“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’” 2 Kings 20:19. Hezekiah is normally thought of as one of the few good kings of Judah, a faithful servant of God. After all, when the Assyrians had already taken the northern kingdom off into captivity and threatened Jerusalem, Hezekiah stood firm for the LORD. He even prayed when he was sick at the point of death and God granted him fifteen more years of life. It’s not the foolishness of showing the Babylonians the riches of his nation that makes me think he tripped at life’s finish line, but rather his reaction when he heard what he’d done: he failed to provide for future generations of God’s kingdom. Who cares what happens to the church years after I’m gone … “if there will be peace and security in my days?” And so the twelve year-old Manasseh, the most wicked of kings and born during his life’s extension, would rule for 55 years after Hezekiah’s death. What’s our attitude about the future of the Lord’s church after we’re gone? What are we doing now to keep out the Manassehs and ensure a foundation for future Christians?
“They open their mouths against me; they say, ‘Aha, Aha! Our Eyes have seen it!’ You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O LORD, be not far from me!” Psalm 35:21-22. One of the great struggles we have in following Jesus as our example and model for our lives is His sinless perfection. We know our weaknesses, and though we are not where we used to be before we obeyed the gospel, we can become discouraged when we see how far we have to go to truly walk as Jesus did. As Jesus’ ancestor and a man after God’s heart, David is an encouraging study while we keep our Savior in view. In this psalm, he is aware that his enemies are watching him closely, just waiting for him to mess up. And, while they gloat and plot against him, returning evil for his good, David sins and falls short of the glory of God—like we all do—and his enemies cry, ‘Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!’ This would be discouraging indeed if this meant David’s final downfall—and this is where many of us see our spiritual situation in the world—but David knows that other eyes are upon him. God sees and will not let His child languish. While the world writes us off, God writes our names in the book of life.
“Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” Judges 13:8. God’s people had put away their foreign gods to serve the LORD, and now after Jephthah, the leader who was weak in faith, served for six years and three others judged Israel for a combined twenty-five, His people completed the cycle and returned to their sin. So, God sold them into spiritual slavery to the Philistines for forty years. The first lesson we should draw from this is that if we believe ourselves standing, we should be careful lest we fall. We should continually examine ourselves to see if we have compromised with the world, which is so easy to do! Second, God provided honest seekers, who were also products of a spiritually-idolatrous culture. Even though Samson would not be anyone to emulate, his parents truly want to know how to raise a child in the LORD who has been set aside for such a great purpose. He did it then; He can do it today! Third, even the best of parents will produce a Samson, who will be antagonistic towards all even though he was raised in the way God wants.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you came to do.’ Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him” Matthew 26:50. I don’t believe that Jesus would be sarcastic here. After submitting to His Father’s will just moments before, He would have put aside all the physical and emotional sleights He, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2) was about to endure. And this one, though predicted, would have hit particularly hard. Despite how Judas acted, Jesus still called him ‘friend.’ He had just called them all “friends” not too long before this when He defined the greatest love as “someone lay[ing] down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And then He did it. I wonder if Jesus was not subtly communicating to Judas that He was laying down His life for even him despite Judas’ actions that were the opposite of what a friend would do? But Jesus chose—as we all do every day—our actions despite how others return our love. This is why we can sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!” Loving us fully Jesus is a friend to us. Are you one to Him?
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8. Yes, I know that tastes change, but I really wish I could go back in time and stop my child-self from picking the “black things” out of various cream-of-mushroom casseroles that my mother made. I love mushrooms today, but I had to ‘taste and see’ them first. I could have just stayed content that I didn’t like them—and that is what many do with the LORD. Even if we’re told that we’re blessed to take refuge in Him, many believe they’re doing well enough on their own to bring an imitation of blessing upon themselves. To need the LORD we must believe that He has something so precious that we can’t get on our own. Heaven? Either doesn’t exist or we all go there anyway—or we just cease to exist when we die. Eliminate anything God can give us and we eliminate the need for the gospel. Hey, there’s no sin anyway—so Christians are just giving meaning to His death. But, Jesus has indeed been risen. And so, why and what’s that mean for me? We must get others to taste and see that the LORD is indeed good and blesses richly. Now, if I could only get myself to try liver and lima beans!