In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
King Jehoshaphat was appointing judges for the land…wanting them to realize the seriousness of their positions and the influence they would have over the people. His admonition against bias and prejudice is repeat, I found, within the Oath of Office for the Supreme Court Justices – the highest Court of the land in the USA. The oath reads as follows, ” I,_________, do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as________ under the Constitution and Laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” May the fear of the Lord direct them.
Just because you have a desire and passion for something doesn’t mean you’re the one to accomplish it. David was one of Israel’s most famous kings, and the Lord had laid on his heart the desire to build a temple…a permanent place for the glory of the Lord to dwell. But God had different plans for him. I Chronicles 28:3 says, “But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for My Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’ ” David was a man of war, where his son Solomon, the successor to his throne, was a man of peace. Now David might have felt he needed to be the one to build the temple, but he didn’t argue with God. He then understood that his job was to do the preliminary planning…and before he died, David had procured and amassed many of the building materials needed so that his son Solomon could then start the project. For many of us, we’re God’s preliminary planners…we have God’s vision and the passion for the task at hand. But our job is that of prayer and intercession…for God has in mind someone else to fulfill the mission.
God had been very specific to Moses on where and how to sacrifice offerings to Him. (Leviticus 17:3-5) But the people had fallen into the habit of worshiping at the high places of false gods instead…and it became Israel’s pitfall. Even King Solomon became too comfortable and apathetic about where he worshiped God…for it tells us in I Kings 3:3, “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” By using the altars of false gods, the Jewish people were unwittingly incorporating and melding deceptive ideology into their worship of the one true God.
The biggest cripplers of our Christian walk are fear and doubt. They effectively incapacitate and render us useless for the Lord, and are the favorite tools in Satan’s arsenal. God says, “Fear not!”, but instead, our eyes are fixated on the trouble around us and we freeze – paralyzed in fear. He says, “The battle is Mine not yours”, but we doubt, and surrender before we’ve even started to fight. When we operate in fear and doubt, we’re rejecting and denying God and His power. And even today if I asked you, there’s probably something that fear and doubt are holding you back from doing in your life. Satan loves fear and doubt…but he’s also anxious…for he knows that if Believers would conquer their inner doubt and fear and grasp a hold of God’s truths…they could change the world for Christ.
It’s all about the relationship. In any kind of relationship hopefully there’s give and take… communication and mutual respect…connection and co-operation. But our relationship with the Lord is totally unique from any we have here on earth. God’s covenant relationship with us is binding and unbreakable…bought by the blood of Jesus Christ…while we were yet sinners. And His loving kindness and mercy towards us has nothing to do with how good we are…for it is a free gift. So think about it…the relationship we have with our Lord is really rather lopsided, with Him giving so much more to us than we could ever give back. This covenant of love that flows between God and us gives us a purpose in life… and as we commit our heart, soul, and strength to Him, we are ever being changed from the inside out.
King Hezekiah sought God’s ultimate plan and purpose in his life. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord and followed His Word carefully. It says that he sought the Lord wholeheartedly in all he did…and in doing so, he blessed many and in turn was greatly blessed by God.
The other day I helped at the local Food Pantry organizing all the donated food that’s coming in this time of the year from the many food drives going on… there was a mountain of food to find a place for. It struck me how willingly and joyfully the people of this area are in donating to this great cause…and because of their generous nature, many will have food on their tables this holiday season. We can’t be tight-fisted, just giving the bare minimum of what we have to others…for it’s really not ours in the first place…the Lord has blessed us with it. Instead, we need to be happy and glad to give, for it tells us in II Corinthians 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver.” This Scripture shows us that they gave generously of all they had, not holding back but giving with a open hand and a big heart. I pray we may become that type of people.
People have really good excuses why they don’t want anything to do with God. “Religion is only for the weak that need a crutch.” “I’ll get right with God when I get old and about to die…you know, like Fire Insurance…something you have just incase.” “I don’t believe any of that mumbo-jumbo Jesus garbage.” So when you’re confronted by this, what is the best answer? The Truth. You don’t need to defend God…He’s perfectly capable of defending Himself, thank you. You state the Truth in love, but neither do you water down the Truth to make it more palatable for all. The Truth is, if you forsake God, He’ll reject you…forever.
In so many struggles we can find ourselves totally defenseless…outmanned and outmaneuvered. And as the fighting escalates, we are worn down and demoralized by the toll it takes on us…mentally, physically, and spiritually. For when you are ill-equipped for battle…you have no chance. Why then do we think we have to do all the fighting, when God tells us He’s got our back? Spiritual warfare is His specialty, not ours. All He asks of us is to stand and watch Him work. For in Psalm 91:7-8 says, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes…”