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Archive for December, 2016

Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.”   (Isaiah 8:7-8)

 Hezekiah was one of Judah’s best kings. 2nd Kings says that there was none like him amongst all the kings of Judah. Then why did this happen to him? Sennacherib, the king of Assyria swallowed up the entire breadth of Judah, reaching all the way up to the neck, even the very gates of Jerusalem. That was good news for the folks shuttered up in Jerusalem, but it must have been hell for everyone out in the countryside and all the other cities. If Hezekiah was so righteous, then why did God allow this to happen to the rest of Judah?

The answer goes back to his father Ahaz, the wicked king who ruled before him. Ahaz was facing sure destruction from Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel, but instead of calling upon the Lord for help, he hired the king of Assyria to pull them off him. In gratitude, Ahaz took a trip to Damascus to meet him and, I guess, to thank him for his help.

While he was there, he saw a pagan altar that impressed him so much that he sent the design back to Uzziah the high priest to have one made just like it. It must have been real nice and shiny because he set aside the Brazen Altar that was before the House of the Lord and replaced it with this new modern version. He instructed the High Priest that all the offerings and sacrifices would now be done on this shiny, new modern altar, but had the audacity to say that when he wanted to inquire of the Lord, he would go over and use the old Brazen Altar that now sat on the north side of the Temple. He discarded the established way the Lord had set down to initiate a new, modern way that was based on agan worship.

Sounds crazy, right? But have we not done the same thing in dismissing that old-fashioned Gospel of the fear of the Lord for a new and gentler modern Gospel of peace, love and prosperity?

I heard one of today’s modern preachers declare himself as “grace oriented” and not as judgmental as his father was. His father and the preachers from a couple generations ago preached a message of righteousness and holiness in the fear of God. There is quite a difference in those two definitions of grace – one is used as a covering for sin, while the other is defined as the power God to overcome it. We have put aside the old in favor of a new modern gospel that our fathers did not recognize. Did not Jeremiah cry out, … ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.” (Jer 6:16)

I’m sure Ahaz had plenty of justifications. After all, the Brazen Altar was an old design, wasn’t it? So what’s the harm in upgrading it a little bit? Besides, it was getting old and burnt around the edges and probably needed some touch ups and a new paint job. This new altar was bright and shiny. And yeah, it was patterned after a pagan altar, but it’s not like he was going to offer up his children on it as a burnt sacrifice. So what was the problem?

When we operate outside the fear of the Lord, we set the stage for our own judgment.

Isaiah’s resulting pronouncement against Judah came to fruition, not in Ahaz’s generation, but in his son’s. Hezekiah felt the full impact of Ahaz’s foolishness and had it not been for his extraordinary righteousness before God, Jerusalem would have no doubt been overwhelmed.

Many times in the Bible when the great stone wheel of judgment would begin to roll because of their sins, God would raise up a solitary man to stand in the gap for His people — Noah, Joseph, Elijah, Gideon, and many of the judges. Hezekiah was just such a man to stop the full brunt of his father’s sins so that the seed would be preserved to bring humanity to the ultimate of saviors, God Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.

Mercy is not free; neither is it cheap. And although God delights in mercy, He is first and foremost a righteous God and there is a price to pay for sin in the form of judgment. If we, as a people, ignore the warnings against a lighter more modern version of the Gospel, all the while making excuses and justifications for our shiny new altar, we will face the same results our fathers have faced. Let us pray that God will raise up unto us a way for repentance to stave off the results that our lack of the fear of God will most surely bring to us.

“O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.”  (Ezekiel 13:4-6)

 

 

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