Sunday, May 27, 2018

Be Strong and Courageous, and Don't Give Up! In Due Season, Will Reap!

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, God spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.  I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you—  from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’  No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:6-9)    

God spoke three times Joshua, the newly appointed leader of the Israelites, “be strong and courageous.”   Although Joshua followed Moses for forty years as Moses’ top assistant, taking over the entire leadership of the great leader Moses was a daunting task to Joshua.   Joshua was about to lead the entire nation through the completely new world of the Promised Land.   For the forty years, Joshua faithfully waited for this moment -- getting into the Promised Land.   In fact, not only getting in the Promised Land, but also he was the lead of the nation!

All of the people with him were a new generation.   All of the old generation who got out of from the bondage of slavery in Egypt perished in the wilderness.  Only were the very few faithful with the new generation.  Joshua was one of the very few.  

Indeed, God quickly brought the entire nation of Israel to the Promised Land.   It only took about one year and three months after the departure of Egypt.  They were able to see the Promised Land, which was given to the people of Israel through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their forefathers.   Finally, the promise was about to be fulfilled.   All of the Israelites were excited and in joy.    They looked back their slavery in Egypt, and some of them were in tears.   They could their own land and house to raise their children.   The celebratory mood was prevailing in the entire camp of the Israelites.

God said to Moses, “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”  God wanted to show the Promised Land before they went in.  So Moses did as the LORD commanded him.  He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp.   The twelve tribes sent their own man, and the people of Israel was camped in the wilderness of Paran.

Moses gave the men these instructions as he sent them out to explore the land: “Go north through the Negev into the hill country.  See what the land is like, and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many.  See what kind of land they live in. Is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps?  Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you see.” (It happened to be the season for harvesting the first ripe grapes.)

After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces.  But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!  The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

Yes, the Promised Land was really good.  As promised, it was a truly land of flowing with milk and honey.  All kinds of fruits were on the trees.   However, they saw the people living there powerful, and their towns large and fortified.  They even saw giants, the descendants of Anak!   The eyes of the ten spies fixated the powerful people and fortified cities in the land, not the promise of God.   The report of the ten spies started with good but ended with bad. 

Caleb and Joshua, the minority among the twelve spies, listened quietly.   They looked each other, because they could not believe what they were hearing.  They could not be slient any longer.   Then Caleb broke the silence, and raised his hands, while trying to quiet the people as they stood before Moses.   He poured out his heart.   In faith, “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”     Yes, what they saw was really scary even to Caleb and Joshua like the other ten spies, but they remembered the promise, and believed the promise of God.   Caleb and Joshua did not rely on what they saw – those giants, the fortified cities and strong people living there.   
Caleb and Joshua raised their voices, and asked the people around them to be faithful before God, while believing the promise of God.  The other men who had explored the land with them sharply disagreed. They shouted in one voice, “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!”   Of course, it was a really rationale conclusion.  There was no way to fight against the stronger people already living in the Promised Land.  They were just a bunch of ex-slaves.   Moreover, their were there giants, the descendants of Anak.   They knew nobody even defeated the Anakies.  All perished before the Anakies.    

So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge.  We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”   Before this bad report, the hearts of the people of Israel melt like an ice on a hot summer day. 

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?”  Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”    (How easy was for us to complain if we meet a small pain or an inconvenience while following God?   The Israelites were same.   They complained.)
Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing.  They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land!  And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.  Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”  (Numbers 14:8-9)

But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.   Joshua and Caleb thought that they were killed by their own angry people.   God steeped in, and they were rescued from being stoned.  The God tried to destroy them for their unbelief, but Moses interceded.   God accepted Moses’ plea, and God did not destroyed them.   Then God said, “I will pardon them as you have requested.  But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice.  They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.  Now turn around, and don’t go on toward the land where the Amalekites and Canaanites live. Tomorrow you must set out for the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea” (Numbers 14:20-25)

As God said, the following day, the people of Israel went back to the wilderness without putting even one foot on the Promised Land.   After that, they wondered the wilderness about thirty nine years till all of the unfaithful and rebellious generation perished.   Only left were Joshua and Caleb, and the next generation who did not directly experienced the God’s miraculous hands and signs.

Thirty nine years later, right before the eyes of Joshua, again there was the Promised Land.   Joshua precisely remembered what had happened before.  In faith, Joshua and Caleb did their best to try to convince the angry people to hold tight on the promise given through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Due to the unbelief, the Israelites had to wonder around for 49 years on the wilderness, and Joshua had to wait till God presents His promise again.   Finally, Joshua came back to the same place.   However, for this time, not as an assistant to Moses, but the leader of the whole nation, he stood before the Promised Land.  He remembered how he fought again the rest of his fellow ten spies, the entire people of Israel, and even himself because he saw the terrifyingly power people, the fortified cities, and the giants.  The pressure from his fellow ten spies, and the rest people of Israel was paramount.  He himself was actually in fear due to what he actually saw.   However, Joshua did not allow his eyes on these things.  Joshua fixed his eyes on God while believing the promise of God.   This was the faith that pleased God.    God also help Joshua to push back the enormous pressure from his peers, the entire people of Israel and his own doubts and fears.   It was a true victory in faith.    God also truly valued this faith.   Thirty nine years later, God set him as the new leader of the entire nation of Israel.  

Joshua now stood tall and strong in faith before God and the people of Israel.   He was fully ready to get into the Promised Land and occupy the land.  No more retreat and no more doubts and fears.   His eyes directly fixed on God and ready to do God’s will in the name of God.  In his heart, there was no more debates but faith in God.   God was with Joshua, and Joshua was in God.   God’s mighty hand and His glorious acts were waiting for him along with the people of Israel. 

Once Joshua was forcefully pushed away from the promised land with the rest of Israelites, not because of lack of his faith, but because of the unbelief of the Israelites.  He could not understand why he had to suffer together with the rest of unbelieving people.  However, the set time of God came.  Joshua stood before the Promised Land with God, who truly believed his entire life while going through the hardship of the wilderness for forty years. Joshua endured the enormous pressure of his peers and the rest of entire people of Israel.  Joshua was ready before God’s eyes.  Joshua stood with God while looking down the Promised Land, which Joshua waited and waited long time without losing his faith in God.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  (2 Peter 3:8) 

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People? Because God Truly Loves Us!

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

King Hezikiah was the most faithful king before God ever.  God blessed him, and he pleased God.   In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.  The Assyrian army was so huge and strong that he could not fight against them.  

King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” (2 Kings 18:14a)  The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.   It was really enormous amount of silver and gold.   He accepted the huge demand – eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold, which he did not have.  

To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury.   However, he could not collect enough silver and gold to meet the demand.  Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold.   King Hezekiah’s heart was really saddened.   A really serious hardship found King Hezekiah, the most faithful king ever.   Unfortunately, he took the matter into own hands rather than asking God first.  The most faithful king failed.

God did not leave King Hezekiah alone.  God made the Assyrian king not satisfied even with the eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.  The Assyrian king sent his chief of staff, and delivered a humiliating message.   King Hezekiah’s officials asked, “Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don’t speak in Hebrew, for the people on the wall will hear.”   

Then the chief of staff stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, “Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria!  This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power.  Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’

 “Don’t listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, ‘The LORD will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?  What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power?  What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me?”

King Hezekiah was really in trouble.  He gave everything that he had.   He even stripped off the gold in God’s temple that he really loved and where he met God.   Even so, the Assyrian came back and threatened for him to surrender.   Most of all, they mocked God, and his faith to God, the most precious to him.  (Once we leave our faith.  Our enemies do not leave us alone.  They threaten us, even mock our God, and sadly look down on our faith too. )  

When King Hezekiah heard what was happing at the Jerusalem wall, he concluded that nothing could stop the enemy.   He had been searching for a way out the trouble, but there was none.   Finally, he remembered his God, who could rescue him and his people.   He started seeing what went wrong, when the mighty Assyrians initially invaded.  He did not rely on God.   He was bitter in his heart while reminding he used to be really faithful to God.   He also enjoyed God’s blessings.  Everything went well.   Even Bible records King Hezekiah was the most faithful king.    However, King Hezekiah was a mere human, who was not perfect.  He was slowly and steadily drifting away from God, and more and more relying on himself even without noticing this.   Hezekiah used to do first was to come before God to talk about anything about his life: small, big, good or bad like a child, but for this time, he took the matter in his own hand.

Taking a life challenge to our own hand is our nature built in us -- wanting to be our own master.   We know and confess that God is our king and master, but if everything goes well (due to God’s blessings), we slowly forget the source of the blessing and indulge in our own live.   Gradually and steadily, we replace our God’s kingship in our heart with our own self and ego.   Then when we meet a life challenge, our own kingship surfaces up:  we take all matters into our hands.   We don’t go to God first.  Even the most faithful king ever could not escape this subtle trap, and failed.  After taking lots of beating, King Hezekiah realized who the true king was in his life.   He, then, ran into God.

He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the Temple of the LORD  And he sent his officials, all dressed in sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah.   They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. But perhaps the LORD your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”

King Hezekiah humbled, and received God’s answer through the mouth of Prophet Isaiah, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword.’” (2 Kings 19:6b)

What a comforting message of God!   Soon King Sennacherib, the Assyrian King received word that King Tirhakah of Ethiopiac was leading an army to fight against him.    Yes, God started moving His mighty hand.    King Hezekiah saw the mighty hand of God.  The Assyrian king suddenly left.   King Hezekiah and his people really relieved.  They thought that the end of the siege was near.   

However, the Assyrian king sent even more threatening message to Hezekiah in Jerusalem.  (Please note that the northern Israel, the sister country which was bigger than the Hezekiah’s kingdom, fell before the Assyrian king.)   The initial relief was short lived.  

“This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? Have the gods of other nations rescued them—such nations as Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Tel-assar? My predecessors destroyed them all!  What happened to the king of Hamath and the king of Arpad? What happened to the kings of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?”  (2 Kings 19:10-13)

The message was a direct attack on God, the very source of his hope and faith of being saved from the mighty Assyrian king’s army.   Initially the prayer of Isaiah, the most powerful prophet of the time, actually made some change, but the root of the problem did not go away.    The treat was even harsher than before while attacking his last hope: his belief that God would save him and his people.   Hezekiah tried all options including asking prayers to the most powerful prophet at that time.   None really worked.  He was left alone, and felt even more venerable than before.  All of his officials, priests and even Isaiah could not do anything.  Hezekiah was in a real misery.

Have we experienced the situation that Hezekiah experienced?    All of our strength and wisdoms did not work.  In fact, all that we did make the problem even worse.   Then realizing that our sinfulness before God, and making us humble, and even asking prayers of others, such as pastors and prayer warriors.   Then we saw briefly some changes, but the real root of the real problem did persist, which made helpless and hopeless, while putting in misery and pains.   We did not know where to go.  However, later we realized the past pains and miseries were after all, a true manifestation of God love!   God knew our inability to learn this by our own efforts.   Let’s what Hezekiah did.

After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he ran up to the LORD’s Temple and spread it out before the LORD.  Yes, Hezekiah now ran into God.  Then he humbly knelt down before God alone.   Then like a child, he spread out all of his concerns, worries, pains, miseries, and most of all, fears before God.   He authentically poured out his real heart to his true father, the Ever Lasting, Ever Loving, Almighty God.  

Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.

“It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the gods of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not gods at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:14-19)

Let’s see how Hezekiah prayed:
        1.       Praised God, the King of kings in heavens and on the earth.  He returned his kingship to God,
        2.       Told his heartbreak against the blaspheming enemy, 
        3.       Shared his real fear with God because he saw what the enemy did to other, and
        4.       Confessed his deepest faith in God, who would rescue him with His mighty hand.

God patiently waited this moment until King Hezekiah completely let down everything and absolutely surrendered before God.   
God moved His mighty hand.  That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere.  Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there.

One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.  This was the end of the Assyrian king who invaded and blasphemed Our God.

Yes, God brought the bad thing into the life of Hezekiah, the most faithful king.  Why?  God dearly loved Hezekiah.  Then God patiently waited until Hezekiah made himself completely emptied and absolutely surrendered before God, and returned His kingship to God.    As we have experienced many times, we all want to be the king in our lives.  This is a deeply rooted desire in our hearts.   However, it is the very source of our spiritual disease spreading out silently till completely taking over ourselves.  As a result, this disease is also the most difficult one to cure.   We need a real strong medicine, which is God’s strong hand gloved with His unfailing love.   Hezekiah then experienced this love of God.   And surely we will too, because God dearly loves us also.    This is our confidence and faith.   Praise the Lord, who is Our Ever-Loving Father, the All Mighty God!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People? And God's Love!

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Who can fathom the Spiritd of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13)

Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years.  He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles.  King Hezekiah eliminated foreign false gods and idols.    He even broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, through which the Israelites were saved.   Following God’s instruction, Moses made the bronze serpent, and whoever looked at the bronze serpent was healed from a bite by a fiery serpent.   The bronze serpent was a just instrument of God, but the people of Israel, after the event, worshipped and offered sacrifices to it.   No king made clear that worshiping anything, even the bronze serpent that was used as God’s instrument, was an idolatry before God.    King Hezekiah made an issue, and destroyed it.  He was truly upright before God, and he led his people through the paths of righteousness.   

King Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time (2 Kings 5:18).   He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.  So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did.  He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.  He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city.

As we usually expect: if we are upright before God, then God will make everything go well, for King Hezekiah, everything went well.   His kingdom was growing and strengthened.  His people were in peace and prosperity.   However, this prosperity did not continue forever.    God had a greater plan for Hezekiah and his people.  

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them.   King Hezekiah found there is no other way except accepting his defeat.  The Assyrian army was so huge and strong that he could not fight against them.  

King Hezekiah, although he was truly faithful to God, could not see God before the eminent threat of the huge Assyrian army because his eyes were fixated to his enemy.   Then he used all of his own wisdoms.   His conclusion was to negotiate with the invading Assyrian army. 

King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” (2 Kings 18:14a)  The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.   It was really enormous amount of silver and gold.   Even so, King Hezekiah did not have a choice.   He accepted the huge demand – eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold.    Of course, King Hezekiah did not have such a huge amount of silver and gold.   

King Hezekiah was faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.  However, when he actually met a real challenge, he could not stand firm and strong in God.  He gave in and feared what was seen by his own eyes – the mighty Assyrian army.  

To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury.   However, he could not collect enough silver and gold to meet the demand.  Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold.   King Hezekiah’s heart was really saddened.   He remembered what he did – destroying the foreign idols and shrines in the name of God.    Now, he was destroying God’s temple by his own hand.   For him, God was the one.  Except God, there was none.   He lived for God, which was his entire life.    What a disgrace to King Hezekiah – the king, who was known to be the best king.   “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.” (2 Kings 18:5b)

King Hezekiah, then, gave it all to the Assyrian king.   He thought that the Assyrian king would let him and his people alone.    No, it was not the case!   After receiving the huge amount of gold and silver, the heart of the king of Assyria was not soften toward Hezekiah and his people.   Instead his heart became even more hardened.   The king of Assyria sent his commander in chief, his field commander, and his chief of staff from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem.   This response was a huge surprise to Hezekiah.  All of his hope of regaining peace by doing whatever it took -- being humiliated, begging, and even stripping off the gold from the God’s temple, which was the most hateful thing that he had ever done in his life.  

For this time, the Assyrians even came to Jerusalem.    They took up a position beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed.  The entire people in Jerusalem knew what’s going on.    The commander of the Assyrian army summoned King Hezekiah,  but he had no strength even to stand up.    He called his officials to respond this disastrous situation.   Then he sent his officials to the commander of Assyrian army.

Then the Assyrian king’s chief of staff told them to give this message to Hezekiah: 

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?  Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?  On Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, it will be like a reed that splinters beneath your weight and pierces your hand. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is completely unreliable!

“But perhaps you will say to me, ‘We are trusting in the LORD our God!’ But isn’t he the one who was insulted by Hezekiah? Didn’t Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?

“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”

The message from the Assyrian king was
          1.       “There is none on earth that would be able to save Hezekiah from the Assyrian king.”
          2.       “Even your God could not save from me.” 
          3.       “Hezekiah, you are nothing and you can do nothing even I give you 2,000 horse.”
          4.       “Finally, my invasion is not my own will, but God told me to attack and destroy you.”

Why had the most faithful king ever gone to this miserable state?   He and his people were humiliated, and even God was mocked.   The Assyrian army even justified what they did by telling ”God himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’”
Perhaps some of us might have experienced the same pain and humiliation of Hezekiah even though doing always right things before God, and keeping all things that God commands.   Despite of our faithfulness, suddenly a disaster stoke us.   Then how did we respond?    Like Hezekiah, have we focused on the disaster, and made every effort to make a solution?    What was the result?   Have our clever solution worked out?   Many of us already know the answer by experience.  Like the case of Hezekiah, the clever solution of ours made the situation even worse.   

Why?   Please step back and see carefully what Hezekiah did.    He made up the cleverest solution by himself, and to follow his solution, he even compromised the most precious one – the God’s temple.  Before the disaster, Hezekiah lived for God, and he did everything right before God.   However, when a real disaster came to his own life, he did not rely on himself.   Then who was the real god for Hezekiah – himself or God?   

How come Hezekiah, the most faithful king ever, did not directly go to God when the insurmountable challenge came into his life?   This clearly explains about his true relationship with God.   How about us?    Are we faithful to God?  Also known to be a person of faith?  Then it is time to examine our faith, whether we truly trust in Him or not.    

God truly loved Hezekiah because he was faithful.   God gave him an opportunity test and prove his faith before God.   He completely failed.  God did not let him alone, of course.  The disaster with which Hezekiah confronted, and his skew up before God were God’s way to make him spiritually grow in Him so that he could possess a fully mature faith in Him.    In the next week, we will see how God made him mature in faith.   Yes, God is love.   Sometimes God exposes our weakness through a life challenge.   Then God guides us in the paths of righteousness -- mature and strong in Him.  This is our faith growing in His love.   

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Victory In Prayer: Never Give Up!

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1)

There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zupha in the hill country of Ephraim.  Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.

Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to God of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of God at that time was Eli.  On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because God had given her no children.  So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because God had kept her from having children.  Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. 

Sometimes, we do everything right before God and toward people, but things do not happen as we expect, which is a real pain in our hearts.  Enduring such a pain is a real burden to our hearts, because there is nobody truly understanding the pain.  However, the world does not stop there.   There is always someone who add our pain by rubbing slat into the deep wound in our heart.  Hannah had to go through this pain year after year.   She prayed to God, but nothing was changed.  For the year, she could to bear the pain any longer.   She was in tears, and could not eat because the pain in her heart was unbearably great.

 “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah, her husband, would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”

Her husband loved Hannah, and comforted her by telling his love to Hannah.  For many past years, she was comforted by this loving and kind word of her husband, but that year was different.  Her husband’s comforting voice did not register her ears at all, because her anguish was so deep, which had been accumulating many years in her heart.    There was no room anymore in her heart.   Her extreme anguish completely occupied her heart.   In fact, no one, even her husband, could not comfort her heart.  Her heart was completely out of touch, even to her husband.    Have we gone to such a deep pain and anguish like Hannah?  Surely some had.

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray to God.   She ran into the Tabernacle.   Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.   Hannah had no heart to recognize Eli the priest.   Coming in to the Tabernacle, he immediately bowed down before God as if she were collapsing because she was in deep anguish.  She could not stop crying, and her cry was so bitter.   She pour out her anguish heart as she prayed to God.  The anguish that even her husband could not tame had she had poured out her before God.   Initially, she could not tell whether she was actually praying or not.   What she did was just emptying her heart.  God, who was always merciful, heard her without missing even one single word from her mouth.  God carefully paid attention to her prayer.  She spread out her anguish one by one before God.   God patiently heard her, and mercifully touched her heart, as she continued her prayer.  

As she was praying, God continuously ministered her heart as she was empting her heart in anguish in tears.   (Yes, Our God is really patient and full of mercy.   God truly listens to our prayer whenever we pour our heart to Him.  Why?  He is our One and Only, Ever-Loving Father.)   Hannah was venting her pain and anger in her heart to God.   The merciful God was right next her, and patiently took out her pain and anguish in her heart.  The tender and merciful hand of God touched her.  She was completely in God’s hand as she pouring out her heart.   God mended her broken heart to whole again.  

And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.”   She realized who God was, and she secretly made her vow to God with all of her heart and mind.

While praying deeply with God, She completely forgot Eli the priest, who was sitting in the Tabernacle.   As she was praying to God, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking.  “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”  

She suddenly realized she was in the middle of the Tabernacle.   Till the very moment, there was nothing between her and God.   Except God and herself, nothing existed because her prayer was so sweet and comforting.   God’s mercy touched her, and she was comforted.   Her experience of God’s mercy was a secret between her and God, hidden to others even including Eli, the priest.   Without knowing this, Eli thought that she was drunk because her lips moving without her voice.   In fact, she was talking to God with all her heart and mind.   She was talking to God, not a person on earth.   Hannah’s prayer was silent to the ears of Eli, but it was loudly heard by God.  Bible tells People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)   Amen to God, who sees the center of our heart, and answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart.

Quickly  posturing herself, “Oh no, sir!” Hannah replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD.  Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”    Hannah response was brief and factual.   Why?  There was no word matching her precious experience with God in her prayer.  Her heart’s pain and anguish were gradually melt away like an ice-covered lake exposed its fresh water as a warm spring sun rose.  Then her heart was filled with God’s warm mercy and love.  Her heart uttered a vow secretly to God with all her heart and mind.  

“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”  (1 Samuel 1:17)   Eli quickly dropped his suspicion.  Instead, he gave God’s blessing.  This voice was not from Eli, but from God.   “Go in peace!”   God knew her heart, and God grant His peace to her.   The peace was for Hannah, and for those who faithfully believed Him.  In her faith, Hannah looked up God as if a female slave look to the hand of her mistress.   God answered her prayer.  

Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.   (1 Samuel 1:18)   Upon hearing Eli’s answer, she responded with thanks to Eli in joy because she truly believed.   She knew she was barren, but she believed that she would have a son.   She no longer revisited again and again the pain and the anguish in her heart.   Instead, she fixed her eyes on God, and believed having her own baby.   She was freed from her past bondage of the heart pain and anguish.   Now she was in joy with God.   Then she went back to her life and ate again.    She was no long sad because she truly believed God and His mighty and merciful hand would give her baby.

I lift up my eyes to you,
     to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
     as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
     so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
     till he shows us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
     for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
     of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud.   (Psalm 123)

Praise God!  His mercy endures forever.   Sing praise the name of God, who hears our prayers when we are in pain and anguish in our hearts.   Our God is merciful.    He helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.   Our eyes of all look to God in hope.   God answers our prayer from the deepest part of our heart with His mercy and love.  Praise Him, the One and Only One Our Ever-Loving God!