Archive for July, 2010

Asa’s Disease

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.

II Chronicles 16:12

This is the sad end to the life of Asa,  a great man and a great king.  Toward the end of his life, he was “diseased in his feet”.  This disease was said to be “exceeding great”.  I don’t know what the disease was, but it was bad enough that the physicians couldn’t help him and ended up dying within two years.  According to this verse, his main problem was in the fact that he did not seek the Lord.  Even though this was an “exceeding great” disease, he sought the help of the world and not the help of the Lord.

The application for us is simple.  We all have an “exceeding great” disease that is eating us up and destroying us.  Like Asa’s disease, it is absolutely crippling and it will end in death.  Our disease is sin.  And there is only one remedy for sin.  We can spend our entire lives searching the wisdom of the world to try to come up with some kind of covering for our sin, but it will be to no avail.  We can try the world’s “physicians”, but they can’t help at all with this disease.  Only God can heal the disease of sin.  John the Baptist said of Jesus “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”. 

How often have we tried to go to the “physicians” for the spiritual healing and cleansing that comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ?  Every one of us has that old disease of sin within ourselves.  May we always seek the Lord to rid us of it!

Turning Made the Difference

Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.  But when they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.

II Chronicles 15:3-4

I love the contrast provided by these two verses.  And I think we can see the same contrast in our own lives sometimes. 

Verse three is a very sad verse.  The nation of Israel had been “without the true God” for a “long season”.  Can you imagine even spending a day “without God”?  They had also been without a “teaching priest” and without “law”.  I’m not a Bible scholar by any means, but I think I could safely apply those things to “pastors and teachers” for the the “teaching priests” and the Bible for “law”.  In our terms, the people of Israel had been without God, without a pastor to guide them and without the Bible.  Can you even begin to imagine?

They were not without these things because of some random glitch in God’s system.  They were without these things because they didn’t want them.  God had been clear with His people that if they would follow Him, He would be with them and bless them beyond measure.  But they had rejected Him. 

Then we get to verse four.  They found themselves in trouble (just like we do when we reject God, God’s men and God’s Word) and they “turned unto the Lord God… and sought him”.  Just like the Prodigal son, they had enough of their own way and turned to the Lord.  And guess what?  He was found of them.  

What a great encouragement!  They rejected Him.  They turned from Him.  They brought problems and troubles on themselves.  And yet when they turned to the Lord and sought Him, He was right there.  Sometimes we may think that the Lord has abandoned us because we can’t see Him.  But usually we are pointed the wrong direction and just need to turn around.  And when we turn around; turning away from our own way, He is right there.  What a wonderful thought!

The Battle is the Lord’s

And there  came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.  Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.  And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude.  O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.  So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.

II Chronicles 14: 9-12

This is a great passage that shows how we should be praying about our “battles” in life.  The Ethiopians came out to fight against Asa and his people.  Asa prayed a simple, yet very effective prayer in which he does several important things that I think we can apply to our own prayer lives:

1. He acknowledged God’s power.
-“…it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power”.  The reason that we pray is that God is all-powerful and we are not.  When we pray, we are asking for God’s divine help.  If we expect to get that divine help, we are going to have to believe that He has the power to do what we need Him to do.

2. He acknowledged his own helplessness.
-“…with them that have no power”.  Asa understood that, without the Lord, he and his army were nothing.  But with the Lord, nothing was impossible.  That is the same way I am: without the Lord, I am nothing.  But with the Lord, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

3. He acknowledged his dependence on God.
-“…for we rest on thee”.  He told the Lord that they were going to depend on Him.  That is the point to which we have to come to have an effective prayer life.

4. He acknowledged that the battle is the Lord’s.
-“…in thy name we go against this multitude… let not man prevail against thee”.  Asa appealed to the fact that 1. they had put their trust in the Lord, and 2. the Lord would not allow man to prevail against Him.  As Christians, we are “on the Lord’s side”.  It does not bring honor and glory to His name when we are defeated by the world and the flesh.  He has promised to give us the victory if we will let Him.

5. He won the victory.
-“So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled”.  Enough said.  Prayer works.

Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

I Samuel 7:12

A Christmas Carol is what generally comes to mind when I hear the name “Ebenezer”.  Old grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge has, I think, ruined the name “Ebenezer” for several generations.  You don’t see many little Ebenezer’s running around.  The only other time I run across the name “Ebenezer” is when I sing one of my favorite hymns, “Come, Thou Fount”.  In it, one of the verses says “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, Hither by thy help I’m come.”  It sounds good, but until today, I really didn’t know exactly what it meant. 

“Here I raise mine Ebenezer” comes from this verse in I Samuel.  The name “Ebenezer” is Hebrew and means “The stone of help”.  It really is a great name!

Samuel put up (raised) a stone and called it Ebenezer because, as the end of the verse says, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”.  He put the stone there for a memorial to the fact that the Lord had helped them to that point.  It would remind the Israelites that they had not done things on their own, but were completely indebted to the Lord for all that they had and all that they had overcome.

We should, as the hymn says, be raising some “Ebenezers” in our own lives.  We should recognize that it has indeed been the Lord who has helped us.  We should remember that everything we have and everything we are is all because of Him.  He has brought us this far, and He will take us the rest of the way, too.

Here I raise MY Ebenezer.  He has been my “stone of help”.  I will try to remember that and honor Him for that all of my days.

“Come, Thou Fount” (Hymn)

Come, Thou Fount
Robert Robinson (1758)

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

This is one of those hymns that I think you really have to meditate on for a while before you start really “getting it”.  I like the phrase “streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise”.  When we stop to think about just how merciful the Lord has been to us, it really does stand to reason that we would be praising Him and thanking Him far more than we probably do.  And I can definitely identify with the “prone to wander, Lord I feel it…” lines.  And it is that wandering heart that I want to Lord to “take and seal”.  I always thought that “ebenezer” line was strange, but I have a post about that word ready for tomorrow!  “Jesus sought me when a stranger…”  What a great song!

Build and Prosper

Therefore he (Asa) said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the Lord our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side.  So they built and prospered. 

II Chronicles 14:7

Asa was a good king of Judah, and in this verse, we see more of the wisdom that God gave to this king.  At the time of his reign, the Lord had given Judah peace.  They were not at war with anybody, which was rare.  They sought the Lord, and He gave them peace “on every side”.  On a side note, that is what the Lord will do when we seek Him.  He will give us peace “on every side”.  But the thing that jumped out at me about this verse is the simple fact that Asa was not wanting to rest during this peace.

He told the people: “Let us build…”.  God had given them rest, and Asa saw this rest as an opportunity to strengthen the cities.  He knew that, in the future, there would be more battles to fight.  And he wanted to people to be ready for them.  When we are at peace, we tend to start to take things easy.  We tend to let things slide.  When we are not “battling”, we sometimes tend to get comfortable and weak.  But not Asa.  He took the time of peace to “build”.

When we find ourselves at peace in our lives, that is the time to take the opportunity to build.  There are plenty of times that we will have to fight with the world, the flesh and the devil.  But when we are not in a battle, we need to be using that time to strengthen ourselves for the next battle and for future battles.

The people of Judah followed Asa’s advice and I like the end of the verse: “So they built and prospered”.  Let us “build and prosper” today!

Asa’s Example

And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God: For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: And commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandments.

II Chronicles 14:2-4

Asa was a good king.  In verse 2, the Bible tells us that he did “that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord…”.  The next two verses give us an indication as to why he was a good king.  His example would be a healthy one for us to follow.

1. He got rid of the idols and false gods.
-In verse 3, Asa “took away the altars of the strange gods” and he “brake down the images” and he “cut down the groves”.  He got rid of the stuff that wasn’t supposed to be there.  In our own lives, we often have things that shouldn’t be there.  We may not literally have “idols” of false gods, but we definitely have things that would keep us from wholly serving the Lord.  We need to, as Asa did, go through our lives and cut out the things that come between us and God.

2. He helped others do right.
-In verse 4, Asa actually commanded the people of Judah to “seek the Lord… and do the law and the commandment.”  Now, Asa was the king, so he could “command” people to do whatever he wanted.  I am not in the position of “commanding” people to follow the Lord, but I can most definitely encourage them in that direction.  I can point people to Jesus.  I can tell people about what the Lord has done for me and try to persuade them to follow the Lord.  I may not have much influence, but I can use what I do have to influence others to do right.

Asa provides us with a good example and a good reminder of what we should be as Christians.  How are we doing?

Nothing Shall Be Impossible

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:37

The context in which we find this verse is the angel speaking to Mary, telling her about the Son she is going to have and also telling her about the son that her cousin Elisabeth is going to have.  Mary is a virgin and Elisabeth is old, or as verse 7 puts it, “well stricken in years”.  These things would humanly seem to be fairly big obstacles.  Virgins don’t have babies and old ladies don’t have babies.  But now we get to verse 37.

“With God nothing shall be impossible”.  Adidas is famous for it’s slogan “Impossible is nothing”.  While it may be a catchy jingle for selling shoes and clothes, it is not true.  I have watched a lot of sports in my lifetime and there are some things that are literally impossible.  For example, it is not possible for a human to run a 1 minute mile.  In that case, impossible is something.  But it is different with God.  With Him, impossible really is nothing.

Sometimes, as humans, we tend to forget that God is a God of the impossible.  We think of things in human terms and fail to remember that God has the ability to do anything.  Sometimes we don’t pray for things because, deep down, we think that God either can’t or won’t answer us.  Sometimes we don’t do something we know we should do because we see it as a “lost cause”.  There are no lost causes with God.  No matter what problem you may be facing, “…with God nothing shall be impossible”.  It is a very simple verse and a very simple truth, but one that we need to remember and, more importantly, live out in our lives.  Nothing shall be impossible!

Remember

Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

I Chronicles 16:12

Remember.  That word is a difficult one for some people.  Personally, I am the kind of person who can easily remember Jimmy Key’s league leading ERA for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987 (2.76), but will look frantically for my keys while I am holding them in my hand.  As people, we tend to forget things, especially things that we don’t think about all that often.  Our forgetfulness is one of the reasons David told this to the Israelites: “Remember his marvellous works that he hath done”.

Do we remember all of the marvellous works that He has done for us?  How often do we really think about all of the marvellous works that He has done for us and in us?  Maybe a better question would be “has He done a marvellous work in us?”.  If God has done something great for you, that is something that should be remembered often.  Jesus Christ came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross and rose from the dead.  And He did that to take away my sin.  That is a marvellous work.  If nothing else good ever happens to me in this life, that is still the most marvellous work of all.  But He has done other great things in my life.  It is my job to keep them in remembrance.

When we are remembering and thinking about all of the great and marvellous things that the Lord has done for us, we are going to be thankful.  A person who is focusing on what the Lord has done for them is a person who is not going to have a problem complaining.  We are to be thankful, joyful and content.  And the way to be those things is to focus on Him and all of his marvellous works.  May we keep our eyes on Him and off of ourselves!

Seeking Continually

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.

I Chronicles 16:11

David instructs the people in this verse to do two things: 1. seek the Lord and His strength and 2. do it continually.

The Bible instructs us over and over again to seek the Lord.  This verse specifies that we should be seeking His strength.  Of course, there is good reason to seek His strength- we have none of our own.  Without the Lord’s strength, we do not have anything.  He gives us the strength that we need to face life’s trials and troubles.  He gives us strength to live for Him and to reject temptation.  He gives us strength to overcome the flesh and the world.  He is our strength, and, as such, we should be seeking Him.

We should be seeking Him, and we should be doing it all the time.  We should never stop seeking Him.  There is never a time when we can say that we have enough strength.  There is never a time when we don’t need to be seeking Him.  We need to seek Him “continually”.