Riches 

~~MTS-4439
Riches
“He built villages and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds, for God had given him very great riches.”              2 Ch. 32:29
    Was this the peak of Hezekiah on earth? I often wonder. Humanly speaking, he obviously had succeeded and by this time was universally recognized as a great success.
    If accumulation of great wealth was the standard of measurement of success, surely the king had made it. He seemed to have erected enough treasure houses to store up all his possessions, which were innumerable.
    “He built villages and acquired great numbers of flocks and herds, for God had given him very great riches,” we read. It appeared the king’s great riches were given to him by the Lord, and these material blessings might have been a clear indication of the favor of God directed toward him.
    The Lord is still sitting on his throne and he isn’t beholden to any men at all. He alone is the One who formulate the standard by which we measure our successes or failures.
    Had the life of our Lord Jesus been judged according to human standards, he would have been considered a great failure. At his death he didn’t even have a nickel to his name, and the only valuable thing he possessed, his coat, was divided. Yet when he uttered “it’s finished,” he became the greatest success throughout human history.
    Our success should always be determined by whether we have faithfully fulfilled what we are called to do here on earth, and anything beyond this is superfluous at best.
    Whatever treasure we have stored up in heaven will forever remain there, but the wealth we have collected on earth will be buried with us and, unless we are covered by the blood-stained robe of Jesus, we will be utterly naked when we appear before the throne of judgment.
    As far as our success is concerned, we should value whatever the Lord values and disdain whatever he detests.
    Hezekiah was at his best when he was afflicted and he was truly great when he dared to defy the insolent Sennacherib. When his kingdom was teetering at the brink of destruction, his trust in the Lord was the greatest, which was how Hezekiah as the young king of Judah was defined. The measure of the man’s success should have been equal to the amount of his trust in the Lord.
    Surely Hezekiah’s illustrious career as a God-fearing king of Judah shouldn’t be measured and defined by what he did during the last fifteen years of his life, when he succumbed to the temptation of human vanity. 
  
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 14, 2017 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Repentance 

~~MTS-4438
Repentance
“Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem…”              2 Ch. 32:26
    The Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer and fifteen years were added to his earthly life. It looked as if the king’s life was going to end after he was taken ill. It appeared he had fulfilled the mission assigned to him in the world and it might have been rather unnecessary for him to linger any longer. Nonetheless, the king’s desperate plea was granted and he became well.
    What was the king to do during the extra years the Lord had given to him? There wasn’t much written down in the chronicle except his elaborated building projects and the pride he demonstrated by showing all his treasure to the Babylonian envoys.
    Thus the prophet Isaiah confronted the king about his vanity and pride, and Hezekiah repented. “Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem,” we read. It was indeed a blessing that the elderly king’s heart remained tender and was quick to repent when he was convicted of his sin. The man’s entire career as a godly king of Israel could have been greatly stained had he not repented.
    Was it even a good thing that Hezekiah’s earthly life was extended? Why do we consider longevity such a great blessing?
    Surely after a final decision was reached, I thought my church ministry was coming to an end, yet the Lord seemed to have a different idea concerning this issue and I can’t help but put retirement on hold for the time being. I suppose there will be a reason behind it if my service is extended, and for sure it’s not going to be for my own sake or for me to squander the remaining time of my church service.
    By this time Hezekiah was getting old and things appeared to be going well. The king might have thought it was time for him to enjoy the extra time with which he had been given. Surely he had worked hard for Judah and the fruit of his labor was well-earned.
    There was nothing to speak about except his sin and repentance during his last fifteen years. Surely he could have done far better. Surely fifteen years was sufficient to achieve great things for God’s kingdom.
    Therefore, instead of asking the Lord for longevity, we ought to pray for fruitfulness in our remaining years. Indeed, our earthly days are primarily determined by the time needed to accomplish what we are called to achieve, not by our vain desire to enjoy the pleasure of this life to the fullest.
  
 
 
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 13, 2017 7:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Pride 

~~MTS-4437
Pride
“But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown to him…”           3 Ch. 32:25
 
    The king’s devotion to the Lord seemed to have been rewarded and he was praised by his friends and feared by his foes. People from neighboring countries sent envoys to him and showered him with gifts. Surely he had ample reason to be proud at this time, yet the Lord struck him with illness and he was at death’s door. Indeed, a person who was teetering between life and death had absolutely no reason to be proud. Nothing humbles us more than illness, for it’s a reminder of our mortality.
    Yet Hezekiah cried to the Lord and a miraculous healing took place. The king was healed and his earthly days were increased. Hezekiah was given more years on earth so that he could serve and praise the Lord, which was the sole purpose of the divine healing. Unfortunately, the king failed to see this and his remaining days on earth became a snare to him.
    Hezekiah didn’t respond to the Lord’s grace properly. “But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown to him…” How do we respond to God’s kindness toward us? Simple enough, really. We should have an attitude of humility and thankfulness.
    It’s so easy for us to develop a sense of entitlement if the Lord continues to shower us with mercy and kindness, and gradually we start to take all things for granted, as if we were entirely worthy to receive whatever has been given to us. Don’t we all sometimes believe it’s through our own merits that we are what we are, and all we have ever possessed has been earned, not given?
    Faith in the Lord isn’t self-generated, and it’s by no means self-sustaining. It must be exercised daily. The king might have thought he had stored up enough faith in his youth, and it was sufficient to sustain him in his old age, which was a total mistake. At this time, Hezekiah might have discovered his faith in the Lord was in short supply. Naturally, when people’s faith in the Lord becomes deficient, they inevitably become proud, which is a surefire sign of self-reliance.
    What was a mere six-mile hike to me? I was fully confident it presented not much of a challenge, for I was fully assured my natural strength was sufficient. I finished the trip with flying colors and continued to congratulate myself for being so fit at my advanced age until four days later, when my foot started to hurt. I was afflicted by a bad case of turf toe, undiagnosed by a physician, of course.
    Compared to what Hezekiah had adversely experienced, my case was rather small, yet the principle is quite similar. Neither did he nor I respond to the Lord’s mercy and goodness properly, which should have been with humility and thanksgiving.
  
             

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 8, 2017 7:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 

~~MTS-4436
The End
“And when he went into the temple of his god, some of his sons, his own flesh and blood, cut him down with the sword.”          2 Ch. 32:21
    After he demolished all the rival kingdoms in China, six in total, the next thing that Emperor Chin sought to achieve was to become deified. The crown was hard-earned and stained with the blood of thousands, and its glamor would have lost its luster if it could only be worn for a season or two. He was going to do all things humanly possible to extend his earthly days to eternity. Immortality was something he desperately sought, yet apparently he ended up being poisoned to death by the potion which was supposed to prolong his life.
    The more people enjoy this life, the greater the threat of death will be. What causes the pleasure of flesh to lose its gleam is always the presence of the dark shadow of death, which is entirely unavoidable.
    Why did Sennacherib even go the temple of his god at the end? Did the great loss he suffered in battle cast a tinge of doubt on him concerning the trustworthiness of his god? Did he go to the shrine to question the god whom he worshiped or to derive some comfort from him at a time of failure or loss? It was all for naught, really, for it turned out to be the last moment of his earthly life, and it was in his god’s temple where he was cut down by his own flesh and blood. The man, who was lauded as a great conqueror of nations and whose mere presence invoked fear and terror in both friends and foes, was eventually betrayed by his children and his god.
    Nothing in life is more tragic than what Job’s wife foolishly suggested to her husband who had just lost all his children in one fell swoop. “Curse God and die,” she advised.
    Was Sennacherib cursing his god the moment he was cut down by some of his sons? Or was the man praying for the protection of his life at the brink of eternity? The god whom he worshipped and adored appeared to fail him in life and failed to come to his aid in death. The greatest tragedy that took place to the king wasn’t the manner of his death; it was rather the fashion of his worship and the life he conducted in accordance with his religious belief. His entire life was indeed misled by the deity to whom he chose to adhere, and it was by his god’s shrine where he vanished eternally.
    What’s more important than anything else doesn’t lie in this world’s wellbeing and prosperity; it’s how we relate to the true God and the way we conduct our lives according to his teaching that truly matters. Sennacherib was a great king indeed, who had enjoyed his days of glory and honor under the sun, yet such was the sort of life and practice we should try at all costs to avoid.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Disgrace 

~~MTS-4435
In Disgrace
“So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.”      2 Ch. 32:21
    King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah cried out to the Lord and their desperate plea was granted. Sennacherib was defeated and he withdrew to his land in disgrace. All things considered, Sennacherib was fully assured that he would emerge from the battle victorious, yet it turned out to be disastrous for him in the end. His troops were utterly wiped out and he ended up escaping from the battleground in distress and disgrace. Never in his wildest dreams had he thought his military campaign would eventually transpire like it did.
    Rarely had he tasted defeat in his illustrious career as a conqueror of nations; therefore it must have taken him quite a long to digest what it meant to him as a military man and a king. When he was considering the whole affair, it was inevitable that he thought about the God whom the Israelites worshipped and in what manner was he going to deal with Him from then on. The Lord had proven to the king his might and the dire consequence of not taking his divine nature seriously. Did the king become remorseful for all the mocking and ridicule he had done against the God of Israel?
    The king had a choice to make - whether to keep on fighting against the Lord or to submit himself to him. I guess he chose the latter at the end.
    How on earth can we choose to do otherwise but to bow down before the Almighty after he has clearly shown us who and what he truly is? Yet we seem to be able to ignore what has happened and move on as if nothing has taken place at all. In this case, nothing could have been more transparent than that the Lord whom the Israelites worshipped was involved in the battle and he was the sole reason why Sennacherib lost the war.
    Sennacherib might have reached an entirely different conclusion after the dust settled. Indeed, he must have decided it was human error that led to the disaster. He preferred to attribute the military failure to human miscalculation rather than to give the Lord his due credit. Therefore, he could continue to lead his life in such a way as if the Lord didn’t even exist.
    That’s exactly what we would have liked to do, and by doing so we are able to live our lives void of divine interference. Surely divine meddling creates a lot of inconveniences in our daily lives, causing us to become less and less autonomous.
    We simply have to be awfully creative in figuring out ingenious ways to keep divine invasions from entering into our fortified cities.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 3, 2017 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Other Gods 

~~MTS-4434
Others Gods
“They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples of the world—the work of human hands.”          2 Ch. 32:19
    We all have similar dreams and aspirations and, knowing how frail we are, we need a helping hand to assist us in our passionate pursuit of success. If our natural strength becomes insufficient, then the power of the supernatural becomes absolutely necessary. Essentially, all the gods are created in the same manner: “the work of human hands.”
    For sure we are all engaged in this god-creation business, for we need a higher power to lift us up to an unfathomable height above all else in the world. Don’t we all aspire to become great in one way of another?
    The Lord surely was no different from all the gods, according to the Syrian king’s reasoning. No one could have faulted his logic, for his perception appeared to be rather impeccable, except he failed to calculate a possibility that the Lord might have been different from all others.
    In reality, the gods of all nations were formed to fulfill a single purpose, which was to bring their worshippers’ peace and prosperity. If they failed to bring forth this desirable outcome, they would have been instantly disqualified and deemed great failures. The formation of the so-called gods was essentially men-centered. Obviously, men seldom create any sort of god to rule over them at all: their ambition is to always remain in control. Idolatry has always been and will always be a transaction of interests in which both parties, human and divine, are mutually benefited.
    Sennacherib committed a gross mistake in his perception of the Lord, for he reckoned the God of Israel was a mere puppet, similar to all the gods who were made for such a purpose. He failed to realize the Lord was the sovereign God, who was beholden to no entity, either natural or supernatural.
    Even if the Lord had determined not to rescue the Israelites from utter destruction at the hands of the Syrians, he would have remained the sovereign Lord just the same. Surely we should not judge the Lord according to human perception of success and failure, which was the standard of judgment employed by Sennacherib.
    It’s rather simple to tell really. The gods who are readily predictable and are easily brought under our control are not gods at all. They are false. On the contrary, the One who is sovereign and mysterious is the deity whom we must take very seriously, for such a deity is by no means a result of human invention.
    There comes a time in our earthly journey that we must make a final determination concerning the two, and choose to lead the rest of our lives according to the value and philosophy they espouse.  
     
    
  
     
 
  
 
  
 
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 1, 2017 7:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional

To Ridicule 

~~MTS-4433
To Ridicule
“The king also wrote letters ridiculing the Lord, the God of Israel, and saying this against him…”        2 Ch. 32:17
    As if Sennacherib had not done quite enough ridicule through his envoys, he wanted to make sure the entire nation of Israel received his message by drafting a letter to Hezekiah. His hatred for the Lord seemed to be so palpable that he intended to shout it from the mountains so that the world might know that he was the greatest, and there was none other, heaven above or earth below, as awesome and great as he.
    Such is the essence of pride, really. Being prideful is a lonely enterprise, for the proud simply cannot tolerate anyone who is equal or superior to him. The arrogant stand alone and forever remain in isolation, for the proud do not like company.
    Why did the Lord bother Sennacherib so much that he went to such a great extent to ridicule and to insult him? The Syrian king obviously was an atheist and he was bringing the existence of the Lord into question; his main contention was the Lord’s lack of power and his inability to save his people from destruction. More importantly, he was the one who was going to cause destruction of all nations on earth; therefore he was greater than all the gods, including the Lord of Israel.
    Such was the deification of King Sennacherib, which became the main cause of his ultimate destruction. The one who tries to rise above himself will sink below, and the persons who are not content to be human turn into beasts. Such is what pride does to all of us.
    “Humility is endless,” wrote Eliot. Why is it so? Because by being humble we come to realize who we really are and accept the fact that all we have ever possessed has been endowed by the Almighty.  Therefore our being will be greatly expanded, since we are connected and united with the infinite God who has no expansion. Contrarily, pride eventually shrinks to nothingness because of its self-absorption and inward turning. Being human, our inner space is rather limited, and it can only be expanded by turning outward and upward.
    Enmity with the Lord is the most dangerous thing of all. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked,” wrote the apostle Paul. Sennacherib might have reckoned himself invincible at the time, but it didn’t take long before he found out who he truly was - a man made of mere flesh. I pray that we will never have such audacity as Sennacherib did, to stand against the Almighty, and to mock him through our words or deeds.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 27, 2017 8:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Inability 

~~MTS-4432
Inability
“How then can your god deliver you from my hand?”    2 Ch. 32:14
     Sennacherib was exactly right in his claim, for all the gods to whom the other nations adhered were vanities, who could have done nothing to protect to protect their worshipers. The Syrian king might have sounded rather arrogant, but he had reason to act that way: since all the other gods were nothing, he himself was the god who could cause devastation if he so desired.
    Thus, he asked the Israelites: “How then can your god deliver you from my hand?”
    Surely it made absolutely no sense to Sennacherib that the Israelites put their faith in God, for the Lord appeared to him to be exactly the same as all the useless idols he had come across in his military campaigns over the years. Humanly speaking, the king’s reasoning sounded rather logical and hard to refute.
    Are there other realities beyond the grasp of human perception? If so, what are they? What we have come to know are merely the things what we have perceived to be true through our senses, and anything beyond is result of our speculation, which cannot be and should not be the bases of our knowledge.
    That might have been how the Israelites who were besieged perceived reality, unless they were enabled to look at things by faith, not by sight, believing that even though the reality they were encountering seemed rather hopeless, with the Lord standing by their side, there was always hope.
    Faith in the Lord is a way of seeing, and it takes our entire life time to learn how to see accurately. We are indeed easily beguiled by the way we have been taught to see, which is based on sensual perception. All truth claims, scientific and otherwise, are built on what has been discovered and recognized globally to be true. Layer after layer of truth claims have been added on to the existing ones over the centuries, and it has become an impossibility to bring the foundation of human knowledge into question. Have we ever entertained the likelihood that the cornerstone upon which we have built the pyramid of our knowledge might be erroneous?
    We may claim to be Christians, yet the way we acquire knowledge and perceive reality seems to be no different from those of the world. Obviously, the way Hezekiah perceived reality was entirely different from how Sennacherib did, and the conclusions they drew from a set of similar circumstances was rather dissimilar, and only one of the two would be proven right at the end. They couldn’t have both been right, could they?  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 26, 2017 7:58:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Misleading 

~~MTS-4431
Misleading
“…he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst.”    2 Ch. 32:11
     It was perfectly rational for Sennacherib to make such an assumption, for he simply could not see the bases behind Hezekiah’s confidence. The Syrians indeed had conquered many nations and he had found out all the other gods had failed to protect their worshippers in time of destruction. His conclusion was easily drawn, because it was based on his previous experiences. He was the conqueror, and all the gods of the nations amounted to nothing.
    Yet the king failed to see the Lord whom the Israelites placed their trust was entirely different from all other deities who went down with the people who paid homage to them. This time, he made a gross miscalculation and was about to pay a steep price for his mistake.
    King Sennacherib was fully assured the victory would automatically be his and he was probably counting the spoils and thinking about in what manner he was going to celebrate his triumph over the Israelites. He was all too human, just like all of us who focus attention on the visible and neglect to take the invisible into calculation. He merely considered the human side of things and forgot to take the divine in account.
    Let’s not lose sight of what the Lord is doing in our lives and learn not to be too eager to assign credit for the things that happen to us to something or someone inappropriate. We need to give credit to whom credit is due, which is always the Lord himself; the rest are mere instruments through whom he accomplishes his purpose.
    I do place a great weight on people’s intelligence when I consider their worth as an individual, which is, of course, a gross mistake. We are created in the image of God, and along with the divine image we possess are all the natural talents with which we are endowed. Not to give the credit to our creator is an ultimate betrayal, robbing the honor and glory that rightly belongs to the Lord.
    At this juncture, what King Hezekiah saw was what the Lord was able to do on his behalf; yet what the Syrian king witnessed was all the false gods’ inability to save their worshippers from ruin, and it was quiet logical for him to come to such a conclusion, which turned out to be a miscalculation.
    Unbeknownst to him, it was actually Sennacherib who was misleading his own people and causing their ultimate demise. The Syrian king was blinded by his arrogance, which caused his final downfall.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 24, 2017 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Confidence 

~~MTS-4430
Confidence
“On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege?”                    2 Ch. 32:10
    It was impossible for the Syrian king to fathom how in the world the Israelites under siege could remain confident, since it was a matter of time before the inevitable would come. Humanly speaking, the people in the city were hoping against hope, and by pointing it out, the Syrian intended to crush their hope and secure their surrender while they still had the opportunity to do so.
    “On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege?” the enemy scoffed.
    On what ground did God’s people base their confidence under such dire circumstances? Their military might was rather meager compared to the Syrians, and the grain and water in the city might have been running out and people starting to starve. All things considered, the Israelites had absolutely no reason to be optimistic or confident at all.
    What alternative did the people have? They could always surrender to the enemy and become enslaved the rest of their lives. Was it a good option? Not so, yet at least their lives would be spared. That choice did sound a lot more viable and appealing, didn’t it?
    Such a choice wasn’t necessarily wrong at the time had it been God’s will, yet the Lord intended to perform a mighty deed in their midst, and they were called to wait on the Lord and remain confident in him. Surely we are flesh and blood and can’t help but tremble with fear when our lives are threatened in any way. It was most likely the same way with the Israelites at the time, yet the Lord appeared to have prepared for them a way out and, against all odds, they had to remain confident and continue to trust.
    What if the Lord didn’t come through this time? This nagging thought must have been ever present in people’s minds, which might have robbed them of their joy. Indeed, they were all too human to not have doubts and fears, but to keep on trusting the Lord was a determination they had made and they would hold on to it till the end, for better or for worse.
    Isn’t this the faith of our faith? Whether the Lord comes to our aid or not in time of trouble, we are confident all manners of things will be well, and our predicament will be resolved either here on earth or in heaven hereafter.
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 23, 2017 8:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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