The Image 

~~MTS-4444
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

Inhuman 

~~MTS-4443
Inhuman
“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

To Rebuild 

~~MTS-4442
To Rebuild
“He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles.”           2 Ch. 33:3
    I have grown up to become a person who is entirely different from my dad, which isn’t a surprise really, since I had the opportunity to learn how to read and write and had the chance to seek better opportunities in the big city. My dad had to work on the family farm from the time he was a little boy, and had to learn how to fish in the nearby ocean in his spare time.
    What were his dreams and aspirations for his first-born son? I often wonder. He must have shed many tears when I decided to leave home at age fourteen. He didn’t make any attempt to keep me from leaving as far as I can recall, for he had absolutely no idea what the best for me was at the time. I guess he would have been rather satisfied had I been able to make a living on my own, which was the top priority for all the people in our seaside village.
    I had absolutely no intention to build anything on the foundation my dad had erected. I wasn’t drawn to his religion and the farming and fishing life had zero attraction for me. I was destined to carve my own path in life and, as far as I remember, my ambition had always been to become as different a person from my parents as I possibly could. The family tradition of idolatry didn’t appeal to me at all, yet I had no intention of searching for anything supernatural at the time and the Christian God was pretty exotic and foreign to me. My life as a young man had no foundation of any kind upon which to construct my being except my intuition and my innate energy to live.
    Miraculously, the Lord found me in my youth and the rest is indeed history. What I have turned out to be surely wasn’t meticulously planned out by myself. I am merely an elaborate essay composed by someone unbeknown to me.
    Up to this point of my life, I might not have built anything worthy of my children’s admiration or emulation, yet it will be heart-breaking if they decide to tear down what I have built, spiritually and otherwise, and to erect something foreign and exotic to take its place, which was something Manasseh did after he assumed the kingship. Instead of following his father’s practice of worshiping the Lord, he turned to the foreign gods for his adherence and adoration.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 30, 2017 8:08:00 AM

Following 

~~MTS-4441
Following
“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

Testing 

~~MTS-4440
Testing
“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

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
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