TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- 2 CHRONICLES 32:1-33:13.
In previous chapters, we read of King Hezekiah doing “what was good and right and faithful before the Lord His God.”
The big question is, why would the Lord permit Sennacherib of Assyria to invade Judah, capturing forty-six fortified cities, and threatening Jerusalem when Hezekiah and the people were making efforts to worship the Lord with their whole hearts?
Alexander Maclaren writes, “It is the standing puzzle of the Old Testament, how good men come to be troubled, and how bad men come to be prosperous.” It is easy to understand how God could use the Assyrians as instruments of judgment against the evil and corrupt northern kingdom of Israel. But the southern kingdom? Admittedly, Hezekiah was not perfect, but he was such a vast improvement on his predecessor and sincerely sought the Lord and wanted to honor him. He led his country in a spiritual reformation.
The New Testament gives us clearer perspective on this puzzle. God uses these trials to work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. God gets greater glory when we dignify the trial by trusting Him to fulfill His greater purposes.
Sennacherib of Assyria makes every effort to conquer the southern kingdom of Judah. He plans to lay siege on Jerusalem. Hezekiah strategically plans to block off the water supply outside the city. He had already rerouted it into the city through secretly constructed tunnels.
2 Kings 20:20 20 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?
Archaeologists have uncovered this tunnel and it is a popular visitor’s spot in Jerusalem today.
We see that Hezekiah was not lazy. He persevered, working hard at repairing the broken walls and building the towers of Jerusalem. He also strengthened the military and made large numbers of weapons and shields.
He knew how to encourage the troops (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).
Sennacherib wrote intimidating and insulting letters to Hezekiah.
Hezekiah and Isaiah responded to the attacks of the enemy by crying out together to the Lord in prayer. (32:20).
God heard their prayer and sent an angel who annihilated the leaders and the officers of the Assyrian camp, causing Sennacherib to withdraw.
The Lord does bring retribution upon Sennacherib in that when he returns to Assyria he went into the temple of his gods and some of his sons murdered him.
The Lord brought glory to His Name and through these difficult circumstances, He delivered Hezekiah and Judah from the hands of the enemy.
When Hezekiah becomes ill to the point of death, he prayed for 15 more years. God heard his prayer and answered with a miraculous sign (the details of which are absent from 2 Chronicles but recorded in 2 Kings).
As with Uzziah, Hezekiah’s heart became proud, a sin which incurred God’s wrath (2 Chronicles 32:25.
2 Chronicles 32:25 25 But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 32:26 26 However, Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.
It was during the miraculously extended years of Hezekiah’s life that he became father to the most wicked king in the history of Judah- Manasseh.
Despite Hezekiah’s many successes, a great failure is recorded. But only one verse in 2 Chronicles contains it, and barely describes it. Hezekiah proudly displays all his treasures in the temple and palaces, unaware that he was giving information to the enemy of all the spoil they would eventually take away from him.
This is the very light treatment that the Chronicler gives it in only one verse- 2 Chronicles 32:31:
2 Chronicles 32:31 31 Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.
This gives us a fresh perspective on the various trials we encounter in life. We can learn something new about ourselves. Trials will reveal what is in our hearts. In Hezekiah’s case, it was pride.
Manasseh’s reign is described in 2 Chronicles 33. This evil man became king at the age of 12.
We read about his evil deeds in 2 Kings, but they are listed here. By this time the writer wants us to see that the southern kingdom of Judah was not better off spiritually than the northern kingdom of Israel and were just as worthy of judgment.
Manasseh not only permitted sorcery, magic, divination, and idol (demon) worship, but he practiced these abominations.
2 Chronicles 33:9 9 Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.
2 Chronicles 33:10 10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.
One of the most remarkable turn-around conversions in the Old Testament is that of Manasseh: He is converted in a prison cell in Babylon.
2 Chronicles 33:10-13 10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. 12 When he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – ROMANS 15:23- 16:7
I love reading missionary biographies and journals. In Romans 15, we are reading the apostle Paul’s missionary journal where he is contemplating his travel plans. He has a passion to bring the gospel to those who are yet unreached. He has never met with the church in Rome and hopes to meet with them face to face on his way to Spain (Romans 15:28).
First, he plans to go to Jerusalem. He wants the Gentiles to affirm their indebtedness to the Jews and demonstrate their unity with them as partakers of one Spirit and members of one body. He plans to collect the funds from these predominantly Gentile churches and personally deliver them to the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, to provide help in a time of famine and persecution.
Yet, we learn from the Book of Acts, that things do not always go the way we have planned. Not even if you are the Apostle Paul!
Proverbs 16:9 9 The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
When Paul arrives in Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-23:23) he is soon taken as a prisoner to Caesarea. And it is as a prisoner that he arrives in Rome several years later. He is not able to teach in a hall or preach in the public square, but he is able to receive guests while he is kept under house arrest. With these ‘stay at home’ restrictions, we find the Apostle Paul managing ways to preach the kingdom of God and continue his teaching “concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered” (Acts 28:31).
Did Paul ever go to Spain? The Book of Acts records his three missionary journeys and ends with his house arrest in Rome. There is no information about a trip to Spain furnished by the Bible.
However, the writings of Eusebius indicate that Paul was not martyred immediately after his first house arrest. Paul went before Nero, as the Lord had predicted, and was eventually released, possibly making a fourth missionary journey to Spain before being arrested and jailed again. In this second imprisonment at Rome it is believed he wrote his second letter to Timothy before being executed.
In verse 30, Paul makes a request for prayer. Paul knew that when we pray for someone in ministry, we join them in ministry. This should encourage us to pray for our pastors and the many missionaries who are serving Christ in our locality and around the world:
Romans 15:30-32 30 Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints; 32 so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company.
This passage also reminds us that we need to hold onto our plans loosely. May we have a similar focus as we seek to fulfill our goals “in joy, by the will of God” (Romans 15:32).
Yesterday we read of “The God of hope” earlier in this chapter (15:13). Now we read of “the God of peace” (15:33).
Chapter 16 introduces us to the many friends of the Apostle Paul in Rome. Paul will greet 26 of them by name and refer to at least two others who remain nameless. We also see how many women had important roles in the local church, even though they were not appointed as elders.
Notice the churches that meet in homes. Priscilla and Aquila’s home was a ministry center. How about yours?
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALM 25:16-22
Are you lonely or afflicted? The Psalmist honestly recognizes his need for the Lord’s help. Do you?
Do you recognize your need for face to face fellowship? Do you look for His company (25:16)? His comfort? His counsel? His relief (v.17)? His forgiveness and deliverance (v.18)? His rescue? His vindication? His justification?
When we pray, are we aware of all that He can do FOR ALL OUR TROUBLES? (25:22)
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
Proverbs 20:16-18 16 Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; And for foreigners, hold him in pledge. 17 Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. 18 Prepare plans by consultation and make war by wise guidance.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS
(from “Operation World Prayer App”)
Kenya has a massive evangelical presence. Nearly 50% of the population are affiliated to evangelical churches, from Protestant, Independent, Anglican, and Catholic backgrounds! Pentecostals especially experienced rapid growth. Overall, 82% of Kenyans call themselves “Christian”. Why then does Kenya have so much poverty, and such corruption? With so much corruption, terrorists and international drug traffickers use Kenya as a base. Pray for Christians to unite to oppose wrongdoing, and to promote policies that honor God. Kenya needs a just and honest government that will uplift the poor and punish the wicked.
The once-strong Congregational Church (Kiribati Protestant) is in slow decline and losing members to other groups. The theological college in Tarawa is not evangelical. Pray for a return to the Bible. Nominalism and syncretism with traditional spiritist practices are all too common.
PRAYER: Father, we are aware that our old nature often expresses itself in pride. Help us to recognize what our selfish pride cost Your holy Son. He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquity. We rejoice in Your mercies and your abundant pardon.
Help us, as we make our plans to spread the gospel, to know that You have the upper hand and direct our steps. Keep us humble and flexible, redeeming the time and every situation. Thank you for the love and the support of our brothers and sisters and enable us to bless them. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.