"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Raising The Standard - Iniative Is Responding Quickly And Wisely To Situations Of Danger

Pride prompted a king to reveal the riches and strength of his nation. His inability to respond quickly and wisely to the situation brought a severe rebuke from God's prophet. The leader's unwise divulgence jeopardized the kingdom and caused him to lose favor with God.
How Does Scripture Illustrate Initiative in Responding to Danger? A curious delegation made its way down the road to the capital city. Each man was arrayed in royal apparel. Behind them were beasts of burden loaded with supplies and a gift for the king.
Their visit was designed to remove any suspicion that they were on a spying mission. When they reached the palace they bowed low before the king and explained the purpose of their visit. They told the king that the ruler they served had heard that he was sick but that he had recovered. The ruler wanted to express good wishes by sending him a gift. In that moment the king might have become suspicious. Could it be that this group came to see whether or not his kingdom would be apotential ally in their future? He sensed the need to take the initiative and prove to his visitors that his kingdom was strong. But he did a very unwise thing. He gave them a tour of the entire palace and showed them all the priceless treasures of gold, silver and precious stones. They where overwhelmed with wonder and awe. He thought to himself, "If they are impressed with this, wait until I show them my other treasures." He led them to his secret storehouses in various parts of his domain. They eagerly listened, looked and later made notes of all they had seen. As they left the city an uneasy feeling crept over the king. Just then the prophet arrived and asked, "What did these men say to you, and where are they from?" The king tried to reassure the prophet and also himself. "They are from a far country, even from Babylon." "What did they see in your house?" The king replied, "All the treasures that are in my house they have seen,. There is nothing I have not shown them." With a grieved expression the prophet informed him, "The day will come when all that is in your house shall be carried into Babylon. Nothing shall be left." What must have saddened the prophet even more was that the king had failed to show those visitors the true strength of the kingdom. He could have shown them a huge pile of rocks by the river Jordan. These were placed there as a memorial by the twelve tribes wehn God parted the sea and led them into the land to conquer their enemies. He could have shown them rubble from walls of Jericho which fell outward at the command of God. He could have shown them a sun dial that God had turned back ten degrees. This was the sign that God gave him that he would become well and live fifteen more years. In previous years, this king, Hezekiah, had sought the lord with all his heart, and God had mightily rewarded him with riches and honor. When the ambassadors came from Babylon the king failed to draw their attention to a living God who was leading His people. Had he taken the initiative to show them the evidence of God's power rather than the accumulation of his wealth, the visitors might have left with a very different impression of the strength of the nation. (From Isaiah 39)
Why Did Hezekiah Give His Visitors Such An Extensive Tour?
When Hezekiah received a fifteen-year extension of his life from the Lord, he resumed ambitious plans to restore the empire. Because of his successful stand against Assyria he received many valuable gifts from the surrounding nations and his fame grew (2 Chronicles 32:23). As a result, he had accumulated vast amounts of food, animals, silver, gold and precious stones (2 Chronicles 32:27-28). When the Babylonian delegation visited his kingdom, he recognized the potential of a mutually benefieial economic and military alliance. He may have recalled Solomon's strategy with the queen of Sheba and the tour he gave her in an effort to seal a trade agreement (1 Kings 10:1-13). He was trying to impress his visitors with the fact that he was a king prophitable to do business with. Hezekiah was motivated by pride.
Why Was the Lord Disappointed with Hezekiah?
We learn in 2 Chronicles 32:31 that the visitors from Babylon provided the Lord with a test to discern Hezekiah's ehart. Isaiah had warned the nation of Judah not to negotiate a treaty with Egypt (Isaiah 30:1-7; 31:1-3). To do so would suggest to the world that the Lord was not able to protect His own people. For Hezekiah to make a treaty with Babylon would indicate the same thing. At this time Hezekiah had become proud of his great wealth, and his heart was lifted ukp (2 Chronicles 32:25). He refused to resist the temptation to multiply untu himself silver and gold (cf. Deuteronomy 17:17). His great zeal for the Lord had turned into personal ambition, and the Lord had to send Isaiah to rebuke him.
What Were the consequences of Hezekiah's Indiscretion?
Isaiah the prophet told Hezekiah that because of his actions he would share in the responsibility for the future Babylonian captivity. Though he would be spared, his descendants would become captives in the balace of Babylon (2 Kings 20:16-18). It was an amazing prophecy since Babylon was then under the control of the Assyrians. We can only imagine that the visitors returned with word of the tremendous wealth of Judah. A century later when Nebuchadnezzar was increasing the treasures of Babylon, he no doubt knew of the prizes he would find in Jerusalem. He not only sacked the city of most of its valuables but also turned the princes over to the master of his household (Daniel 1:1-4). About twenty years later, he returned to completely destroy Jerusalme at which time the land was stripped of all the remaining treasures of which Hezekiah had been so proud (2 Kings 25:8-17). A solitary bird, the long-legged sandpiper can be seen as it runs along the shoreline with its peculiar teetering motion, pausing periodically in search for insects and crustaceans. Eighteen inches in size, the sandpiper is probably the most familiar of all shorebirds inhabiting ponds, lakes and streams throughout North America.
How Does the Sandpiper Illustrate the Need for Initiative in Responding to Danger? Eagerly flying northward during the protective hours of darkness, the spotted sandpiper was one of the first species to make its way to the transitional zone in some early spring.
Inconspicuously arriving on the shoreline of a northern lake, the sandpiper danced along water's edge, bobbing and teetering with its head lowered and positioned forward in a search for food. Anxious to begin nesting, the bobbing little bird frequently called a loud, "hoy, hoy, weet, weet, weet" which advertised its availability and whereabouts to any prospective partner. Three days passed before its call was acknowledged by a member of its own species. Jumping on a log, the eager courter thrust its head high in the air, raised its wings and spread its tail feathers, emitting loud cries. In an amusing way it pranced in front of its partner and attempted to gain approval by repeatedly making short hops on the surface of the log. Once the suitor gained acceptance, the brief courtship culminated and the business of constructing a crude nest was undertaken. Selecting a spot on a high sandy knoll close to the water, a shallow depression was scratched in the loose surface to cradle four eggs. Once they hatched both parents took turns in the duties of incubation. Food was plentiful. It was a mild spring with very little rain. All the elements were favorable and would have been perfect had it not been for the mink which slipped toward the shoreline of the lake one late May afternoon. Spotting this dreaded enemy, the sandpiper huddled close to the eggs and froze in position. Systematically the mink explored the shoreline in an effort to detect a movement or telltale scent which would betray the presence of prey. Unsuccessful in its search, the hungry and disappointed predator skirted the shoreline and headed towards the knoll where the sandpiper's nest was situated. The parent bird lay motionless as if frozen to the nest. Although the intruder was dangerously close, it remained unaware of the bird and its nest. But the frightened sandpiper could remain still no longer. It suddenly startled the mink with a commotion of fluttering wings and plaintive cries as it stopped in its tracks, saw the bird and with keen eyes discovered the nest because of the revealing flight of the parent. It quickly moved in and destroyed the eggs, crushing the embryonic life of the soon-to-be hatched sandpipers. If the parent had responded wisely to the dangerous situation, the nest would have survived the threat of the mink's attack. Even that day, the elements of nature were in the favor of the prowling predator. Had the bird only known to remain motionless, this stealthy hunter would have continued on its way, oblivious to the presence of the nest.
A Fisherman's Catch Initiative can be demonstrated in many different ways. The ability to respond quickly and wisely is not limited to situations of danger but can also find expression in gratefulness. In this incident the spotted sandpiper takes initiative to show gratitude, momentarily removing barriers of secrecy and fear.
Returning to camp after a week's stay on a remote island in the northern wilderness, two fishermen made their way to an inlet to moor their canoe. As they approached the bank, a fluttering noise in the brush caught the attention of one of the men. After reaching the shore, they headed toward the bush for a closer look. There a frightened sandpiper struggled hopelessly twisted and suspended by a tangled network of nylon line which had been thoughtlessly left on the shore by a previous party. The bird dangled in the air. Its frenzied efforts to escape only twisted the net more tightly to the point that the bird was strangling itself against the cord. Stooping down, one of them gently cradled the helpless sandpiper in his hand and reached for a pocket knife. He carefully cut away the interwoven cord. after the bird was released and the nylon was unwrapped from its body, the man cupped the fragile sandpiper in his hand and quietly stroked its breast feathers. The bird became motionless. Sensing that it had quieted and regained its composure, he gently set it on the ground. Both men stepped back to watch. The bird ran a few feet. Then it suddenly stopped. It turned around to face the fishermen and began its characteristic teetering. Astonished at the bird's apparent gesture of gratitude, they watched for a few more moments and then walked away. A few hours later they returned to the canoe after dinner and stopped at the beach to look for their former ward. To their amazement, the rescued bird had four fluffy chicks, no larger than half dollars, parading along the shoreline in front of them. The female made no effort to conceal or protect herself or her young. During their entire stay on the island, there had been no evidence to reveal that a family of shorebirds shared their limited quarters. After this unusual display, the men could only surmise that the uncharacteristic behavior was indeed a demonstration of gratitude on the part of the sandpiper.

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