In the Game of Chess—God Wins!

God is the master chess player

Isaiah 36-37 “The Taunts of the Enemy”

In the 30’s Al Capone ruled Chicago. He taunted those who did not want to pay him for protection, and if they didn’t, he took note and sent his thugs to “take care of the problem.” Sennacherib was the Capone Hezekiah faced.  His thugs were Rabshakeh and his contingent. They mocked God and repeated “Capone/Sennacherib’s” words: “what is your source of confidence….in whom are you trusting.”  They surmised that Hezekiah would then be shaking in his boots and succumb to their threats. Hezekiah’s advisors Eliakim and Hilkiah returned to Hezekiah with their clothes torn as a sign they were demoralized just as Rabshekah had hoped.

This time Hezekiah took the letter with its demands to the Lord in the Temple. Isaiah the prophet told him because this time he sought God’s help,  He would bless him. God would put hooks in the jaws of this “Capone” and send him packing back to his home country but not before God would provide evidence that He alone was God. 

God gave Hezekiah three principles that teach us truths about living in a “Capone” world. Vs 31: remain steadfast—Paul said much the same in 1Cor 15: 58. Secondly, take root where you are; Col 2:7 firm in your faith and thirdly bear fruit; Matt 3:8 that proves your repentance.

Checkmate: God will always have the last move.   

God can be trusted

God can be trusted

Isaiah 30 to 34 “So return to God”

God speaks to His children through Isaiah: woe to you who make alliances with those who are not My Sheep. You are a rebellious people who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord. You are saying we don’t want to hear any more about the Holy One of Israel. Don’t prophesy to us what is right but speak to us of pleasant words. Does this not sound just like today? 

“For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.”  [2Ti 4:3] 

God asked his people: “What did you not learn after 430 yrs. of bondage? These are the very ones who held you captive, and only after ten plagues did they release you!” Their gods did not save them, and they won’t save you. So why do you trust in them instead of the Holy One of Israel?  Have you forgotten this? “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” [Prov 29:25]

Isaiah’s words are pertinent today. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22 If you are like these to whom Isaiah was speaking, return to Him, and trust Him. He alone is God. He is waiting.

Our Plans vs. God’s Plans

God's Plans

Hosea 1-7   How often do we make plans without consulting God? But, if we were to consult God, He would answer us: “for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.”  [Is 5:9] Did you grab that idea? God’s plans are superior to ours. How can we then explain the plans for Hosea? God said to go and marry a prostitute! How is that superior? What were God’s plans for him? God wanted to have a visual picture for the nation of Israel who followed the ways of Jeroboam, and so God would use Hosea to present a picture of their unfaithfulness. Is it hard to wrap your mind around that?

What else did God want Hosea to know? “Although it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘You are children of the living God!’: [Hosea 1:10] Although, like Hosea, we can’t see the future, God has it in his sovereign control. He has a plan that is beyond what we can ask or think.  In the meantime, as we follow the prophet Hosea we read that he marries and then becomes a single parent when his wife, Gomer, flees.

Do you say when things like this happen, where is God in this picture? Beloved, He is in the same place he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Trust Him!  

Celebrating and Communion

are we ready to celebrate

2Chron 30 As we have seen in our own country, it takes a lot of preparation to prepare for a party, especially when a new leader and a new regime are installed. It was no different when Hezekiah took the throne upon his father’s passing. As part of his new regime, Hezekiah invited the entire nation from N and S to celebrate the Passover, but his invitation was rejected. In fact, the people mocked and ridiculed the messengers he sent.  

 Back in Judah, the people united, and they removed the false altars and threw them in the Kidron valley.  Hezekiah prayed for those who were “unclean,” and the Lord forgave them because although unclean ceremonially, they were determined to follow God.  

 The Israelites in Jerusalem observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. They chose to be joyful even though others chose not to come. The Levites and priests were praising the Lord every day with all their might.

 Some applications from this passage for today.  Before we celebrate Communion, do we stop and ask if there are any idols we need to discard? Do we stop and “examine [ourselves] first,” [1Cor 11:28] Are we ready to observe and willing to consecrate ourselves to the Lord?  Do we pray for those who are determined to follow God?

What are you trusting in?

what are you trusting

Isaiah 25 What are we trusting in?

Isaiah is looking into the future, and he sees that God is God and He alone should be praised. Men seek self-salvation and praise for themselves. Why trust in idols, for they fail every time. This reminds us of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah asked the question we all need to ask: “If the Lord is the true God, then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!” [1Kings 18:21]

Where is our focus; on God or the dead idol? Jeremiah wrote: “Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. They cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them because they cannot hurt you. And they do not have any power to help you.” [Jer 10:5]

The truth is this: Vs. 4 God protects the innocent who are poor and needy Vs. 5 He humbles the boasting of foreigners [Is 25] and this is also true; one day God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace and they then they will say look here is our God. They will say we waited and He delivered [Is 25:9]

 Are we waiting for God or seeking help from worthless idols?

Are you ready to meet God?

God is clear - He will return

Isaiah 13-17 What gives you a thrill? What heightens your anxiety? Isaiah as God’s servant reveals to us the man without God. God has spoken, and it will come to pass.

Yesterday we read about King Ahaz and how he trusted in Assyria to protect him, but in the end, that plan failed. These chapters reveal the consequence of trusting in anything other than God’s plans.

The graphic picture of King Ahaz should tell us the consequence of misplaced trust. It is interesting to read that the warriors who will come against these nations that oppressed Israel didn’t care a whit about gold or silver; it was just the nation’s conquest and the killing of people. This is a tragic picture of men who care nothing about God and only lust for power, which comes through death. It is like reading of that young man who killed two on the golf course and left his truck running there. Then, when another golfer came to ask him to move his truck, he killed him. Why? Just for the thrill of it. That is the graphic picture here.

Oh God, come quickly! Are we ready? That is the message Isaiah is trying to get across to the people of Judah. It is the same message to us today as we live in such turbulent times.

Are we faithful to God?

are we faithful

2 Kings 16 King Ahaz goes down in history as one of Judah’s worst kings. This chapter is a must-read for any leader to see how quickly one can move from faithfulness to compromise. The list of Ahaz’s sins is like reading the seven deadly sins of the Hollywood elite.  It begins with “he did and he did” and finally ends with “he died and was buried.”

  • Ahaz rejected (Lev 18:21
  • He offered sacrifices & burned incense on the high places
  •  He presented himself as a servant and dependent on an enemy
  •  He bribed the Assyrian king and opened the door for him to conquer Israel whom he promptly deported.
  •  He had built an altar just like the Assyrian’s.
  •  He moved the bronze altar that stood in the Lord’s presence from the front and put it on the north side of the new altar. AND the priest consented as the king requested. The high priest, unfortunately, cooperated with the king!
  •  He removed the Sabbath awning.

When we read this list, we say, I would NEVER do that, but is that true? Malachi wrote about this same problem.  Do we offer our best to God?  We say I would NEVER compromise but do we? Does God present an opportunity to witness, but we take the easy way out?  We say that we would NEVER build altars, but do we try to keep up with the neighbor next door?

Remember Paul’s warning: “And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” [2Cor 6:15]

Angering & Returning to God

God is waiting for us to return to Him

2 Kings 16-17; 2 Chronicles 28 God has his prophets, His Word, and the witnesses of even His enemies to remind us of the truth: obey God, and He will bless. It seems that this is the message we all need to hear. God will use even our enemies to remind us of His truth, yet we all, with hardened hearts, ignore Him and His Word.  King Ahaz is a perfect example. King Ahaz was not a good king and these chapters.   “In every city throughout Judah he set up high places to offer sacrifices to other gods. He angered the Lord God of his ancestors.”

[2Chron 28:25] God is a jealous God, and He will not share His glory with another, but men continue to ignore Him and His principles. Return to me, says the Lord God, and He will turn to you. “The Lord your God is merciful and compassionate; he will not reject you if you return to him.” [2Chron 30:9]

If you have walked away or turned from Him, take heart, and return to Him that He may bless you is a truth that we all need to hear and to apply.

Do you know what your job is?

What is your job? It is to pray

Amos 7 to 9, “Never Underestimate the Power of One Praying Person”

God asks the sheepherder Amos: Can two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? It is a rhetorical question, of course.  Later, as Amos walked the halls of King Amaziah’s palace, he “saw” God making locusts that would devour the crops, followed by fire to consume the fields as a consequence of unfaithfulness. Amos’ heart broke for the nation.  As we look about us and see the sin of our nation, is our heart broken? Do we plead with God as Amos did? 

Amos prayed that the Sovereign Lord forgive Israel for they were weak. It must have knocked Amos off his feet to hear God say that He had decided it would not happen—more than once!  Yet God did and does bring consequences to unrepentant people. The people would experience not just a physical famine but a spiritual famine to get their attention.   He said they would wander about looking for a message from the Lord, but He would be silent. That is the consequence for an unrepentant people.

What does this mean to us today? It means you can be like an Elijah or an Amos. God is listening to your petitions, and He will respond—sometimes He may even change his plan, but sometimes He executes His plans because He sees no repentance.   Remember our Savior who told a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. [Luke 18:1]

Our job is to pray and leave the results to God.

Beware of Fame

Fame is Fleeting

2Kings 14, 2Chron 26 You have heard this phrase: “the apple never falls far from the tree.” We find the truth of that parable in the life of King Uzziah, the son of Amaziah. Amaziah had a problem with pride, and Uzziah, it seems, had the same problem. So whereas many wanted to see the death of Amaziah and sent assassins to carry out that dastardly deed, they looked up to his son Uzziah (also called Azariah).

Uzziah was a good king for many years. He did what the Lord desired, and he reigned for 52 yrs. He did what the Lord approved just as his father Amaziah did…BUT. There is that little word again to draw our attention to the whole story. What happened after the “BUT?” The author of 2Kings doesn’t tell us the entire story, but the Chronicler does.  It seems that, like Amaziah, he had a problem with pride. He became very famous and powerful, and BUT, (there is that little word again BUT) once powerful, his pride destroyed him. His undoing was fame. He thought he could do not only what a king does but also what a priest does. So there is a lesson here for us; beware of fame because it becomes a temptation. Remember, these wise words: After pride came, disgrace followed; but wisdom came with humility.” [Prov 11:2]

Will Uzziah’s son learn from his grandfather and father? Stay tuned.