Part 2 of 12

Sky-Scraping Requirements

One of the “joys” for our family while living in the heavily populated, twenty-million people-strong city of Manila, was the constant construction (notice the dripping sarcasm). We used to joke that the national bird of the Philippines was the crane. Everywhere construction cranes dotted the landscape: in parking lots, in gargantuan storage buildings and all across rooftops. It always amazed me at how huge buildings were squeezed in between the already-crowded existing ones. One day there would be an empty space. It seemed like the next day there would be a massive hole in the ground, and then following that, a steel structure would claw its way up into the sky like the shoot of a plant struggling upward to find the tiniest rays of sunlight. Many a time we walked the streets under a green umbrella of sorts, a huge net stretched across the roads and sidewalks to prevent anyone from being hurt by falling brick, rock or tools.

Those deep holes in the ground that preceded the eventual skyscrapers were the receptacles for the foundation of the structures. Sometimes the holes were so deep it seemed like the construction workers were looking at the engineers’ plans upside-down. I am not an engineer, but I believe that the taller the building is, the deeper the foundation has to go.

The current tallest building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 2,717 feet tall (828 meters). It opened its doors in 2010, although much of the space has still not been utilized. However, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia is hoping to take that title away when it opens in 2021. This will be the first building ever to hit the one kilometer mark.

In designing a building that is so tall, a number of factors come into play: the ground consistency, the foundation, and the wind. If the ground underneath the intended tower is hard rock, the foundation might only need to go down into the earth about 16 meters, like many of the skyscrapers built in Manhattan. But strong bedrock, like Manhattan enjoys, is the exception, not the rule, around the world.

For a building like the Burj Khalifa, the underground surface is very soft and sandy. In Dubai, one great challenge to overcome was the salty water running underground between the soil, sand and rock. This water can be up to eight times saltier than seawater and is extremely corrosive. So the engineers had to use a special concrete that does not allow much salty water to pass through. They also used a process known as cathodic protection where another metal wraps the concrete base. Then, if the salt water eats through the concrete, the other metal will corrode instead of the steel.

The foundation for such a monstrous mega-structure as the Burj required an extra-deep hole, one that is close to 50 meters deep. The tower’s superstructure is supported by a large reinforced concrete mat in the three-pronged shape of a Y, which is in turn supported by 192 reinforced concrete piles. About 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of concrete is invested in the foundation alone.

Wind, for a skyscraper, is a huge consideration. To resist the wind’s force, a building must have either a strong core made from thick concrete or use stiff columns on the outside of the building. The taller buildings in the world utilize both of these engineering requirements. Some buildings employ a twisting shape which disrupts the wind vortex. A number of more modern skyscrapers in New York use a computer system to move huge weights around within the building to compensate for the wind. This helps reduce the amount the building sways under different wind sources. http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zqyr9j6, www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-02/how-build-2073-foot-skyscraper, www.arabianbusiness.com/how-burj-was-built-9706.html

Spiritual Skyscrapers

You may be wondering why on earth I am describing skyscrapers’ foundations. Besides the fact that this is all so super cool, I do have a spiritual point to make.

There are many spiritual skyscrapers in the church today, people who appear to be great giants in the faith. They express wise spiritual truths, giving the appearance that the consistency of their grounding is made of rock instead of sand. They manage life’s salty splashing and corrosive content with apparent ease, their foundation coated by the covering of the Word. They appear strong and stable in their foundation and are able to flex with the wind as it swirls around their structure’s faith. They are monuments to time spent in Bible studies, workshops and humble service.

And then a mega-storm hits.

Over and over I have seen it happen: these seemingly indestructible and exceptional superstructures fall. Their towers crumble and the surrounding buildings are also crushed. When the waves recede and the winds die down, they are left sitting on a pile of rubble, wondering what on earth went wrong.

The storm, instead of proving their faith to be tried and true, ends up revealing the actual strength of their foundation. Something went terribly awry at the core of their belief system. Like the Burj Khalifa, with its three-pronged foundation, the spiritual giant neglected her own understructure of intimacy, identity and integrity.

I do not want my soul’s structure to come crashing down. I am dead-set against being flooded by life’s mega-storms. I want to stand strong no matter what maelstrom swirls around me. But how do I bone up my foundation to support the rest of my life? How do I build a superstructure that withstands any storms that may threaten my faith in God?

These questions, I pray, will begin to be answered in today’s devotional. Hezekiah stood strong under impending doom while his counterpart, Israel, came tumbling down. As we look at what transpired under Assyrian besiegement, we will discover yet another principle of trust, one that shored up Hezekiah’s faith and left him standing tall when Israel could do nothing but fall.

In Review

If you are just joining this blog, you have entered in on the second installment of a ten-part mini-series entitled Unwavering Trust, based on the life of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was one of the better kings of Judah; not perfect, mind you, but good. He followed the Lord and worked hard to install righteousness and obedience in his own life and in the lives of the people he governed.

Two weeks ago we covered a lot of ground (three chapters to be exact) in the book of 2 Chronicles. Chapters 29-31 detail all the reforms Hezekiah implemented in order to cleanse the nation of the idolatry and complacency his own father, Ahaz, had instigated. The land experienced a complete reversal from “the worst of times” to “the best of times.”

The topic at hand during this blog is trust and it will be a theme for many weeks to come. In the first devotional, I sought to prove that the calm before the storm is the place in which we build our foundation of trust. When the storms hit, it is too late to be constructing. One must drop hammer and nail to proactively ride out the waves and wind on the foundation of faith that has already been established. You can surmise the lesson that is intimated here: if the foundation is weak, there will be no security to withstand the storms of life.

Each week I will be seeking to clearly lay out principles about trust. Hopefully, by the end of this series, you will have a repertoire of ten principles by which you can evaluate your level of trust in God. Not only to evaluate it, but in adopting these principles into your life, hopefully, you will also be able to live in trust when storms come your way.

Last week’s topic fleshed out what it means to build a foundation of trust: how to do it, what it looks like, and several examples of trusting people. For your personal review, here is Principle #1: A life of trust is built on intimacy, identity, and integrity in the calm before the storm. Hezekiah demonstrated all three of these important disciplines in his own life and modeled them for the people of Judah and Israel. By building trust in God during the calm portion of his reign, Hezekiah was prepared for the many storms that would come his way.

In order to prepare for our devotional thoughts today, would you take the time to read 2 Kings 17:1-23 and 18:1-12? This will help you to be more familiar with the text from which I will be drawing today.

A Giant’s Portrait

The last two verses in the synopsis of Hezekiah’s reforms reads like this: “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chron. 31:20-21).

Hezekiah was a godly giant, a spiritual skyscraper, if you will. In great contrast to his father, Ahaz, he followed God with precision in regard to the law. He was faithful to God, instigating huge reforms in his nation and bringing Judah back to worshiping the one true God. 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 summarizes his life quite compactly. I say this because if you read my devotional from two weeks ago, you will know the incredible amount of work he did in service to his God; three chapters worth, to be exact.

We will be spending quite a bit of time in 2 Chronicles in future weeks, but I want to jump back to the chapters in 2 Kings that outline some details that the other two passages in 2 Chronicles and Isaiah do not contain; specifically, Hoshea’s fall and the events that led to his toppling demise along with the entire nation of Israel.

Three verses in 2 Kings 18 give us some very clear buttressing blocks; brick and mortar evidence that show us the exact building materials used in Hezekiah’s foundation. Let me list these for you first and then we will break them down:

  • He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (18:3a).
  • He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, cut down the Asherah poles and broke the Nehushtan, the bronze snake Moses had made to which the Israelites had been burning incense (18:4). In other words, he fought idolatry tooth and nail.
  • He trusted in the Lord (18:5a).
  • He held fast to the Lord (18:6a).
  • He did not cease to follow God (18:6b).
  • And he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses (18:6c).
  • The Lord was with him (18:7a).

Hezekiah’s three-pronged approach to building his foundation was through investing in intimacy, saturating himself with a greater sense of his identity, and by sinking pile-ons of energy into maintaining God-honoring integrity. All of these three principles working together helped him to stand skyscraper-tall.

Intimacy

You can see a beautiful description of the intimacy he and the Lord shared in the words, “the Lord was with him” (v 7a). It reminds me of the same description in Joseph’s life many years before. When Joseph was sold into slavery, Potiphar bought him from the Ishmaelites. The next words on the page are: “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered” (Gen. 39:2a).

He was a handsome young man, Scripture says, and Potiphar’s wife took notice. She tried to seduce Joseph to sleep with her over and over and he kept refusing. She made up a slanderous story – a tall tale – about Joseph’s intentions and Potiphar could do nothing but throw him in prison. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Gen. 39:20-21). The warden let Joseph handle every detail of how the prison was run, “because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Gen. 39:23).

Hezekiah’s intimate relationship with the Lord was nowhere as clearly divulged as Joseph or even David, the psalmist, whose relationship, as seen in the psalms, drips with intimacy with God. However, the statement is emphatically made that the Lord was clearly with Hezekiah. Additionally, the clearly-divulged results also reveal his success as a blessing from that intimate relationship. Intimacy was clearly a bedrock principle in the foundation of his belief system.

Identity

Hezekiah’s identity was one of trust. Verse 5a states very simply that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, but I cannot emphasize strongly enough to you how important those opening five words really are. To help you to understand this more clearly, I need to lead you on a bit of a word-study rabbit trail.

That word ‘trusted’ means to “ hie for refuge, be confident and sure, be bold, secure” (ESV Strong’s). There are three thoughts here that I want to draw out. First, trust requires an object. When Timmy hurts himself, he typically runs to one of his parents for sympathy and all children are the same. A hurt, sad or distressed child flees to a person that she trusts. She longs to rest in their arms and be comforted.

Scripture is very clear about the foundation of our refuge: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Pr. 18:10). God’s name, as described in His Word, is to be our shelter in the midst of our storms. God is where we hie for refuge and more specifically, His name, as displayed bountifully in His precious love-letter to us.

I am reminded of Mowgli in the Jungle Book. At one point, Kaa the snake comes to him and begins to feed him a pack of lies. He induces Mowgli to look into his eyes, where he begins to hypnotize him. Adding insult to injury, he also begins to sing, “Trussssssst in me; jussssst in me.” All the time, while Mowgli is being seduced by Kaa’s eyes and sweet-sounding song, Kaa is wrapping his coils tightly around Mowgli’s body. Clearly, basing one’s sense of trust entirely on a pair of guileless-looking eyes and saccharine words are not enough.

You have got to know Whom to trust. The Person, the character, and the track-record must speak a greater truth than what is simply spoken.

Where do you run for comfort? Your answer will reveal an awful lot about where you have placed your identity. Maybe you run to a person: your husband if you are married, your pastor, or your best friend. Possibly, you run to an object. Food may be your comfort or maybe alcohol, sleeping pills or the internet to numb the internal pain. Some people run to an ideal or a controlling attitude or a familiar scheme. Whoever, whatever, and wherever you have rushed to soothe a hurt is probably where you have found your identity. Anything but the Word of God and His incredible character will fail you; it is an empty cistern (Jer. 2:13).

The second ah-ha moment I receive from the Strong’s definition involves the obscure-yet-significant concept of emotions. Confidence, surety, and security are not a place to which one can run. They are not an action a person can choose to take. They are feelings that are a by-product of something else. Listen to this revealing definition from my CWSB Dictionary: “Batah (trust) expresses the feeling of safety and security that is felt when one can rely on someone or something else. It is used to show trust in God…this expression can also relate to the state of being confident, secure, without fear.”

I want to pay close attention to that word ‘fear,’ because it is the red light on your spiritual dashboard. If there is any fear in your soul, you will struggle to feel confident, sure, and secure in the name of your Lord. 1 Jn. 4:18 speaks to this plainly, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Look at the simple speech of the Message, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.”

If you are afraid for any reason, John is quite clear that you have stepped out from under the umbrella of God’s love. “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect…” (1 Jn. 4:16-17a).

So by retracing our steps a little way, we understand that confidence and security are the byproduct of an absence of fear. That lack of fear is not something we can just conjure up; our feelings will reflect this courage when we are able to rely on Someone. And you and I both know that the Someone who is perfectly reliable is God and His love for us. If I had to put these thoughts into two simple formulas, they would look like this:

  • God is love + we know He loves us = live in love/be made perfect in love
  • Live in God’s love + feel secure/no fear = trust in God

As you make God’s love for you your central focus, you will begin to live in love; you will be perfected in love. That love will squeeze out the fear that often paralyzes you and the feeling of fear will be replaced by a feeling of security and confidence in God. Then, and only then, will your trust in God feel firm.

The last thought I want to flesh out is that action word: be bold. Boldness is the ability to take risks. It is stepping out of one’s comfort zone and moving beyond fear to undaunted activity. To be bold is to take action, engage in movements based on courage and bravery. When a person knows the character of her God, runs to Him when she needs comfort, and feels secure in His love for her, she can move out into her world with boldness.

There’s a little children’s song that comes to my mind as I write this. “Be bold. Be strong. For the Lord your God is with you. I am not afraid. No, no, no. I am not dismayed. Not me. For I’m walking in faith and victory, walking in faith and victory. For the Lord your God is with you.”

Notice here how boldness translates into action. Because the Lord is with you – that’s the love component – you do not need to be afraid. Remember, love casts out fear. Instead you can experience strength. Because of that security, you can be bold and that boldness is translated into walking in faith and victory.

In case you are wondering what all of this has to do with identity, I think I am ready now to bring it all together. Proverbs 18:10 says that God’s name is a strong tower. This is a fact, a spiritual truth. We show that we believe God when we choose to “hie to Him for refuge,” when we run to that tower for our needs to be met. As we go to God, we discover that we are safe, for God’s love envelops us all around and our fears are vanquished in His presence. Hence, the feeling of safety.

Identity is defined as “the fact of being who or what a thing or a person is” (Oxford Dictionary). If you are in Jesus, the facts of your identity are that you are loved, desired and treasured. You are pursued by the Hound of Heaven for the express purpose of deep relationship. And you are worthy of pursuing your loving Father in perseverent trust.

When you rush to take refuge in God when you are hurting, your identity is trust. When you choose to take your feelings of fear to the Love-source and have Him soothe those palpitating heart attacks waiting to happen, your identity is trust. And friend, when you walk in the boldness of faith toward hopeful victory, hand in hand with your Maker, you are stepping out courageously from your identity of trust.

Integrity

Hezekiah’s integrity is clear to see. Verse 3 states that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He spent a lot of time removing idols from the temple and from across the land (v 4). And he kept the commands the Lord had given to Moses (v 6).

I spent so much time two weeks ago fleshing out his reforms that I do not want to belabor this point. If you want to look back to that week’s study to bone up on your knowledge of what integrity looks like, go ahead now, but come back to study Hoshea’s life by way of an incredible contrast.

Hoshea, A Study in Contrast

A number of years ago, a friend of mine (I’ll call him John) was hand-picked by a study group to be observed at a teaching university. His brother, Jim, was also invited along and so they enjoyed a five-day, all-expenses paid trip to be watched and tested, poked and prodded. The reason, as you may have already guessed, was that they were identical twins.

This particular university devoted a great amount of money bringing in identical pairs in order to figure out the connections between these two similar siblings. What they found out specifically is way above my pay grade, but in general, they discovered what most common-sense people already know: identical twins are very similar. In thought patterns, in clothing styles, in taste enjoyments and in many more ways, identical twins are…well, they’re pretty identical.

I happen to be good friends with John and know Jim decently well and in many ways, they are super similar. But I never get them mixed up in a crowd because I am not just acquainted with them; I really understand who John is inside. I know him to be an other-centered and sensitive man. He relates well with people and is a faithful friend. Although John and Jim sound exactly the same on the phone, I know John’s voice as he begins to speak because I know John’s way of relating to me. Jim is just different. His personality does not seem identical to John’s at all and his choices in life have been made from his own inside faith; some of those choices being almost opposite from John’s.

How can two guys who are raised in exactly the same environment and are so similar that they often successfully switched classes in school, grow up to be so different? In every way they look the same, often dress the same, walk the same, they’ve even done the same kind of work, but inside they are very distinct.

Hezekiah and Hoshea were not identical twins, but they were raised in similar environments, really evil ones. We already talked about Hezekiah’s father in last week’s devotional and found out he was a real piece of work. The founding years of Hezekiah’s life were steeped in evil idol worship and some of his siblings were even sacrificed to appease the gods.

Although we don’t know much about Hoshea’s founding years, we do know that he succeeded a very evil king as well, Pekah son of Remaliah, who reigned for twenty years. Hoshea did not come to the throne through family lineage; instead he attacked Pekah, assassinated him and then took his throne (2 Kings 15:30).

Both kings grew up in evil environments. Both kings were warned by prophets that judgment sat at the door. Both kings held positions of great authority and could wield power for good or for evil, but only one stood tall while the other one fell. Only one obeyed the commands of the Lord, while the other one threw out everything to do with God. He and his nation paid a very stiff penalty.

Look at 2 Kings 18:12, which is a synopsis of Hoshea’s life, “This happened (and we will come back to figure out what happened) because they (Hoshea and Israel) had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant – all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.”

Hoshea experienced no intimacy with God, for God’s name is not mentioned anywhere in his story except by way of judgment. We also know that there was no integrity in Hoshea’s life, for as we shall see in a few minutes, he worshiped idols. He is a classic case study for Paul, who penned these words, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen” (Rom. 1:25). Instead of being known as a God-follower, his identity was an idol-worshiper. Rocky ground, to be sure.

Scripture is very clear as to how all of this played out. Hezekiah experienced the presence of the Lord on his side (v 7a). As a result he was successful in whatever he undertook (v 7b). He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him (v 7c) and he defeated the Philistines as far as Gaza (v 8).

By strong contrast, Hoshea did not even know the Lord. While Hezekiah was rebelling against Assyria, Hoshea was besieged by King Shalmaneser of Assyria, beginning in 724 B.C (v 10). That word ‘besieged’ means to “cramp, confine, adversary, assault, bind” (ESV Strong’s). In 721 B.C., after three years of siege, Samaria fell to Shalmaneser who violently captured the capitol (v 10). Israel was caught in a net or trap or pit (ESV meaning for “captured”). Then judgement fell: the Israelites were deported to Assyria, where they were forced to settle in the many towns of the Medes (v 11).

Hezekiah

Lord with him

Successful, prosperous

Rebelling, not serving Assyria

Victory, defeating enemies

Hoshea

Lord judged him

Besieged, cramped by Assyria

Captured by Assyria

Deported, carried away into exile

Which king most resembles your life? Do you sense God’s active presence with you or does He seem absent in your walk? Do you feel God’s favor over your life or are you constantly backed into a corner by your adversary, the devil? Are you standing strong against the enemy or has he captured areas of your mind and built strongholds in your walk with God? Is your life mostly one of victories and defeating Satan’s strategies or do you feel exiled because of a life of sin and meaningless repentance?

Your object of trust is central to your victory. If idols of pleasure or reputation or money have slid into the first-place slot in your life, this devotional is a warning. You will end up like Hoshea unless something turns around in your soul. Besiegement, cramped quarters, captivity and deportation are the eventual consequences of a life without God.

But, praise God, there can be a turnaround. Repentance is the key and once that step has been taken, you will need to begin to know your God. Make intimacy, identity and integrity your top priorities. Over family. Over friends. Over occupation. Even over ministry. Nothing else is this entire life is quite as important.

The Downward Spiral

It is very hard to deduce the extent of Hoshea’s internal implosion based on one verse, verse 12, that I have given you already. Fortunately for us, 2 Kings 17 gives us more details about the decisions that slid Hoshea down the spiral into exile. Let’s go back to verses 1-23 of the previous chapter.

Hoshea, Shalmaneser’s vassal, was required to pay tribute to Assyria for years. But Hoshea made a fateful decision one day: he decided to stop paying his dues. Not only did he stop paying his taxes to Assyria, but he sent envoys to the Egyptian king to try and solicit some aid against the monster country breathing down his neck. Shalmaneser reacted with angry finality. Calling Hoshea a traitor, the king of Assyria seized him and put him in prison. He then proceeded to invade the entire land of Israel, marching against the capitol city and besieging it for three years. At the end of three years, Samaria fell and the Israelites were deported to Assyria. The people of Israel were split up all throughout Halal (which ironically means “pain”), Habor, Gozan and the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:1-6 paraphrased).

So many bad decisions. So much needless pain. But there was a substantial rationale at play. Verse 7 gives us the bigger perspective, God’s eagle-eye viewpoint: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” So we see here that sin was the rationale. Sin was the grease that slicked the downward slide to deportation. As hard as it is to understand, sin led to an entire nation being captured and taken into exile.

How does something like this happen?

A young woman came to my house this week for the first time. As she entered the foyer I have turned into a sitting space, she stood a moment just looking around. Her eyes alighted on the wall opposite the entryway, which has a huge grouping of family photos covering most of the exposed space. As she began to look at the pictures, I could see her trying to make connections between the baby pictures and the more grown-up pictures of my boys, which is difficult, you see, because they looked so similar at the younger ages.

She asked, “Now, is this one Timmy?”

“No,” I replied, “that is actually David.”

“Well, I think Timmy most resembles this picture of David.”

“Actually, that one is not David; it’s Robert.”

After finally figuring out which picture belonged to which boy, I said, “You know, these pictures aren’t even up to date. Robert is now much taller than me and David is working on his daddy’s height.” As I thought about my statement, I realized I don’t even know how it happened. Not too long ago, it seems, I was tending a duo of testosterone-powered preschool boys running around my house and now one is in college and the other one is talking about college. How did something like this happen?

Growth in ages and height happens subtly over a period of many years. To a beleaguered mother-in-training, those years feel interminable, until all of a sudden, they aren’t. One day you have two strangers eating everything in sight, two foreigners with deeper voices and just a little bit of facial hair and you wonder where all the years have gone. These boys have literally spiraled upward into men in spite of my attempts to slow down the clock.

Sin is the same way. The growth and height of sin deepens subtly over a long period of time. It is a gradual slide. What was an anathema one day becomes normal in time. Pretty soon, the pleasure received from a certain stimulus is not enough to keep the attention of the beleaguered gratification-seeker. Temptation is no longer a problem; now, saying “no” is. Besiegement and captivity become second-nature when a woman is years-long into strongholds and addictions. And so down the spiral of sin a woman will fall until she hits rock bottom.

This could read as Hoshea’s autobiography. For him, the downward spiral began when he followed the practices of the nations around him (v 8, 15), falling into idol worship (v 7-8, 10-12a, 16-17). Verse 15 gives a scathing indictment, “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” The author of Kings says that they secretly did things against their God that were not right (v 9). That word ‘secretly’ shows the deception of the Israelites, for as we both know, there is nothing hidden from God’s eyes. I believe the author used that word to demonstrate the blindness of these poor, sin-besieged people of God.

Over and over, God sent prophets and seers to warn Israel and Judah, “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets” (v13). But they would not listen because they were as stiffnecked as their ancestors (v 14). They rejected God’s decrees and the covenant He had made with them (v 15).

But one man did turn. One man did observe God’s commands and decrees. One man did heed the warnings of Samuel and Isaiah and Micah. One man listened and obeyed. That man was Hezekiah. He knew what was at stake and I believe it is no accident that the years of Hezekiah’s most important contributions are counted in contrast with Hoshea’s reign. While Hoshea was spiraling downward, Hezekiah was rising upward.

In order for you to more clearly see the contrast, I have placed a synopsis of these two chapters into a chart form.

Hezekiah Hoshea
  1. Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (18:3)
  2. Removed idols (18:4)
  3. Trusted in the Lord (18:5a)
  4. Held fast to the Lord (18:6a)
  5. He did not cease to follow God (18:6b)
  6. He kept/obeyed the commands of the Lord (18:6c)
  1. He did was evil in the eyes of God (17:2, 17)
  2. He engaged in idol worship (17:7-12, 15-17, 21-22)
  3. He trusted in Egypt (17:4); he did not trust in God (17:14)
  4. He held fast to nation’s practices (17:8), secretly did things against God (17:9)
  5. He did not listen (17:14), enticed all Israel from following God (17:21)
  6. He rejected/did not obey God’s commands (17:16, 19).

As you consider this study in contrasts, continue to look at your life. Do you do what is right in the Lord’s eyes; not just when people are watching, but deep down where no one else can see? Do you have idols, gods of materialism or affirmation or parenting (and the list could go on and on), or do you work tenaciously to wrench your heart continually back to the one true God? Do you truly trust in God or do you tend to run to “Egypt:” your friends or a filler or busyness? Do you cling to God and hold fast to His holiness or do you privately live a life of hypocrisy, doing secret things against God while holding to the practices of the world around you? Do you follow God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength or do you choose to ignore God’s voice, even enticing those around you to walk away from God? Do you obey God whenever He speaks specifically to you or do you reject God’s words to you, living a life of disobedience?

Hezekiah and Hoshea are living examples of what it means to be for God or against Him. How will you continue to live? Joshua was very clear that there must be a decision point. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods (of the nations around you)…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Today, my friend, is a day of choice. If life has seemed set against you thus far, there can be a turning. If all you have known is despair and defeat, stronghold and captivity, today can be your day of freedom. I wrote about this last week, but feel strongly that I need to reiterate these truths, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

The power that will stop the downward slide is humble repentance. The key that will open the door to a life of freedom and sweet fellowship with God is repentant prayer. Seeking only God’s face is the impetus in removing idols and turning from sin. It is time to break up your unplowed ground, to seek the Lord until he comes and showers righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12).

Today, my friend, is the day for you to choose to serve the Lord.

Standing Tall…Alone

It occurs to me as I am writing about standing strong that some of you, whose stories I know, are dealing with a very different dilemma. You are following the Lord. Like Hezekiah, you have tried to be faithful to God and you continuously seek His face; not perfectly, but faithfully. You do not fall into Hoshea’s lifestyle of sin and idolatry. But therein lies a deep pain.

For although you are being faithful, though you are seeking godliness, though you are standing righteously, someone you know and love is not. Often, maybe every day, you rub shoulders with a person living in sin and you do not know what to do about it. You might not even know what the godly response is anymore. Do you shun this person if she does not respond to rebuke (Mt. 18:17)? Do you expel the immoral brother from your fellowship (1 Cor. 5:13)? Or do you forgive everything that they do (Mt. 18:21-35), covering over all their sins with your love (1 Pet. 4:8)?

As I was preparing to write this week, all of these questions and more came up in my mind, “What does a person do with mistreatment and injustice? How can a woman prepare her heart to forgive or to rebuke? How does a godly woman know how to respond when living amongst hypocritical people and sinful ungodliness?

Just so you know, I do not have all of these answers. These questions are hard. Maybe these questions will only make sense in the moments when a woman stands before her God and He cups her face gently in His hands and says lovingly and pointedly, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is possible that these questions may not receive a reply until glory, but as I sat and begged God for a response, the Lord reminded me of a person who knew exactly what you may be going through in this standing-tall-alone position: Habakkuk.

I am not going to study the entire book of Habakkuk with you, but let me tell you, it would be a worthwhile study. Habakkuk had such a close relationship with his God that he could question God and humbly receive His answer. If you are struggling with this dilemma of standing tall in the midst of ungodliness, I pray that some of these principles from Habakkuk’s journey with God over this very issue will encourage you.

Habbukuk’s First Complaint

Habakkuk lived between 640 and 615 B.C., during the decline of Judah and just before the fall of Assyria and the rise of the Babylonian empire. Judah, at this time, was following the way of her sinful “twin,” Israel, and Habakkuk knew they were in deep trouble. The three chapters of Habakkuk deal with really hard, burdensome things: justice, wrath, sin, tolerance, violence and I could go on and on. Habakkuk saw the surrounding sin and did not know how to handle it in light of God’s righteousness and holiness.

You see, Habakkuk’s first complaint may mirror yours if you are the woman standing tall…alone. “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:2-4).

These are strong words spoken in an accusatory manner, but folks, injustice is a strong topic, engendering strong emotions. Habakkuk looked around at all the Israelites doing their evil work and could not understand why a God of justice (Isa. 30:18) would allow it. The weak were being oppressed. Evil was reigning and God, the One known by His justice (Ps. 9:16), the One alone who works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (Ps. 103:6), and the only One from whom man gets justice (Pr. 29:26), seems to be standing idly by.

What is a godly person to do? Habakkuk’s “theological understanding of God as just and righteous is not matched by his experience of God…” (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary). Job struggled with this problem as well in many conversations, through much suffering, and for many chapters (see Job 6:28-30).

The Lord’s First Answer

The hoped-for response to a lament like Habakkuk’s would be a response of hope and salvation. That is what Habakkuk was looking for. He wanted change and he thought he knew the best way to achieve that transformation. God should come down and judge the sinners. That was fair, or so he thought.

However, Habakkuk received a very different response from God, an oracle. The ESV Bible states that he saw the oracle (1:1). Now, whether Habakkuk received a vision in a dream or saw a vision with his wide-awake eyes or heard the voice of God utter words, we do not know. What we do know is that this vision/dream was not pleasant. The word “oracle” actually means “burden..utterance, chiefly a doom, especially singing…load, bearing, tribute, burden” (ESV Strong’s). In other words, at just about the time Habakkuk was glad to hear God speaking to him, he became further discouraged by the Lord’s “burdensome” words.

God spoke an utterance of judgement instead of salvation. Yes, he was going to do something amazing, something Habakkuk “would not believe even if he was told” (1:5). He was already working to bring judgment, but God’s answer to justice was the Babylonians, a ruthless, impetuous, feared and dreaded people (1:6-7). God was bringing the Babylonians against the people of Judah. They would be overrun, for the Babylonians would seize houses not their own (1:6), they would come bent on violence (1:9),  they would capture cities (1:10), and gather prisoners like sand (1:9).

What this meant, and Habakkuk was immediately aware of the double entendre, was that all of Judah was going to be judged – the good people and the bad. Possibly even Habakkuk would be killed if he was still around when all of this occurred. Imagine Habakkuk’s response. He would have been outraged that this was God’s “good” plan for His people. There did not seem to be anything good about it.

Habukkuk’s Second Complaint

He describes the wicked person (1:14-17) with incredibly strong words and contrasts these evil people with the everlasting, holy nature of God (1:12). Knowing that God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil, knowing that He cannot tolerate wrong, how could God tolerate this treachery (1:13a)? How could He be silent while the wicked swallowed up those more righteous than themselves (v 13b)?

What was Habakkuk really saying? He had just recounted the evil that some people in Judah were doing and expected God to judge them only. After all, they were His covenant people and shouldn’t they receive His loving discipline? But God was now using a more ungodly nation as His judgment tool, a nation that had no covenant with God at all. To Habakkuk, this felt that justice was being perverted even more, and it seemed that justice was being perverted by God Himself. How could a God use a more wicked nation to punish a less wicked one?

Habakkuk Stands and Waits

Chapter 2 opens with an incredible verse, “I will stand on my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (2:1).

I love the relationship between Habakkuk and God. A relationship of awe and reverence. A relationship of understanding one another – God knowing His prophet and Habakkuk knowing the character and ways of his God. A relationship of vulnerability and emotion-wrenched honesty. Their relationship drips with authenticity and some beautiful submission.

A prophet typically stood watch to be alert for God’s response. He was to guard the people against walking out of covenant with Yahweh. A prophet’s vigilance was one of a sentry, guarding God’s people from entering into sin. But that is not the stance that Habakkuk took. He looked in the other direction. He waited to see how God would act in light of His covenant, that sin necessitates punishment (Deut. 28:15-68). He stood watch that day as a sentry; in essence, guarding God’s people from God and His judgment.

Standing Tall When Forced Into A Detour

Waiting is hard, especially when life takes a turn…then another turn…and another turn. When God hands us detours instead of answers to prayer, we often question Him, “What are you doing? Where is my answer to prayer? Why are you sending me affliction? Why won’t you just do what I ask?

For those of you who have been reading these blogs from their inception, you will know I am struggling with some detours and disappointments. I have been waiting on God for one prayer request for nineteen years and to this day, I feel further away from a positive answer than I did when I first began begging God to hear my request.

These last number of weeks, for me, have been very painful. I have struggled with waiting, especially when, like Habakkuk, the journey God is taking me on seems to be moving me further away from some of His promises for me. God does not appear to be answering my prayers at all; in fact, life is getting more and more difficult and I am being asked to traverse a course that feels somewhat dangerous to my soul.

As I spent some time with the Lord this week on this matter, God reminded me of Joseph. Joseph’s life was hard. He endured countless amounts of abuse and injustice. For twenty-three years he suffered and hardest of all, God allowed it. As I spent some time looking at the derailments in Joseph’s life, I was reminded that God operates in a realm completely foreign to us. We do not know His ways; we can only trust His grace.

In case you are struggling with some major disappointments in life or some huge detours from your intended course, let Joseph’s story guide you to some hope:

Demoralization

As a seventeen year old boy, Joseph was a godly young man. The first description of him is that he tended the flocks with his brothers (Gen. 37:2b). That word ‘tending’ means “to tend a flock, pasture it…to graze, to rule, to associate with, feed, pasture” (ESV Strong’s). It means “in general to care for, to protect, to graze, to feed flocks and herds” (CWSB Dictionary).

This was a young man who helped take care of real sheep, but I just want to make a note that this is also a hint into his future calling. God took him from caring for real sheep to shepherding Potiphar’s household, shepherding the prison inmates and eventually shepherding the whole known world from his second-place ruling seat of Egypt. What started out as caring for smelly sheep ended up being the main role in which God would use him the rest of his life.

Notice also that he gave a bad report to his father about something his brothers had done (37:2). Already, at the tender age of seventeen, he had a strong moral conscience. We know the ungodly lot that his brothers were so I am strongly convinced that they were up to no good. Joseph may not have handled this in the best way, but I believe he took a stand for right.

Unfortunately, that sensitivity to sin – plus his father’s favoritism – set him against his brothers. They saw that Joseph was far more favored and Scripture says they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him (37:4). This is the first sign of the demoralizing events surrounding Joseph’s young life. If they could not speak a kind word to him, imagine all the nasty ones they were willing to share. Joseph’s younger years were, most likely, characterized by a lot of verbal abuse.

Disclosure

All was not darkness, however. God spoke to Joseph in a dream (37:5). He dropped some hints of future events and unfortunately, Joseph did not handle it well again. We’ll chalk that up to youthful impetuousness, but the brothers hated him all the more (v 5).

When he had a second dream, even his father rebuked him. Joseph’s brothers were extremely jealous, which added to the demoralization Joseph must have felt (37:9-11). The fact that he had a dream mattered not a bit to anyone except that his father kept the matter in mind (v 11).

Here is a godly young man faithfully tending sheep, living morally right, standing for good, and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. God spoke to him in a dream; not once, but twice. Because of the insensitive family he had, no one appreciated this amazing disclosure at all. But, as we look in on Joseph’s life, we can see God mightily at work, both through the demoralizing events of his teen years and the fact that God showed him a hint of the future.

How would such a godly young man be used? So much potential. Full of life and dreams. Surely God would move him directly into some sort of ministry.

Detours

But no! God had other plans. He allowed some derailments into Joseph’s life – twenty-three years of them, to be exact.

  • Detour 1: The first detour was that his brothers threw him into a cistern when all he was doing, was being obedient to his dad (37:23-24). They might have killed him if Reuben had not intervened.
  • Detour 2: Then his life was derailed again by being sold into slavery by his brothers (37:28).
  • Detour 3: Potiphar bought him as a slave and soon put him in charge of his whole household (39:1).
  • Detour 4: This detour started out pretty attractive; it came in the form of a comely woman, who attempted to seduce him. His saying “no” to her, instead of earning him brownie points with his master, only succeeded in having him thrown into prison (39:11-20).
  • Detour 5: In prison, he interpreted two dreams for two men. One was killed, the other was asked to remember him to Pharoah, which he promptly forgot. He forgot Joseph for two more years (40:14, 23)

Delight

As I was thinking about all of the detours God allowed into Joseph’s life, I also noticed how often God made mention of the fact that He was with Joseph. In the third detour, while Joseph was in Potiphar’s house, the Lord was with him and gave him success in everything (39:2-6). His early years of tending sheep enabled him to tend Potiphar’s household, and like the disclosure in his early years, God blessed him with His presence later on.

When Joseph was thrown into prison, falsely accused and unjustly condemned, the Lord was with him (39:21). He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Just like he tended sheep and Potiphar’s household, he tended all those held in prison and the Lord blessed him because He delighted in him (39:22-23).

Later, when he came to the palace to interpret the dream of Pharaoh, the Lord gave him the interpretation (40:25-32). He blessed him again with disclosure and wisdom far above his earthly ability. Joseph was then promoted to second ruler and began to tend to all the people of Egypt by stock-piling food for the famine to come. Pharaoh did this because he recognized God’s delight in Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you” (40:39). And so he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt (40:41).

Because Joseph delighted in the Lord by living uprightly and being faithful, God delighted in him. It was a mutually blessed relationship, even in the midst of a potentially deception-causing detour.

Deliverance

All of these delays and disappointments in Joseph’s life ultimately positioned him for his destiny. Through the trials, he had to learn to depend on God and as he was refined by the suffering, he became wise and discerning (41:39-40). As his brothers came before him, he recognized them and remembered his dream (42:1, 6, 8). God brought his first disclosure to Joseph full circle in that moment. After he revealed himself to his brothers, he told them what God has been teaching him: that it was to save lives that God had sent him ahead. God desired to preserve a remnant and to save their lives by a great deliverance (45:4-8). Even after his father died, he was still speaking the truths he had learned in the detours. His brothers had intended to harm him, but God intended that harm for good, to accomplish the saving of many lives (50:20).

My Connection with Joseph

I do not know how Joseph’s story sits with you, but it sure mirrors mine. My early years were ones where I sought to live in a godly manner, but I was totally demoralized by sinful people who did not tend to me like a godly shepherd.

Even from an early age, I sensed God’s disclosure in my life. Not in huge ways; actually, they were few and far between. But, every now and then, God would place someone kind in my life to encourage me or the Holy Spirit would move me spiritually in my heart. Even in my later years, God had disclosed some of His plans for me: some promises and some hints at future events. I know, if I trust God at all, that He is working – and has been working – in my life to move me toward His purposes for me.

But those detours! My life has been full of them, especially in these last five years. Many times I have just wanted to get off the train; I am so sick of derailments. As I was processing my frustrations this week with the Lord, I counted no less than twelve detours He has taken me on in recent years and most of them quite painful.

All in all, though, I have experienced God more deeply throughout the last five years of detours than I ever have in my whole life. God has been with me. God has blessed and encouraged and uplifted me. I have not done everything quite as successfully as Joseph, but I have felt God’s favor in my life. I have experienced God with delight and trust He is delighted in me.

I have yet to see the great deliverance, however. As I was journaling with the Lord over this, these were His words to me, “These seem evil and outrageous, but I can turn them all for good. I can package all of the pain and bring about kingdom purposes in my perfect time. All detours can come together in a great saving work. You can trust me; I am sovereign.”

I believe there have been hints from God as to what may be around the corner for me, but like Habakkuk, I am standing on my watch, stationing myself on the ramparts and looking to see what He will continue to say to me, and what answer I am to give to this detouring kind of complaint (Hab. 2:1 – paraphrase).

Back to Habakkuk Standing and Waiting

One interesting part of Habakkuk 2:1 is that Habakkuk also stood guard to see what answer he should give God in this dialogue. No one knew God’s wrath more than a prophet. A prophet’s main job seemed to be delivering words of warning or impending doom to sinners. Habakkuk knew God’s power and stood in awe of it. He knew that God’s wrath could easily reverse direction and take him out of commission if he misspoke.

Jeremiah experienced this at one time in his life. He was questioning God as well, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails” (Jer. 15:18). Jeremiah was being persecuted and he was sick of it. He could not understand why God did nothing about his personal pain. But he misspoke, calling God a deceptive brook, a failed spring. In other words, God was not faithful to him; he felt that God had failed him.

Look at God’s response. It was quick and decisive, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them” (Jer. 15:19).

In questioning God’s faithfulness and love to him, Jeremiah sinned. God warned him not to utter worthless words if he wanted to continue on as a prophet. Jeremiah knew truth and God was not interested in dealing with a prophet who struggled speaking truth out loud over his personal situation. People will persecute those who follow God, but believers are not to turn to them, but to God alone.

Ironically enough, Habakkuk was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Maybe he even knew of Jeremiah’s slip-up, but even if he did not, he did know that God was not a man. He was not to be trifled with and that the only response to royalty and sovereignty was submission.

Habakkuk took his stand before His God at his watchpost. He stood guard, he took charge, he functioned as a sentry. He stationed himself on the tower, a siege-enclosure. He knew that in his time of distress, of besiegement from the enemy, in his time of doubt and distrust of God, he needed to stand and watch and wait. More than anything, he knew that he needed to be careful in how he approached his God, because more often than not, when a person is hurting, they blame God for all her pain.

Jeremiah had blamed God, doubted Him, and gotten into trouble. Habakkuk did not want to introduce something into his relationship with God that would prevent him from hearing God. So, he watched, waited, and evaluated his own heart.

The Lord’s Second Response

God does answer Habakkuk’s concern about Babylonia being the judgement for Judah. He does so through a vision (2:2-3) which includes five songs that deride the Babylonian nation.

He mentions to Habakkuk that “the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (2:3). There was an appointed time for Babylonian destruction. As it turned out, that time was 539 B.C. Habakkuk’s job was to restrain his impatience and wait for God to act in His own way and time. Even if God seemed to be delaying, the fulfillment of this prophecy was sure.

Habakkuk was not to be “puffed up” or arrogant. His desires needed to be upright, refined through the mirror of God’s word. And above all, Habakkuk was to live his life by faith (2:4). If Judah would show faith, waiting in perseverant assurance that God would act as he promised, God would vindicate them by giving them life (Tyndale O.T. commentary).

God goes on then to taunt the Chaldean/Babylonian nation. He calls them pillagers (2:6-8), plotters (2:9-11), promoters of violence (2:12-14), debauchers (2:15-17), and pagan idolaters (2:18-19). God, in sharp contrast, is in his holy temple, watching over all of the events He orchestrates and all of earth, including Habakkuk, needed to be silent before Him (2:20).

Habakkuk’s Prayer

Being a musician, I love that Habakkuk sang his prayer to God. Chapter 3, verse 1 says that Habakkuk’s prayer was according to the shigionoth, which my NIV Study Bible calls a musical term. In verse 19, the book of Habakkuk ends with these words, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments” (3:19).

In response to the Lord’s revelation about the surety of His action of judgment toward the Babylonians, Habakkuk begins with a petition, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (3:2). In spite of impending doom for Judah, Habakkuk does what prophets do: he pled with God to hold both justice and mercy in His capable hands.

He then proceeds to praise God for His powerful presence in history. He described the Exodus with God, the Holy One coming down (3:3). He recalled Mount Sinai, where God’s “rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden” (3:4). He meekly recalled divine judgment that came from God’s hand (3:5-7). Recounting the story of the Red Sea, he described God as a divine warrior (3:8-10) and proclaimed glory to God over Joshua’s victory, where the sun and moon stood still (3:11-12). He reminds himself of the deliverance from the Egyptians, where horse and rider were trampled in the sea (3:13-15).

He shares his own personal response to God’s pronouncement, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled…” (3:16a). In short, Habakkuk was completely freaked out about what was coming. He was so afraid that it affected his belly, his lips, his bones, and his legs. His body responded with weakness and sickness.

But his response does not stop at fear. “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (v 16b). What is he saying? He is reiterating the truth of his relationship with God. He has a close-enough relationship with God that he can question Him, but he also knows that he can put his faith in Him, trusting Him to act responsibility. “Therefore, relying upon the character of God, he can wait for Him to act by moving against those invading Israel” (Tyndale).

We are back to trust again, aren’t we?

Because of his trust in God, Habakkuk begins to rejoice. “He realizes that his faith can safely be put in Yahweh’s grace, not only in matters of national survival but also of personal well-being…” (Tyndale). Though the nation be stripped of its agrarian sustenance – fig tree, grapes, olives, sheep, cattle – yet Habakkuk chooses to rejoice in the Lord (3:17-18). “His rejoicing is grounded in, and springs from, the relationship which God has with him and his people. Stripped of all else, he can never be deprived of his covenant God” (Tyndale)

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:19). Notice how he describes God as ‘mine.” There is a personal strength that flows between he and God because of their trust relationship. Oh, to be like Habakkuk! Oh, to trust a God who seems to be dichotomous, both loving and just.

“The intimacy of the relationship is sure and solid, based as it is on the firm foundation of God’s covenant promises of an eternal relationship with his people rather than being based on emotion or passing human whim” (Tyndale). This is a practical commentary on what it means to live by faith (2:4). And then Habakkuk realizes the strength needed to endure hardship (3:19a), as well as the vitality to walk on heights like a deer (3:19bc). “Habakkuk, who starts in depression, and doubt as to God’s righteousness and justice, ends with a lively confidence in God’s provision and sustaining power” (Tyndale).

I have quoted Tyndale extensively in this section, mostly because I was so encouraged by his words. And because I could not think of writing anything more masterful. Tyndale writes with a surety in the fact that God is trustworthy and that God is good.

If you are a woman standing tall and feeling all alone while people around you get away with sin, spend some time with Habakkuk. Know this: God is a God of justice (Ps. 9:16). He works on behalf of the oppressed (Ps. 103:6). He sees that people need justice and He works to bring it about for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night. He will see that they get justice and quickly (Mt. 18:5, 7, 8).

But remember that God’s justice will probably look different than what you desire and pray for. Habakkuk’s justice was the attack and annihilation of his precious homeland. God has a plan and though you are a precious part of that plan, you are not the whole plan. His eagle-eye view of the situation has a bigger goal in mind: the bringing of people to Him. He will judge the ungodly, but the how and the why are up to Him. You would do well to sit on your sentrypost like Habakkuk, to pray that God would speak to you and wait for God to act on your behalf. Above all, watch carefully how you respond to God. He is your God, but He is a God to be feared.

Trust holds God’s mercy in one hand and His justice in the other. His justice is like the great deep (Ps. 36:6). His love is wide and deep, high and long (Rom. 8:39). “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him” (Isa. 30:18).

You can trust God with your feelings of injustice. I believe He will work justice for you if you have felt oppressed by evil. God is a just God, one who hates sin and will work to take care of it. There are more verses in the Bible about God’s wrath and judgement than there are about his love and mercy. You can depend on Him to bring judgment. Just remember, you must refrain from pride and arrogance and you must wait quietly for God to do His will in His way and timing.

You can also trust God to love you. He is gracious and compassionate and will minister to you, as He did to Habakkuk, working to bring you to a place of submission to His sovereign will. Then you can sing with Habakkuk that, though the fig tree does not bud, you will still choose to rejoice.

God is on the throne and He is in your heart. You can trust His justice and His love and all the other details can be surrendered into His capable hands. You can trust Him with all of those perplexing details as well.

Just like Joseph. Just like Habakkuk. Just like Hezekiah and just like….you?

Standing With Good Posture

In early 2011, when I was trying to recover from the sledding accident that broke my back, my spinal surgeon told me that I could have a kyphoplasty surgery. This procedure would insert a needle into my spine with a balloon on the end. The balloon would be pumped up and it would lift my crushed vertebrae. When that vertebrae was at the optimum height, rubber cement would be inserted to brick and mortar my vertebrae in place. All of this would happen to ensure that my spine was similar to the alignment I enjoyed prior to the accident.

I consulted with a chiropractor, who assured me that the surgery would lead to sure-fire arthritis in later years, due to the foreign matter in my spine. Yes, if I left the spine alone, I would struggle with pain the rest of my life, but that pain could be managed. If I did the surgery, I was guaranteed tremendous pain at an older age, which would not be able to be managed as well.

What would you do? It seemed, to me, like a choice between a rock and a hard place.

Well, I chose to leave the spine alone. I did not have the surgery and my back still has quite a bit of scoliosis below the injury and in the upper part of my spine. I suffer from a lot of discomfort in my lower back, especially when I sit too long, and I suffer from neck and shoulder issues in my upper back. On top of all that, I wrestle with some nerve issues in my right arm and migraine headaches.

But, I have learned a thing or two about how to manage all of the discomfort. My back will never be perfectly aligned due to my sheared vertebrae, but I have found that a rigorous strength-training workout of weights and cardio goes a long way to relieving headaches, nerve issues in my arm, and back pain. Along with this exercise regimen, I make sure that I stretch…a lot. This alleviates discomfort all up and down my spine, from my head to my knees, which also pains me at times. The exercise strengthens my core, which in turn, supports my back. It’s almost as if all the muscles have become strong enough to maintain good alignment in spite of a sheared vertebrae.

We have been studying King Hezekiah’s life now for two weeks and have seen how it was a shining example of trust. He stood tall because he built his life on God’s Word. In contrast, we have seen today the bad example of Hoshea’s life, how he turned his back on God’s Word and suffered horrific consequences, falling into depravity and eventual captivity. I have also thrown in the life stories of Habakkuk and Joseph to show that a person can stand tall, despite the potential to fall due to sinful injustice and God-approved detours.

There is one principle, though, that I have not yet laid on the table. It involves the ‘how’ of standing tall.

The three chapters we studied in our last devotional – 2 Chronicles 29-31 – show us the results of being fully aligned with God’s word. We saw Hezekiah’s choices and how they played out. Hoshea’s life clearly revealed to us a life that is deffectively misaligned. His whole world collapsed as a result of refusing to take care of his soul’s much-needed requirement of alignment with God’s commands.

But the question I am putting to you is this, “How do you and I make sure we are aligned with God’s plan for our life?” All of the actions listed to prove Hezekiah’s godly walk are more philosophical than practical. What does it mean to do what is right in God’s eyes? How do we remove idols? How do we build a life of trust in the Lord? How can we practically hold fast to God, not cease to follow Him, and keep all His command? Are you aware of how many commands there are in the Bible?

Three verses at the end of the Hoshea indictment passage stood out to me this week. Listen to these words, “When He tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from His presence, as He had warned through all His servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there” (2 Kings 17:21-23).

Did you notice Jeroboam’s name? He was an evil king of Israel who reigned years before Hoshea. There really is no great connection between the two kings, except that they were both rulers of Israel and were both evil. Yet, in the summary of Hoshea’s sins, he is closely linked to Jeroboam. Not only that, but Jeroboam is listed as causing Israel to commit a great sin. I knew the “great sin” had to do with idolatry, because he built two calves of gold, but I did not know when I started looking into this story, how God was going to connect this devotional on trust with Jeroboam’s lack of trust.

I am a practical kind of gal so I am always on the look-out for practical applications of the Word. Jeroboam’s fateful story about his enticement of Israel to sin is found in 1 Kings 12:25-33 and as I was perusing it to discover what led to Jeroboam’s slide southward on the downward spiral, I was encouraged by some practical truths. His mistakes actually outline seven practical steps to take in order to be A.L.I.G.N.E.D with God’s plan. To be clear, Jeroboam’s actions show very clearly how he was mis-aligned with God, but as we look at his mistakes, we can learn to do the opposite actions, which will help us to stand spiritually tall in God.

Good Spiritual Posture Requires Godly Alignment

Prior to this passage, Jeroboam had rebelled against King Solomon. He had been one of Solomon’s officials, but one day the prophet Ahijah came up to him and told him that the nation of Israel would be torn in two. Jeroboam would receive ten pieces of the pie, so to speak, and Judah would be left to the lineage of David. It is no surprise, then, that Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to Egypt until Solomon’s death (1 Kings 12:11).

Rehoboam took over from his father and as soon as Jeroboam heard this, he returned from Egypt and tried to ascertain if Rehoboam would be favorably disposed toward him. Rehoboam listened to some bad advice and decided to be even harsher than his father had been, so Jeroboam led the Israelites in a rebellion against Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-24).

As we enter the story of Jeroboam’s sin, he is fortifying Shechem as the capitoI. In addition to setting up his home base in Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, he also built up Peniel as his second home base. Jeroboam is preparing himself, and his nation, for a permanent change; a change, mind you, that evolved from a nation being ripped in  two.

A – Avoid Ungodly Self-Talk

Jeroboam received his kingship through incredible political intrigue. A veiled prophecy by Ahijah. The attempt on his life by Solomon. The desire to work with Rehoboam going completely awry as the nations of Israel and Judah rip apart. As Jeroboam began the work of solidifying the foundation of the new nation of Israel, he knew how tenuous his position really was.

As a result, he did a lot of talking to himself (12:26, ESV). What he allowed his mind to dwell on was disastrous. Interestingly enough, his downward spiral began through this self-thinking, self-talking process. He thought, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam” (12:26-27).

Look at some of the aspects on which he dwelt.

  • The kingdom will likely revert to the house of David. Was that true or was that his fear and insecurity talking (v 26)?
  • If the people have to worship in Jerusalem, they will give their allegiance to Rehoboam (v 27a). Really? I think they hated Rehoboam, even killing his man in charge of forced labor (12:18) and being willing to go to war to stand up for what they believed.
  • They will kill me and return to Rehoboam (v 27b). They had just elected him as king. Why would they turn around and kill him?

Notice the words “will likely”, “will give”, “will kill me” and “return.” All of these are words that are in the future tense. How can Jeroboam know these to be true? He cannot possibly know the future. Additionally, notice that as Jeroboam continued to talk to himself, his scenarios got worse. He went from Israel going back to Judah to giving their allegiance to Rehoboam to killing Jeroboam. These two traps – living in the ‘what ifs’ of the future and playing out supposed scenarios in increasing negativity – will always move you from feeling secure in your mindset to waffling in incredible doubt.

Jeroboam’s negative self-talk eventually slid him down the spiral to outright idolatry. He should have avoided ungodly self-talk and instead, learned to A – Articulate His Thoughts To God.

If some sort of stress or pressure comes against you, it will feel very normal to engage in downward-spiral thinking; in lies, if I may be so bold. Let’s say that your teenager is starting to act secretive. He comes home late past curfew one night. You may begin to self-talk in this way. What is wrong with me? Why am I losing my children? What if my son grows up make terrible decisions? If he is out late now flouting my authority, what will happen if I try to stop him? He will rebel and leave the house, get in with a bad set of friends, and become addicted to drugs. I will have to leave my ministry on the mission field because my son is out of control.

All of this scenario is completely made up, but I wanted you to see how quickly a first impression can spiral into full-blown unbelief. What should be done instead is this: God, I am really concerned. It would be so easy for me to blow this out of proportion. I choose to take my thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and cast all my anxiety on you. I know you care for me and I know you care for my son (1 Pet. 5:7). I lay my son and all my fears in your hands. Instead of negative self-talk, I will choose not to be anxious about this, but I will pray to you and thank you that you are in control (Phil. 4:6). May your peace guard my heart and my mind (Phil. 4:7). I choose to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). God, may your peace be with me (Phil. 4:9b). I am desperate for your love.

L – Limit Open Counsel

Verse 28a begins with these words, “After seeking advice…” On the heels of Jeroboam’s very ungodly self-talk, he decides to ask others what to do. We know that the advice was poor, since he ended up building two idols. Proverbs 12:5 is very clear: the advice of the wicked is deceitful.

If you are struggling with a decision or are in a dark place and need some counsel, be very careful. Instead of just opening up your heart to any Tom, Dick or Harriet, L – Listen To Godly Advice. Pray hard about the mentors and counselors in your life. Ask the Lord to lead you to the person who has most demonstrated a life of faith. “The plans of the righteous are just,” Proverbs 12:5 declares. Most importantly, listen to God’s advice. If we ignore His advice, He promises to mock when calamity overtakes us (Pr. 1:25-26). He also says that we will eat the fruit of our ways and be filled with the fruit of our schemes (Pr. 1:29-30). Scripture is full of godly wisdom. Start asking for counsel in the biblical advice column.

I – Illuminate Self-Made Works

With the ungodly advice Jeroboam obtained, he took his first big action step. The author said that he “made two golden calves” (12:28b). That word “made” means “to do, make, accomplish, to complete. This word conveys the central notion of performing an activity with a distinct purpose, a moral obligation, or a goal in view” (CWSB Dictionary). Jeroboam’s goal had nothing to do with morals, but he had a distinct purpose: he was trying to keep his people from defecting.

Worship was a huge part of a typical Israelite’s life. At least three times a year, the men were required by God to travel to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and make offerings. With the break-up of the nation, Jeroboam was concerned that his people, when making their thrice-yearly trek to Jerusalem would become enamored with life as it was. So he decided to create an ungodly substitute. His goal was an attempt to secure his position as king – pretty selfish and paranoid, if you think about it.

But don’t you know, we do the very same thing. When our identity feels threatened in any way, we begin to plan and conspire. We start by self-talking, digging ourselves into a negative mindset. Then we bring in those around us who will give advice, adding fuel to the fire. If that does not fix our fears – and it probably will not – we resort to making a plan to solve our own problem.

What we need to do is illuminate those self-made plans and instead,  I – Increase Our Dependence On God. Your salvation and honor depend on Him. He is your mighty rock and refuge. Trust in Him at all times; pour out your hearts to Him, for He is your refuge (Ps. 62:7-8). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Pr. 3:5-6). God is all you need. When you learn that truth as a practical, every-day practice, your dependence on God will become a stepping-stone to standing tall when others fall.

G – Gauge Your Motives

Mothering is a thankless job. Looking back on the last nineteen years, I cannot even begin to count the stacks of dirty dishes to be washed, the loads of laundry to be cleaned, the innumerable trips to the grocery store, the scads of meals cooked, and the gas used to drop off and pick up kids from events. When I find myself complaining about yet another messy spill or lego to pick up or the fact that I am just sick and tired of it all, I can know for sure that my motives need a check-up.

You see, my source of affirmation cannot be my husband or my children. Rarely will they ever say, “Wow, mom, thanks for cleaning that gooey cheese off of my plate.” My source of affirmation must be in God; after all, I serve my family for one purpose: to work for my audience of One. Whatever I do, I am to work at it with all of my heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23). When I desire to take the easy way out, I can see that as a red flag that I am selling out to my fleshly desires for an easy life of ease and earthly affirmation. I need to be careful of the trap of trying to serve God with the least amount of resistance. My motive is selfish and personally advantageous instead of God-honoring and other-serving.

The people of Israel fell into this same trap. After making those ridiculous idols, Jeroboam began to weave his web of deceit. “He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem’ ” (12:28b). “It is too difficult for you (HCSB), too much trouble” (NLT), Jeroboam coaxed.

Do you see his motive? “Follow the path of least resistance,” he tempted. But that path led them straight down the road to idolatry. His motive was to entice them to stay close to him; it was selfish and personally advantageous instead of God-honoring and other-serving. And he served up this sweet-talk on a platter of ease.

We align with God when we gauge our motives: do we want an easy life or a God-honoring one?  God desires that we G – Get Some Grit. God has promised us that in this world we will have trouble, but we are to take heart, for He has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). We are not to put our hand to the plow and look back with longing. Jesus said that if we do, we are not fit for service in the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:62). Instead, we are to listen to God, follow His ways, no matter the cost (Ps. 81:13), and when we do seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, even when we are tired or know an easier way, He will take care of all the dishes, laundry, groceries, carpools and the bad attitudes that sometimes accompany all that work. It takes a lot of grit to be an aligned-with-God mom; it takes a lot of grit to be a God-follower…period! But it will be worth it when we see Jesus.

N – Name The Lies

Satan is the father of all lies. If you find yourself speaking “I” statements that sound vaguely “woe is me,” chances are that Satan has been whispering seductive lies into your mind. I found this to be true this week. I found myself saying things like, “I am the worst mom ever. No one would care if I left this home. What good am I anyway?” One morning in my devotions, the Lord led me to go back through all the tactics of Satan that I discovered when I began studying Hezekiah’s life. (We will work through these in a couple of weeks.) I was shocked to see that every single tactic, save one, was being employed by Satan to keep me from accessing the truth. It was a scary revelation, because it was so subtly done. Satan is a master-mind at using your own fears and securities against you.

You can also see Satan whispering in Jeroboam’s ear as he offered up his next set of lies to his people. The deception he fed them took them a step further down the spiral, “Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (12:28c).

How on earth did those people even fall for that? They knew their history. They knew God had brought their ancestors out of Egypt. What were they thinking and how were they so easily duped?

It was a subtle slide down the spiral; that is why they succumbed at this point. Ungodly self-talk led to open counsel. That bad advice led to self-made works. Their motives came from a desire for expedience over obedience and so the next step of succumbing to well-crafted deceit was a simple one to take.

God is quite clear that if we are to stand tall with godly posture, we will need to N – Nurture Truth. Satan is the father of lies and there is no truth in him (Jn. 8:44). We need to know our adversary and seek to combat his main strategy: deception. We must be careful never to exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). God is light. “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:6-7). If we believe in God and hold to His teaching, we are truly His disciples. Then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (Jn. 8:31-32). Even in heaven, the truth is known: those who follow God and keep themselves pure will never be found with a lie in their mouths. They will be considered blameless (Rev. 14:4-5). Nurturing truth and truth only will align your spiritual backbone so that you can stand with godly posture.

E – Examine Your Worship

Jeroboam set up one calf in Bethel and the other one in Dan. “And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there” (12:29-30).

How far will you go to engage in wrongful worship? Dan was far away in the north of the nation, but Bethel was only nineteen kilometers north of Jerusalem. As the Israelites engaged in their yearly pilgrimages to Bethel, offering their thank offerings, they were so close to the real deal, but they could have been on the other side of the world, as far as the authenticity of their worship was concerned. “Thus the Israelites could find a sense of fulfillment in going through similar forms of worship (rituals) though they were being disobedient to God” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

If you find yourself going through the motions, you need to examine your worship. If your head is singing and your heart is rebelling against God, check out the distance you are traveling to fake your worship. God spoke these heart-searing words through Isaiah, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isa. 29:13).

What God wants from you is far harder to measure and almost impossible to fake. He wants you to E – Engage Him Deeply. Abraham’s heart of worship was tested when God asked him to sacrifice his only son of promise. Abraham was willing to engage God deeply in worship by his act of obedience. He told his son, “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8), knowing all the while in his heart that God could raise his dead son from the dead (Heb. 11:19). Now that is a deep engagement of worship – to the death.

Job’s heart of worship was tested to the maximum a person can take, I think. Everything was taken from him but his own life and the life of his wife and he “fell down to the ground in worship…naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20-21). Job went the distance in his worship. Knowing God could take everything from him, he still chose to engage God deeply.

Habakkuk engaged God very deeply. Even when faced with the impending destruction of the Babylonian army, Habakkuk sang this song, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:17-18). This prophet wrestled his fears out with God in a symphony of submissive worship.

God urges each of us to keep going to “Jerusalem.” We are not to settle for Bethel or Dan. Instead, we are to offer our very bodies as worship to God for this is how we engage God deeply. We do this by refusing to conform to the pattern of this world and allowing God to transform our very minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Dear one, examine your worship. A heart sold out for God is a heart rightly aligned with His plans and purposes.

D – Do Not Be Deceived

Not only did Jeroboam set up alternate places of worship, but he built shrines on high places and even appointed priests from common, ordinary people, instead of the Levites. He created his own festival days instead of honoring the ones God had already instituted. He offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel (12:31-33). In short, he contrived a huge web of audacious deception and the sad part is: everyone bought it hook, line and sinker.

In regard to deception, this is Paul’s strong admonition, “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). We are to be on our guard against deception. We are to be prayerful, watchful and Habakkuk-like in our believing military stance. We are not to be ignorant of Satan or his schemes, because when we did not know Christ, we were influenced and led astray by mute idols (1 Cor. 12:2). Instead of lying down and letting deception walk all over us, we are to D – Declare War On Idolatry.

We are the temple of the living God. There can be no agreement between the temple of God and idols. God is living with us, walking among us, inscribing the truth that He is our God and we are His people (2 Cor. 6:16). Don’t allow your minds to be deceived like Eve’s was. We need to be sincerely devoted to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). Dear child, keep yourself free from idols (1 Jn. 5:21).

Good Spiritual Posture Requires A Biblical Foundation

Nineteen years ago I was a desperate woman. My young son’s health was deteriorating rapidly. He would not sleep, would not crawl, would not eat, would not play; he just cried all the time. We had three technicians in the house trying to help him achieve some sort of normalcy, to no avail.

I did not have much familial support at that time: my parents were in Greece, my sister was attending college in Minnesota, my in-laws were pastoring a church in Indiana and my husband was at work most of the time. We had recently returned from a short-term mission assignment in the Philippines and did not have much support from our church, having been gone for some time. I felt entirely alone and abandoned.

I remember one day being completely at the end of my rope. I told God that I would give up David’s naptime – I would sacrifice my only free time in the day – if He would just meet with me. The first day I sat down with my journal, my Bible and my hopeless spirit and I began to weep and pray. I opened my Bible and the Lord began to teach me from His Word.

My desperate circumstances coupled with my sacrificially submissive spirit opened the door for God to begin working in my heart. My feeble, tentative attempts to find God and His desire and longing for relationship with me began a love affair with my Creator which has never subsided since. God met me in my desperate situation and has continued to fuel in me a fire for His Word and His Presence that burns brightly to this day. I began to learn the key to walking with God in victory that desperate day at my kitchen table: my intimacy, identity and integrity had to be founded on the Word of God.

Intimacy with God is imperative. An identity based on God is of vital importance. A life of integrity flowing out of living in the Vine is crucial, but the biggest key to all of Hezekiah’s intimacy with God, his identity of trust in God, and his godly integrity through God was truth.

Truth comes solely from the Word of God. All other “truth” is shifting sand. Political truths only last until the corrupt public servant is caught in a scandal. Moral truths are only as relative these days as the gender a person chooses to be. Cultural truths change as easily as the fads strutting a nation’s catwalk. Even religious truths flow out the door as quickly as those who change churches over the color of the carpet.

The author of Psalm 119 knew, without a doubt, his source of truth. As I went on a random (and studiously nerdy) field trip, I classified all 176 verses in this psalm into one or more of the three I’s. Let me just give you a couple of examples:

Intimacy

  • “I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (v 16)
  • “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (v 20)
  • “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (v 24)
  • “Your compassion is great, O Lord; preserve my life according to your laws” (v 156)

Notice here that intimacy has a lot to do with enjoying God’s Word and getting to know and desire God and a greater knowledge of His name and His ways. Intimacy also involves the disciplines of reading God’s word, meditating on it, and applying it to your life. As you sit and immerse yourself into God’s laws, God, through the Holy Spirit, becomes your teacher and counselor.

Identity

  • “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (v 37)
  • “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands” (v 73)
  • “All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecute me without cause” (v 86)
  • “Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts” (v 141)

Worthless things are often building blocks of shifty identities. God’s Word shows us how to discern what is worthless and what is worthwhile to build into the fabric of our lives. Knowing we are made and formed at God’s hand enriches the identity we find in Christ. God’s Word, particularly Psalm 39 and Ephesians 1 for starters, clearly state the truth of our fashioned, purposeful and predestined identities; they clearly state the truth. Withstanding persecution, feeling lowly and despised, and suffering shame at others’ hands messes with our identity. The psalmist is quite clear as to how we handle these attacks on our identity: we sit in God’s commands and remember His precepts.

Integrity

  • “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed” (v 4)
  • “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (v 9)
  • “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (v 133)
  • “I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law” (v 163)

Verse 9 is very direct. If you and I are to be pure women in this world, we will only do that by living according to the Word. Daily obedience – full obedience to God’s precepts – will one day, after step upon step, lead to a life-long walk of integrity. Sin will not rule in our lives when we ask God to shine His truth upon our darkened future and as we learn to love God’s laws, we will learn to hate sin. Integrity is simply the result of living according to the truth of God’s Word.

The most encompassing verse is the very last one, verse 176: “I have strayed like a lost sheep (integrity). Seek your servant (intimacy and identity), for I have not forgotten your commands (intimacy).” Many of the verses in this Psalm speak to two of the I’s; the great majority, in fact. This is because intimacy, identity and integrity are inextricably interlocked. Knowing God leads to a stronger identity. Being in the presence of a holy God requires integrity. And nothing will drive a solid identity and a pious integrity more than the high that comes from walking hand in hand with the God of the universe. All three I’s need each other and all three I’s are based on truth.

Hezekiah knew this. That is why he worked so hard to build a life of trust in his God. God rewarded this trust and faithful pursuit with His presence showing so palpably real in his life. Those two I’s combined gave Hezekiah the zeal to remove any idol in the entire land that stood between common, ordinary people experiencing the Shekinah presence of the one true God.

Hezekiah’s ability to stand tall when Hoshea and all of Israel fell, was a testament to maintaining a spiritual posture of alignment based on the Word of God. Nothing else in this world will do. The church is important. Friendships are essential. Ministry is fundamental. But none of these aspects of holistic spiritual growth will do any good if a life is not built upon the solid Rock of God and His unfailing Word.

I leave you today with Principle #2: Trust is the feeling of security that comes from resting one’s identity on the Word and the Person of God. Sing the chorus of this familiar hymn a number of times if you are struggling to believe in Him: “On Christ the solid Rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand/All other ground is sinking sand.”