Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Know Where to Look

Things were looking grim for the Kingdom of Judah. The kingdoms to the north and west had joined forces with the intent of eliminating Judah’s king, Ahaz. Their plan was to install a puppet king, Rabeel, who would do their bidding and unite with them against Assyria. As King Pekah of Israel moved in from the north, King Rezin of Syria moved in from the south. Emboldened by the threat to Judah, the Philistines approached from the west. Jerusalem was surrounded. King Ahaz was in trouble (2 Kgs 16, Isaiah 7).

It was at this crucial moment in time that Isaiah came to assure Ahaz of God’s protection. Ahaz had not been an obedient king. During his reign, he introduced pagan Assyrian worship to the temple in Jerusalem, sacrificed on the high places, and even sacrificed his son as a burnt offering to an idol. Yet in spite of the king’s wicked ways, God would not forget his people. He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to assure him of His faithfulness (Isa 7:4), offering a sign, any sign Ahaz might request, that would demonstrate God’s intentions of deliverance.

God’s pledge of faithfulness was not something new. Back when Ahaz’s ancestor, King David, sat on the throne, God had promised his sustaining power on the house of David. “When . . . you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you . . . He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . my loving kindness shall not depart from him . . . your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16) Ahaz was an heir to this promise! No matter how grim things looked, Ahaz could have taken courage in the promises of God. Instead, he turned his back and refused even a sign from God. He took matters into his own hands and appealed to Assyria for rescue. They helped Judah out of the immediate situation, but within a few years, having gotten their foot in the door, Assyria became Judah’s greatest adversary. Ahaz lost his power six short years after his rejection of God’s help.

Reading over the account in Isaiah and 2 Kings, we want to shake Ahaz. What was he thinking? He turned his back on the Living God and looked to an enemy nation for assistance? It baffles the mind.

There are several possibilities that might have moved Ahaz to act in the way that he did. His history as a wicked king was flagrant and consistent. Maybe he looked at his life and felt the dye was cast. It was too late for him. Another possibility is that he just didn’t believe God. He didn’t believe God’s promises or in His sustaining power. He had heard it all—and chose to believe in his own devises over the Creator of the Universe.

Whatever his reasons, it was a big mistake. He and the nation he led suffered grave consequences for his lack of trust in God.

Ahaz couldn’t get his gaze past his circumstances and onto the God who would save him. But before we judge too harshly, we need to take a good look at how we choose to run our lives. Have circumstances ever dictated your actions? Have you ever failed to trust God because of what was happening around you? I know I am guilty as charged.

Only when our gaze is fixed upon the Lord and what He has promised us in His Word can we hope to trust Him when the waves batter our boat. Peter was walking across the sea with no problems until he began to focus on the wind and the waves. As he began to sink, Jesus put out His hand and rescued him. Peter's help and sustaining power had been from the Master all along. If only he had kept his gaze on Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.


lori said...

thank you for your comment yesterday over at my place...It's always great to have a full time student make a comment....
taking it further, you were right...Jesus did submit and so should we!

linda said...

The Assyrians: totally unrighteous, but heck of a homeland security department.

Seriously, Julie, by my count, you've now produced eight texts, each of which could easily be turned into a sermon, and most of which could readily yield the ideas for at least a couple more sermons.

You could be a good interim pastor (a phrase I recently learned--it's the pastor who goes to a church to clean up the mess left by the previous pastor). Or just about any other kind, if it comes to that.

And you're doing this while going to school full time, right?

Julie Coleman said...

Don't say the word "pastor" and "Julie" in the same sentence. You are liable to get me kicked out of seminary. =)