Hezekiah – The Godly Leader

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.  There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.  He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.  And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:5-7)

Based on the verses above, it would be easy to get the false impression that life for Hezekiah and his kingdom was a proverbial bowl of cherries.  After all, “the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.”  How could we expect anything less than a peaceful, prosperous golden age under such a leader?

Hezekiah certainly was successful in all that he did, and the Lord most certainly was with him.  But we sometimes define success differently than the Lord does.  Hezekiah was tried and tested constantly throughout his reign, making his faithfulness to the Lord even greater.  He was forced to deal with the consequences of his father’s sinful and rebellious actions.  His kingdom was attacked repeatedly, since in his allegiance to God alone he cast off the yoke of tribute to the surrounding kings.  Judah was plagued by severe economic woes brought on by years of corruption and heavy taxation.  The people were entrenched in pagan practices and idol worship.  And Hezekiah himself was afflicted with a terrible illness, suffering agonizing symptoms until he came to the point of almost certain death.

When we look at this portrait of Hezekiah’s life, it seems at first glance as if God really wasn’t with Hezekiah at all, but rather against him.  Why would God let such a good and faithful servant-leader suffer such things?  But the truth is there was no other king quite like Hezekiah because of the very fact that Hezekiah faced such awful tribulations and yet remained firmly rooted in his faith.  He trusted God to deliver him from each of these troubles, and God was faithful to do so.  Though tempted to “take matters into his own hands,” Hezekiah repeatedly turns to God, putting his own human wisdom aside and placing his faith in the Word of the Lord.  God faithfully saves Hezekiah time and again, bringing success and prosperity to the country,  miraculously slaying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers without a single warrior of Judah raising a weapon, and even reverting the prophesy of Isaiah by bringing life and healing to the dying king.

What greater measure of success could there be than faithfully abiding in God’s promises despite the sorest affliction?  For this, God honored Hezekiah with earthly distinction above all other kings.  We, like Hezekiah, must never fail to put our trust in God alone for our salvation as we struggle against our own doubt, despair, and unbelief.  To do so is to honor God, and He in return promises an eternal reward.

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Prayer: Lord God, I thank You that just as you delivered Hezekiah from all his enemies, so too have You delivered me from sin, death, and the Devil, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Grant me strength to honor You by faithfully trusting in His victory throughout all of life’s trials, by His grace.  Amen.

David – Defending God’s Honor

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:27)

King Saul and his Israelite warriors were suffering from an acute lack of faith.  Saul went from following God’s commands and serving Him to rebellion and self-glorification in a matter of a few short years.  The Israelite warriors had forgotten that they served a powerful Heavenly King rather than a physically impressive but spiritually weak mortal king.  Their faith rested in their own power, and fear and doubt were the inevitable results.

When Goliath spews his bile once more, the Israelite warriors run for cover.  But David will not suffer His God to be mocked and scorned while His very armies are close at hand; he stands valiantly for the honor of the Almighty One.   How can we let this Philistine talk about our God like that?  The Spirit of the Lord was with David (1 Samuel 16:13,18), and from this Spirit was born the faith that God would deliver His people from their enemies.  This same Spirit gives David the courage and strength to stand up against the monstrous villain who was bringing calamity and destruction upon the Israelites.

Like Gideon, David knows that the power to defeat his enemies lies in God’s hands, not his own: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).  Because David goes forth in faith, mindful of God’s honor, glory, and purpose – and not his own fame or grandeur – the Lord gives David the victory over Goliath.

Again and again, God chooses the lowly to exalt His name.  The boy David glorifies God with his triumph over the champion of the Philistines.  His descendant, Jesus, the humble carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a lowly manger, would bring even greater glory to the Father through His victory over the champion of this world – Satan.  The forces of death and hell were put to flight, never to menace God’s people again.  The same Spirit that gave David the faith to overcome the Philistine gives us the faith to claim Jesus’ victory for ourselves.

Armed with this faith, with God’s promise to be with us, and with a burning desire to honor our Lord and King, we venture forth onto the field of battle to encounter the forces of darkness.  Like the Israelite warriors, we often cower in our tents when we see the size and might of the foe that mocks God’s name.  But when we see our enemy through the eyes of faith, we realize, like David, that the spiritual darkness in our world is a joke compared to God’s mighty hand.  So we rise each morning, look the forces of evil in the eye, and say to our King, “Your servant will go and fight.”

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

Prayer: Lord God, my Heavenly King, let me never lose heart on account of the darkness and adversity of this world.  Keep my faith firm, knowing that You who have delivered me from sin, death, and hell will also deliver me from all the trials of this life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, to whom all glory belongs!  Amen.

Joseph – Faithful POW

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” (Genesis 39:20-21)

There are few acts regarded with more honor and heroism than a warrior who is captured by the enemy, and remains true and loyal to his nation or captain despite imprisonment and torture.  We know there is something special about a person who refuses the opportunity to save his own skin by betraying or renouncing his leader or his cause.  Often, these prisoners of war feel hopeless, weary, and abandoned, fearful of their fate at the hands of malicious enemies.  The tremendous strength required to hold fast to their own honor in these circumstances automatically elevates them to hero status.

Joseph was one such hero.  He went from being a favored child to a slave and a prisoner.  He was betrayed by his own brothers – and many of us in his situation would also feel betrayed by God.  But Joseph remained faithful to his Lord and Commander.  When Potiphar’s wife tempted him, it would have been easy for Joseph to indulge his lusts, seeking self-justification through his “hard times.”  Yet he fled temptation, remaining true to his God at the cost of being cast down once again.  Even in prison, he did not curse God or rage against the fate that divine providence had handed him.

How could Joseph remain so strong in such a miserable situation?  He looked to the Lord for strength and courage, and God used this faithful servant to honor Himself.  Joseph was faithful to glorify God in all things, and God remained faithful to Joseph, eventually elevating him to one of the highest positions in the kingdom and saving his family and descendants through him.

We sometimes feel like “POWs” in our own spiritual struggles.  We let ourselves be overcome by sins and temptations.  We feel crushed beneath the weight of our earthly burdens.  We wander, lost and miserable, torn away from our unit and our Commander; finally it seems that the enemy has snatched us up and holds us fast in his own camp.

Often, our instinct in such situations is to betray God and say, “Alright, I’ve tried following Your orders, and look where it got me; now I’m going to do things my way!”  But God would have us bear these afflictions patiently.  We may not realize it now, but our capture serves a purpose.  Our Commander has tracked the enemy to their own base, and will lead a sudden strike against the spiritual forces of darkness that hold us fast.  This defeat on their own ground will be a crushing blow to the enemy and will bring great honor and glory to our King.  And although we did nothing but sit and suffer, God will honor us as well with a crown that will never perish.

“But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’…That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,11)

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise You for the victory that Your Son Jesus Christ has won for me through His death and resurrection.  Give me strength to patiently bear the afflictions in my life to Your glory, that all may see Your love and power by my example.  Even when I succumb to sin and temptation, never let them overwhelm me; for I know that their power over me is broken and I have been rescued from their terrible consequences, through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.