Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's all in who you know

I came across an event in the Bible that I had never read before in my entire life, in fact, I have never heard about it before. It snagged my attention and the more I read the more determined I became to write about this very unusual event.
Isaiah 37 finds the nation of Israel in a very tough spot. This was not unusual and it was in reality the status quo. You see, the nation of Israel went through a cycle that many people even today tend to go through to one extent or another.
This is the cycle that a very good pastor I had once in my life shared one evening. His name is Scott Baker and he pastors in the Faith Baptist Church in Belleville, Illinois.

This was the pattern that God's chosen people historically have always followed.
They were in the judgment phase of this cycle when this chapter picks up.
King Hezekiah has just been given the latest batch of, "I hate you and am going to kill you" mail from the king of the invading Assyrian army. 
These were not idle threats. This was very much the real deal.
In fact, the Assyrian king wants King Hezekiah to check out his "Bad King" resume and in verses 8-13 he lists some references for Hezekiah to check out.
It is a list of all the conquered kings that this Assyrian had put away. He goes on to say something to the effect, " Their gods did not help them and yours is just a crutch. You and your god will be another has been when I roll into town".
Have you ever been toe to toe with a bully before?
I am not talking about the emotionally challenged kid on the playground. Bullies can come in any form, position, or title. These are the people that seem to thrive on trying to place fear and intimidation into your life. They manipulate, shout, bluster, dominate, lie, and they come in all shapes and sizes.
The credentials that they received at bully school must be accredited because they appear to be able to back up their threats against you.
Maybe these bullies have already begun to inflict damage and you have found yourself questioning the source of your strength?
It happens to all of us from time to time.
Bullies come, threats are made, damage is done, and choices await.
"So the servants of king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.Behold, I will send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land." ~Isaiah 37:5-7

Verses 5-7 tell us that King Hezekiah had already received God's promise that everything would be ok, but when the voices raise, and the desk gets pounded those promises can appear distant.
May I just point out that it is not the promises that we need to cling to as much as it is the one who makes the promises that we need to cling to!
So the stack of hate mail piles up, because bullies love to produce threatening hate mail.
Then something extraordinary happens.
Hezekiah does something absolutely spectacular!
He does not cry to his kingly friends, he does not call an emergency staff meeting, nor does he run to those within the kingdom. He takes the mail to the church where he spreads it out before the one that he knows. He takes the mail straight to God!!!
"And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD, saying,O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth: thou hast made heaven and earth. Incline thine ear, O LORD, and hear; open thine eyes, O LORD, and see: and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent to reproach the living God.Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations, and their countries, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only. "
                                                                                   ~Isaiah 37:14-20
The best thing that we can do when persecution comes is to take the persecutor to the Lord.
This was not a case of, "Everyone  is attacking poor little me" because people disagree with me or my position on things. This was a very clearly spelled out threat on his life! This Assyrian king was on his way and blood was going to be spilled, the blood type was "Hezekiah A positive".
King Hezekiah lays the letters out and invites God to read them. He knew God and had an open line with Him.
Who you run to first in a trial truly tells where you place your trust.
The answer God gives is mind blowing to say the least!
You see, it is all in who you know.
"Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.   By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." Isaiah 37:33-35
God spells out the rules of engagement and the plan is simple. Bad guy comes...God wins.
Then comes the spectacular!
This is the part I had missed.
"Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses."~ Isaiah 37:36
Did you see it?
One angel comes and kills one hundred and eighty five thousand men Thor style!!!
I had to go back and read this several times because even after growing up in church I had never heard this story.
This was one angel. Then you read Hebrews 1:4 where it says that Jesus is "Being mad so much better than the angels..."
The amount of power God has is to incredible to even try to put into words.
Some time back there was some Spiritual Warfare going on here and God allowed me to see some of that power on display. I can only say that it has forever been imprinted on my mind His magnitude and intensity!
The angel was a messenger here and in verses 36 and 37 the Assyrian king received the message and rushed home to get to work writing out one hundred and eighty five thousand condolence letters.
He is killed by his own sons and Israel advances to the next stage of it's historical cycle.
I would like to make a few observations here:
These can be both personal and circumstantial.
Sometimes the goal is pruning for growth (John 15:1-2)
Sometimes the goal is correction (Hebrews 12:3-15)
Sometimes it is just because the world reacts negatively to God's light (1 Peter 4:13-16)
Sin is what sin does.
It is all ultimately for God's glory!
I want you to out loud ask yourself this question...
If He can send one angel to fill one hundred and eighty five body bags in one night, is it possible for Him to ___________________________________________ for you?
                                                                       (Fill in the blank)
Tough things come into our life and our circumstances seem precarious, but in all reality...
Climbing with you,

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