Jeremiah 2-3

Just Admit It.

“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me — the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” ­– Jeremiah 2:13 NLT

Stubbornness is a terrible thing to behold. Whether it is in a child with a will that refuses to yield, a dog with a rag that it won’t let go of, or a believer who refuses to admit their own guilt. To sin is one thing. To sin and then refuse to acknowledge it, own up to it, and repent of it is another thing altogether. It compounds our sin and makes forgiveness impossible. When we read Jeremiah’s message to the people of Judah, it repeatedly addresses their incredible stubbornness. Their sins were obvious – they were all around them for everyone to see – including God. But instead of admit them, they denied them. And instead of acknowledge that their false gods had never done anything for them, they kept going back to them. God describes their gods as cracked cisterns. These were man-made receptacles designed to catch and contain rain water in a land that was prone to drought. Instead of turning to God, the fountain of living water, who could quench all their spiritual thirsts, they came up with their own way of meeting their needs. But it didn’t work. Their cisterns couldn’t hold water. Their gods couldn’t deliver or protect. Their alliances with other nations couldn’t prevent destruction. Yet they kept doing the same thing over and over again – stubbornly and persistently.

And they stubbornly denied their guilt. They tenaciously refused to admit that they had done anything wrong.”And yet you say, ‘I have done nothing wrong. Surely God isn’t angry with me!’ But now I will punish you severely because you claim you have not sinned” (Jeremiah 2:35 NLT). Instead, they blamed God for their predicament. In place of confession, they complained. They blamed. They passed the buck. Yet, when things went bad, God was the one they would turn to demanding that He do something. “They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out to me, ‘Come and save us!’” (Jeremiah 2:27b NLT). But God kept pleading for them to return. He called for them come back to Him because He was merciful and forgiving. He only asked that they do one thing: Acknowledge their guilt. Admit that they had rebelled against Him. Confess that they had refused to listen to Him. RETURN to Him in humility, brokenness and genuine sorrow over their sin. God makes the same offer to you and me today. He reminds us in His Word, “…if we admit our sins – make a clean breast of them – he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (1 John 1:9 MSG). But how often do we stubbornly cling to our sins, refusing to admit them? Forgiveness is as close as the tip of our tongues, but we stubbornly refuse to speak the words that could bring release and restoration – “I have sinned.”

It reminds me of the story Jesus told of the prodigal or wayward son, who decided to return home, after having blown his inheritance pursuing a sinful lifestyle. He came to his father and said, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son” (Luke 15:21 NLT). But he didn’t get the reaction he was expecting. Instead of anger and rejection, he encountered something different altogether. “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began” (Luke 15:22-24 NLT). Let the party begin!

Father, Your patience with me is incredible. In spite of all my stubbornness and pride, You keep calling me to come back to You. You keep pleading with me to simply confess my sins, admit that I have built my own cracked cisterns – poor, faulty replacements for You. I have worshiped gods of my own making – from power and prestige to popularity and possessions. And all You ask is that I admit it. Come to You in repentance and humility and own up to my sin. And You will restore me. You will clothe me in righteousness once again. You will restore me to favor and throw a party on my behalf. What an amazing God You are! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Jeremiah 1

Strength For The Task.

“For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land — the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah.” ­– Jeremiah 1:18 NLT

Jeremiah was 20 years old. He was an unknown young man from the little town of Anathoth, just three miles northeast of Jerusalem. He was the son of a priest, but did not seem to have received any priestly training himself. One minute he was just another young Jewish man planning out his future, then everything changed. He received a call from God informing him that he was being appointed God’s prophet to the nations. Jeremiah knew what this meant. He had lived long enough to see and hear the words of Zephaniah, God’s current spokesperson. He knew being a prophet was not an easy task. It was not for the weak or timid. So Jeremiah responded, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (Jeremiah 1:6 NLT). He gave God an excuse. He used his youth and inexperience as a reason to reject God’s calling. But God had set him apart for this job before he was even born. He knew what Jeremiah would be doing before he was even conceived in his mother’s womb. God had plans for Jeremiah and told him so. “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:7-8 NLT). God’s call was non-negotiable. This was not a request, but a command. He was going to do what God was calling him to do, and God wold equip him to do so.

The message Jeremiah was going to have to deliver to the people of Judah was not an easy one. He would not be popular. He was not going to be invited to a lot of parties or find himself with a lot of friends. His was going to be a message of judgment and coming destruction. He was to call the people to repentance and warn them of God’s coming wrath if they didn’t. Jeremiah was going to be a social pariah, an outcast. He would be hated. He would be ostracized. He would be threatened with death. But God assured him, “I have made you strong. You will stand against the whole land. They will fight you, but they will fail.” (Jeremiah 1:18-19 NLT). God was going to be with Jeremiah and take care of Him all along the way. His message was God’s message. He was going to be God’s spokesperson delivering His words to His people. God never promised Jeremiah that this would be an easy job. He told him that he would face opposition. He warned him that he would have to stand against the whole land – from the kings and officials to the priests and people. Speaking truth is never easy. Being a prophet was not a popularity contest. It was about obedience and faithfulness to God’s word. For the next four decades Jeremiah was going to have a full-time job speaking on behalf of God, delivering a less-than-pleasant message to a more-than-stubborn people. But God was with Him. He would protect and use Him. He would provide strength for the task. And He’ll do the same thing for you today.

Father, the life You have called us to is not an easy one. In many ways, we are prophets speaking Your truth in the midst of a people who don’t want to hear it. We are called to live lives that are set apart, distinctive and different from the world around us. We are to called to love those around us by telling them the truth about sin and the hope for salvation through Jesus Christ. Give us the strength we need for the task. Help us learn what it means to obey from the life of Jeremiah. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Zephaniah 2-3

Now, And Not Yet.

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful song.” ­– Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

There is a sense in which most, if not all, of biblical prophesy has a now, and not yet, aspect to it. Much of what the prophets were predicting was to take place in the immediate context of their hearers. Destruction was to come soon. But then, there is another aspect of prophesy that was usually delayed for a future date. It is still yet to be fulfilled. Zephaniah 2-3 contains both of these elements of prophesy. God was going to bring destruction on Jerusalem, as well as Philistia, Assyria, Moab, Ammon, and Ethiopia – and He did. Those prophecies have been fulfilled. But Zephaniah also talks of a future restoration and redemption of Judah that has not yet taken place. In spite of Jerusalem’s open and ongoing rebellion against God, He will one day restore them to favor. He will return the Jews to the land of promise and re-establish the throne of David in Jerusalem. This has all yet to take place and will not be fulfilled until the Millennial Kingdom of Christ is established at the end of the Great Tribulation. It will be a marvelous day in which God promises to “purity the speech of all people, so that everyone can worship the Lord together (Zephaniah 3:9 NLT). God also promises that He will live among His people again. He will bless them with His presence. Their troubles will all be over and they will never have to fear disaster again. He will take great delight in them and rejoice over them. But that day has not yet happened.

Or has it? This promise was to the people of Judah and the Jewish nation. It has yet to be fulfilled. But God will keep His promise to them because He is a promise keeping God. He will do what He said He would do. But there is a sense in which we, as Gentiles and followers of Jesus Christ, have seen this prophesy fulfilled – in part. Because when God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, He came as Emmanual, which means “God with us.” God came and dwelt among men. He lived among us. And then He died among us and for us. But when Christ was resurrected and returned to the Father’s side in heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. The very Spirit of God not only dwells among men, but in them – in those who have placed their faith and hope in the saving work of Jesus Christ. For us, in a real sense, the words of Zephaniah have already been fulfilled: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a might savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT). God is with us and in us. The Holy Spirit comforts us, directs us, convicts us, and teaches us. The Lord Himself, the King of Israel, not only lives among us, He lives in us! We no longer need to fear disaster. We no longer have to worry about death, because He has conquered it. We no longer have to fear condemnation, because He has removed it. We no longer have to sin, because He has given us new hearts. God is with us. He lives among us. He has filled us with His Spirit and empowered us to live lives that are set apart, distinctive, joyful, powerful, and a glimpse of what is yet to come.

Father, You are among us and in us. You have given us Your Spirit and transplanted new hearts within us. We have access to Your power and the promise of Your indwelling presence – at all times. We have much to be grateful for and so much more to be hopeful for. May we live as if You live within us. May our lives reflect Your presence and power every day of our lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Zephaniah 1

Comfortably Complacent.

“I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the Lord will do nothing to them, either good or bad.” ­– Zephaniah 1:12 NLT

Josiah, the great reformer king sits on the throne. Zephaniah, the great, great, grandson of Hezekiah, was God’s prophet delivering His words of coming judgment on the people of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen in 722 B.C. to the Assyrians. But the southern nation of Judah is enjoying relative peace. Because King Josiah was moved to repentance upon hearing the words of the book of the Law, rediscovered while making renovations to the Temple, God had spared the nation from defeat at the hands of the Assyrians. They were enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity. And while Josiah had instituted significant reforms in the nation by removing all physical displays of idol worship and re-establishing the annual celebration of Passover, much of it proved to be external in nature. The peoples’ hearts had failed to change. They were going through the motions, displaying a form of commitment to God, but their hearts were not in it. And God knew it. They had become complacent in their sin, still seeking after other gods and forsaking the one true God. They were just as guilty of spiritual adultery as they had ever been. They had grown comfortable with their sin and no longer feared God. So God sent Zephaniah with a message of coming judgment. He was no longer going to tolerate their willful disobedience and arrogant displays of contempt for His Law.

While the people of Judah were content to follow Josiah’s demands for reform, and go through the motions of sacrifice and adherence to the Law, they were still hedging their bets and worshiping other gods at the same time. Religion had become their god, not Yahweh. If Josiah’s reforms could bring them prosperity and peace, then they were all for it. As long as it did not require them to change their lifestyles, they were perfectly find with it all. If worshiping Yahweh would stave off destruction and allow them to live their lives the way they wanted to live them, then they were more than willing to add Him to their list of gods.

“Wherever excitement in religion becomes an end in itself and wherever the cult of ‘what helps’ replaces joy in ‘what’s true,’ Baal is worshiped.” – J. Alec Motyer, “Zephaniah,” in The Minor Prophets, p. 899

But God was not after religion, He wanted a relationship based on love, obedience, reverential fear, and faithfulness. He knew that these people “no longer ask for the Lord’s guidance or seek my blessings” (Zephaniah 1:6b NLT). They put more trust in their prosperity and financial stability than they did in the God who provided it. Religion for them had become a means to an end. They worshiped to get. They sought after any and every god because they wanted to make sure they had all their bases covered. They believed the gods existed for their benefit, not the other way around. Religion had become nothing more than a tool to get what they wanted or protect what they already had. The more gods, the merrier, seemed to be their life philosophy. But God had other ideas. He had something else in mind. He had different expectations of His people. And He was about to make those expectations and the penalty for ignoring them painfully clear.

Father, how guilty we are of making religion some kind of a game we play. We make it a means to an end where we get to determine the outcome. We worship based on what we think we will get out of it. We tend to give to get. But You are looking for those who will worship You out of love, respect and faithfulness. You are looking for those who seek You because You first sought them. Like the people of Judah, we can end up going through the motions, giving the appearance of religious reform, but lacking the heart change that must accompany it. Forgive us for our complacency with the sin in our lives and our comfortableness with the world and its ways. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 34-35

Some Intense Reading.

“This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this citye and its people. All the curses written in the scroll that was read to the king of Judah will come true.” ­– 2 Chronicles 34:24 NLT

When Josiah heard the words of God found in the scroll containing the book of the Law, he was blown away. He was so shaken by what he heard, he tore his clothes in despair. He immediately called on his trusted officials to go to the Temple and make an appeal to God. “For the Lord’s great anger has been poured out on us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord. We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do” (2 Chronicles 34:21b NLT). But what could Josiah have heard that upset him so much? How bad could it have been? Well, a cursory look at the book of the Law will shed some sobering light on the subject. The book of the Law that Josiah heard was either the book of Deuteronomy of the entire Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible penned by Moses himself. Either way, part of what Josiah would have heard were the curses that God had promised to bring on the people of Israel should they disobey Him.

God’s covenant with Moses had been conditional. It required obedience. And if they did obey, it came with blessings.

“You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” – Deuteronomy 28:2-6 NLT

But God’s covenant also came with curses.

“But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you: Your towns and your fields will be cursed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed. Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.” – Deuteronomy 28:15-19 NLT

God went on to assure them that He would be the one sending the curses on them. He would confuse and frustrate them in all that they did. He would send devastating diseases on them. He would afflict them with scorching heat and drought. He would cause them to suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies. He would curse them with boils, madness, blindness, and panic. They would suffer domestic difficulties. They would build houses and never live in, plant vineyards and never enjoy a drop of the wine produced, get engaged to be married to a woman and watch someone else marry her. The list goes on and on. And just to make sure they understand why these things are going to happen, God makes it painfully clear. “If you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and to obey the commands and decrees he has given you, all these curses will pursue and overtake you until you are destroyed. These horrors will serve as a sign and warning among you and your descendants forever. If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. The Lord will put an iron yoke on your neck, oppressing you harshly until he has destroyed you” (Deuteronomy 28:45-48 NLT).

This was serious stuff and somehow the people of God had forgotten all about the curses of God. They had conveniently let the negative consequences of their sinful choices disappear from the memories. And as a result, they had lived in willful disobedience to God for generations. They had turned their backs on God and, because they were the “chosen” people of God, they believed they were invincible. God would not allow anything to happen to them because they were the apple of His eye. He had set them apart from all the other nations of the world. But that set-apartness required distinctiveness. It demanded that they live differently from the nations around them. They were to follow God’s commands and live according to His Law. And if they did, they would be blessed beyond measure. But if they didn’t, they would be curses beyond belief. And when Josiah heard the words of God, he was devastated and rightfully concerned. He knew the track record of his people. He knew what his ancestors had done. He knew what his grandfather Manasseh and his father Amon had done. The evidence of their sin was all around him, in the form of idols and shrines to all the other gods they worshiped. So Josiah was shaken. He knew they were guilty and deserved every one of the curses outlined in the book of the Law. So he did the only thing he knew to do. He repented and turned to God. He began to make changes. He sought to shift the tide back toward obedience. And God took notice. He would delay the inevitable. He would not send the deserved curses during Josiah’s reign, but would hold off until he was gone.

But what about us? Do we need to fear the curses of God? Do we need to go back and read the words of Moses and begin to live obediently or else face the consequences? No, as believers in Christ, we no longer live under the curse of the Law. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Christians in Rome. “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:21-22 NLT). Paul goes on to assure us that we no longer have to live our lives attempting to keep the Law. “So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:4-7 NLT).

We have been released from having to keep the Law. We have been freed from the curses associated with disobedience to the Law. But this does not mean we are free to disobey the Law. It simply means we now keep the Law willingly and joyfully, not out of some sense of duty or out of fear of condemnation. Paul said he loved God’s law, and so should we. We should love His law because we love the one who gave us the Law. Can we keep the Law perfectly? No. And we do not need to. We are not judged by the Law, because Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the Law once and for all. We now obey out of love, not obligation. But the curses associated with the Law should be a sobering reminder of just what we have been rescued from. We were just as deserving of those curses as Josiah and the people of Judah were. But God provided us with a payment for our sins. He provided a sacrifice to cover our debt. And because of what Jesus did on the cross, we stand as blessed and not cursed. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT). Now those are words we should never get tired of reading.

Father, the curses associated with disobedience to Your Law were real. They revealed just how serious sin was and is to You. And I was deserving of every one of those curses. But because of what Jesus did on the cross, I have been freed from the curse of the Law. Never let me forget just how much I have been delivered from. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 22-23

Reform Is Costly.

“Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” ­– 2 Kings 23:25 NLT

Josiah was considered the greatest king. Those are pretty high words of praise, considering the reigns of David and Solomon. But the author of the book of 2 Kings believed Josiah set the standard for kings. He inherited a situation that was less than perfect. He became king at a time when the nation was in disarray spiritually, morally, and politically. He stepped into a very toxic environment and was expected to rule – at the tender age of eight! And by the time he was 18 years old, Josiah began to make a difference. He began by trying to repair the Temple, which had suffered from years of neglect, abuse, and plunder in order to pay tributes owed to enemies of Judah. Josiah instituted a major restoration project on the Temple. While this was going on, they discovered a scroll containing the book of the Law. This may have been the entire Pentateuch or possibly just the book of Deuteronomy, but irregardless, it contained the Law and the covenant that God had made with the people of Israel years earlier when they had left Egypt.

When Josiah heard the words contained in this scroll, he was blown away. He tore his clothes in despair, and knowing that God had to be angry with them for their neglect of and disobedience to the Law, he appealed to God. The covenant that God had made with Moses back at Mount Sinai had been conditional. God had said, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLT). Years later, Moses would reaffirm this covenant with the people, as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail. Stay on the path the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy” (Deuteronomy 5:32 NLT). But Josiah knew that the people had failed to keep the commands of God. They had lived in open rebellion to God. And Josiah had not missed the words written in the book of the Law that said, “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NLT).

So Josiah humbled himself before God. He repented. And because he did, God promised not to bring destruction on Judah during his lifetime. And as a result, Josiah began a massive reform effort to stem the tide of wickedness and rebellion in Judah. He could have easily just waited out his reign, knowing that he was safe. But he wanted to make a difference. He wanted to leave Judah in a better state than when he inherited it. He took the words of Deuteronomy 6 seriously. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT). Josiah had all the people assembled and then personally read the book of the Law to them. He reminded them of their covenant with God. Then he began to do what he could do to make a difference. And he had his work cut out for him. This was not going to be easy. It was going to cost him. He would not be popular. But he didn’t care. Just look at some of the things he did:

  • He removed from the Temple all the articles used for worshiping Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of heaven.
  • He did away with all the idolatrous priests.
  • He removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple.
  • He destroyed the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple.
  • He defiled the pagan shrines.
  • He defiled the altar of Topheth, where the people offered child sacrifices.
  • He removed the horse statues dedicated to sun worship from the entrance to the Temple.
  • He burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.
  • He tore down pagan altars on the palace roof erected by his predecessors.
  • He destroyed altars Manasseh had built in the Temple courtyard.
  • He desecrated pagan shrines east of Jerusalem that Solomon had built.
  • He had the sacred pillars smashed.
  • He tore down the pagan altars at Bethel.
  • He even destroyed that pagan shrines and buildings in Samaria, in the northern kingdom.
  • He had the pagan priests executed on their own altars.
  • Then he re-instituted the celebration of Passover.

Just take a look at that list. What a picture of the wickedness of the people of God. They were so far from being a holy nation. They were infested with idolatry. It was everywhere. They had taken unfaithfulness to a whole new level. Everywhere Josiah turned, he found altars, shrines, temples and symbols of their rebellion to God. He was inundated, but not incapacitated. He was willing to do something about it and he did. To took steps to toward positive change. And he probably made some enemies along the way. Not everyone was on board with his reforms. Not everybody agreed with what he was doing. But Josiah was going to do what God wanted. He was going to follow God’s will, not anybody else’s. Reform is costly. Obedience has a price attached to it. But for Josiah, it was worth it.

Father, too often I am unwilling to pay the price that true reform requires. I want to make petty changes that require little of me, when what I need is costly change. Give me the strength to examine my own life and see where true change needs to be made. Open my eyes to the idols in my own life so that I might remove them. Don’t let me be satisfied with surface reform. Help me to make sweeping changes that result in a life of holiness. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nahum 2-3

Restorer and Destroyer.

“Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah, the Lord will restore its honor. Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches, but he will restore its splendor.” ­– Nahum 3:2 NLT

This short, prophetic book was written to encourage the people of Judah who were facing possible annihilation at the hands of the Assyrians. They had watched their neighbor to the north, Israel, fall to the Assyrians, and now the enemy was coming against them. Assyria was more powerful and had a track record of success when it came to conquering nations. Judah was a small country with a relatively small army and few allies. They were no match for the Assyrians. Even the Assyrians knew that. Listen to the words of the Assyrian emissary as he taunted King Hezekiah. “I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s charioteers?” (Isaiah 36:8-9 NLT). This was a classic mismatch with a certain outcome. But there was one thing the Assyrians had not considered. In fact, they had underestimated its importance. They had miscalculated the presence and power of God. They mocked God and downplayed His ability to do anything to stop them. The Assyrian emissary warned the people, “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?” (Isaiah 36:18 NLT).

But Nahum assures the people that God is not one to be overlooked, mocked or made light of. God was going to destroy the destroyer. He was going to bring complete destruction on the nation of Assyria. Why? “…because Nineveh, the beautiful and faithless city, mistress of deadly charms, enticed the nations with her beauty. She taught them all her magic, enchanting people everywhere” (Nahum 3:4 NLT). This was not just about Nineveh’s treatment of Israel and Judah. As the most powerful nation of that day, the Assyrians had had a tremendous influence on all the nations. Their military successes had spread their culture all over the known world. With it came their pagan practices and idol worship. They had spread their unrighteousness and moral corruption around the world. Now they were spreading it among the people of God. And God had had enough. The destroyer was about to meet the Destroyer. The Assyrians had become the enemies of God – not a good place to be. And God was going to bring His own brand of destruction and devastation on the people of Assyria. God is righteous and just. He is fully aware of all the injustice going on in the world. He is not blind, asleep or impotent. He is waiting to mete out judgment in His own time. He will one day deal with injustice and humble all those who lust for conquest, practice violence and brutality to dominate others, abuse their power, oppress the weak, worship anything but Him, or seek help from the demonic world.

But at the same time, the Destroyer is also the Restorer. He will restore what Assyria and nations like it have tried to destroy. He is in the restoration business. Jesus Himself said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10 NLT). The enemy is always out to destroy. He wants to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our future. But God restores. He gives back what the enemy tries to take away. He brings life where the enemy attempts to bring death. Assyria was a great power. But it was no match for a great God. Nineveh no longer exists. It had its fifteen minutes of fame. It’s day of glory ended in destruction at the hands of the Medes and the Babylonians. And those nations would meet their own destruction. Because ultimately, God is the one who is in control. He is the Destroyer and the Restorer. He rules over nations, kings, presidents, armies, dictators, juntas, terrorists, and even democracies. He alone is God. He alone is in charge. And while the enemy may be busy destroying, God will always be about restoring.

Father, thank You for the reminder. You are in charge. There is no enemy too big for You to handle. Nothing is ever out of your control, no matter how badly it may appear to us. Never let us forget that even when the enemy does destroy our joy, our hope, our health, our homes – You can restore. You can rebuild. You can make new. You can bring life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nahum 1

A Comforting Contrast.

“The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him. But he will sweep away his enemies in an overwhelming flood. He will pursue his foes into the darkness of night.” ­– Nahum 1:7-8 NLT

Nahum was a prophet to the southern nation of Judah. He prophesied during a time when Assyria was throwing their weight around, conquering nations and taking their people captive. They were the neighborhood bully, imposing their will on any and all, including the northern kingdom of Israel, who they had conquered and taken into captivity. So Nahum was ministering to the people of God living in Judah. His message had two parts. He was warning the Assyrians of the judgment of God to come and encouraging the Jews in Judah to trust in God. His was a message of stark contrasts. Anger and love. Wrath and mercy. Justice and judgment. Destruction and deliverance. It’s interesting that we, as modern-day Christians, find his descriptions of God’s anger, wrath and judgment distasteful at times. We prefer a much more loving and compassionate God. We want a sanitized version of God minus the vengeful, angry side. But for the people of Judah, the words of Nahum regarding God’s warrior-like attributes were comforting. When they were faced with the threat of a powerful foe who could wipe them out and take them captive at any moment, the picture of a powerful God who was willing to stand up and face that enemy on their behalf was encouraging. He wasn’t complacent or uncaring. He was completely engaged and even angry over what He saw, and He was strong enough to do something about it.

We love hearing that God is good and a strong refuge when trouble comes. But God is not only defensive. He’s offensive. He fights on our behalf. He hates evil, injustice, sin, and any who stand opposed to His righteous rule. Over and over again in this chapter Nahum uses words like vengeance, rage, revenge, anger, fury, and destroy. The repetition of these words creates a strong impression of an angry God. The word “rage” (Hebrew hemah) means “to be hot” and describes burning anger and intense fury. Why was God so angry? The rest of the book of Nahum will explain why. But His anger over the actions of the Assyrians was to be a comfort to the people of Judah. But God’s anger, while intense, is not impulsive. Nahum says, “The Lord is slow to anger, but his power is great, and he never lets the guilty go unpunished” (Nahum 1:3 NLT). The word “slow” here means patient or long-suffering. He doesn’t just explode in uncontrolled rage. He patiently endures, but then He acts, and He has the power to back up His anger.

We do not serve a powerless, impotent, uncaring God who is incapable of doing anything about the injustice in the world. It may appear that He has taken a holiday or forgotten all about us. It may seem as if He is unable to do anything about all the evil that is taking place in the world. But Nahum assures us that our God is anything but impotent or unresponsive. He will act. And when He does, He will do so with a balance of judgment and grace, justice and mercy, destruction and deliverance, revenge and restoration, wrath and reward. He will judgment on His enemies and a message of peace to all those who trust in Him. He is a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is good. He is great. He is in control.

Father, what good would it be to have a loving God who had no power? What benefit would it be to worship a merciful God who didn’t have what it takes to make that mercy available? What would anyone want with a God who lovingly smiled on us all the while we suffered, but was unable to do anything about our suffering? But that is not the God we serve. You are a powerful, righteous ruler who loves us, but hates injustice and unrighteousness. And You can and will do something about it. You’re not impotent. You’re omnipotent – all-powerful and ready, willing and able to deal with the things going on in the world around us. May we find comfort in the words of Nahum. You are a refuge when trouble comes, but You are also a righteous warrior, fighting on our behalf. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 33

When Brokenness Brings Forgiveness.

“Now that he was in trouble, he went to his knees in prayer asking for help – total repentance before the God of his ancestors.” ­– 2 Chronicles 33:12 MSG

Manasseh took the throne of Judah at the age of 12, and he would prove to be one of the worst kings that nation had ever had. It didn’t take him long to rebuild the pagan shrine his father Hezekiah had worked so hard to tear down. He reinstituted the worship of Baal and Asherah, reversing the religious reforms his father had set in place. He even erected pagan altars in the Temple and practiced human sacrifice, offering up his own sons on the fire. He practiced sorcery, witchcraft, divination, and consulted with mediums and psychics. This guy was bad to the core. He was a spiritual chameleon, changing his religious stripes to fit whatever circumstance he found himself in. He had no allegiance to God. In fact, he ignored God. God had given him warnings about what would happen if he continued to live in open rebellion to His Word, but Manasseh would not listen. So God sent the Assyrians against Judah and they captured Manasseh, taking him prisoner – with a ring through his nose and bronze chains on his hands and feet. The mighty Manasseh was now a prisoner in the pagan city of Babylon. He had rebelled against God and God had given him what he deserved.

But the story doesn’t end there. Manasseh’s pride had led to his downfall. His spiritual adultery had ended up with him divorced from God’s presence. But in the midst of his distress, he called out to God. It doesn’t say he called out to Baal, Asherah, or any of the other pagan gods Manasseh had worshiped in his glory days. No, he “sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors” (2 Chronicles 33:12b NLT).  In his darkest moment, Manasseh prayed to God. The word used to describe Manasseh’s condition is “distress.” It can mean “to be bound or tied up.” It is a condition that leads to distress or pain. It is a circumstance that causes discomfort. With a ring through his nose and chains on his hands and feet, Manasseh was bound up and feeling down. He was broken. So he humbled himself before God. In his humiliating condition, he humbled himself. The Hebrew word for “humbled” is one that carries the idea of “bending the knee.” He willingly brought himself under subjection to God. And he did so completely. This was not some half-hearted submission to God. Manasseh’s humility is described using a Hebrew adverb meaning “completely, absolutely, or thoroughly.” Manasseh’s humility was sincere and severe. He was serious. And when he prayed, God listened. And because of his sincerity, God was moved. So moved, that He took Manasseh from Babylon and returned him to Jerusalem. He released him from the chains and bondage of the enemy and restored him to his original place on the throne of Judah. What a turnaround! What a reversal of fortune. We’re told “Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!” (2 Chronicles 33:13b NLT). His brokenness lead to an awareness of God’s power and supremacy. None of his other gods came to his aid in Babylon. No other gods were able to break the chains of bondage and humiliation. Only God.

Manasseh was a changed man. He made reforms in his life and his kingdom. He made changes to the way he lived and ruled. He removed the pagan altars and encouraged the people to worship God alone. His sinfulness had resulted in brokenness. His brokenness had resulted in humbleness. His humbleness had ultimately restored him to usefulness. Psalm 51:17 is a timeless reminder to each of us. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Brokenness is a key to humbleness, which leads to holiness. That is the story of Manasseh.

Father, I don’t like brokenness. In fact, I avoid it like the plague. I try to run away from it and escape it at all costs. But often times, the decisions I make lead to brokenness. I find myself chained and bound by my choices to disobey or disregard You. I end up bound up and feeling down. But it is at those moments that I tend to turn to You. In my distress I look to You. I am much more willing to humble myself when I have been humiliated by my poor choices and bad decisions. I am more apt to realize how much I really need You. So Father, thank You for brokenness. Never let me forget that it is a key to holiness. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 32

Be Strong and Courageous.

“‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!’ Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.” ­– 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NLT

They were surrounded by a more powerful enemy who was constantly bombarding them with demoralizing propaganda, attempting to undermine their faith in God and cause them to surrender without a fight. This enemy mocked their God and ridiculed their faith. The people suffered a steady barrage of withering scorn and disheartening news that was weakening their resolve and causing their conviction to crumble. So as their leader, King Hezekiah stepped in and offered them much-needed words of encouragement. He called them to be strong and courageous. But these weren’t just empty words or some kind of meaningless pep talk with no basis in reality. They were a reminder of the fact that “there is a power far greater on our side.” Hezekiah was trying to get the people to recognize the fact that God was greater than their circumstances. No matter how bad it looked, no matter how dire the circumstances may appear, God was more powerful. The size of Sennacherib’s army was a non-factor. The past victories of Assyria were meaningless. The taunts of the enemy were futile. As long as the people of God remembered that Yahweh was in control. Their faith had to remain firm. They had to rest in the fact that their God was big enough to handle any situation. No circumstance was too big for God.

What a timely reminder for us today, when we stand surrounded by the enemy, and bombarded by messages that question our God’s very existence. We face circumstances and situations on a daily basis that cause us to doubt and tempt us to turn away from God. The enemy is constantly whispering in our ear that our God is too small. Or He is too busy. Or He doesn’t really care. We can begin to think that our situation is too difficult for God to handle. So we either try to solve it ourselves or simply give up. It’s interesting to note that the last verse of the preceding chapter states, “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful” (2 Chronicles 31:21b NLT). And yet, he found himself surrounded by the enemy. He sought God with all his heart and still found himself under siege. He experienced success and the threat of defeat simultaneously. And yet when you and I are seeking the Lord, we seem shocked and surprised if anything unexpected or unwanted comes our way. We question the difficulties of life as if we somehow think we should be immune to them. We wonder why we are under attack when we have been trying so hard to remain faithful to God. But faithfulness to God does not guarantee an absence  of trouble. But it does provide an opportunity for our faith to be tested and God’s power to be displayed. Hezekiah was diligently working to fortify the city. He was repairing the broken sections of the walls surrounding Jerusalem. He had increased the production of military weapons. He enlarged his standing army. He took steps to defend himself and his people against the coming enemy. But then he reminded them that their real defense and protection was God Himself. He was their hope. And was their “secret weapon.” And God didn’t disappoint them. We’re told that “the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers. So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword” (2 Chronicles 32:21 NLT). The walls weren’t necessary. The weapons never made it out of their boxes. The defensive fortifications never got tested. God did it all. He provided victory without the Israelites having to lift a finger. They didn’t have to do a thing, but watch God work. Their difficulty had become an opportunity to witness the power of God on display. The enemy’s presence provided a platform on which God could demonstrate His power. Our difficulties are God’s proving ground. He shows up when things are looking down. But we must stand strong and be courageous. We must trust and believe that He is greater than our biggest problem. He is able to save. He is ready, willing and able to deliver. Our problems exist to help us recognize that He exists – to learn that there really is a power far greater on our side.

Father, may I see You in my circumstances today. May I see my problems as Your proving ground and as opportunities to watch You work. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men