"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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Raising The Standard: Flexibility Is Changing Plans If Unexpected Conditions Require It

A son will often try to be strong where his father was weak, but if he is bitter, his attitudes or actions will become just like his father's. Bitterness is the result of not recognizing the hand of God working through our enemies. A twenty-five year old king tried to be strong where his father was weak, but there was bitterness in his heart. This man viewed the enemies of his father as independent agents. They were actually individuals whom God stirred up to reprove his father who had rejected the Word and counsel of the Lord. This bitterness decreased his ability to see God's power and program and forced him to rely on his own strength. The tragic result was an inability to be flexible when conditions required it.
How Does Scripture Illustrate The Need To Change Plans If Unexpected Conditions Require It? It is always difficult to be flexible when we have set our affections on the plans that we have made. It is even more difficult when changing plans will mean financial loss. Who in Scripture was asked to change his plans when it would cost him a great amount of money to do so? King Amazhiah.
A twenty-five year old son ascended to the throne of his assassinated father. He purposed that his reign as king would not be marred by the problems that caused his father's downfall, but there was bitterness in this son's heart. Bitterness will cloud a man's ability to reason and decrease his spiritual vision. As soon as the kingdom was established, this son avenged the death of his father. Those who had killed him were clearly guilty, but there was no mention of remorse or repentance for his father's sin which had precipitated the murder. His father had conspired against and killed a faithful prophet of God. That prophet earnestly warned the king to change his course of action so that God could prosper the kingdom. This young son now directed his energies to the task of strengthening his kingdom. He organized the entire nation militarily. Then he hired 100,000 allied soldiers to join forces with them against an enemy. Just before the invasion, a prophet of God warned the king that he must change plans which had been made. "Let not these men whom you have hired go with you for the Lord is not with them. If they go with you, you will fall before your enemy for God has the power to help and to cast down." The king knew that the prophet was right, but he struggled with the thought of changing his plans. They had been so carefully devised and so costly to initiate. "What about the money I have already paid to the soldiers?" The prophet assured him, "The Lord is able to give you much more than this." It is not a small matter to send home 100,000 hired soldiers. Having set their hearts on the battle and the rewards it might bring, they were disappointed when plans were changed. Because their desire for battle and the spoils of war was great, they attacked and plundered many cities on their way home, infuriating the young king. His own military campaign was a success without the hired troops. The enemy was conquered --- ten thousand enemy soldiers were killed in battle; ten thousand were led captive to the top of a cliff and pushed over the precipice. Their bodies were broken and crushed on the rocks below. After the king returned from the victorious campaign, he was rebuked by a prophet of God. "Why have you sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of your hand?" This young king was guilty of the same sin his father had committed years earlier. He brought home the false gods of the nation he conquered and began to worship them. An angry reply revealed that he was not prepared to heed the warning. "Have you been appointed to be my counselor? Stop speaking, or I will kill you." This proud king who was unwilling to admit that he was wrong now made plans of revenge against the nation whose soldiers he had hired earlier. The king of Israel rebuked him for making these plans of battle and advised him to stay at home. But the unyielding king disregarded the warning. He persisted in his plan, engaged in battle, and was defeated. Discontent grew within his land and, like his father, he was assassinated. This king showed promising signs of wise flexibility in his early years, but the more he turned from God the less able he was to change plans which were contrary to the will of God. Amaziah was willing to be flexible if the price wasn't too high, but in the end he lost his treasures, his kingdom, and his life by not changing plans. (From 2 Kings 14:1-20 and 2 Chronicles 25)
Why Didn't Amaziah Want To Dismiss The Mercenaries?
When the man of God told Amaziah to fight without the hired reinforcements, the king's first protest was that the payment of one hundred talents of silver would be lost. This sizable expenditure from the already impoverished treasury would constantly remind the leaders of Amaziah's foolish and hasty decision. If they lost the battle, it would have made him look even worse in their eyes. Further, Edom had revolted before under King Jehoram who had possessed a much larger army than Amaziah. Despite an army of over one million fighting men which Jehoram inherited from his father, he still had been unable to subdue Edom (cf. 2 Chronicles 17:14-18). The extra 100,000 men, no doubt Israel's finest professionals, would be a boost to the Judean army's morale. The choice for Amaziah to make was between the Lord's command and his own human reasoning. Because he was willing to change his plans and obey the Lord, he won the battle.
Why Would Amaziah Want To Worship The Edomite Gods Which The Lord Had Just Defeated?
It seems incredibly foolish for a king to worship the very gods which had just failed to protect their own country. The Lord's prophet mocked Amaziah's twisted reasoning by questioning, "Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?" (2 chronicles 25:15) This question revealed the weakness in the king's thinking. Amaziah believed that different nations were assigned different gods. He seems to have believed that the Lord was the God of Israel but not the God of Edom. He thought that by incurring the favor of the gods of Edom and worshiping them, they would allow him to rule over the allotted territory. His foolishness deserved the severe rebuke of the prophet.
Why Didn't Amaziah Change His Plans The Second Time?
Amaziah's inflexible behavior defies reason. He had just obeyed the Lord, and as a result, defeated the Edomites. Now he was rebuked again, and he completely disregarded the prophet's warning. Rather than cry out to the Lord in repentance and destroy the Edomite idols he was worshiping, he prepared for war against their century-long ally. Even the godless king of Israel recognized the arrogant pride in Amaziah's heart as a result of his victory. King Jehoahaz warned him :Lo, thou hast smitten the Edomites; and thine heart lifteth thee up to boast. Abide the now at home. Why shouldest thou meddle to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?" (2 Chronicles 25:19). Amaziah again refused to consider advice. He was soundly defeated by Jehoahaz and spent the next years of his life in captivity. After he returned to his home, he was assassinated. Amaziah had tried to serve more than one master --- the Lord and the gods of Edom. His life illustrated the words of the Lord, "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). The Varying Hare Regulated by a seven to ten year population cycle, the numbers of the varying hair fluctuate from scarcity to abundance. This solitary, secretive animal makes its home in brushy woodlands and heavy forests of mixed conifers and hardwoods. Except for the females slightly longer length, the male and female are identical in appearance. The animal's most common name is the snowshoe rabbit; however, it has been given other names in different localities such as brush rabbit, northern hare, snow rabbit or swamp jack rabbit.
How Does The Varying Hare Illustrate Flexibility In Responding To Unexpected Conditions? Only survival was on the mind of a young snowshoe rabbit. This doe was one of last year's offspring, and now she prepared to bear young of her own. She could feel life within her but was uneasy. Nothing seemed right and she had the terrible sense that disaster lay ahead.
The winter had been long and cold. Only half of the normal amount of snow had fallen that year. The previous summer and fall had been the driest in recorded history. The drought had caused dangerously low water levels in swamps, hindering new growth and threatening existing plant life. Snow was desperately needed to replenish the water supply for spring growth. These harsh conditions and the lack of food had taken their toll among the hare population. Many were starving and others became too weak to escape the teeth of the bobcat or the sharp talons of the snowy owl. The snowshoe rabbits depended on tender twigs and needles of the pine, white cedar, spruce and tamarack trees for their winter food supply. The shortage created intense competition among the hare and forced them to girdle the trees, stripping them of the bark and shoots within their reach. The doe was aware that soon she would not only have to provide for herself but for her young as well. Her loss of weight was evident by her gaunt appearance. The harsh winter conditions had stripped her of needed food reserves within her body. Chances were that her young wouldn't survive under these conditions. There was also the possibility that she herself would die in the process of giving birth. There just wasn't enough food to prepare her for this undertaking. The fact that she was not physically prepared to produce this, her first family, and the stress of securing food had triggered a process deep within her body. The three-week embryos stopped growing. Her body responded to her conditions of physical weakness with a process called resorption. The mother completely reabsorbed the embryos within her own system. Now she was free to concentrate on replenishing her needed strength and wait until the environmental conditions were favorable to allow her to raise strong, healthy young. The snowshoe rabbit had been provided with the flexibility to cope with the changing, unexpected conditions of her environment to ensure that she would bear healthy young and would have the strength to care for them.
Scriptural References To The Hare
"Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or them that divide the cloven hoof: the camel, and the hare, and the coney; for they chew the unclean unto you." ~ Deuteronomy 14:7
God divided animals into two groups -- clean and unclean. The division existed long before the Law was given to Moses. Noah was told to take seven pairs of clean beasts and birds and only two pairs of unclean beasts and birds into the ark (Genesis 7:2-3). Although man has not yet discovered all the reasons why unclean animals are not to be eaten, one study has revealed that more energy is required to digest the meat of a hare than is gained by eating it. Thus the expression, "starving to death on rabbit." "And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you." ~ Leviticus 11:6 The accuracy of Scripture has been questioned by some because their observations did not reveal that the hare chewed the cud as stated in the verse above. One acclaimed expert wrote, "Moses further stated that they (the hare) did, however, chew the cud. Anatomical analysis of the hare reveals that they do not re-chew their food. But Moses' error was a very natural one, for they gave the appearance of rumination with their constant moving of the jaws." Further research has revealed that the hare does indeed redigest its food as the Bible states. The hare passes two types of pellets. One pellet is large, dry, hard and has little, if any, food value. This the animal eliminates from its body. Another pellet is soft and is encased in a moist membrane which is not permitted to touch the ground. The animal reaches over with its mouth and swallows these pellets --- a process called reingestion. The casing remains intact and the pellet does not mingle with food already in the stomach. When it dissolves several hours later, it gives nourishment and aids digestion by providing lactic acid, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. This allows the hare to extract and utilize nutrients that it might have missed and enables the hare to survive periods of fasting.

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