I recently read the story of Rizpah from 2 Samuel 21. Her two sons were given to the Gibeonites to be executed for their father, King Saul’s, sin in transgressing the covenant between Israel and Gibeon. Rizpah can do no more than setup watch at the spot of execution, guarding the corpses from animal predators. But she does what she can and stands between those she loves and what would tear them in pieces. With the approach of a wild animal or bird, surely a cry must have risen up in her heart and she ran towards the offending creature – NOT MY SON! Certainly with tears and anguish of soul she maintains her post, watching continually…faithfully. Daily, their lifeless bodies were a reminder that they were dead. Yet she remained, determined to provide whatever manner of protection to them that she could. She watched over the dead – a bone yard guardian.
Rizpah, to me, models the work of the intercessor – standing between the dead and the powers that would tear them to pieces, that enemy that is seeking to devour. Like Rizpah, I am a bone yard guardian, standing watch over those I love who are dead in trespasses and sin. Continually and faithfully watching.
The Lord has given me the responsibility and privilege to stand watch. So I watch and pray and cry over the deadness of their souls. And in this verse I have hope:
“….God who gives life to all things….” 1 Timothy 6:13
He is the only one that can breathe life into those dead bones. He gives life and is Life.
Can these bones live? He knows. The God who gives life to all things….He knows.
Asa, King of Judah, had experienced a mighty deliverance from his enemies by the intervention of the Lord. His prayer for help is a beautifully humble cry:
“Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” 2 Chronicles 14:11
The Lord overthrew his enemies and Asa experienced rest until the 35th year of his reign, until once again an enemy arose. This time is was Baasha, king of Israel. And this time there is no humble cry to the Lord for help. Instead, he plundered the treasuries of the house of the Lord to hire the Syrian army; an army that already had a alliance with Baasha, but was willing to trade allegiance for a bit of gold.
How often does this happen to us? Some type of difficulty arises in our life and we do not seek the heavenly solution, but instead go through all sorts of conniptions to try to engage worldly resources to aid us. How foolish to turn to the world (which by the way, cannot solve it’s own problems) when all of heaven is available to us in our time of need. Yet we turn to the faithless, fickle world.
Asa got what he paid for – Baasha was defeated, but by pursuing worldly methods he forfeited victory over the Syrians.
“…Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand.” 2 Chronicles 16:7
This is the lesson for me: The enemy that you join yourself to is one that you will not have victory over. Your compromise will have further reaching implications that you might at first believe.
Let us press on in faith, fully trusting the Lord to deliver us, whatever the situation. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee
From fearing when I should aspire
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee
From subtle love of softening things
From easy choices, weakenings
Not thus are spirits fortified
Not this way went the Crucified
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me
Give me the love that leads the way
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God
“Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 20:13
The Moabites and Ammonites have gathered for battle against Jehoshapat and his army. He has proclaimed a fast and gathered all the people together to seek the Lord. Jehoshapat prays a wonderful prayer of dependence, beseeching the Lord’s help. And then we come to this verse.
The solemnity of it struck me. It was almost as if I could see the scene, and the multitude standing there silently, having heard the king’s prayer. And now they wait for the Lord’s answer. It was a holy silence that needed nothing but to hear from Him. And He did not disappoint, but sent the promise of a great deliverance.
Often I find that my prayer times are filled with my words. I will pray until I run out of things to say and then assume that prayer is over. This is not communing with God. How can I be said to have a relationship with someone when the communication is always one sided? Life seems to always be in such high gear and there is always so much to do that it is hard to slow down and wait. But OH the reward of waiting is the joy of hearing from God. He does still speak to his people. We have just forgotten that we need to listen.
Lord, help me to develop this ability of holy listening. I desperately need to hear what You are saying.
Oh Lord speak, for Your servant is listening
Your slightest whisper is manna from heaven for my needy soul
What more could I ever need in this life
If only I can walk with You
My heart cries out “that I may know You!”
Expectantly I come and pray to You
I know that You are there – Jehovah Shammah
That name is so precious to me
For I can do without many things
But I must know that You are near
When my gaze is fixed upon my heavenly Master
Only then does life make sense
So Lord, please speak, for Your servant is listening.
The book of Malachi contains the final words of God to his people prior to the initiation of the New Covenant. It was a time of lukewarm spirituality and flagrant disregard for God by His people. But as much as we would like for God to be quiet and leave us alone in our backslidings, He is faithful to give warning.
The priesthood, for the most part, had become corrupted by a casual attitude towards the sacrifices God had established for His people. He had specifically outlined through Moses what was acceptable and what was not. In the book of Malachi, God contends with these priests over their failure to adequately perform their ministry.
One has to wonder how this deterioration had happened to the priesthood. How did they lose sight of the importance of their ministry?
Were they clueless? Had they neglected the Scriptures to the point that they had no understanding of what God required?
Were they careless? Had the priestly ministry become just a job for them, with no real understanding of the significance of what they were doing?
Were they calloused? Did they just not care about the things of God at all?
The Lord says to the priests, not the people in general, but the priests, “where is my honor?” And then He gives them this command – Honor My Name. He doesn’t ask. He doesn’t beg. He commands.
He confronts their offering of blemished sacrifices, the weak and feeble of the flock. And He confronts this in us as well. Something is terribly wrong when we can offer God the leftovers of our life and be satisfied with that. Worse yet, when we think God is satisfied with that. We throw the leftover crumbs of our life to God and expect that He will be happy with whatever we give Him, like a pet, hoping for some scraps from the table.
Rather than our half-hearted offerings to Him, he prefers nothing.
“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain!” Malachi 1:10
We trifle with a God who is a great King. Do we think He does not see? Do we think He does not know the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts when we give ourselves to other things and satisfy our conscience with the meager morsels of our lives that we throw to God?
May God make us aware of every way in which we have offered Him something less than our best and may we begin to take seriously the command to honor His name.
1 Kings 12:28 “Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Jeroboam knew he had no hereditary entitlement to the throne of Israel. And because he was insecure in his position as king over the 10 tribes of Israel, he feared that if the people went to Jerusalem to worship at the temple that they would turn back to following Rehoboam. The solution? Give the people something more convenient to worship and convince them that there is no need to do such a hard thing as travel to Jerusalem. Why go to all that bother when you can worship right here at home?
Listen to his words to the people: “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.” Even though the temple in Jerusalem is where God said “I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (I Kings 9:3)
Jeroboam gave them a convenient alternative to real worship. And the people bought it and were led into idolatry which continued well beyond Jeroboam’s reign and eventually brought the judgment of God upon the nation.
I fear that we have not learned the lesson intended by this story. Still today there are those who preach a very convenient “Christianity”. There is no cross, there is no dying to self, there is no holiness, there is no Jesus.
Are we doomed to repeat the failures of the past? May God have mercy upon us and restore the real gospel of Jesus Christ to our churches. What a beautiful thing it would be to see altars flooded with those broken and repentant ones who will cry out, “Oh, that I may know Him!”
Please God, don’t let us be content to bow down to something convenient. Rescue us from the idolatry of our day.
Recently I spent some time on vacation. I spent hours and hours in prayer as I looked out onto the water. So peaceful and tranquil, calming to the soul. But sometimes a boat would pass at full speed, ignoring the “no wake zone” signs, and the water would be churned into a tumultuous froth, soon lapping at and spilling over the barriers along the shore.
As the Lord had been dealing with me for several days on the issue of disobedience and it’s destructive effects, the churning of the water seemed to mirror the troubled waters of a disobedient soul. Churning, surging against boundaries, restless and unsettled. There is no peace to a disobedient believer.
As I tearfully reflected on these things, to my shame I realized that my own disobedience exposed a lack of trust in the Lord and my lack of the fear of the Lord. It is no small matter to disobey the Lord of the entire universe and Master of my soul. The more I thought on these things, the more grievous it became to me, until I thought I would rather do anything than disobey Him. And I wondered why I had not cared more to do what pleased Him than what pleased me. Now I understood the unrest that I could not shake. I was living in the wake zone.
Psalm 23 says that He leads me beside the still waters. This is the blessing of a life of obedience. Still waters are for the obedient. All others will live in the wake zone, continually turbulent, disturbed and pounding against the boundaries.
The Lord has required obedience of His people, but He has made an obedient life to be a glorious, serene life. When we can learn to trust that all His ways are good, and higher than our ways, and that Romans 8:28 is always true, then we will be those who experience the still waters of an obedient life.