Links Daily Devotional

What Guarantees?

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. (2 Chronicles 32:1, NIV)

If ever you could look at the deeds of a man and say he “lived for God,” it was Hezekiah.

This later king of Judah rejected the false gods of the nations around him, turned the people to the Word of the Lord, and committed to the worship of God. Here was a man who deserved what we might call the reward of smooth sailing. What he got was an invasion of his land, the discomfort of a siege, and mockery against his rule and his God.

Maybe we do well to just go ahead and say it: there are no guarantees.

Last weekend, together with several Links Fellowship leaders from Tennessee, Maryland, and Kentucky, I had a round of golf that looked like this. For seven holes my drives sailed down the middle and my approach shots landed on or near the greens. Yet I’d covered my handicap in just two holes and I walked off the seventh green eight over par. Yikes!

Golf is good for us in that way. It reminds us that the control we’re sure we have is only an illusion.

In golf and in life, this is especially challenging when we seem to be doing it right—worshiping, honoring, loving Jesus. Why do trials come to us then? It’s a strain of what theologians call theodicy, the question of evil when God is supposed to be good.

This is where the account of Hezekiah is so informative, especially when it comes to his response to the difficulties that literally marched right up to him.

When Sennacherib’s forces thundered into Judah, Hezekiah might have fallen back and cried a hearty “Why?” in the direction of God. And while he may well have asked this question in his prayers, it in no way stopped him from setting forth in doing what he was so good at doing: the right thing. He cut off the water supply of his enemy, fortified the city’s defenses, armed the people, and stood his ground.

As the days went on, the situation grew increasingly desperate, but Hezekiah leaned more on the Lord, crying out to him in prayer, and just when the end looked near, the Lord himself killed off Sennacherib’s army in the night.

What was all this for, the great difficulty laid down on a righteous man? It shows us three things. First, true righteousness is not an esoteric idea; it is executed in practical action. Second, righteousness shines brightest when the trouble around it is acute. And third, God works overall not for our ease but for his glory.

In the end, Hezekiah’s reward was doubled—for he was both safe and honored. But the victory belonged to God, along with the spoils of praise and worship.

Jeff Hopper
October 23, 2013
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