“Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. …And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not. He smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.” II Kings 18:1, 3-8
Lately, I have found myself besieged by both Sennacherib (the King of Assyria) without and the Philistines within. It has been a tough situation, with battles both won and lost, in a spiritual war which wages all around. I have to say, I am grateful to The Lord on high that I cannot actually see the angels and demons around me. It would be fearful to see both the glorious majesty of the angelic host and the gruesome menace of the demonic hoards. I believe I very well would be frozen by that fear and unable to properly and purposefully maneuver through this life. Praise God for what we don’t see!
Though Sennacherib seems mightier than I, and I am constantly embattled with the forces of this world coming against me in spirit on the outside, it’s those Philistines within me that are the worst. There are those Goliaths that march within the walls of the my temple, my fenced Jerusalem, that have caused more problems than any demon ever could. Those Goliaths, each and every one, are the many facets of my old man, trying to resurface. Like zombies, they emerge and walk around causing trouble by voicing their demands and desires. They chatter constantly, and sometimes they take command of the control room. It’s in those times that I find myself saying or doing things that do not glorify God, and in fact, I dishonor Him. And so, I come to these verses and I see my own life.
It’s coming up on three years since I first accepted Jesus into my heart and life, much like the reign of Hoshea in Israel at this time. And now, having brought back in some wrong things and having done others, like Hezekiah’s father before him, I find myself an awakening Hezekiah, son of Ahaz. And what did he do as soon as he received control of the kingdom? He cleaned house.
Everything which was not of God was thrown out and/or destroyed. All of the altars were removed. An altar can be anything. It is what robs our focus from Jesus Christ. It is what we dwell on more than we dwell on God. Take for example a devout husband, who loves his wife outwardly, and does all of the right things publicly. He seems like he is honoring his wife, but all the while, she is feeling neglected. He spends many hours working overtime, away from home, and when the guys ask him to join them for drinks after work, he chooses them over going straight home. Or maybe it’s not even that. Maybe it’s just that she has gained some weight and he is upset about such a trivial thing and he does not love her as fully as he should because he is loathing her weight gain, and as a result, he doesn’t touch her like he used to. Do you see? The stupidest thing can draw our love away. He may have felt like he needed to work to be able to buy his wife things, but all she ever wanted in the first place was simply him. He may love her, but when she got a little bigger, we found that he withheld his love for what she could give him.
God should be our all in all, because He is God, and God is Love. Everything and anything that distracts from Him has got to go. It shouldn’t be what God can give us. It shouldn’t be that God can make us prosperous. It is simply God. He asks nothing from us, just us. That’s it. He wants all of who we are. In that, He will use us for the benefit of the kingdom. But, we have to be clean. We have to want Him more than we want anything else. We must trust in The Lord like no other. Even that old rugged cross. Yes, the Cross is the means by which we receive what God has for us, but the Cross is not God. We must know the Cross. We must acknowledge the Cross. We must proclaim the Cross, but as the only means. It is still God Who provides, Who creates, Who loves, Who is the Sole Reason for our even being able to be here to choose Him. And, so even the brazen serpent had to go, because it was being worshipped. The Cross still stands, but once we know it as the means, we must merely go to it to lay down our sins, in confession and repentance, and then step into the holy of holies wherein is God.
Then, with all laid down, house cleansed, temple doors open and ready, prepared by the Holy Spirit’s work within us, God will make those changes we desire in furthering our walk and bringing us closer to Himself. He will do what He says. Especially, ridding us of our Philistines who plague our thoughts and spirits. As James explains in his epistle, faith produces good works. If we trust in God, He will be faithful to make those changes in us and strengthen us from within to be able to withstand the day and to win the battles. We need but to confess and repent, following His urging through the Holy Spirit. Then we can overcome, through Him, our rising old man, and put him down again. With God in our corner, urging us and empowering us, we can cleanse the temple. We can deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Him, the God-Man Jesus, loving God and loving others.
May we be like Hezekiah and trust in The Lord God of Israel that there be none like us as we allow the Spirit given unto us, placed within us, to guide and direct our every decision. Praise God for seven times seventy, and more than that, for eternal grace, mercy, compassion, and love. Mercy, grace, and the peace of The Lord be upon you all. Amen.