2 Chronicles 36

God Is Not Done Yet.

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you.'” ­– 2 Chronicles 36:23 NLT

All the prophecies of Jeremiah came true. Everything he had warned the people about actually took place. Judah had fallen and the people had been taken captive to Babylon. Those few who were left rebelled against the Babylonians, killing the governor appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar, and causing them to run away to Egypt for protection. The land was left desolate. “So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said” (2 Chronicles 36:21 NLT). If the book of Chronicles ended here, it would be a sad story indeed. The people were captives in a pagan land. The land itself was empty and the cities were vacant shells, devoid of life. The Temple was destroyed and the sacrificial system had been abandoned. And this would go on for 70 long years. But all during this time, God kept communicating to His people through prophets like Daniel and Ezekiel. He would continue to call them to repentance. He would continue to assure them that He was not done with them. They would one day return to the land and He would reestablish His relationship with them. The Temple would be rebuilt and sacrifices would once again be made on behalf of the people. The book of 2 Chronicles ends with the words, “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus…” (2 Chronicles 36:22 NLT).

In spite of man’s failure, God was going to prove His faithfulness yet again. He was going to fulfill what He had promised. The seventy years of captivity was up, and it was time to restore the people to the land. So God, the sovereign God of the universe, stepped into time and moved the heart of a pagan king to make a proclamation on behalf of His people. King Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, was going to be used by God to restore the people of God to the land. God had already used Persia to destroy Babylon, now He was using Persia to accomplish His will for Judah. It is amazing to read the words of a pagan king speaking on behalf of the God of Israel:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” – Ezra 1:2-4 NLT

God was going to show grace and mercy to His people once again. He was graciously going to restore them to favor and reestablish their presence in the Land of Promise. He miraculously moved the heart of a pagan king to decree not only the return of the people, but the restoration of the Temple. Cyrus would even encourage his own people to help defray the cost of the reconstruction of the Temple, as well as the expenses associated with their return trip to the land. After years of rebellion, rejection, and stubborn refusal to follow the commands of God, the people were going to experience the unmerited favor of God in an amazing way.

What an incredible reminder of the character of the God we serve. His justice required that He deal justly and rightly with the sins of His people. He could not overlook their sin. But His unfailing love was expressed through His grace and mercy as He restored them to the land and to fellowship with Him. His faithfulness required that He keep His promises, in spite of all they had done to prove their own unfaithfulness. He had to rebuke, but He also restored. He had to punish, but He also pardoned. A new chapter is about to begin in the life of the people of God. They are being given a new opportunity to serve Him. He is once again setting them apart for His service and His glory. The story is not yet over. God’s grace and mercy have not been exhausted. His patience has not run out. He remains committed to His promises and determined to complete His redemptive plan for mankind. And the same holds true today.

Father, You are not done yet. You are still at work in the world, renewing the lives of men and reestablishing a right relationship with those whom You choose. Thank You for restoring me to a right relationship with You almost 50 years ago. And thank You for the patience, mercy and grace You have shown to me over the years. You are not done with me yet, and for that I am eternally grateful. 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 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

2 Chronicles 29-31

Real Revival.

“At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord.” ­– 2 Chronicles 30:23 NLT

When I was growing up, the word revival carried a certain connotation. It was a special series of services held at the church for seven nights in a row and preached by a visiting minister. The intent was to light a fire in the lives of the people of the church, but in most cases, theses revivals were evangelistic in nature, aimed at those outside of Christ. There was a lot of singing, special music, and and always, a lengthy altar call at the end. I experienced a lot of these revivals over the years, but none ever really seemed to make much of a difference in the life of the church. Sure, they seemed to energize some of the people for a period of time, but it never seemed to last long. After the revival was over, things went back to the way they were before.

As I read about the reign of Hezekiah, I can’t help but think that what happened in his day was what real revival is all about. This is a picture of the people of God getting right with God. There is repentance involved. There is cleansing from sin required. Sacrifice is non-optional. And godly leadership set the example. Hezekiah was instrumental in making all this happen. He recognized that the nation of Israel had turned from God and had neglected their duties as His chosen people. He reminded the Levites, “My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him” (2 Chronicles 29:11 NLT). He told the people, “Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him” (2 Chronicles 29:6 NLT). Hezekiah began an aggressive plan for restoring the centrality of God in the nation of Israel. He restored the Temple. He rededicated and re-instituted the priesthood. He reestablished the sacrificial system. He called the people of Israel – in both the northern and southern kingdoms to return to God and obey His commands. All the things that had been neglected over the years were restored – including the Passover. All of this came with a cost. To restore the Temple was an expensive proposition. Hezekiah personally paid for the sacrifices of many of the people, donating 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats. The officials of Jerusalem donated another 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. This revival was not cheap. The people were required to travel to Jerusalem to make sacrifices. They had to bring offerings. They had to pay for their trips and for accommodations when they arrived. But the people brought so many gifts and offerings that special storehouses had to be built to hold it all.

The key element to this revival was not life change or spiritual renewal, but a renewed focus on God. These people had not been irreligious all these years. They had just been worshiping false gods. They had turned away from worshiping the one true God. So this revival was about returning to God and making Him he focus of their lives again. This was about relationship, not religion. They were reviving their love for and obedience to God. And it all began with Hezekiah. He provided the motivation and inspiration. “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 31:21 NLT). Revival begins in the heart. It is not an event, it’s an attitude – a desire to serve and love God regardless of the cost. It is a willingness to put God first in our lives, obeying Him willingly and eagerly. It is making Him the center of our lives and the focus of our attention. When we do that, God revives us. He restores us. He reinvigorates us.

Father, there is no doubt that we need revival among Your people today. We have become distracted and in some cases, highly religious. But we have taken our focus off of You. Bring us back to You. Raise up leaders who will call the people to repentance and renewal. May we turn away from the false gods we have set up and return to You – the one true God. May we make You the focus of our lives once again. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 28

Where Do You Turn In Times of Trouble?

“Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord.” ­– 2 Chronicles 28:22 NLT

When trouble comes, where do you turn? When difficulty shows up in your life, where do you look for answers? For Ahaz, the king of Judah, he looked anywhere and to anyone other than God. Even though most of his problems were directly related to his own rebellion against God, he just kept turning his attention elsewhere for a solution. It never seemed to cross his mind that the best solution might come in the form of repentance. He had led his people into all kinds of idolatry, including the worship of Baal, and had even practiced child sacrifice, offering up some of his own children on pagan altars in an attempt to appease the gods. As as result of his various sins, God brought punishment on Ahaz and the nation of Judah in the form of attacks by other nations. His own people were sent into exile. The northern kingdom attacked and took plunder and many of the people of Judah as slaves. But instead of turning to the Lord for help and asking for forgiveness, Ahaz turned to the king of Assyria. He makes a pact with King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria to help him fight against Edom. But instead of providing aid, King Tiglath-pileser attacks Judah. He looted the temple, the royal palace and the homes of the wealthiest people. We are told that “The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:19 NLT).

So what did Ahaz do? He offered up sacrifices to the gods of Assyria. His logic was the if their gods had given the Assyrians victory over Judah, then they must be more powerful than the God of Judah. He even shut the doors of the Temple so no one could worship there. In other words, he made it impossible for the people of Judah to worship Yahweh at all. Instead, he set up pagan altars and shrines all over Jerusalem – the city of God. The result? He incurred the wrath of God. Rather than repent, he rebelled even further, causing God to punish he and the people to an even greater degree. How stubborn can you get? How stupid can one person be? But before I judge, I had better take a long look at my own life and examine how many times I have turned to something or someone else instead of the Lord when I have encountered trouble in my life. It is so easy to see Ahaz’s sin, but overlook our own. Yet each of us is guilty of refusing God’s discipline in our lives by trying to escape it by looking for solutions that don’t include repentance and confession. We turn to the gods of this world for deliverance – money, banking, investments, hard work, self-help books, and an assorted escape mechanisms such as pleasure, entertainment, sex, drugs and alcohol. We sacrifice our kids on the altars of sports, the arts, and education. We sacrifice our marriages on the altars of success and achievement. Yet as we see throughout the stories of the kings of Judah and Israel, God is calling us to turn back to Him. He pleads with us to repent and return. He alone can provide solutions to our problems and forgiveness for our sins. He wants us to admit that we have sinned. He wants us to confess that we have rejected Him. He wants us to return to Him and accept His offer of forgiveness and love. So where will you turn today? Who will you look to when things go poorly? Will you look up? Will you turn to God? Difficulties and trials can either turn us to God or away from Him. They can wreak havoc on our faith or cause it to grow. They can drive us to the Lord or away from Him. They can and should reveal our weakness and our need for God. Use today’s troubles to turn you back to God. He is ready, willing and able to help.

Father, forgive me for the many times I have turned to someone or something else instead of You. Instead of seeing trials as a tool in Your hands to turn me back to You, I tend to try and find a way out them. I turn to other things to solve my problems. I fail to see You in them and refuse to let them turn me back to You. Open my eyes so that the difficulties of life might be opportunities to see You more clearly. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 27; Isaiah 9

A Great Light!

“‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” ­– Isaiah 9:2 NLT

They say that darkness is simply the absence of light. Darkness isn’t actually a substance. It is the lack of something. As we read through the history of Israel and Judah we see that they have, for the most part, rejected God as their King and sovereign ruler. At one point they demanded that they be given a king like all the other nations. So God gave them Saul. He proved to be just what they were asking for – a king just like all the other nations had. He was a mighty warrior, but not a man who had a heart for the things of God. So he was replaced by David, who we are told was a man after God’s own heart. But even David had flaws. He was not perfect. Yet God made a covenant with David that assured him one of his descendants would rule on the throne of Israel in Jerusalem forever. What follows is the topsy-turvy history of the kings. After the reign of Solomon, David’s son, the nation of Israel splits in two – with Israel to the north and Judah to the south. A succession of kings follow that seem to get progressively worse. Occasionally there is a glimmer of light in the midst of the darkness, but for the most part, these are not good days for Abraham’s descendants. God sends prophets with messages of judgment. He will not tolerate the sins of His people forever. His holiness demands that justice be done. Sin must be dealt with. The rebellion of His people must be quelled.

But right in the middle of all the doom and gloom we read an incredible message of hope. It reveals so much about our God. He is just and holy. He is righteous and intolerant of sin. But He is also longsuffering, patient, kind, and merciful. He is not surprised by the rebellion of His people. He is not shocked that they have turned from Him and are now serving other gods. He knew that would happen when He chose them as His own. And He also knew that if His people were going to be saved from complete annihilation, He would have to do it. They could not save themselves, because they were self-destructive. In the midst of their darkness, God was going to send a light – a great light. The people were in darkness because God had removed His presence from their midst. Their darkness was due to an absence of righteousness. It was a moral darkness. It was a blackness of the soul. And nothing the people could do would illuminate the darkness and provide light for them to see their way out. So God would provide the light for them. He would send His own Son – the light of the world (John 1:4-5). Isaiah chapter nine gives us a glimpse of God’s redemptive plan for mankind – hundreds of years before it took place. Out of Galilee would come the hope of the world. He would “break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders” (Isaiah 9:4 NLT). Jesus Himself would offer the invitation, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:18-20 NLT). Jesus came to a people who were weary from having tried to live in self-righteousness for generations. They were burdened down by religious rules and legalistic demands. They were worn out from having tried to measure up to what they believed to be God’s expectations of them. They were religious about being religious, but they were lost in the darkness of their own sin. But a light would shine. God would invade the darkness with His own presence. He would punctuate His own silence with a message of hope from the lips of His own Son.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders, And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT)

Father, without the light provided by Your Son, I would still be living in darkness. It is only His presence in my life that allows me to see at all. He provides me with light to see my own sin and my constant need of His saving grace. Thank You for illuminating the darkness of my life with the light of Your Son. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 25

Is God For You Or Against You?

“God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.” ­– 2 Chronicles 25:8b NLT

Chapter 25 of 2 Chronicles gives us some further insight into the story of King Amaziah of Judah and the events surrounding his defeat at the hands of Israel. It seems that Amaziah started off well. We’re told that he “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight,” but then we’re given the additional little caveat, “but not wholeheartedly.” He was half-hearted in his obedience, devotion, and submission to God. Sometimes he did what he was supposed to do. Other times, he did what he wanted to do. His real god seemed to be military conquest and power. He formed an army comprised of 300,000 trained men, then added to that number 100,000 more paid mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel. But a prophet of God warns Amaziah against going into battle with these Israeli soldiers on his payroll. The prophet warns him, “Your majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the Lord is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim!” (2 Chronicles 25:7 NLT). If he chooses to disobey God’s warning, he will be defeated, no matter how well armed, trained, and numerous his troops are. If he disobeys God, he will be fighting against God – and that is a no-win situation.

But it is amazing how easy it is to inadvertently do battle with God when we choose to ignore His counsel or refuse to seek His advice. He has given us His written Word, but we too often leave it out of our decision-making processes. And yet, He “has the power to help you or to trip you up.” It’s interesting that Amaziah’s first concern when given the warning by the prophet is about the money he stood to lose if he sent the Israelite troops packing. He said, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” (2 Chronicles 25:9a NLT). Wait a minute God! I stand to lose a lot of money if I listen to You! We’re talking 7,500 pounds of silver – down the drain, wasted, squandered – if I listen to God. This can’t be God’s will. It doesn’t make good financial sense. It’s fiscal suicide! But the prophet simply replies, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” (2 Chronicles 25:9b NLT). Just do it! Don’t try and rationalize your decision or justify your desire to obey God’s clear command. Remember, He has the power to help you or to trip you up. Amaziah could have used a little bit of Micah 6:8 about this time. “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you:He wants you topromote justice, to be faithful,and to live obediently before your God.” God wanted Amaziah to do the just thing, not the expedient thing. God wanted Amaziah to put his faith in Him, not an army. God wanted Amaziah to make his faith into practice by obeying instead of justifying his own actions.

And God wants the same things from you and me. It doesn’t pay to fight against God. That’s a battle you will always win. God’s ways don’t always make sense. His will is not always palatable or even enjoyable. Obeying is not always easy. But it always pays. It always brings blessing. God has the power to help us or trip us up. His will always wins out. We will never lose if we always obey. Our obedience may cost us, but He will make up any loss we suffer in ways we could never even imagine. Jesus put it this way, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matthew 16:25 NLT). We never lose with God on our side.

Father, why would I ever willfully choose to leave You off my team? It just makes no sense. But I do it every single day in a variety of ways. I rationalize, justify, ignore, and avoid Your divine will in order that I can do my own. I decide that Your way is too costly and then learn the hard way that disobedience carries a much higher price in the long run. Father, You have the power to help me or trip me up. Why would I ever choose the latter over the former? I know. Pride. Continue to deliver me from myself.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 24

A Sign of Things To Come.

“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!” ­– 2 Chronicles 24:22 ESV

Christ, the living Word of God, fills the written Word of God from beginning to end. He is revealed in a variety of types and forms throughout the pages of the Old Testament. It is essentially the story of redemption – God delivering His people from their slavery to sin and providing them with salvation. The undeserved grace and mercy of God can be seen everywhere. His repetitive use of a savior to rescue His people is a common theme. And here is the story of King Joash, we see the rejection of the savior. King Joash had been rescued from sure death at the hands of his power-hungry grandmother, Athaliah. She had had all his sibblings murdered so that she would have clear access to the thrown after the death of her son, Ahaziah. But Joash had been hidden by Jehoiada the high priest in the temple for seven years. Then at the age of seven, Joash had been crowned king of Israel and Athaliah had been executed for her crimes. And all the years that Jehoiada was alive he provided Joash with counsel and wisdom so that his reign was a righteous one. But when Jehoiada dies, Joash turns away from the wise counsel of Jehoiada and succumbs to the wicked counsel of men. He forgets all that Jehoiada had done for him – the grace and mercy he had shown him all those years ago. He forgets that it was Jehoiada who made it possible for him to live and take the throne of Israel.

So God sends the son of Jehoiada to call him to repentance. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, is given a message from God to the people. “Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says: Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands so that you cannot prosper? You have abandoned the LORD, and now he has abandoned you!'” (2 Chronicles 24:20 NLT). But his message was not well-received. Neither the people of Joash like what Zechariah has to say, so Joash commands that he be put to death – stoned in the middle of the courtyard of the temple itself. The messenger of God is killed.

Fast-forward. The people of God have rejected the wisdom and will of God again. Their rebellion has resulted in the occupation of their land by the hated Romans. They are an oppressed, yet proud people. And into their midst, God sends His own Son, Jesus Christ, to bring them a message of repentance. The very one who had rescued them from captivity and given them a land they did not deserve, had been rejected by them. So He sends His Son with a message for them to hear. And their response? They kill Him. Unlike Zechariah, Jesus came with a message of hope and salvation. He brought good news of great joy to all people. He offered a means for them to receive forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with God – that was not tied to them keeping the Law, but was a free gift based solely on faith. Yet they still killed the messenger. The killed the Messiah. They rejected the very one who brought the answer to their problems and the solution to their sins. And we still reject Him today. Even those of us who have placed our faith in Christ for salvation can end up rejecting Him on a daily basis. We reject His wisdom. He reject His leadership. We reject His call to holiness. We reject His offer of sanctification and heart transformation. Instead, we try to change ourselves and work our way toward righteousness. We demand to do things our own way. We listen to the advice of the world and reject the word and wisdom of God. And we suffer the consequences. But if we listen, we will learn. If we obey, we will be blessed. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, we will continue to be changed – radically. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Father, You sent Your Son to save. You sent Him to provide life more abundantly. But we have to listen. Not just to His offer of salvation, but to His call to sanctification. He wants to transform us into His likeness. He wants to make us increasingly more into His image. We have His Spirit living within us, but we have to listen to the voice of His Spirit speaking to us each and every day. Don’t let us be like Joash and reject the message of God given through the messenger of God. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 22-23

Yawheh Has Given.

“Joash remained hidden in the Temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled over the land.” ­– 2 Chronicles 22:12 NLT

It would be easy to read the story of the kings of Judah and Israel and become disheartened by all the treachery, idolatry, murder, and unfaithfulness. It seems with each passing chapter, the kings get worse and the story gets more depressing. Each king seems to take the sins of his predecessor one step farther. Even in chapter 22 of 2 Chronicles we see Ahaziah, the king of Judah destroyed by God for his sins. We also read of the destruction of Joram, king of Israel at the hands of Jehu, a man appointed by God for that duty. God seems to be cleaning house. But at the same time, God is preparing the way for Him to keep the covenant He had made with Israel through David – a promise that would ultimately be fulfilled through a descendant of David – Jesus Christ. But for that to happen, the line of David had to be preserved. And in this story we see God intervene and provide salvation and deliverance in a way that is eerily reminiscent of how He did it back in the days of Moses.

It seems that after Ahaziah is killed by Jehu, Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah determines to make herself the queen of Judah. After all, she had essentially been running the nation when Ahaziah was alive, providing him with wicked counsel. So when he died, she promptly had all the royal offspring of Ahaziah murdered. In other words, she killed all her own grandchildren! This woman made Jezebel look like Mary Poppins. But remember, Ahaziah is off the line of David. His children would be required to keep that line alive. If Athaliah was allowed to destroy them, God’s plan and promise would be thwarted. But God had another idea. He did something He had done before and would do again. He spared the life of one child so that He could be the savior of others. When news of Athaliah’s plot to kill all the children of Ahaziah gets out, a nurse made takes Joash and hides him in the temple of God. Then Jehoida, the high priest, comes up with a plan to provide him with around-the-clock protection using Levites and priests as the armed guards. Then six years later, they would take Joash and anoint him king of Judah.

Jehoida the high priest not only provided protection for the king, he destroyed Athaliah and began a campaign to restore the worship of Yahweh in Judah. After Joash was crowned as the only living member of David’s line, Jehoida renews the covenant between God, the king, and the nation. Then he has the temple and priest of Baal destroyed. He also reinstituted the sacrificial system and the Levitical priesthood. He helped prepare the people of Judah for the reign on Joash. But God was behind it all. He had helped spare the life of this one child, much like He had spared the life of Moses and He would spare the life of Jesus in years to come. Joash would become a savior of the people of Judah, much like Moses had been and Jesus would ultimately be. As we will see in the following chapters, Joash would live up to his name, “Yahweh has given,” because he would be a man who followed after God and would do what was right in the sight of the Lord. He would be a breath of fresh air in the stench that surrounded the people of God in those days. Through Joash God was giving the people a respite from the sin and rebellion. Joash would be a light in the darkness. He would act as God’s deliverer for forty years. Even in the midst of all the sin and suffering, God would deliver. He would provide a savior. Not because the people deserved it, but because He is faithful to keep His promises. What a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God provided a light in the darkness. In the midst of despair, God provided hope and a way of deliverance. He is faithful. He has given.

Father, thank You for the story of Joash. It is a reminder of just how good and gracious You are and always have been. You always provide a way out. You are the deliverer. You are always saving and providing a way of escape. And You always keep Your promises. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men