Making Sacrifices 

Making Sacrifices
“He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.”              2 Ch. 28:4
    Idolatry is a religion of fear and the ones who adhere to it are constantly searching for right places to worship. There was a tree that seemed to cause traffic accidents so, instead of removing it, people in town decided to place a stone underneath the tree and started burning incense to pay homage to it, as if by doing so the anger of the tree spirit would be eased.
    It doesn’t make any sense, come to think of it. But there is no rhyme or reason to the practice of idolatry at all and people simply do it without looking into the justification behind it. The last thing Satan wants his worshippers to do is to use their brains.
    “Why do we worship the idols,” I sometimes asked my mother.
    “Well, everybody is doing it.” Her answer was so predictable that I finally quit asking. It appeared to be a perfect reason for her to continue doing something to avoid being perceived as someone who was out of line or even radical. To be received into the community meant she had to do what was deemed normal and ordinary.
    Doing what everybody in the village was practicing was the best way to avoid being noticed by both humans and spirits; therefore she and her children wouldn’t be singled out to be punished. My mother was just being cautious, perhaps. Was this also the reason why Ahaz “offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree”?
    What the king was practicing would never remain personal, for the entire nation was paying attention to his every move. Therefore he was setting an ungodly example for the entire nation to follow, causing people to believe there was sound reason behind his ritualistic routines.
    The worship of the true God isn’t confined to a particular spot or location, for the Lord of love is omnipresent and there is no need to search for him in hilltops or high places. When idols was ushered into our house for a specific purpose or on special occasions, it only invoked in me dread and fear, as if something sinister had fallen into our house. I had always wanted to escape from my home as a youngster. Could the desire to escape from the shadow of idols and the influence they cast been one of the main reasons?


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 18, 2017 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire…”            2 Ch. 28:3
    This was the ultimate betrayal, truly. King Ahaz had complete authority over those who were entrusted to him and he was supposed to care and protect them to the best of his ability; yet he put them in harm’s way by sacrificing them to Baal in the fire. This is too far-fetched and irrational to be believed, but it did happen during the ancient times in many civilizations and, unfortunately, the Hebrews were included.
    Such a practice was from the devil, obviously. Idolaters in the past were so eager to express their devotion to their gods that they went so far as to sacrifice their flesh and blood, which is a totally unnatural thing for humans to do.
    Did the Lord ever make such an unreasonable demand on his worshippers? It happened once, didn’t it?
    Abraham did value a lot of things, yet Isaac was the most precious among all his treasures. The Lord demanded that he offer his son as a burnt offering on the altar. Had it actually happened, we would have a great problem on our hands, but it was only a test. Indeed, we must be willing to give up our best, including our lives, to the Lord, but by God’s grace our willingness rarely turns into reality. What we have the most difficulty doing, God himself actually followed through by giving up his own Son as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. By doing the unthinkable the Lord appeared to draw a broad line separating himself from the evil one. Satan demands blood from the children of his worshippers, the Lord shed the blood of his only begotten Son on our behalf. That’s the difference.
    “He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire…”  We can hardly imagine or envision how horrific the scene was and to what great extent people’s hearts could easily be beguiled and misguided. What’s frightening is what happened in the past may occur in the future, albeit in a rather different form than the former.
    Children are neither our property nor an extension of ourselves, and they are not created in our image. Their true father is their Father in heaven, and we are merely entrusted with the duty of bringing them up to be godly women and men. It’s rather akin to sacrificing them to honor the evil one if we attempt to raise and to create them according to our own image in order to fulfill our unrealized dreams or failed aspirations.
    We can always do a self-evaluation to see where we are spiritually after we read a historical narrative such as this.               


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 17, 2017 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Difference 

The Difference
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord.”       2 Ch. 27:2
    Jotham assumed the kingship at age twenty-five and he did what was right in God’s eyes, which was “just as his father Uzziah had done.” This may sound a bit surprising since the former king was disgraced for his misdeed and ended his life as a leper, isolated from his loved ones and subjects. Yet one misstep didn’t seem to take away the fact that Uzziah was essentially a good king who meant well in most things he had done as a ruler.
    Jotham was well aware of what had happened to his late father and became rather cautious so that he wouldn’t make the same mistake by entering into the temple of the Lord in an unworthy manner. Indeed, he had learned from his father’s blunder and was content to be what he was and to do what he was called to do. He was appointed to be a king, not a priest.
    Not a whole lot was written about him and he only reigned for sixteen years, which was relatively short. He died at age forty-one and he launched some building projects while he was governing and fought and won a war against the Ammonites. These things weren’t earth-shattering by any means compared to what some of his predecessors had accomplished, yet unlike his father before him, he at least didn’t commit any significant sin during his reign by which his life was defined. He died as Jotham, a good king of Judah, certainly not as Uzziah the leper.
    “But contentment with godliness is great gain,” Paul wrote to Timothy. Am I content being who and what I am? This is a dicey question for us to answer, isn’t it? The temptation that I have been bombarded with in life has always been discontentment and overreaching, and I have yet to come to final acceptance of who I am - a man of little determination and greatly prone to being temperamental and pessimistic, which is a perfect recipe for unhappiness and misery. How can anyone embrace such innate flaws with gratitude and thankfulness?
    King Jotham might not have been as ambitious and talented as his father, yet he seemed to operate his life within the confines of his limitation and didn’t attempt to overreach in any way; therefore he was considered a success, albeit on a much smaller scale. Indeed, what we should strive to master in life is godliness and contentment, and all others are mere trappings and superfluity, outwardly appealing yet essentially unnecessary.
    Come to think of it, the war I have been waging against myself my entire life may not be necessary after all. There are boundaries and limitations in life to which I must surrender and be subject.


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 11, 2017 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house   leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord.”         2 Ch. 26:21
    Had the king visited the temple merely as a king and a worshipper of the Lord  as he used to do up to that point in his life, he would have been fine; yet he decided to assume the role of a priest, which became the greatest downfall in his life. Unfortunately, that visit became his last, and he would never step inside the holy temple ever again.
    Was it some sort of divine aspiration that Uzziah had when he decided to assume another role while he was paying homage to God? He might have considered it too mundane to worship the Lord just as a layman, and determined to experience something more exotic by being a priest. He might have been getting tired of approaching the Lord through a priest, a middleman of sorts, and decided to take things into his own hands. That was the way things went, and we know what transpired at the end. The whole thing backfired on him, and the king was kept from coming into the presence of God from then on.
    Was it essential for the king to become a leper to know that he was truly unclean? Perhaps it was a better route for Uzziah to gain a deeper knowledge of the Lord by contracting leprosy, stripping away all the trappings with which he had identified himself and becoming completely naked and transparent.
    In essence, could it be God’s mercy, not justice, that King Uzziah turned into a leper? I suppose, as far as gaining knowledge of both the Lord and the self was concerned, becoming a leper apparently was a better avenue than remaining as a king.
    Uzziah died as a leper, isolated from all his loved ones and void of any earthly glory and power, and there was no mention of him after he made his curtain call. He might have gone down in history as a failure and a grasper of priestly privilege, yet we will never know how he will be judged at the end. Having a passion to present incense before the Lord doesn’t seem to be all that unpardonable; it may even be commendable.
    Perhaps there is a little bit of Uzziah in me, causing me to feel sympathetic toward the demise of the king.


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 10, 2017 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry.”      2 Ch. 26:19
    The king was not entitled to burn incense before the Lord even though he was the head of Judah. No matter how powerful and lofty his position was, there was some things that he wasn’t supposed to perform, particularly the sacred duties that were reserved for the priests.
    The boundary between the church and the state must be drawn clearly, and the king shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the business of the church. Uzziah seemed to believe his power and authority was limitless, and he became angry when others, especially the Levites and the priests, deemed otherwise. The king took it as a challenge against his authority, and presented the incense despite severe opposition; therefore he suffered the dire consequence - he became a leper.
    One single act of offence and the king came down from the highest and sank to the lowest, and remained one to be scorned and belittled the rest of his life. Had he been content to be who and what he was, he would have remained a king until he died. This wasn’t the case nonetheless. His overreaching pride became the cause of his downfall.
    Why did Uzziah even consider it essential to cross the line separating the sacred and the secular, the human and the divine?
    Isn’t this the case with some of us who continue to climb upward until we reach the heavens in whatever area we have chosen to pursue? Even at the height of his royal enterprise, the king appeared to be reaching for more beyond what was permissible, thus crossing the clearly-drawn line separating the finite and the infinite.
    There are millions of things that I will never understand and an infinite number of mysteries I won’t be able to penetrate no matter how hard I try. I will forever remain human with all its frailties and limitations throughout eternity and I must accept the way things are with thankfulness and gratitude.
    Things could always be different and our circumstance could be far better than what it is, yet our present lot is the way things are and to embrace it with gratitude is an act of obedience; to grumble and complain about it is an act of overreaching, attempting to usurp God’s position in our lives.
    Indeed, things could be a lot better, but they could also be far worse than what they are. Life does not end in midstream and we have no option but to pack up and continue to move onward, trusting who and what we are has always been divinely intended.
    How easy it was for the king to turn into a leper, and it was caused by mere discontentment.    


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 9, 2017 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”        2 Ch. 26:1
    The line between the sacred and the secular has become increasingly blurred since the Protestant Reformation. The idea that we all play some sort of priestly role has sunk into people’s heart and, consequently, the importance of priestly work within God’s church has been greatly decreased. We seem to have ceased considering pastoral work as anything special nowadays.
    This is particularly the case in Chinese churches in North America. In fact, most laymen in the Chinese churches here are highly educated; therefore church ministry, including the prophetic ministry of proclaiming the Word, isn’t deemed as anything particularly difficult, to be reserved for the ones who have received seminary education. Anyone can do it, so they think.
    Indeed, a lot of improvisations are needed if a church is too poorly equipped or is not financially able to call a full-time minister to conduct services and laymen have to pick up the slot. Yet to consider that church ministry is too light weight to be taken seriously is a grave mistake and it shows disrespect to the ones who dedicate their lives to sacred services.
    Was this the case with King Uzziah when he insisted on taking on the priestly role by burning incense in the temple? Was it not quite enough for him to govern the nation so that he felt the unholy impulse to assume the role that was rightly reserved for the Levites and the priests? Or was he simply so overly zealous for the Lord that he decided to make a closer contact with the Almighty by offering sacrifices himself?
    Whatever the reasons behind Uzziah’s action, one thing for sure is what he did wasn’t accepted by God or received favorably by men. What he did was ceremonially unacceptable and by doing so he provoked God’s anger. The king was trying to become someone he wasn’t, and being a king didn’t entitle him to be whatever he determined to be. Like all people, the king had a boundary in life over which he wasn’t supposed to cross. He was a king and should have remained in the court, and he invaded the priests’ territory by going into the temple to burn incense unto the Lord.
    Is it time for me to start entertaining the idea of retiring from church ministry? I sometimes wonder. Yet the one who called me to this church twenty-four years ago will also have to be the One who removes me. Surely I am merely a servant who should never make such a decision on my own, and I will know it for certain when the time finally arrives.
    The greatest mistake King Uzziah made was the belittling of the sacred ministry by assuming the role that was reserved for a very special group of people.     


Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 8, 2017 7:43:00 AM


“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.”  2 Ch. 26:16
    Pride is a gross misperception of oneself and one of the main reasons people become prideful is they become delusional about their true identity. There is absolutely no reason to be arrogant if people know who they truly are, for by nature we are weak and limited and are subject to all sorts of infirmities.
    It’s isn’t really their own doing when people become conceited, for our self-image is mainly the result of the collective opinion people hold concerning us as persons. We become pumped when people start to pump us up and we begin to consider ourselves great after others deem us so. Uzziah might not have thought that he was great before he won a battle or two, but his self-perception altered gradually after people from far and wide came to pay him tribute and showered him with praise and honor. Under such circumstances, it was nearly impossible for him to remain humble.
    May the Lord save us from such temptation and keep us in a lowly position if pride becomes the byproduct of our worldly success and our spiritual advancement.
    “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” Shouldn’t we be more vigilant in guarding ourselves from falling into temptation, causing us to view ourselves higher than we are supposed to and losing sight of who we truly are - the servants of our Lord Jesus?
    I have often found myself becoming envious of preachers who are well known and are in demand, which only indicates that I am harboring a sense of pride and would like very much to be viewed by others as someone worthy of respect. Indeed, I am not famous, yet I am earnestly desirous of becoming so. Deep inside, I am really an arrogant person.
    Knowing how precarious it is and where the path may eventually lead, we should intentionally and proactively keep ourselves from seeking fame and recognition, and remain as anonymous and unknown to the world as much as possible. Indeed, we all want to be greatly used by the Lord in the advancement of his kingdom on earth, yet knowing how weak and frail we are, we simply cannot take too much recognition, either from within or without the church. Those who crave earthly glory will be crushed by its weight which is far heavier than we can ever imagine.
    Between being unknown and humble and being famous and conceited, the choice between the two is rather simple and straightforward for us servants of God to make, isn’t it?   


Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 1, 2017 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Soil 

The Soil
“He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.”            2 Ch. 26:10
    Could it be even possible that King Uzziah was a farmer at heart, for he “loved the soil” and “had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain.” One thing was for certain, however, the king didn’t do the farming or shepherding by himself; he assigned his people to perform the task for him. To the king, farming was an ideal, not a reality. It may be rather romantic looking at farming from afar, but when the reality becomes a down-to-earth kind of thing, it instantly loses its luster. This might have been the case with King Uzziah. He was merely looking at an ideal, and paid no attention to the toil and sorrow of actual farming.
    Uzziah was like all monarchs before and after him from east to west. When they assume this lofty position they intend either to expand the territory of the kingdom by starting a war or two, or to launch a gigantic building project that requires enormous manpower and immense financial resources. I don’t think the welfare of the commoners in the nation concern them that much at all, for most of them only care about their own legacy and lose sight of the need of people to be sheltered and fed.
    What were the things Uzziah actually did after he assumed the kingship? Well, it goes without saying that he fought a war or two, enslaved the ones who were defeated, and also built a few towers to defend the city and to demonstrate his power. After all these had been accomplished, he started to think about the soil and how wonderful it would be if he could get down to his knees and kiss the dirt.
    If only the king had known what it was like to support a family by working the soil and raising the cows! Had he known all these, he wouldn’t have done a lot of things that he did governing the nation.
    Indeed, there is nothing romantic about farming and grazing cattle, for I have experienced both as a little boy and found them rather dreary and wearisome. Surely it was neither fun nor romantic when I was told in my preteen years to get down on all fours in the rice paddies, looking for weeds as I crawled forward, inch by inch in  steamy, muddy water. How could a little boy learn to love the soil under such conditions? No wonder I found it ironic when I came across the line that says: “He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.”
    Come to think of it, the king might have loved the cattle and the soil more than the people whom he had been charged by the Lord to shepherd.          


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 28, 2017 7:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”      2 Ch. 26:5
    “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” I suppose by the term “success” it simply meant that all things went well with the king and the nation as long as he sought the Lord and, because of his devotion to God, King Uzziah was blessed in every way.
     It was truly a great bargain, wasn’t it? Why in the world wouldn’t Uzziah have done that had he realized such was the key to receiving the Almighty’s blessing? The king had to be rather foolish not to do just that.
    Yet things weren’t all that clear cut actually. Uzziah, like all earthly rulers before and after him, was probably a mixed bag of both good and evil. Many rulers might have the intention to do good, but often succumb to the temptation of doing the opposite, and quite a few of them might start out their kingship splendidly well yet, for one reason or another, they end their reigns miserably bad. What makes the great difference in the process? The Lord only knows.
    Even the career of the man after God’s own heart was greatly soiled by the great sins he committed while he wasn’t on guard. While things seemed to be going well and he could finally relax, for the nation was on track to becoming peaceful and prosperous, he was dealt with a big blow that altered the course of his life. Even though he was experiencing all kinds of adversities before then, his life was nonetheless considered a success, for he seemed to be guarding his relationship with the Lord diligently and had been rather vigilant in walking with the Lord and observing the law.
    Whether people are successful or not in life should always be determined by how they walk with the Lord. Other factors, such as fame and wealth, employed by most in measuring one’s success, are superfluous at best. One’s success in life must be measured by an eternal standard, not be a temporal one; by the perception of God, not by the viewpoint of men.
    How do we then read this particular statement? Is it God’s promise that he will cause us to become successful as long as we diligently seek him? This may not be the case, for the ones who seek and love the Lord with all their strength will not be so concerned about worldly successes, and will by no means use an earthly standard to measure whether they are blessed by the Almighty or not.
    Whether we are successful or not by worldly standards, seeking the Lord is itself the greatest reward of all.      


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 27, 2017 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“But stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”             2 Ch. 25:19
    Being the king over the nation of Judah, Amaziah’s decision to engage in a battle against the northern kingdom of Israel was no longer a personal thing, for it involved an entire nation. The troops would have to be mobilized and the entire nation would have to buckle up for the impending war. Indeed, most parents and wives of the country would have to fortify their hearts against the brokenness of losing their loved ones.
    King Amaziah was addicted to war and he was dragging the entire nation down with him. A sinful act is never personal and every action has at least two people or more involved during the process. No one can emerge from it unscathed
    “Think of your elderly parents before you start to do anything dangerous,” I said to my son jokingly, who was going to vacation on the island of Hawaii. I guess he didn’t really take my words to heart since he went on to do scuba diving and open door helicopter sightseeing, both which I consider rather unsafe. Mind you what he did wasn’t something sinful by any means, yet the logic applied just the same. Had something happened in the process, more people surely were going to be influenced adversely and many hearts would be torn.
    Surely the thought of consulting with my parents never entered my mind before I took off on a camping trip when I almost drowned in a river. In fact, my parents had no earthly idea that I came just inches away from death. The tragedy didn’t happen and all was forgotten and forgiven, but the repercussions would have been rather long-lasting had it actually occurred. I was young and foolish and had absolutely no regard for my parents most of time when I was pondering about doing anything reckless or sinful.
    “But stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Jehoash’s response to Amaziah’s challenge seemed to be ringing so true, considering how catastrophic the war would have been for the people of Judah. The king brought the entire nation down with him by entering into the war and his personal decision turned into a corporate one.
    Indeed, no man is an island and no decision is purely individualistic. Even the smallest item we litter has to be picked up by someone else, and every idle word we utter may turn into a flying dagger, stabbing or polluting the ones who happen to hear.
    Knowing that our words and deeds may be far more impactful than we have ever realized, shouldn’t we always do a double take and take a second glance before we speak or act? 


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 26, 2017 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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