King Josiah had ordered repair of the Temple…and during the work they came upon a lost book of the Law, (Deuteronomy). When read, the King ordered its requirements observed and then took active steps to clean up the mess in the Temple. In this Scripture, he ordered the priests and doorkeepers to round up all the foreign idols that had somehow wormed their way into the Temple. For the Godly and ungodly had been co-existing for so long… it was now considered acceptable. When false teaching infiltrates the Church it always does it in a subtle, indirect, and devious way…suggesting it’s just fine to accept.
The Lord is asking you this same question today…”Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved? Do you believe that He died for your sins that you may have eternal life? Maybe you’ve never been confronted to make a decision for Jesus…or maybe you’ve been resisting the wooing of the Holy Spirit. Either way, believing is a commitment of mind, body and spirit. It’s the start of an intimate spiritual journey of faith, trust, and obedience. The Lord is asking you today, “Do you believe?”
If you’re still inhaling and exhaling oxygen…God’s not done with you! If you still have a physical earthly existence…you’re not too far gone for God to work a miracle in your life! For as long as we have breath, we have hope…and as long as we have hope, we can put our faith in God who can work the impossible.
Stiff-necked is a great word picture. It comes from oxen resisting the yoke placed on them by the farmer. And when we turn away from God and His Word…we’re essentially doing the same thing. We stubbornly think God’s yoke is too difficult to bear and so in rebellion we throw off the yoke of obedience. But it warns us in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” For we become totally deceived when we think that the yoke of sin is easy to escape out of…for in reality, the bondage of its yoke is far heavier and more difficult to carry.
King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were desperate. Enemy armies were fast approaching and they didn’t know what to do. They found themselves in a dark valley of desperation, discouragement, and fear with no way out…but they resolved to trust God. And it’s in that same valley that God worked a mighty miracle…giving them victory over their enemies. That valley of their suffering was changed into the Valley of Beracah…the Valley of Praise. With God’s help, we can grow during those hard times. Our faith can increase and be strengthened in the midst of turmoil, loss, and strife…if we trust God. It’s then that our valley of the shadow of death can also become a Valley of Praise.
These blue cord tassels were to be a daily reminder of the Lord’s commandments and the fact that the Jews were a holy and separated people. But if we go to Matthew 23:5, Jesus is calling out the Jewish Leaders who had taken this Scripture to an excess by making their tassels extremely long in order to make a show of their “religiousness”. It’s called Legalism…and the Church over history has been really good at it. We’d rather focus on the strict and excessive conformity to the letter of the Law, than embrace grace and mercy. Or we’d rather obsess over external appearances than do the hard work of changing our hearts, minds, and attitudes. Legalism is taking God’s word to an extreme and then affixing human rules and regulations to it. Legalism lets us focus on things we can control and be proud of…the “Look at me, I’m so very religious!” But like white-washed graves, we look so nice on the outside, but hold so much decay within.
Jesus says to us in John 15:4, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” For us, this means being rooted and established in the truth of the Gospel and trusting in the Lord daily. And from this will come a over-abundance of fruit in our life…of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)