Imagine the anxiety when Sennacherib of Assyra shows up in Judah, 8 years after the North's exile, with these words: “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?... Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:33-34). It was true. Samaria had been crushed by Assyria...would that same hand now wreckJudah?
Israel sacrificed her children in fire and used divination and yet claimed to “know” the Lord (Hosea 8:2-3). In what ways does sin deceive our hearts into believing that we are “close to God” when, in reality, we are far from Him? Does God’s patience and willing forgiveness inspire obedient praise or does it expose a presumptuous heart? Let's examine ourselves this Advent season as we wait to greet the Savior with our full and humble submission, gratitude, and love. Amen.
Reading 2 Kings 14 brings to mind Jonah 4:2; there, Jonah calls God gracious and merciful, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The description captures God’s hesed or steadfast love. Jonah’s phrasing is seen throughout Scripture but first appears in Exodus 34:6 during God’s covenant renewal with Israel. The Northern Kingdom was called to belong to a patient God who relents from disaster. God’s far-reaching kindness elects to help a rebellious king and his people. In Jonah’s ministry, we can see God’s mercy extended to those who are far and near: wicked Nineveh and wayward Israel are helped. Who then is beyond His grace?
It was a Tuesday like most others: playground time with my young daughters. Who would have guessed that, amidst the gigging screams of my girls, I would find myself defending the deity of Christ in conversation with another mom who was a Black Hebrew Israelite? A deep theological debate—covering the Trinity, substitutionary atonement, and Pan-Africanism—hadn’t been on my radar as we headed to the playground. And yet, there I was, chatting with a relatively young mother of two in her attempt to proselytize.
Our best and most sincere “well-intentioned” plans can prove “sincerely wrong.” But the word of the Lord stands forever (Psalm 119:89). If so, “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
As we reflect on the narrative, we do well to consider the “little sins” we flirt with, justify and excuse that can begin a “sinkhole” in our faith. Ephesians 5:3 states: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” While always imperfect on this side of eternity, Christians are to guard against the smallest hint of sin. We do so with the help of the Spirit, knowing that--even when we trip--our security rests in the man who, like Naboth, was falsely charged and killed, yet rose again for our justification (Romans 4:25). He is able to keep you from falling and will present you faultless (Jude 1:24).
I’ve heard people say that if they lived in Bible times and heard and saw God speak “powerfully and directly” to people with signs and wonders, they would certainly believe. God does exactly that for Jeroboam and yet He's met with a hardened--not a believing--heart. The truth is that, in the inspired and inerrant Scriptures, God continues to speak powerfully and directly to His people. May He find in us humble hearts that fear, believe, and obey Him.
If I, being evil and having no righteousness of my own, know when and how to pray for my wife because I have stood in her place for 36 hours—how much more will the Perfect Man, Jesus of Nazareth intercede effectively on behalf of His Bride, the Church, knowing her struggle for 33 years (Matthew 7:9-11)! We would not have this confidence if it were not for Jesus’ coming to be born of a woman, born under the law “for us men and for our salvation” (Galatians 4:4-5).
This passage is a staggering display of God’s sovereignty! The triumphs that wicked Sennacherib rested in had been enabled by the Lord God Himself. God had planned his rising and his falling from the days of old. Indeed, what is outside of our God’s control? Trust today that your own times are in His hands--and that hand is immeasurably kind to those in Christ (Psalm 31:15; Ephesians 2:7)!
The juxtaposition of a prideful Uzziah--made low by his unsanctioned dealings in the temple--and an enthroned King, seated in the temple, is stunning! There is only one king appointed to serve as priest. King Jesus alone offers sacrifices for sins on behalf of His people (Hebrews 5:1-10). And to Him the Scriptures say we can approach with confidence in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
God told Israel there would be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience ( Deuteronomy 28). God’s Word proves true! So how should believers today understand this correlation between behavior and blessings/curses? Do faithful believers encounter hardships? Absolutely (2 Corinthians 11:24-29). Does God discipline and reprove His children? He does indeed (Hebrews 12:5-6). Yet in all that, know for certain that the active obedience of Christ secures for the believer the unfailing and never-ending blessings of the Father.
Asa’s attempt at faithfulness brings to mind Luke 14:26. There, Jesus states: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Our love for Christ ought to make all other loves seem like hatred in comparison. But we often struggle with this, honoring others above the Lord.
Before I went into seminary, I worked as a regular volunteer in children’s ministry. My church at the time was small, so I taught Sunday school lessons to a “one-room schoolhouse” of tiny primaries and spunky middle-schoolers. However, after completing my program in theological studies, I avoided kids and preferred to teach adults. I wanted to give my time and service to those who could “best” understand the Scriptures, and children’s ministry didn’t seem like the place.
The floods have lifted up their voice. But the LORD on high is mightier than the thunders of many waters (Psalm 93:3-4). And He hears prayer.
Unfortunately for us, DC’s successive storms exposed tree roots in sewage pipes connected to our home. Summer rain can be beautiful, but not when it’s in your living room. This year’s torrential pours have brought unusual things to our family, I’ll name a few: 1) “interesting objects” from the sewer, 2) an unplanned exit from our home (resulting in 16 days of temporary relocation in several places), and 3) the temptation to grow anxious. As our family moved around, we were met with other kinds of storms. Phone calls came bringing news of unexpected death and illness in our extended family. Indeed, this has been The Summer of Rain.
I listen to teachers who tend to stress (and rightfully so, I believe) our inability to please God on the basis of our own righteousness. Christians are not justified by their works but by faith in the work of Christ on their behalf (Galatians 2:16). But does this mean that God is only pleased with Christ and never pleased with us? Are the works of believers always and only filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6)?
The God who clothed a despairing Adam and Eve doesn’t change (Genesis 3:21)! That same God justified a filthy high priest named Joshua and He continues to exchange insufficient coverings for a garment of His own making (Zechariah 3:4-5). Those who trust in Him alone for salvation receive a robe made white by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). “Naked, I come to Thee for dress; helpless, I look to Thee for grace." I’m so thankful that Jesus, the Rock of Ages, is my all-sufficient covering!
The theme of Proverbs 3:1-12 reminds us that God indeed blesses the obedience of His covenant people. At this point, those driven by performance may resolve to obey by the strength of their will. Others, more aware of their shortcomings, may be tempted to despair. So let's remember Jesus, the only Son who perfectly obeys the Father’s instructions. He is the Son who receives the “favor and good success in the sight of God and man” promised in Proverbs 3:4 (Luke 2:52). Jesus is our hope!
Our Bridegroom’s kingdom has come, but not fully . Our communion meals anticipate a future feasting. Until then, the sting of sin makes us yearn for the consummation of Christ’ kingdom. We fast before the God of daily bread because our hunger for home surpasses the pleasure of the tastiest meal on earth.
Most of us know stories of people who have shared beautifully from God’s Word, only to turn to bent paths and beliefs. These stories should always make us cling all the more to Christ and His Word, knowing that we too are susceptible to unbiblical ideas and ways, if not for the grace of God.