and defeat for the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah’s prayer wasn’t long or belabored. It was simple, heartfelt, full of praise and truth and confidence.

The next time you’re in a tough spot – pray as Hezekiah did.

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