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defense

Paul spends the better part of 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 “boasting.”  Why would he do that?  Why did he do that – even calling himself foolish and a madman as he did it?

False “brethren” – false “apostles” – more or less false “friends” had come into the Corinthian church.  They were not only maligning the gospel, but also pointedly maligning Paul himself.  Paul steps up to the plate to defend himself based on the facts of his own example.  He uses his hardship and weakness as his boast.  He speaks of all the right and reasons he had to be heard by his church.

The truth is, he never should have had to do this.  His church should have defended him when these false frenemies came to tear him (and them!) down.  If anyone was worthy of their loyalty, it was Paul.  No one loved them more than he did save Christ.  This man would have given his life for theirs.  How could they not see the truth?  How could they be so blind?

He begins by showing them that he has all the qualifications they use to disqualify people who do not.  He shares all the pain he personally had endured for the sake of the gospel and for them.  He talks about a persistent problem he deals with in his own life – his “thorn.”  These are his “boasts.”

In chapter 12 Paul tells his church that he has been a fool to elaborate on such things, but that it was they that “forced him to it.”  How so?

His reason for speaking so foolishly and boasting in his weaknesses was because his own church had forsaken him.  Consider that.

The Corinthian church knew Paul very well.  They knew he was qualified to lead them.  They knew what he had risked, endured, and lost for the sake of the gospel and for Christ.  They surely knew these facts well.  He feels particularly inclined to remind them because they surely should have loved him.  They should have listened to him.  They should have remembered him and his true words when false brothers came in and slandered him and the gospel itself.

Paul’s church did not defend him.  They listened instead to liars who they did not know from Adam.  They followed false men with a false gospel whose primary goal was to discredit Paul himself so that they could take control of the church.

Paul’s church did not defend him so he defends himself.  He’s talking crazy because their utter foolishness is making him crazy!  He’s saying, “Hey, guys!  Remember me?  The guy who taught you the gospel?  I am not inferior to these troublemaking false new best friends of yours.  I am noone special but, with God as my witness, I am a true friend to you and to God.  Did you see the signs he gave me?  I know you did.  I don’t want your money or your positions or whatever it is you think I’m going to take away from you.  I want your heart.  Show me your heart.”

“…for I seek not what is yours but you…” ~2 Corinthians 12:14

You guys think I’m here to take something away from you or hurt you.  I am not seeking what belongs to you.  I am seeking YOU!  Sounds like something Jesus would say…

“Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” ~2 Corinthians 12:19

You think I am defending myself?  This foolish defense is for YOU!!! It is for your growth, church.  BELOVED church.  Please.  Please do not let me show up and see you unrepentant.  This is my third visit to you.  I warned you.  There are no more warnings.  Warning time is over.  Examine yourselves.  See if you are truly in the faith.  I want you to be restored.  Here is the only way that is going to happen:

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” ~2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Rejoice.  Restore.  Comfort each other.  Agree.  Live in peace.  Please.  Church, please.

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half

In 2 Chronicles 25, we find a young man who has been appointed to leadership.  Amaziah was 25 years old when his father was killed and he became king of Judah.  This is how the text describes him:

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart. ~2 Chronicles 25:2

Do you know anyone like this?  These ones are half-hearted, half-committed living in halfway halftime all the time.  It’s no way to be in any area of life, but when it comes to spiritual matters, halfway halftime will never cut it.  Let’s learn from one who did it wrong.

Apparently Amaziah wasn’t all in when it came to his dealing and disposition toward God.  It sounds like he just got by with a few good deeds here and there and perhaps a friendly front in regards to his maker.  Matthew Henry says, “The general character of Amaziah: He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, worshiped the true God, kept the temple service a going, and countenanced religion in his kingdom; but he did not do it with a perfect heart, that is, he was not a man of serious piety or devotion himself, nor had he any zeal for the exercises of religion.  He was not enemy to it, but a cool and indifferent friend.”

This chapter tells us of a couple things Amaziah did and it reveals his not so whole heart in the process.  The first thing we are told is that Amaziah obeyed the law of Moses by sparing the children of those who assassinated his father.  Next, we learn that he calls the army of Israel to help him in battle, but reneges at the counsel of a prophet.  He actually pays these guys to come fight with his army and then, because the prophet warns him to trust in God instead, he sends them home.

One has to wonder why he called these guys in the first place.

Amaziah was going out to fight the Edomites.  This was a people known for their idolatry.  They were the descendants of Esau – Jacob’s twin who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.  Anyway, just 50 or 60 years prior to this conquest, Judah’s army had been 3 or 4 times more numerous.  Sin had so enveloped these people that their army’s number was one fourth what it had just previously been.  “Sin weakens a people, diminishes them, dispirits them, and lessens their number and figure.”  Matthew Henry

Amaziah would not have even gotten himself into this issue of paying Israel’s soldiers, sending them away, losing his money, and having to deal with their rioting and mischief-making afterward if he had just first considered the lack of help any of his ancestors had in using them as allies previously.  Some just don’t learn from past mistakes I guess.

Calling in men in addition to his own was distrust of God.  Matthew Henry says, “If he had made sure of God’s presence, the army he had of his own was sufficient.”  Not only that, but particularly these men he was not to call.  They were not trustworthy and therefore no good and godly favor could ever be expected by their employment.

So he listens to the prophets and the extra troops go home before the battle.  When Amaziah got back from the battle – which he won without Israel, by the way – the very first thing he does is worship…the idols of the Edomites.  What??!

Yep.  God gave him victory and he just couldn’t wait to get home and set up the idols of the men he just conquered and worship them…because…those false gods saved the Edomites so well…right.

This is completely ridiculous!!!  But this is the kind of thing humans do.  God, in his mercy, sends Amaziah yet another prophet.  Here’s how it goes:

 Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” 16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.” ~2 Chronicles 25:15-16

This time, Amaziah does not heed the prophet’s true words.  He tells him to stop talking.  He asks this prophet who he thinks he is.  He goes so far as to warn him that if he doesn’t shut up he will be killed.

“So the prophet stopped…”

That’s the saddest line in this entire account.  “Those that will not take advice from the word of God, which would guide them aright, will justly be left to the bad advice of those that will counsel them to their destruction.  Let those be made fools that will not be made wise.”  Matthew Henry

When the true prophet stops talking, it is time to fear.  It is time to start looking over your shoulder, Amaziah.  You are in a bad place.

The prophet does stop talking, stop instructing, stop leading Amaziah.  He gives one final warning and he lets God have at it with this hell-bent idolator.

Wait.  What?!  Isn’t this the guy who just obeyed another prophet at his own personal expense and embarrassment?  Isn’t this the guy who just won a great victory?  It is.  But a prophet asking him to forsake his money and his reputation did not strike at the heart of this half-hearted not so religious guy like the one asking him to forsake his idols did.  Herein we find his true god which was no god at all.

Some men can put on a good show of religion until someone comes along and strikes at the heart of their true god.

In the end, Amaziah was killed by the very men whom he had tried to employ and trust in in the place of God’s presence.  Truly though, it was his pride and his lack of willingness to listen to sound, godly counsel that ultimately destroyed him.

There was something terribly wrong with Amaziah’s heart.  It was not whole.  Such is the lot of many a broken man trying to lead.  If you don’t get that thing fixed, and quick, the fate and pride of Amaziah may find you out.  Go to the master mechanic – Jesus Christ.  He is the only one who can fix a not so whole heart.

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trumoet

The people of Israel had been through hell and high water – literally.  They had been slaves in Egypt specially delivered right through the sea.  Finally, after forty years of stubborn, rebellious, complaining wandering in the desert, Joshua led them into the land God had promised.

In Joshua chapter 5, we find Joshua circumcising the sons of the Israelite slaves.  Mom and Dad didn’t make it out of the desert, but their children did.  The kids had been born on the way and had never been circumcised in accordance with God’s law.  Just afterward they eat their last provision of manna and remember the Passover and God’s deliverance and mercy.  Their new leader, Joshua, understands the order of importance when it comes to victory.  First, his men must be physically and spiritually obedient and prepared, then they must listen to the Word of the Lord.  Only after all of that is done do they begin to take what God has promised in victory.  It is not until they are physically healed and spiritually prepared that someone important shows up.  Joshua 5:14 tells us that the commander of the Lord’s Army comes and speaks to him about how to conquer the people living in the land God was giving to them.

Up until the point they arrive at the town of Jericho, all the people in the land have been in fear knowing what God had done for the Israelites in marching them through the sea.  Rahab the prostitute had even said as much to the spies Joshua had sent (Joshua 2:9).

They were afraid, but it did not cause them to obey God or befriend God’s people.  Instead, it caused them to shut themselves up inside the walls of their city.  The people of Jericho had resolved that Israel would not be their master.  No one could come in to their community and no one could go out to make peace or otherwise.  “Thus were they infatuated and their hearts hardened to their own destruction – the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty.” ~ Matthew Henry

Those silly walls, as strong and mighty as they were, were no match for the Commander of God’s Army.  Those walls were destined to fall flat despite how fortified and exclusive they were built to be.

The angel gives some rather bizarre instructions for this first military conquest in the promised land.  He tells God’s people to take the ark of the covenant (symbolizing His presence), march around the city, and blow trumpets continually every day for seven days.  The seventh day they were to march around seven times blowing the trumpets and then shout.  That is what would make the walls of Jericho fall down.

There were several reasons why this was going to work and several reasons why God chose to do it this way.  It was going to work, firstly, because it was God’s sovereign will, but, from a practical standpoint, the blowing of the trumpets from outside the walls of this closed city served to intimidate those therein.  By doing so, God’s people were declaring war.

 “They proclaimed war with the Cannanites and so struck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits, they were to be conquered and subdued.  Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.  They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, ‘We shall have peace, though we go on.’ “ ~Matthew Henry

The trumpets themselves were least impressive.  God loves to use the foolish things to shame the strong.  Good news for me!

Another reason this worked, from an earthly standpoint, is that, while they may have feared firstly, after seven days of this ridiculous, noisy parade and no attack, the insiders doubtless began to think it was all a laughable show.

“Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came.  Wicked men think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgement; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late…The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people…That which they trusted to for defense proved their destruction…they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them.” ~Matthew Henry

We all know how the story ends.  The walls fall down flat at the shout of God’s people and Jericho is the city chosen to serve as an example to their enemies and an encouragement for the further conquests in taking over the promised land.

There were some practical and spiritual reasons why God chose to have his people conquer the city of Jericho in this way.

It made God’s glory known because only he can be credited with victory when a walled-in city falls at a shout.  This parading around also served to honor his ark as well as his priests who were carrying it and sounding the trumpets.

There is not too far any of us can get in spiritual victory apart from the presence of God going with us.  That’s why Jesus said, “…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Furthermore, this was meant to test the faith, patience, and obedience of God’s people.  Wonder what they were thinking.  Wonder how they felt when they had to march around thirteen times.  Thirteen trips around this city with nothing but a promise and their dull and meager instruments.  Yet, the purpose of this slow going-round served to test as well as encourage them heartily when victory came.  This was only the first battle.  Many were to follow.  This was for them to look back on and remember how strong and wise their God really was.  He keeps his promises.

God is in the business of tearing down walls.  So many times we find ourselves building them up, though.  The weapons he gives have divine power to destroy strongholds.  Jesus himself came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility and make one man out of two.  He came to bring unity between God and man as well as man and man.  He came to demolish strongholds.

Pray. Fast. Repeat.  God will take care of the walls.  They will fall when he is obeyed and honored by his people.

“The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies…Thus, shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.” ~Matthew Henry

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gloves

Preteen + preteen + peacemaker AKA tattletale + one year old = it’s spring but if we dare open our windows someone may call the law.  And I might need them to.

After much begging, pleading, and coercing from tomboy mom, I think my girls have finally chosen a sport they want to practice.  My girls – especially the older two – seem to have adopted a new way of life.  It is hard to describe, but if it had a name it might be called, “Four Girl Fight Club.”

Apparently they have come to believe that the only solution to their ridiculously difficult life is to fight with one another over everything.  Sometimes, the decibels are so high in this compound that it takes a conversation with a hard of hearing mom, a machine washing clothes, a screaming baby, a running lawn mower, a phone alarm ringing to remind me that today’s the last day to pay that bill before I have a 32 thousand dollar late fee, and the noise of a 25 year-old refrigerator to successfully ignore the bouts of unmitigated rage.

Oops.  Did I say ignore?  I mean avoid.  Er.  Um.  No.  I mean, I would never ignore or avoid my own children.  That’s ridiculous.  Clearly I’m busy with all the above mentioned, conveniently noisy tasks.  I would really prefer to be ringside.  Who doesn’t love a good fight, right?  That’s why, even being the free range parent that I am, I always make sure I rush in to see the good parts.  Anytime I am in the middle of 17 other things and I hear someone getting pummelled with pretend accusations, I run right in!

Yesterday was one of those days.

By the time I came to see what was the matter, one fighter was already crying and drawing an emo self-portrait complete with tears and monster sister hovering over her in the sketch, and the other was smugly smarting off about her rightness in the matter.

Now.  I always like to get the facts straight from both sides before I go trying to sub out for the referee, but, with all the commotion I didn’t hear that phone alarm and it just so happened that the ref’s paycheck was the bill I forgot to pay.  So, unfortunately, I had to jump right in quick before someone lost a tooth, or, in my case, their own flippin’ mind.

“What on the earth is going on in here, girls?!”

“Addie made an app and she made rules for the game she created but she isn’t following HER OWN RULES that SHE made!”

“That’s not true!  I made it so I am allowed to make the rules!!”

When I got down to the bottom of it all, it seems that my very technically inclined daughter made up a game and made a rule for her fellow gamers that she was not following herself.  This reality ignited the call to use every justice bone in my other daughter’s body.

“You can’t do that!!!  You can’t just change the rules for yourself!  You can’t just make other people follow them and not follow them yourself!”

“I made it!!!  I am the owner!  I can do whatever I want!”

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” said the referee.

“Ok.  Let’s see here.  You are both right – in a way.  Addie is right that if she created it, as the administrator she is ABLE to do things in whatever fashion she chooses.  If she sets it up with an exception for herself, she can because she owns and created the game.  However, as a matter of good business and fairness, Mia is right.  No one likes leaders who expect others to follow the rules that they made but do not follow the rules themselves.  That’s why everyone gets mad at the government.  They have the authority to make the rules and laws because we have entrusted it to them – given it to them – but they are so unjust that they apply them to everyone but themselves.  They also change the rules whenever it is personally advantageous.  That is called injustice.  We do not want to be unjust to others.

So, I understand why everyone is upset but, while both of you are right, you are also both wrong. Think about your other two sisters, girls.  Maylee is upset.  Sonny is screaming.  You are scaring them.  I understand why you both feel justified, but the truth is that neither of you are.  Look how you’re treating each other.  This is not acceptable.

Next time, listen to each other.  Stop yelling over top of one another to get your ideas heard by the person you clearly disagree with.  Talk about it.  Don’t get upset when someone challenges your decisions.  Instead, answer them.  Know why you’re doing something and be able to explain it clearly when asked.  If you are the one asking, don’t be condescending.  When you have a different perspective, respect for the authority goes a long way – especially if you are older than they are.  Lastly, never forget to consider others who hear your disagreements.  Namely – your sisters.  But the windows are open for goodness sake! Everything we do affects other people.  Remember that.

And in that four girl fight club, I believe the Lord truly showed up with wisdom like unto Solomon’s for me.  My own heart was revealed as fighter number five and my own foolishness was found out.  Like the mechanic always says, they only know what you teach ’em.  God did none other than prove Himself faithful once again.

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mickey
Midway into our vacation last week, I interrupted all the fun-making and wallet-breaking for a brief educational interlude.  We were halfway around the “world” in Disney’s Epcot when boring old teacher-mom suggested that we go in and watch a history bit in the American building.

Three of us fell asleep and the other two went on and giggled about how boring and sleepy their parents were during this presentation.  Nevertheless, some good lessons were being taught by, as my oldest calls them, “really creepy animatronics.”

 At the conclusion of my well-needed nap, I did hear one idea that is worth talking about.

Mark Twain’s creepy robot reminded Ben Franklin’s creepy robot that no matter how strong and brave, there are some perils that have never been survived.  He named them success, comfort, leisure, and plenty.  “No dynamic people have ever survived the plight of those,”  he said.

It reminded me of a proverb which has been a cornerstone in my life.  Proverbs 24:33-34 says this, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”

This verse is my Jiminy Cricket verse.  Whether it be work or exercise or merely rising early enough to pray before daily pandamonium sets in, my ever-faithful conscience has brought this verse to mind for the better part of the past twenty years.

This may sound crazy, but after seeing how the employees at Disney work to courteously serve hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis – and being one of them – I came back with a thankful, ready to serve heart.

These people are truly amazing.  They serve thousands of people every single day with a kind, positive, fun attitude, all while doing the very same menial tasks over and over and over again.

There was a waiter in one of our character breakfasts who was filling glasses with orange juice.  The second time he came around, my husband refused more juice, but the man actually poured more anyway.  He realized his mistake and began to apologize saying, “I pour juice in my sleep.  I have nightmares about empty cups!”

We spent the last day of our vacation in the pool where we found some empty cups of our own.  We participated in a game whose object was to fill a water jug before the other team filled their jug by passing cups of full water down relay team lines. Our team lost all three games because those at the end of line kept forgetting to send the empty cups back down for us to fill again.  Yes, those who thought they had the most important job (dumping the water into the jug) were forgetting about the rest of the team and keeping us from being able to complete our jobs.  At one point the leader tried to encourage our team by saying, “Don’t forget to send the empty cups back!  Every empty cup is an opportunity to be filled!”

With all this talk about empty cups, I got to thinking about what Mark Twain said in the program.  What if there weren’t any cups to fill?  What if all the cups were always full?  The waiter would be out of a job and there would be no game to play at the pool.  More importantly, there would be no need to serve and no team to be a part of.

 Success.  Comfort.  Leisure.  Plenty.  These are full cups.  The only way to empty them is to experience failure; discomfort; hard work; want.

We dynamic American people are so very full of everything – especially and including ourselves.  A Latino woman stood behind us in line to see Tinker Bell.  A Spanish-speaking visitor came up and began asking questions to the English-speaking people in front of us.  The language barrier was too much and even after repeating their questions several times, it was obvious they had no answers.  Finally, the lady behind us began to speak to them in Spanish.  Afterward, the Spanish-speaking people were very thankful and the Latino woman remarked to us how “we” (herself included) do not thank others enough.  She talked about how we just expect to be served and catered to and we are not as appreciative as they were to her.  That’s what years of success, comfort, leisure, and plenty do to a people.  Continuing this way is sure to lead to our own demise.

Still, I came home with a song in my heart.  I was thoroughly inspired by the excellence in work ethic and positive attitude of the employees at Disney World.  That’s the kind of worker I want to be – not for the Magic Kingdom, but for God’s Kingdom.  That’s an example I can follow.  I want to keep my cup full enough to serve others and empty enough to afford others an opportunity to fill it.  The only way to accomplish that is to pour myself out on a daily basis.  The small, repetitive, unnoticed tasks are the most important!

Mickey is a mouse, after all.  Mickey is a rodent!  If you find yourself asking how one of the smallest creatures with one of the worst reputations became the greatest attraction in the entire known world, watch the people who work for him.  They are willing to be uncomfortable, put out, hard-pressed, and unbelievably kind for his good name.

Take note, Christians.  Take note.

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Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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In Isaiah chapter 7, God sent Isaiah to King Ahaz.  King Ahaz was the king ruling for the House of David at the time.  Ahaz had made an alliance with Assyria who was a foreign enemy.  God’s people were shaking hands with a worldly power.  Why?

Ahaz did this because he was trusting in Assyria for his security and the security of his people.  They were trusting in this worldly power for security, peace, and comfort in an uncertain, unstable time in their lives.  Why was it unstable and why did they need that?

They were afraid.  They were afraid of Syria and Ephraim.  They were afraid they would be attacked by other nations and enemies.  They were operating out of fear and from a mindset that says, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” right?  Problem is, they were not trusting in God.  They were trusting in man.  This nation was powerful and they felt protected by it.

So, God sent Isaiah the prophet to prophesy to King Ahaz.

And the Lord said to Isaiah,. “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.” ~Isaiah 7:3-4

So, God is saying to Isaiah, go to Ahaz.  Tell him not to worry.  I’m about to destroy the ones you fear.  He ends with, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”

Judgement was coming, not just for Ahaz’s enemies, but for God’s people as well.  Judgement was coming because the people of God refused his provision, his ways, and instead chose to trust a worldly enemy.

The Lord spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” Isaiah 8:5-8

These people do not trust God.  Plain and simple, they just don’t.  Therefore, God sends Isaiah to state the obvious.  He tells them they don’t trust God, that they’ve refused his soft and easy stream and that because of that, rushing, powerful waters will come over them.  This was the judgement.

Assyria would come and cause great destruction.  They very people and power they trusted in place of God were going to be the instruments God would use to judge and discipline them.

God instructed Isaiah – his prophet – not to follow suit; not to conform; not to go the way of everyone around  him.  In fact, God chose him to tell them why they should not conform either.

“For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” Isaiah 8:11-13

Matthew Henry notes, “Do not join with those that, for the securing of themselves, are for making a league with the Assyrians, through unbelief, and distrust of God and their cause.  Do not come into any such confederacy.  Not, it concerns us, in time of trouble, to watch against all such fears as put us upon taking any indirect courses for our own security.”

These guys were mad at Isaiah for telling them the truth.  They considered him a traitor because he told them how wrong they were for trusting in Assyria (men) rather than God.  So, Isaiah says something like this, “God specifically told me not to follow the crowd, not to buy in to this conspiracy mindset, and not to fear.  He told me to tell you that I have to fear him alone.”

” I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” Isaiah 8:17

Unfortunately, instead of profiting from the prophet’s words from God, they are offended by them.

If God’s words, instructions, and ways offend us, we become an offense to him – especially if we’re following the crowd and trusting in men rather than God.  Judgement comes in those times.

Like God told Isaiah to tell Ahaz and when he called him individually to be a bad news bearing nonconformist, “If you are not firm in your faith, you will not be firm at all.”  The same is true for us.  Amen and amen.

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