Psalms 46; 80, 135

Our Refuge and Strength.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” ­– Psalm 46:1 NLT

These three Psalms in today’s reading form a very fitting summary of Israel’s life-long relationship with God. In Psalm 46 you see their attitude when all was going well. They have a confidence in God because He has given them the Promised Land and allowed them to build the magnificent city of Jerusalem containing God’s dwelling place – the Temple. “God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it” (Psalm 46:5 NLT). They believed they were indestructible and that the city of God would last forever. Why? Because they were His chosen people and it was home to His Temple. But there is an interesting line in the middle of this short Psalm, and it is one that most of us are familiar with. It simply says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NLT). This is a personal invitation from God to cease from striving and enter into a personal and intimate relationship with Him. That is what God wanted from the people of Israel and Judah. He wanted them to know Him – not just intellectually, but personally and experientially.

But we know the story. The people of God refused to remain faithful to Him. They disobeyed Him and turned to other gods. Instead of being a witness to the pagan nations around them, Israel adopted the lifestyles and practices of the world. They became infected instead of being an influence for good. And so God had to discipline them. Psalm 80 was probably written about the time that the northern kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Judah to the south was under attack as well. So they called out to God. “Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved” (Psalm 80:3 NLT). They were in trouble and knew their only hope was in God. “ome back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine” (Psalm 80:14 NLT). They claimed that if God would revive and restore them, they would never abandon Him again. They recall how God had chosen them, redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, given them the Promised Land and made them flourish there. But all that had changed. They were now the hopeless victims of Assyria’s power and God’s punishment. How quickly things had changed.

But Psalm 135 brings it full circle. It reminds us of the power and praiseworthiness of God. “I know the greatness of the Lord— that our Lord is greater than any other god” (Psalm 135:5 NLT). This Psalm reflects an understanding that God alone is the source of all hope and deliverance. It is a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It recalls God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt and, more recently, from the hands of the Amorites and Canaanites. It reflects an understanding that God will deal faithfully with His people. He will not abandon them. “For the Lord will give justice to his people and have compassion on his servants” (Psalm 135:14 NLT). So He is worthy of praise. He will once again establish the city of Jerusalem as His dwelling place. The day is coming when He will restore His people to their land and dwell among them. In spite of their unfaithfulness, He will remain faithful. He will once again prove to be their refuge and strength. Because that is the kind of God we worship and serve. He is reliable and trustworthy. He is faithful and true. He is a covenant-keeping God who never abandons those He loves. No matter how bleak the circumstances may look, God is there. He is working behind the scenes in ways we can’t see. He is faithfully and perfectly working out His divine plan. He is our refuge and strength.

Father, You can be trusted. You are always faithful. Your love for us never fails. Your plans for us never get derailed. You are and always will be our refuge and strength in times of trouble. So there is no reason for us to fear. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 18:9-19:37

Counterfeit Hopes. Substitute Blessings.

“Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey. Choose life instead of death!” ­– 2 Kings 18:31-32 NLT

They always sounds so good – the promises of the enemy that is. He never comes to us telling the truth, but always veils the truth in subtle lies that sound so appealing. He knows what we want and he offers it to us – for a price. The enemy’s promises always come with a price. And that price is surrender. We must give up and give in to his desires. We must do as he says. Sure, he promises us blessing and abundance, happiness and hope, but first we must give turn away from God and turn to him. We see this scene lived out in real life in the story of Hezekiah. This time, the enemy comes in the form of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Ten years earlier he had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, sacking the capital city of Samaria and taking the people into exile. Now he has come to besiege Jerusalem. His troops have camped outside the city walls and he has sent one of his officials to demand that Hezekiah surrender the city and its people to Assyria. King Hezekiah has mistakenly believed that he could buy off the Assyrians by paying the tribute money he had been refusing to pay. Eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold later, the Assyrians are still there. They had no intention of leaving. They would not be bought off with gold and silver.

When Hezekiah stubbornly refuses to surrender, the Assyrian envoy makes his appeal directly to the people. He warns them not to listen to Hezekiah and not to trust in God’s deliverance. No gods had ever been able to stand up to the power of Assyria, and Yahweh would be no different. “Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’” (2 Kings 18:30 NLT). Then the enemy does what he always does. He makes a promising offer. He appeals to their desires. He offers them peace. He invites them to open the gates and come out. Let down their defenses. Trust him. And if they do, he will let them continue to enjoy life just like it is – full of blessing and abundance. Nothing will change. There will be no cost to their compromise. Then he subtly hints at what comes next. He will arrange to take them to another land – but one that has all the blessings and abundance of the Promised Land. He even uses terminology similar to that which God used when He told the people of Israel about the Promised Land years earlier. He says it will be “a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey” (2 Kings 18:32 NLT). His offer sounds eerily similar to the one God had made when He had delivered the people out of bondage in Egypt. But the enemy offers them another promised land. He offers them counterfeit hopes and substitute blessings – replacements for the promises of God. And his offer is tempting. It always is.

But the enemy’s offers never come through. They never deliver. Oh, they may for a season, but then the truth sets in. His promised land always ends up being nothing more than bondage. His blessings always turn into curses. His abundance dries up. His hope evaporates. His promises fade. And we are always left disappointed. But God’s promises never fail. He always delivers. If we will trust Him and refuse to listen to the lies of the enemy, He will always come through for us. He did for Judah. He destroyed 185,000 of the enemy’s troops in one night, without a single soldier from Judah having to lift a finger. God sent the Ethiopians against the Assyrians, forcing Sennacherib to return home with his troops to defend his own land. And when he arrived there Sennacherib was murdered by his own sons. Not a single arrow was fired against Judah. Not a single siege tower was built.  Because the people listened to God and not the enemy, they were delivered. Never buy into the counterfeit hopes and substitute blessings of the enemy. No matter how good they sound.

Father, the enemy is always out there offering us his version of Your truth. He wants to promise us what only You can give. And sometimes we listen and give in. The results are always the same. Disappointment and disillusionment. Open our eyes and help us to see the truth. Help us to trust You and reject the lies of the enemy. Only You can provide hope, joy, fulfillment, safety, blessing and abundance. Your promises never fail. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 47-48

The Furnace of Affliction.

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” ­– Isaiah 48:10 NLT

Suffering. We despise it and can see no good reason for it. We avoid it like the plague and when in it, do everything in our power to get out of it. Which is only natural. But as Christ-followers, we are encouraged to have a different perspective on suffering – to see it from God’s point of view. Not all suffering may be God-caused, but it is all God-used. In the case of the people of Judah and Israel, God had brought upon them the suffering they were experiencing. And for good reason. They were rebellious and unfaithful. In spite of all that God had done for them, they had rejected Him. Isaiah described them this way: “You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isaiah 48:1-2 NLT). So God had predicted what was going to happen. He told them that He would discipline them. But they refused to listen. And God knew why. “For I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze. That is why I told you what would happen; I told you beforehand what I was going to do. Then you could never say, ‘My idols did it. My wooden image and metal god commanded it to happen!’” (Isaiah 48:4-5 NLT). God told them exactly what He was going to do and then did it. He predicted their punishment, and it happened just like He said. He allowed them to suffer so that they could see and understand that He alone is God. He did it to get their attention. Suffering has a great way of improving our prayer lives and destroying our sense of self-autonomy. It has a tendency to drive us to God. As the old saying goes, “There are no atheists in fox holes.”

God refines us. He is out to purify us. And that sometimes requires heat. The flames of affliction have a way of burning off all that does not belong. When silver is refined, heat is used to burn away anything that is impure or foreign, so that all that is left is pure silver. But God says He does not refine us in that way. If He did, there would be nothing left. If God burned away all the impurity in our lives, we would be consumed. Instead, He takes us through the fires of affliction, not to consume us, but to remind us of our need for Him. He does it because He loves us. He wants us to turn to Him and sometimes it takes suffering and pain to make us do just that. The writer of Hebrews understood that concept. “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, ‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.'” (Hebrews 12:5-6 NLT).

God’s discipline always has a purpose. He has a reason behind everything that happens in our lives. It’s hard for us to see it when we are going through it, but we must trust that He loves us and has our best in mind. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11 NLT).

God is always teaching us. He is constantly trying to get our attention in order to show us that His way is the best way. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18 NLT). God’s discipline is not punitive, it’s instructive. He is teaching us. He is revealing Himself to us in the midst of our suffering. He wants to show us His power in the midst of our weakness. He wants to restore and bless us. But first we have to turn to Him. We have to trust Him. We have to rely on Him. Suffering has a way of making us do just that.

Father, I have to admit that I don’t relish the fires of affliction. And it is because I don’t fully understand or trust Your love for me. I disobey because I doubt. But You discipline because You love. Help me to understand that. I want to trust You more. I want to be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering because I truly believe You are there and You never leave me or forsake me. Help me to understand that the suffering I experience in this life can be a reminder of Your love. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 44-46

God vs gods.

“For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but Me. Let all the world look to me for salvation.” ­– Isaiah 45:21-22 NLT

There is only one God, and He makes that fact very clear to the people of Judah and Israel. He lets them know that He is not just one of many options. He is not just another deity from which to choose. He alone is God and there are no competitors. He alone created the universe. He is all-powerful and one-of-a-kind. He not only made every individual Israelite, He chose them to be His people. He even uses those who don’t know Him or believe in Him as His tools to accomplish His will. Yet since the fall, mankind has found it necessary to make their own gods as replacements or substitutes for the one true God. These man-made deities are deaf, dumb, blind and powerless to offer any support whatsoever to the very ones who made them. “Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move! And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble” (Isaiah 46:6-7 NLT).

Idle idols. Powerless gods. Pseudo saviors. How ridiculous it sounds to place your trust in them when you consider the God of the universe is offering you a chance to have a relationship with Him. But how easy it is to turn to someone or something else besides God when we’re in need or trouble. How quick we are to find substitutes for God when we need direction or comfort. Of course, our gods are more sophisticated than wooden totems or golden statues that sit on a mantle in the living room. Our gods are more subtle. They take the forms of stock portfolios or resumes, plasma screen high-definition TVs, alcohol or drugs, sex and success. We worship everything from movie stars and musicians, politicians and pastors, to materialism and patriotism. We worship our success, significance, self-autonomy, cars, clothes, kids, money, health, houses, popularity, power, and possessions.

But let’s just say we don’t struggle with the worship of things other than God. What if idols are not our problem? Isaiah goes on to mention another problem we might suffer from: “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” (Isaiah 45:9 NLT). Questioning God. How many times have each and every one of us been guilty of that one? We question God about all kinds of things, from the shape of our bodies to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We encounter a rough spot in life and immediately start demanding that God explain Himself. We want answers. We want changes and we want them NOW! We give Him our demands and our preferred list of solutions, then impatiently wait for Him to do what we want done. But God says, “Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders about the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens. All the stars are at my command” (Isaiah 45:11-12 NLT).

Who are we to question God? What right do we have to give God advice? Where do we get the idea that we, the created, can tell the creator what’s best? There’s only one thing worse than making a god of our own choosing. It’s trying to make God conform to our choices. Demanding that God operate according to your standards is no less offensive than making your own god. Because that is exactly what you are attempting to do. But our God doesn’t work that way. He will not conform. He will not be controlled, cajoled, conscripted or coerced into doing OUR will. He is God and He alone knows what is best. We don’t get to make God. He made us and He has a plan for us. “I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Isaiah 46:4 NLT).

Father, You are not only my creator, You are my redeemer and sustainer. You are one-of-a-kind and will not be forced into a mold. You do not need my input or list of demands. You know what is best for me. You have a plan in place for me. There is nothing about me that escapes Your notice or falls outside Your control. I need to learn to trust You. I need to learn to submit to You. Your will regarding me is perfect. Forgive me for the many times I have questioned You. Who am I to doubt You? Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 42-43

Chosen By God To Know Him.

“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God— there never has been, and there never will be.” ­– Isaiah 43:10 NLT

Over in the first chapter of the book of Acts we are given a recounting of Jesus’ last days on earth before His ascension. He meets with His disciples one last time and gives them instructions. He tells them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT). The Greek word translated “witnesses” here is martys, from which we get our word martyr. It meant someone who had personally seen, heard, or witnessed something and was able to recount it. It referred to one who was a spectator of an event. Jesus tells His disciples that they are to be His witnesses, telling people about Him everywhere. They are to speak about what they have seen. They are to tell what they have heard. They are to give first-hand testimony about the truth of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection power. Theirs was not to be an academic recounting, a mere statement of the facts. It was to be personal and experiential. This was exactly what God was saying to the people of Judah through Isaiah the prophet. They have been chosen by God to be His witnesses. They had been chosen by God to know Him, believe in Him, and understand that He alone was God. They were to tell the nations around them of their personal experiences with the almighty God of the universe. They had had personal experience with Him. They had first-hand experience with His power, provision, protection, and even His loving punishment.

But they were deaf and blind. They wouldn’t listen and they refused to see. “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the Lord You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen” (Isaiah 42:18-20 NLT). What good is a deaf and blind witness? These people had been chosen by God to experience the power and the blessings of God, but they acted as if they were blind. They could see, but refused to do what was right. They could hear, but refused to do what they were told.

Over in the book of Luke we have recorded Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem right before His betrayal, trials, and death. The people cry out, “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38 NLT). The Pharisees demand that Jesus rebuke His followers for what they were saying. Jesus simply responds, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40 NIV). The very stones themselves would witness to the glory of God. Deaf, dumb, and blind stones would do what men were chosen and created to do. We have chosen by God to be eye-witnesses of His power. We have been chosen by God to personally know Him and tell what we know about Him to everyone we meet. We have a job to do. We have a responsibility to keep. The Psalmist put it this way: “We’re not keeping this to ourselves, we’re passing it along to the next generation – GOD’s fame and fortune, the marvelous things he has done” (Psalm 78:4 MSG). But what is it we are going to pass along? Sunday School stories? Moral lessons and impersonal recollections of days gone by? We are to be witnesses. We are to have personal stories of the marvelous things He has done in our lives. Our personal testimonies are not merely to be recountings of how we came to faith, but up-to-date reports on the power and presence of God in our lives SINCE we came to faith. We are to talk about what He is doing in our lives on a daily basis. We are to give witness to His love, mercy, grace, power, provision, protection, goodness, kindness, and the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. But we can’t tell what we don’t know. We can’t describe what we can’t see. We have been chosen to know Him and see Him. Look for Him today. Watch out for His presence in Your life. He will be at work in and around Your life. Will you see Him? Will you be able to tell others about Him? You are His witness.

Father, I want to be a witness of Your power each and every day. You are working in and around my life. You never fail to do so. I just fail to see it, recognize it and praise You for it. Open my eyes that I might see You at work and tell others about Your marvelous deeds in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 40-41

The Nature of God.

“Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out.” ­– Isaiah 40:28 MSG

Ultimately, the entire Bible is a book about God. It is not a collection of stories or moral lessons. It is not the road map for life. It is not a blue print for living. It is the revelation of God about … God. From cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation, it reveals the character and the nature of God. The stories it tells, the histories it reveals, the characters it introduces, are all there for one purpose and one purpose only… to give us a greater understanding of who God is and what man’s relationship with Him should be. His very creation shouts out His glory and claims His very existence. The wonders of the natural world give evidence of the creator. The universe is proof of His power and reveals the immensity of His essence. And in the middle of Isaiah’s prophetic words to the people of Judah warning them of God’s coming judgment, he reminds them of God’s future deliverance. And it is a primer on the very character of God. Through the lips of Isaiah, God teaches them about His nature. He instructs them about His unequaled, incomparable character.

God is eternal – “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah 40:8 NLT

God is powerful – “Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm.” – Isaiah 40:10 NLT

God is loving – “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” – Isaiah 40:11 NLT

God is without equal – “Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?” – Isaiah 40:12 NLT

God is all-knowing – “Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?” – Isaiah 40:13 NLT

God is incomparable – “To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him?” – Isaiah 40:18 NLT

God is transcendent – “God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them.” – Isaiah 40:22 NLT

God is judge – “He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing.” – Isaiah 40:23 NLT

God is creator – “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.” – Isaiah 40:26 NLT

God is sustainer – “Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” – Isaiah 40:26 NLT

God is all-seeing – “O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?” – Isaiah 40:27 NLT

God is tireless – “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary.” – Isaiah 40:28 NLT

God is generous – “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” – Isaiah 40:29 NLT

God is merciful and kind – “Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.” – Isaiah 40:30 NLT

God is a restorer – “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 NLT

God is faithful – “I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” – Isaiah 41:9 NLT

God is trustworthy – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 NLT

God is our helper – “For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” – Isaiah 41:12 NLT

God is our redeemer – “Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 41:14 NLT

God is our provider – “When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them.” – Isaiah 41:17 NLT

God is our rescuer – “I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.” – Isaiah 41:18 NLT

What an amazing God we have! He is incomparable and at times, incomprehensible. He is beyond our understanding, but never out of the reach of our voices. He hears us, sees us, listens to us, cares for us and wants to have a relationship with us. Amazing isn’t it?

Father, Your character and nature is so huge, it takes an entire book to even begin to touch the surface. You are complex and yet knowable. You are beyond the grasp of our finite understandings, and yet You make yourself known to us. May we never tire of looking for You in Your Word and seeing You in Your creation. Give us a growing understanding of just who You are. May we increase daily in our knowledge and appreciation of You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 39; Psalm 76

The Power of Pride and Presumption.

“Our boldest enemies have been plundered. They lie before us in the sleep of death. No warrior could lift a hand against us. ” ­– Psalm 76:5 NLT

More than likely, the writing of Psalm 76 by Asaph was immediately after the Assyrians had been routed by God. They were camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, issuing edicts and threats against Judah, taunting Hezekiah the king and warning him not to trust in God. But that night, an angel of God visited the camp of the Assyrian army, wiping out 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers without Judah having to lift so much as a finger. God had miraculously defeated a superior army and rescued Judah once again from their enemies. “God is honored in Judah; his name is great in Israel. Jerusalem is where he lives; Mount Zion is his home. There he has broken the fiery arrows of the enemy, the shields and swords and weapons of war” (Psalm 76:1-3 NLT).

God is honored in Judah. Really? It seems that not long after the defeat of the Assyrians Hezekiah received an official visit from emissaries of Merodach-baladan, the son of the king of Babylon. It seems that Babylon, an upstart nation, struggling under the superior power of Assyria, was planning a revolt against the Assyrians and was enlisting nations to form an alliance. When Hezekiah received the prince’s envoys in Jerusalem, he proudly gave them the grand tour of the royal city, and “there was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2b NLT). That phrase is repeated over and over again in this chapter. “Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries!” (Isaiah 39:2a NLT). “‘They saw everything,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries'” (Isaiah 39:4b NLT).

So what was the problem? Why does Isaiah make such a big deal out of Hezekiah’s “tour of homes” mentality? It seems that Hezekiah, in revealing all his wealth to the officials from Babylon, was acting in pride and presumption. He was proud of all his wealth. He wanted these officials to see just how rich and prosperous he was. His vanity got the best of him. He was presumptuous in that he failed to see that Babylon might one day become a threat to Judah’s very existence. At this point, Babylon was just another nation, struggling under the heavy hand of the superpower of the day, Assyria. Hezekiah seemed to be trusting in his wealth and his weapons. He appeared to place his trust in a possible alliance with Babylon. He failed to remember that it was God who had delivered Judah from the hands of the Assyrians. Not Egypt. Not Babylon. Not even Hezekiah’s own army.

So God tells Hezekiah the bad news. “The time is coming when everything in your palace – all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now – will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left” (Isaiah 39:6 NLT). The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 25. It would not take place during Hezekiah’s lifetime, but it would happen nonetheless. Hezekiah seemed content with the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to live to see it come to fruition. He could live out his life in peace and security. He was legitimately grateful to God that he would be spared having to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but there is a certain sadness to the fact that Hezekiah was so short-sighted and not concerned about the long-term security of the nation of Judah. His prayers had seen God defeat the Assyrians and heal him from disease, but in this case he doesn’t even voice a single word of intercession on behalf of the nation. Hezekiah’s pride and presumption had led him to trust in himself and a possible alliance with Babylon. He had taken his eyes off of God and become distracted by his own self-importance. God was to be his help, hope, and security. Nothing else. And the same is true for us today.

Father, how easy it is to get distracted by our own self-importance and the world around us. We can take our eyes off of You and forget that You alone are all we need. You are our provider and protector. We are to trust in nothing and no one else, including ourselves. Keep us focused on You. Keep us dependent on You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 37-38

Seeing Is Believing.

“But now step in, O GOD, our God. Save us from him. Let all the kingdoms of earth know that you and you alone are GOD.” ­– Isaiah 37:22 MSG

The Assyrian army is at the door. They have threatened to destroy Judah just like they have every other nation they have come up against – unless the people of Judah surrender. King Sennacherib has sent one final message to King Hezekiah, warning him not to trust in God, because it won’t do him any good. No gods have ever been able to stand up against the mighty Assyrian army. “You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different?” (Isaiah 37:11 NLT). Hezekiah took this letter from Sennacherib and went straight to the Temple where he spread it out before God. He called out to God in prayer, asking Him to intervene in this difficult situation. “Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God” (Isaiah 37:17 NLT). Hezekiah took his problem to God. In faith, he called out to the only one who he believed could do anything about his difficult circumstance. He asks God to rescue the nation of Judah. He appeals to God to intervene, show His power, and reveal to all the nations of the world that He alone is God.

As a result of his prayer, God answers and tells Hezekiah that He will take care of the Assyrian problem. And He does. That very night an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the enemy right in their camp while they slept. As a result, the survivors broke camp the next morning and returned home. Not long after that, Sennacherib was worshiping his god in his temple, when two of his own sons came in and killed him. This prideful, arrogant man who had threatened to destroy the people of God and who had ridiculed the power of God, was destroyed by God. And Hezekiah was able to see the power of God with his own eyes. His faith resulted in reality. Not long after this, Hezekiah became ill and was facing death. Again, he called out to God in faith, asking for healing. God answered and extended his life. Hezekiah was able to see the power of God in action. One day he was mourning his own coming death. The next he was rejoicing in the healing power of God. God wants to reveal His power in our lives. He wants to put His power to work in our lives. It is not a concept, but a reality. His power is real and He wants us to experience it daily. Our faith in God should result in our getting to see the power of God. We trust. He acts. We call out. He answers. We rely. He responds. And we believe.

Father, I want to see Your power in my life. Sometimes You allow events to reach a point where I no longer have any answers. You cause circumstances to reach the point where I have to turn to You because I have no other options. But when I do, You respond. You long to reveal Your power in the lives of Your people. You want to show Your strength in the midst of my weakness. And when You do, my faith grows even stronger. Thank You for being there for me so often. Help me to trust You more. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 36

Who Will You Believe?

“Don’t listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards.” ­– Isaiah 36:16-17 NLT

Hezekiah has been warning the people that destruction is on its way. Their sin against God has finally resulted in consequences, and now the Assyrians are literally at the gate. Their armies are camped just outside the city. They have left a wake of destruction in their path and now they are threatening to bring Jerusalem down as well. They demand surrender. They taunt the people, warning them to reject the words of Hezekiah and listen to their offer of peace. They paint an idyllic picture of prosperity and peace – if they will only compromise their convictions and surrender. All they have to do is open up the gates and give up.

Isn’t that just like the enemy. Of course, I’m talking about Satan, not the king of Assyria. Our great adversary, Satan, uses the same exact tactics with us each and every day. He taunts us. He gets us to question the faithfulness and effectiveness of God, asking, “So what makes you think the Lord can rescue you?” He tries to get us to doubt the Word of God and question the servants of God. “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you!” (Isaiah 36:14 NLT). “Don’t listen to Hezekiah!” (Isaiah 36:16 NLT). “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you!” (Isaiah 36:18 NLT). If he can get us to doubt God then we are more apt to listen to his lies. And what he has to say to us is always a lie! Satan never tells us the truth. He misleads and misrepresents. He makes false promises and speaks in appealing half truths that cater to our fears and desires. The king of Assyria offers the people of God prosperity and peace. He offers to give them a land just like the one they are in. He promises them a land flowing with grain, new wine, bread and vineyards. He essentially offers them another land of promise other than the one God had given them. He offers a substitute to God’s plan. And that is just what Satan does. It is what Satan did with Adam and Eve. It was what Satan did with Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness. Satan always offers us an alternative to God’s plan. He presents us with a compelling alternative that comes with shortcuts and requires compromises. But if we do it his way, he promises it will be easier.

But who are we going to believe – the enemy or God? Whose word are we going to take? Whose promise are we going to believe? Every day we are given opportunities to trust God or listen to the lies of the enemy. He is the master deceiver. He is a pro at twisting the truth and making disobedience to God sound like good judgment and wise decision-making. He appeals to our self-interest. He plays with our emotions and preys on our fears. He knows we want peace at any price and desire pleasure above anything else. So he promises to give us what we want – if we’ll just give up – open up the gates and let him in. In other words, surrender. And if we leave God out of the picture, that is exactly what we will end up doing. So who will you believe today? When the enemy comes to you with his lies and half-truths, will you listen to him? Or will you take God at His word and rely on His promises? It’s a choice. It’s a daily decision. It’s faith on display.

Father, I want to believe You and not the enemy. Give me discernment to see through his lies. Open my eyes to see truth and not buy into the fiction he offers up as reality. Don’t let fear drive my decisions and desire for peace cloud my decision-making. I want to trust You. I want to listen to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Isaiah 35

He’s On His Way!

“Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!” ­– Isaiah 35:4 MSG

For 34 chapters we have read about God’s coming judgment on His rebellious people and the nations that surround them. His holiness and justice demand that He deal with sin. He cannot turn a blind eye and act as if it does not exist. He is patient, but He is not passive. He is tolerant, but He will not tolerate the sin of His people forever. And while there have been messages of hope and deliverance woven into the warnings of pending judgment, the overall message has been less than uplifting. Then we come to chapter 35. In it we find a beautiful picture of hope based on God’s future restoration of His land and of His people. God will balance His judgment with mercy. His moral perfection requires that He deal justly with sin. His love requires that He show mercy and grace to those who have sinned. And He done just that through His Son Jesus Christ. All those who accept Him as Savior will experience the blessings of God and enjoy not only a restored, renewed earth but a restored relationship with God Himself.

So Isaiah is to use this news to “strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees” (Isaiah 35:3 NLT). In the midst of all the bad news, Isaiah is to share the good news of God’s future restoration of His land and His people. Imagery of restoration and renewal is all throughout this chapter: Flowers blooming, deserts bursting with plants, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, springs gushing in the wilderness, and streams in the wastelands. Parched land will become filled with pools of water. And a road will be built that leads straight to the city of God – the new Jerusalem where Christ will reign in righteousness. That road will be called the Highway of Holiness because on it only the righteous will travel as they make their way to worship God in His restored city. This road will be for the redeemed – those who “walk in God’s ways” (Isaiah 35:8 NLT). “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return that way.  They will enter Zion with a happy shout. Unending joy will crown them,  happiness and joy will overwhelm  them; grief and suffering will disappear” (Isaiah 35:10 NET).

This is a message of hope. Not just for the people in Isaiah’s day, but for all of us who worship God and place our hope in the future return of His Son. He is coming. He will one day return to set all things right. He will restore the earth to its original splendor and glory. He will reestablish Jerusalem as the city of God. He will redeem His people Israel from their captivity to sin and return them to their land. He will do away with all sin and sorrow. Righteousness will be the order of the day. Sorrow and mourning will be replaced with joy and gladness. So be strong and do not fear, for your God is coming – He is coming to save you!

Father, help me keep my eyes focused on the future. It is so easy to become fixated on the here and now and think that this is all there is. I can begin to believe the lie that I have to find all my joy and contentment in this life. But You have promised more. You have a future planned out that is so much better than anything I can find in this lifetime. Your Son is coming again. I need to live for that day and not this one. When my knees get weak and my heart grows feint, I need to set my sights on the reality of His return. He is coming! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men