June 6, 2015

Finishing well

2 Chronicles 14:1–16:14, Titus 3:1–7, Psalm 97:1–98:9

The desire of my heart is to finish well, to complete my life trusting the Lord to the end. Yet I realize that only by grace will this happen. Spirituality does not ‘just happen’ or improve by habit, nor does it become easier as the days go by.

In the chronicles of the kings, the next one king did well, up to a point. His story is both encouraging and a warning to me.

“Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him . . . . And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.” (2 Chronicles 14:2–5; 15:19)

Asa did well, but in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, Baasha king of Israel decided to barricade Judah. He built Ramah and would not permit anyone to go out or come in to Asa. Instead of turning to God as he had for thirty-five years, Asa sent silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus. He said, “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” (2 Chronicles 16:1–3)

Asa won the battle but at this point, he became a loser. A seer named Hanani came to him and said, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you . . . . For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” (2 Chronicles 16:7, 9)

This passage does not explain why Asa broke his normal pattern. After this event, he was a crabby, harsh man. His reliance on the Lord was gone and so were the qualities that made him a good king.

The NT reading is also encouraging and a warning. It reminds me that I was “once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing my days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating them. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved me, not because of works done by me in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on me richly through Jesus Christ my Savior . . .”  (Titus 3:3–6, personalized)

My godliness totally depends on God’s mercy and grace through Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, my life would slide backwards, much like that of Asa. I could not do anything that pleases the Lord and my days would be filled with strife and contention. While I must fight spiritual battles against evil forces that try to pull me into disobedience, those battles are nothing compared to the awful state of being left to my own resources and drifting back into that former way of life. I need to obey God each day and trust Him, not anything or anyone else. Sounds easy? Not at all.

The psalms are good reminders of God’s power and grace. Reading them helps me to not only remember who God is, but also who I am as His child . . .

“For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked . . . Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 97:9–10; 98:7–9)

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