Humble Himself 

Humble Himself
“In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.”          2 Ch. 33:12
    Suffering did its job to the king and he finally came to realize who he truly was. He was merely a man who was born into wealth and prosperity, which caused him to harbor a sense of entitlement and develop a false idea of self-identity and invincibility. That’s what wealth and power do to people, and we are easily hooked and will succumb to its seduction if we are not on our guard. 
    We may have climbed to an amazing height, yet suffering will always bring us down to earth and remind us who we really are - we are nothing but dust with divine breath, and apart from God’s sustenance mere existence will become an absolute impossibility.
    How we perceive ourselves determines how we will act, but it doesn’t indicate who we are as a living being. Who we are is defined by how we have been created, and what we are is determined at the moment we are formed. Human beings are not self-created and self-defined; what God is decides who we are, for we are created in his own image.
    King Manasseh only came to know himself when he became aware of who God was. His true sense of self was unearthed by his knowledge of God, and when he came to the end of his rope, he knew there was no place for him to turn but to turn to God. He had been betrayed by all the pagan gods whom he worshipped and he realized he was destined to die unless the Lord spared his life. Therefore, “in his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.”
    The king had done a lot of foolish things during his kingship, and he finally came to his senses and did a wise thing, which henceforth put his life on the right track. Surely the Lord was gracious enough that he engineered adverse circumstances in the king life, thus causing him to see the essence of things and providing him an opportunity for repentance. So the affliction the king was encountering seemed to have turned out to be a good thing.
    May we not wait until there is nowhere else to turn before we finally turn to the Lord, and use the “city of refuge” as our last resort when we are desperate, for we have no other avenue of escape. May we render repentance unnecessary by not committing one sin after another against the Almighty, and may we listen to the Lord attentively in times of joy, which may make it superfluous for God to speak to us in our sorrow.
    I hope this isn’t some sort of wishful thinking on my part, and I pray that it gets to the point in my life that I only hear the Lord speaking to me through occasions and occurrences of joy.


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 14, 2017 7:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

He Speaks 

He Speaks
So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles…”         
2 Ch. 33:11
    The Lord might have attempted to speak to Manasseh through various means, yet they didn’t seem to come across to the king, for he continued to do whatever he had been doing in his worship. Not until he encountered great difficulty in his life did he come to realize that the Lord was indeed attempting to speak to him. When all things were going so well, he could afford to ignore the Lord and became deaf to his voice; and it was in a time when troubles came that the king started to seek God’s presence.
    It seems to me rather foolish for us to seek the Lord when we are in some sort of trouble and perfectly content to having nothing to do with him when things are rosy and good. If we cultivate a good habit of praising the Lord in thickness, this may render it unnecessary for the Lord to bring forth thinness in our lives to cause us to turn to him. Indeed, troubles and suffering are inevitable in a world ridden by sin, yet we may make them less inevitable by heeding God’s commands and praising his holy name at all times.
    That was what transpired in Manasseh’s life when suddenly calamities fell and he was ill-prepared for them. “So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner…” Obviously the trouble didn’t occur to the king capriciously; it was the Lord who engineered the adverse circumstances in his life, hoping that through them the king could finally hear his voice.
    Why is it easier to hear the voice of the Lord in sorrow than in joy? I often wonder. Why can’t we listen to Him in good times so that it will not be necessary for God to shout to us in times of calamity?
    Of course there is really no guarantee that the Lord will cease speaking to us through our sorrow and difficulty if we always heed his bidding in all things in time of peace and joy. The Lord is sovereign over all and the moment we think we have him pinned down, he escapes from our grip and renders our understanding of him utter nonsense. It’s essential, however, that we listen to him no matter what the circumstance is, for the Lord can communicate to us through whatever means he deems suitable, and he will never quit until he accomplishes his purpose. What we need to do is to train both our ears and hearts so that we won’t miss his message when it’s timely given. It seems reasonable to assume that a drastic measure of communication will not be necessary to deploy if he can easily get his message across.   


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Pay Attention 

Pay Attention
“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.” 
              2 Ch. 33:10
    Surely the people must have heard the words uttered by some prophets who gave them warning concerning the ill-effects of not following the Lord. If the Israelites intended to hear God’s voice and were determined to heed his warning, they would have heard God’s words proclaimed loud and clear. It hadn’t been all that long since the day when Hezekiah established an example of godliness in their midst, and they were rendered inexcusable if they decided to do otherwise.
   “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention,” we read.
    We may not know exactly in what manner the Lord spoke to his people, but it is clear the communication was made, but Manasseh and the people paid absolutely no attention to the message. Indeed, our listening is selective and we listen to what we want to hear and block out the undesired message. The Israelites had already decided to turn away from the Lord; therefore they ceased to hear the voice from above.
    We can easily hear God’s voice if we make up our mind to be obedient to his will at all times. If this isn’t the case, we simply tune God’s voice out concerning whatever is contrary to what we want to do. God becomes silent because we simply have silenced him.
    Unfortunately, for many of us Christians the Lord might have become some sort of rubberstamp and asking him for permission to do certain things may just be a matter of formality and nothing else. We don’t seem to take the Lord seriously enough and are not willing to alter the course of our life if he directs us to do so. Unfortunately, our main concern in life is what we want to do, not necessarily what the Lord intends for us to do.
    Isn’t this the time when we should start to pay more attention to what the Lord has in mind for us and make him our Master and Lord who has total control over our lives and actions?
    There are just too many “half-baked” Christians in this world, and we seem to have created a religion to suit our taste, a belief system that allows all things and demands nothing, a religion in which the worshippers have their cake and eat it too. Is this the gospel carved by the death of Christ on the cross, or is it a human invention, forged to meet our selfish needs, both physically and spiritually? 


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 12, 2017 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

More Evil 

More Evil
“But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”     2 Ch. 33:9
    The Lord must have had higher expectations for Manasseh and the Israelites than people of all others nations, since the king and his subjects had the knowledge of the Lord and they had been taught the law of God and warned not to bow down to idols. Yet they knowingly and intentionally disobeyed the Lord and, consequently, their punishment would be much more severe than the pagans of the surrounding nations.
    This reminds me of my own mother who was a devout idol worshipper while was alive, for she had zero knowledge of the Lord and idolatry was the only thing that she knew. I fully intended to tell her about the true God and what he required from all of us, yet my intention never did materialize, because of my lack of faith and courage. My reasoning at the time was somewhat twisted, for I felt she would be judged far more harshly had she learned about the gospel, because I was aware of the enormous difficulty of her coming to the Lord. The obstacles that she would have had to overcome were insurmountable had she decided to accept the Lord. This kind of mindset has caused me unrelenting remorse and I am partly to blame for my mother remaining an idolater her entire life.
    What Manasseh did was probably far worse than what I have ever done, for the sin that I committed by not witnessing to my own mother was sin of omission; what the king did was a sin of commission, in which he provoked God’s anger by knowingly and intentionally leading his people astray.
    Have we ever done anything like that? Come to think of it, we may be guilty of such a sin without realizing it. Our knowledge of the law certainly goes far beyond our intention or ability to observe it. How often do we knowingly break God’s law by doing something we know full well that we are not supposed to do? How many times have we taken advantage of God’s mercy and love, and the merit earned by Jesus’ death on the cross, by sinning against him, reasoning that we would be easily forgiven?
    Indeed, not knowing God’s law will no longer be a pretext that we may use before the judgment throne of God. We know exactly what we are doing when we violate God’s law, and we are doomed apart from God’s forgiveness through the merit of our Lord Jesus.
    This is no time for self-judgment or self-condemnation, really. All I can do is forget what is behind and strive to be obedient to God’s every command and remain pure and holy the rest of my days. If I happen to fall, either knowingly or unknowingly, I will always be comforted by the assurance issued by the apostle Paul: “Therefore, there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 7, 2017 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Image 

The Image
“He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple…”      2 Ch. 33:7
    King Manasseh evidently believed it was more appealing to place the images of false gods he had made in God temple than anything else. At least those images would make the holy temple more of a touring spot where curious people could go for sightseeing. The temple was actually rather plain and what people witnessed were the altar and a few articles here and there. What they desired to look at the most, the Ark of the Covenant, was out of sight. Indeed, it would have spiced up the temple by placing a few images there.
    Of course, that was the case if we look at the issue in hand from human point of view. We have been tempted and will continue to be seduced to replace the image of God within the holy temple with something we deem more exciting and appealing than God’s image.
    Come to think of it, our bodies actually are the temples of God within which abides God’s pure and holy image, yet we seem to be so eager to put something else in its place. We do have this feeling of discontent that the image of God is so bland that it creates no stir in our souls, and we want something earth-shattering to entertain and to stir up our restless emotion. To put it more bluntly, we yearn for something more carnal to dwell within our hearts than the Holy Spirit soft and quiet.
    If we dare to take a close look at our hearts, we may be greatly surprised what sort of images we behold inside. Indeed, we catch a brief glimpse of God’s holy presence, yet beside the Holy Spirit we may also see a lot of images we have created hidden within. The more prominent of them has to be old Mammon himself and there are a host of others which we are ashamed to see, and have been unaware of their presence inside of our hearts, the temple of God.
    It’s wise for us to conduct some self-examination of our spiritual state from time to time to see who and what we really are by asking ourselves this probing question: If we claim to know God, in what way do we know him? Are there other idols within our hearts other than God’s image?”
    Manasseh was carving his own path by ushering new gods and new ideas into his nation, and some people might have been thrilled to witness the changes made after he assumed the kingship. Yet the liberals of the time might have failed to realize that by placing the images of foreign gods in the temple the stabilizing force of the nation, which was the pure worship of the Lord, was utterly uprooted, and there was no solid ground remaining for them to stand upon.
    When images of false gods are welcomed into our hearts, the true God will not remain and only falsehood will fill the void and take complete control.


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 5, 2017 7:22:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft…”         2 Ch. 33:6
    I suppose we are indeed what we worship and the deities in whom we put our trust determine what our morality is. We are created in the image of God, and the evil one seeks to recreate us according to his image. Unlike his father, Manasseh decided not to follow the Lord, and he gradually turned into the foreign gods whom he embraced, going so far as to sacrifice his own children to honor the gods and to appease their anger.
    To worship the Lord is human and not to do so causes us to become less than human or subhuman.
    The scene invoked more terror than reverence in my heart when I beheld the so-called gods, men possessed by demons, of my village cutting their bodies with a sword and slicing their tongues open with a knife. What were they trying to prove? Those are things that we don’t normally do to ourselves, yet the gods seemed to do them on a regular basis, as if physical self-infliction were some sort of virtue.
    People actually believed it was a blessing from their gods when they happened to find some cash on the road that others had lost, and it was morally justifiable to keep it for themselves without feeling any sense of guilt. In fact, some may even have given a sacrifice to their gods for their good fortune.
    This actually happened to me when I was twelve years old. It was on a Saturday afternoon when I found a worn-out envelope on campus and within it was a fifty Taiwanese dollar bill. It never crossed my mind that I should turn it in because it belonged to someone else. I somehow considered it good fortune and spent it right away without a smidgeon of guilt. Even though I wasn’t aware of it, I was actually being taught by the gods my parents were worshipping. I guess I should have deemed myself fortunate that I wasn’t offered to the gods as a sacrifice when I was a child, for such a thing could have easily taken place had I been born in another place in a different age.
    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” said the Lord in the Gospel of John. Indeed, the ultimate goal of Satan is to destroy us both physically and spiritually, and by taking away people’s physical life before they have a chance to receive the Lord in their hearts, they kill their spiritual lives as well.
    The practice of human sacrifices is cruel beyond belief and it’s just too barbaric for us to imagine. As far as sacrificing one’s child is concerned, it’s so farfetched that we can hardly believe it ever occurred in human history. There is one thing that we do know, however: we are capable of committing unthinkable evil if we follow the lead of the evil one. We are what we worship and it’s not at all uncommon for idolaters to sacrifice their children to honor their gods.


Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 4, 2017 7:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”         2 Ch. 33:2
    The foundation had been laid and Manasseh had a choice to make. He could either follow the path his father had carved out and continue to worship the Lord, or he could decide to be his own man and totally ignore what his father had done.
    The fifteen-year-old, who hardly knew any better and was eager to escape from the giant shadow Hezekiah had cast, decided to turn to foreign nations and to emulate their worship and philosophy. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”
    Why was foreign religion so much more appealing to the young king than the true and pure worship of his father? This is a question worth pondering, for we seem to continue to witness a similar thing in our time and appear to be losing the next generation of believers to the seduction of secularism and pagan worship. Unfortunately, our young people seem to be so eager to conform to the image of this world.
    Why didn’t Manasseh find his father’s worship beautiful and appealing? Was it Hezekiah’s fault that his son, the one whom he chose as his successor, turned out to be an evil king who led God’s people astray? Of course the late king could have done a lot better job grooming and training his son concerning spiritual matters, yet ultimately it was Manasseh’s decision as far as his religion was concerned. Hezekiah was dead and buried, and he was no longer held responsible for his son’s evil ways.
    What could Eli and Samuel, both godly men, have done to bring their sons to the path of holiness and righteousness. It seemed to be a little late for them to do anything when their children appeared on the scene as adults and were determined to make their own decisions.
    There is obviously regret when I look in retrospect at the way we brought up our children. I have indeed made my share of mistakes raising my boys and what they have turned out to be has very little to do with my own effort, and everything to do with God’s abundant grace.
    I loved my dad as a little boy, yet paid very little attention to what he was modeling for me as a husband and man, which might or might not have been a good thing, for he was an idolater. What really counts absolutely is God’s intention for me and how he maneuvered and engineered all circumstances along the course of my life to fulfill his eternal purpose. I pray he will do the same thing for my children.


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 17, 2017 7:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign…, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”                2 Ch. 32:31
    It’s during a time when we enjoy prosperity in life that our arrogant self surfaces. When adversities strike, it’s easy for us to remain humble, for they are reminders of who we essentially are; but by nature prosperity is deceptive, causing us to overestimate our worth and boosting our ego to an extent that we almost feel invincible.
    Hezekiah seemed to remain humble when he was facing danger from every side as a newly crowned king. He didn’t have whole lot of options, really. When there was no place to turn, he had to turn to the Lord.
    Years later, things had changed and the king had become rather prosperous. He failed to see the potential threat among the Babylonian envoys, who might have had insidious motives when they visited Judah. It was quite possible that they were acting as spies, taking note of all the riches that they encountered in Israel. Surely it wasn’t a wise thing for Hezekiah to reveal what the country possessed and put it in danger of being attacked.
    King Hezekiah just couldn’t help himself, could he? He had finally made it and showing off seemed to be one of the ways that he rewarded himself. Don’t we all have a passionate desire to be recognized as someone great?
    It’s rather disheartening to witness someone who started out his life so well, and was generally reckoned as a devout Godly man, yet he appeared to fail the test and the king’s true color was exposed right before our eyes. Even though he had followed the Lord his entire life, there was something inside of him that had remained unconverted. The king wasn’t what he was supposed to be as a spiritual man and in his old age, his spirituality seemed to have digressed.
    Being spiritual is indeed a daily exercise, and there is no such thing as carry-over from day to day or from one’s youth to one’s old age. Doesn’t Hezekiah’s failure as an old man serve as a warning to all of us that spirituality doesn’t automatically grow as one ages, and daily effort is needed to keep our inner life in shape?
    Surely we can store up our treasure in heaven, yet storing up our spiritual strength and resources is indeed a daily matter. What caused Hezekiah to fail was there was no longer any threat from his enemies looming on the horizon, and there wasn’t any sense of urgency at the time, therefore total dependency and trust in the Lord wasn’t really needed.   


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 15, 2017 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“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


“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
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