"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 5, 2010

Raising the Standard: Endurance Is Knowing How And When To Use The Resources Available To Me

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be healthy to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones." ~ Proverbs 3:5-8
From the Pages of Scripture
If we think we are suffering for our faith, we must be very sure that we are not really suffering because of our own failures. All too often we violate God's principles, fail to display the fruit of Christ-like character, and in so doing attract reaction. God promises that when our ways please Him, He will make this kind of enemy to be at peace with us (Proverbs 16:7). But there are also enemies of God who may oppose us the more they see godliness in us (2 Timothy 3:12). A certain king who sought the Lord won a great victory over God's enemies, but then his desire for the Lord decreased. The experiences he had in further battles warn us of the importance of discerning whose battles we are really fighting - God's our ours.
What king conquered an army of a million men because he relied upon the Lord but when faced with a much smaller army depend on his own wisdom? King Asa of Judea.
A young king heard reports of an approaching army. At first he was confident. He had spent ten years preparing his nation for battle. Tearing down all the heathen alters, images, high places, and groves, he had commanded the people to seek the Lord and follow His commandments. He built fortified cities and established a standing army of over half a million mighty men of valor. But when he approached the battlefield, he was dismayed to face an army of a million men with hundreds of chariots. He realized that his resources were insufficient and cried out to God, "It is nothing with Thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on Thee, and in Thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee." He recognized that this was God's battle, and God fought for him. The invading army was completely destroyed. Vast amounts of gold, silver, precious things, cattle, sheep and camels were carried away by this victorious king and his men. News of the victory spread throughout the land, and many came to live in the kingdom when they saw that the Lord God was with him. All the people renewed their covenant to seek the Lord. The king even removed his grandmother from being queen because she had made an idol. But the high places --- altars of improper worship --- began to reappear. Another enemy came against the king. This time he took money from the house of God and hired a neighboring army to fight against his enemy. This strategy was successful militarily, but a prophet warned, "Was not the first army huge but because you relied on the Lord He delivered them into your hand? But now because you have relied on a neighboring army you have done foolishly. It was God's intention that you conquer that neighboring army also. From this time forth you will have wars." Three years later the king faced another test when he became diseased in his feet. Once again he failed to rely upon the Lord. Instead he sought only the help of physicians. Two years later he died. It is inconceivable that a king would fail to use the resources which had already proven so effective, but those resources required in him a perfect heart. To this king, Asa, these words were spoken, "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him." (From 1 Kings 15:9-24 and 2 Chronicles 14-16)
Why Was Young Asa So Zealous For The Lord?
When a son does not follow the wicked example of his father, it is natural to look for another influence. Sometimes a wise, godly mother can compensate for the damaging effects of a godless father, especially in the polygamous households of the Hebrew kings (cf Proverbs 31:1). Asa's father had fourteen wives (2 Chronicles 13:21); the child rearing responsibilities were delegated to the respective mothers. There is evidence, though, that Asa's mother died when young. His idolatrous grandmother, Maacah, (cf 1 Kings 15:2, 10) retained the post of queen-mother after he became king, rather than his mother whose name is not mentioned. If she had died, Asa would most likely have been raised under the supervision of the priests and Levites and taught the Law of Moses. His father, Abijah, who hypocritically boasted of his conformity to the Law (cf 2 Chronicles 13:10-11), would have permitted this training. Priests would have encouraged the crown prince to write out his own copy of the Law and read it continually (Deuteronomy 17:18-19). Although this is only a supposition, it follows very closely the pattern of godly king Joash whose father was also wicked (cf 2 Kings 11:2-3; 12:2).
Why Did Asa Imprison One Of His Valuable Resources?
King Baasha of Israel had invaded northern Judah and set up a blockade at Ramah. He evidently was concerned about the large number of people migrating to Judah because of the religious reforms which Asa had instituted (2 Chronicles 15:9). In an effort to thin Baasha's forces at Ramah, Asa paid the king of Syria from the temple treasury to invade Israel from the north. From a military perspective, Asa's strategy was very clever. When Baasha withdrew, Asa invaded from the south and successfully conquered the city. When Hanani Rebuked Asa for making this league with Syria, he was imprisoned. Asa probably justified his action by his success. If he was wrong, he reasoned, his plan would have failed. He belligerently refused to consider the long-range effects of his actions and labeled Hanani a false prophet. His receptivity to the prophet Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1-8) had been destroyed by the pride which so often accompanies success.
Why Did Asa Once Again Overlook A Proven Resource?
Two years before Asa died, his feet became diseased. the disease is not described other than it continued to worsen "until his disease was exceeding great." (2 Chronicles 16:12) Perhaps he had dropsy or a sclerosis which narrows the arteries of the legs, creates lameness, and may result in gangrene. In any case, Asa should have sought the Lord for the cause of the disease. The Law which he once so enthusiastically upheld contains a curse for those who disobey. "The lord shall smite the in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore both that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head." (Deuteronomy 28:35) Asa's heart had been lifted up in pride. He had not sought the Lord in regard to the military decision concerning Ramah and had been successful. Now he felt he could control his health by turning to physicians (2 Chronicles 16:12). It was not the mere inquiring of the physician that is condemned but rather the godless manner in which Asa trusted in the physicians rather than God --- his best resource who was constantly available to him.
Illustrated in the World of Nature
There are over 2,000 species of mosquitoes in the world today. They are found almost everywhere. Mosquitoes breed in water, and individual species have their own preference --- freshwater, saltwater, clear water, polluted water, large bodies of ocean water, or puddles in tree holes. Mosquitoes do not usually travel very far from their birthplace; the average distance is 1,000 feet. A few though, may fly as far as 50-75 miles.Man has helped increase the range of the mosquito. In 1828 a sailing vessel introduced the mosquito to the Hawaiian Islands for the first time --- the result of a stagnant pool in the hull of the ship. It appears that few civilizations in the world are free from the irritation of this little insect.
How Does the Mosquito Illustrate Endurance by Knowing How and When to Use It's Resources?
The irritation was so annoying that it was hard for him to concentrate on anything else. The more he scratched, the worse it became. He had rubbed so much that the area was an open sore. He was a strong, burly man toughened by constant exposure to harsh weather and the rigorous life of a lumberjack. His skin was like leather. It was a wonder that anything could have penetrated it. But something had, and the large, itching welt on his arm was an exasperating reminder of a tiny insect. It was early June, and the mosquitoes were just hatching. Within a few weeks a profusion of those little creatures would fill the woods, giving no rest to the occupants. This was the lumberjack's first bite of the season. Each year he noticed it would take a while for his body to build up an immunity to the irritating stings, but by the end of the season the bites would have very little effect and he would be able to overlook and ignore these pesky, little things. The mosquito is a remarkable creature. It actually has no teeth, so it is not accurate to say it bites. It would be more correct to say that it pierces the skin with its long, slender beak. during its seventeen to thirty day lifespan, the female engages in a "biting" spree every two or three days. How is it possible for this tiny insect to penetrate tough skin? The secret lies in its proboscis. It is difficult to fully appreciate this insect without the use of a magnifying glass or microscope. When studying the insect under a microscope, one is astonished to see the intricate and complex way in which the mosquito is constructed. What appears to the naked eye as a simple piercing instrument is actually a sheath-like case formed by the mosquito's lower lip. Like a surgeon's black bag, it contains a set of specialized tools neatly arranged and ready for the mosquito's use. These minute instruments include a pair of lances, two saws --- each with a different cutting edge, one fine and one course --- and two syringes. One syringe is for the purpose of injecting saliva; the other draws out the victim's blood. On either side of the mosquito's head is another set of instruments --- long feelers which the mosquito skillfully uses to perform its operations. To overcome a difficult object such as the lumberjack's tough king, the mosquito explores the surface with these long feelers attached to the sides of its head. The feelers assist it in finding the softest spot to attack. Once the spot has been found the mosquito skillfully goes to work using the tip of its beak as a guide. It forces the cover back around the tools and begins operating, first penetrating the kin with sharp lances and saws. It then inserts the syringes into the cut and injects saliva with an anticoagulant quality. This allows the blood to be freely siphoned up through the other syringe. Its array of precision tools, the skill with which it uses them and great persistence in obtaining the blood necessary for its offspring, enables the mosquito not only to endure but abound in vast quantities.

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