KEEP SEEKING HIM

“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.”
II Chronicles 26:5

Uzziah was named the king of Judah when he was sixteen years old, and he reigned for more than fifty years in Jerusalem. The Lord used Uzziah in many ways, and he was a good and godly leader of God’s people. The Scripture tells us that Uzziah “sought God in the days of Zechariah” and “as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.” King Uzziah learned and practiced the valuable discipline and devotion of seeking the Lord; and as long as he kept seeking the Lord, God “made him to prosper.”

There should be no question about this simple and powerful fact: God blesses those who seek Him sincerely and consistently. He is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are to be seekers of God. God created us to fellowship and walk with Him, but sin has damaged that communion and relationship. The natural man has neither desire nor capacity to seek the Lord. It is only through the new birth that we are reconciled and restored to a place of fellowship with the Savior. This should be an evidence of regeneration, a hunger and thirst to know the Lord and seek Him. Uzziah not only teaches us the importance of being seekers of God; we also learn from him the value of continuing to seek Him through our lives.

We know of many who once sought the Lord in a genuine way, who no longer seek Him as they once did. Further reading of Uzziah’s life reveals that he left off seeking the Lord, “for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (II Chronicles 26:15, 16). There came a time in the life of this great king that he no longer felt the need for God’s help. It seems that the blessing of God made him strong; and in his strength, he forgot how much he needed the Lord. He quit seeking the Lord and depending on God as he once did. This testimony seems all too familiar. It was true in many instances with God’s people, and it continues to be true today. We want God’s help and blessing, and cry out for His assistance, only to quit seeking Him when we become stronger. We need to keep seeking Him, in good times and in bad. As long as we seek Him, we will experience His grace in our lives.

A COMPASSIONATE FATHER

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20

This has been a difficult journey and a tough lesson for the younger son. Attracted by the lure of worldliness, he had demanded his inheritance and traveled to a far country, where he wasted it all on riotous living. After all his resources were depleted, he found himself alone. Finally, he started to realize how foolish he had been. The prodigal, with a clear change in his attitude and reasoning, decided to return to his father’s house. He confessed his sin, and in sincere humility, offered to take the place of a hired servant, rather than the place he had vacated as a son.

As he made his way toward home, with a new appreciation for what he had left behind, his heart and mind must have been filled with a mixture of fear and anticipation. How would he be welcomed, or would he be welcomed at all? His guilt was like a weight on his weary back. He wanted to be restored to his family, but how could they forgive him of his selfishness and pride? He was ashamed and sorrowful; humbled by his unwise decisions. Undoubtedly, as he drew closer to the familiar sights of home, his anxiousness grew stronger. The repentant young man could never have predicted how his father would receive him. The Scripture records that while “he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

The prodigal was not met by an angry and bitter dad. He was not confronted with criticism and condemnation from his father. Rather, the father ran to him, and welcomed him with love and assurance. This is the way our Father is when we come to Him in sorrow for the foolish decisions we have made. God is a compassionate Father. He wants to see His children restored to fellowship with Him and the family of faith. What He is looking for is a repentant heart on the part of those who have erred. God wants to see sinners come to themselves and realize how much better we would be to abide in the Father’s will than to pursue the pleasures of sin. The prodigal’s decision to arise and return to his father’s house, turning his back on the world that abused him, is an encouragement to us all. There is a compassionate Father there to greet us.

A PROPHET HATH BEEN AMONG THEM

“And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.”
Ezekiel 33:32, 33

The response Ezekiel received from his listeners was not wholly unlike the reception faithful preachers sometimes experience today. The people spoke openly about their interest in the messages from God, but they had no intention of obeying God’s Word. To the listeners, Ezekiel’s warnings were “unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” The people were entertained by the act of preaching, as many are in our generation. They do not mind attending preaching and even find it somewhat enjoyable. However, the Scripture says of them, “they hear thy words, but they do them not.” They were not at all compelled to obey the commands of Scripture, or to take seriously the personal application of the message to their individual lives.

This lack of response and absence of desire, to receive the Word of God as it should be, can be a cause of great disappointment and frustration to the God-called preacher. How is it that those who should be challenged and changed by the message of God’s Word are virtually unaffected? Somehow the message does not impact them. In order for this to happen, there has to be a serious spiritual problem in the life of the listener. For the majority, they are probably not saved, never truly born of the Spirit of God. They have no capacity to receive spiritual food and direction. There are others who have deliberately chosen to resist God’s truth in their hearts. Their hearts are stubborn and unwilling to repent and correct the error of their way.

The most sincere preacher or teacher does not have the ability to change a person’s heart or attitude toward the message. Each individual chooses how he will respond to God’s Word. For Ezekiel, God said that when these things occur, “then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.” Our commitment is to be the most sincere and effective communicators of truth we can be. Whether they hearken to our message or not, our responsibility is to faithfully give them the clear message from the Word of God.

TURNING HEARTS TOWARD HOME

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
Malachi 4:5, 6

These are the last words of the Old Testament, and they are a prophecy concerning the ministry of John the Baptist. When the angel disclosed to Zacharias that a child would be born to him and Elisabeth, he said that John would “go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” (Luke 1:17). This would be a part of John’s message and ministry, to turn the hearts of parents to their children and children to their parents.

Perhaps there has never been a time when this message is more needed than today. We have witnessed such a collapse in our country in the role and responsibility of the home and family. Our society reflects several generations of rebellion toward the biblical model and teaching concerning the family. The importance of the sacred vows of marriage has been replaced with humanistic views of matrimony. Divorce is commonly seen as an easier option rather than working through the conflicts all relationships experience. Children are viewed by many parents as more of a burden than a blessing. Legalized abortion has opened the door for masses of adults to view the unborn as something less than a human life. Mothers and fathers are leaving the rearing of their children to child care professionals, while they place the priority of career above family.

Young people are more disrespectful to their elders in general, and parents in particular, than in any generation we have seen. Brainwashed by the media and the lifestyles of their peers, adolescents are being trained in a world with few examples of parental honor and obedience. Paul warned Timothy that in the last days the youth would be disobedient to parents. This absence of honor for elders is not a condition limited to young people. Generations of disrespectful youth have grown to become disrespectful adults who are rearing future generations of the same.

May we take serious heed to the words of truth, and turn our hearts toward home. As adults, may we turn our hearts to our children and the children to their parents. In a world of confusion and rebellion, our homes can still be a place of refuge and peace.

DESTRUCTIVE PRIDE

“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.”
Proverbs 18:12

None of us want to see our lives destroyed. We do not want to experience spiritual and moral ruin, or see our dreams and worthy goals disappear. We do not want to see reproach come upon the Name of the Lord and His work due to our spiritual collapse. Is it possible there could be some indication of self-destruction before it occurs? Are there warning signs that might make moral bankruptcy avoidable? According to the Scripture, there is something that often precedes the fall of mighty men: “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty.”

One of the most destructive forces in a person’s life is pride. Many great leaders have been destroyed through personal pride. People of tremendous spiritual influence have seen their ministries ruined because of pride. It was pride that led to Lucifer’s revolt and expulsion from Heaven. Pride is not a problem for a pitied few of God’s creation, but rather it is present in every heart. Children begin to exhibit pride in their earliest years. It is a part of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam and remains a dreaded foe throughout our lives.

One reason pride is so dangerous is because it is very deceptive. We can easily be blinded to its presence in our hearts and minds. Because it is such a powerful force, when it has a stronghold in our lives, its very presence resists attempts to rid the heart of its influence. Pride rebels against the acknowledgment and removal of itself. We must be aware of the destructive nature of self-reliance and self-exaltation, and treat pride as an enemy.

Is there any antidote for such a harmful condition? The Bible declares that “before honour is humility.” Just as pride can bring destruction, humility can bring blessing and honor. The cure for the poison of pride is having a humble attitude and spirit. As pride wants to exalt self and refuse correction and instruction, humility recognizes how undeserving and incapable we are. While pride is a natural part of man’s fallen nature, humility must be chosen and developed in our hearts.

We are told in the Word of God to humble ourselves. We are responsible to keep ourselves humble and to repent of the wicked sin of pride. This is the way of God’s blessing: He actively resists the proud, but pours out His grace on the humble.

HEZEKIAH’S TESTIMONY

“And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”
II Chronicles 31:20, 21

Hezekiah was one of Judah’s outstanding kings. Like all of us, he had his imperfections; but he earned a reputation as a godly leader. Hezekiah had a profound influence on his nation. He authorized a cleansing and renovation of the house of the Lord, followed by the restoration of worship and the observance of the Passover. He led a campaign to remove idolatry from the country.

The Word of God speaks of Hezekiah’s testimony, how he did that which “was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.” Hezekiah was known for his commitment to doing what was good and right. Would this not be a good example for all to follow? Men and women of integrity and honesty are difficult to find. Deceit and corruption are the norm, especially in the arena of elected officials. Disillusionment and cynicism abound in the minds of citizens because of politicians who are without character Children are being negatively influenced by role models in the world of athletics and entertainment, who do everything other than what is good and right. We need a revival of honesty in our land, and it must begin in the hearts and homes of God’s people. As parents and Christian leaders, we must be committed to doing what is honest before the Lord and others.

Hezekiah’s testimony included his good work “in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God.” The king of Judah was influenced by the law and commandments of God and was zealous about the place of worship. Here again, we find something in his reputation that we should want to emulate. May others see in us a commitment to the Lord’s Word, His worship, and His work. In addition, we see that Hezekiah was not complacent or apathetic, but did what he did “with all his heart.” His heart was in his work. Hezekiah was an example of sincerity, obedience, and enthusiasm.

What kind of testimony do we have, or desire to have? When we are gone, what will others say of us? Like Hezekiah, we want to live that we might have a good testimony.

OCCUPY TILL I COME

“He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”
Luke 19:12, 13

Jesus had been to Jerusalem a number of times, beginning when He was a child. But, this time was different. He would be mocked and rejected, then suffer and die for our sins, the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world. Because some of His listeners thought the kingdom of God would soon appear, Jesus spoke this parable to them. The meaning is clear. He would soon be leaving for a “far country” and would one day “return.” As He departed, He would disperse His resources to His “servants” with a simple command: “Occupy till I come.”

Thank God for the incarnation, sinless life, vicarious death, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in none other. Today our Lord is seated in Heaven, but one day He will return. The return of Jesus Christ is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Christians in the first century looked for the return of Christ. For two thousand years, believers have anticipated our Lord’s return. Paul wrote to Timothy that there was a crown of righteousness laid up for those who “love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8). Jesus is coming back. All indications show that He could come at any moment. We look forward to our being united with our Lord and loved ones who have gone before. We look forward to being free from this world of sin and our sinful flesh.

In the meantime, what should we be doing? The Lord’s Word is clear; we are to occupy until He comes. To occupy means “to be busy, to busy ourselves with the responsibilities given to us.” Until the Lord Jesus Christ returns, we are to continue to be busy about the business He entrusted to us. He has given each of us gifts and abilities to use for His work. We all do not have the same gifts or assignments, but all of us are equipped to serve Him. All are to be busy until He comes. There are many who talk, with apparent interest, in matters concerning the return of Christ; and yet they are not busy serving Him. There are others who served Him at one time, but have ceased to do so, for one reason or another. By the grace of God, we are to obey His command and occupy until He comes.

I HAVE SET MY AFFECTION

“Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house.”
I Chronicles 29:3

David was passionate in his dream and support for the construction of the temple. After seeing the Ark of the Covenant returned to Jerusalem, it came into his heart to build a permanent dwelling, a magnificent temple, for the ark to reside. God agreed that a temple would be built; only it would not be done in David’s lifetime. His son Solomon would see this vision become a reality. David would, however, play a major role in the planning and provision for the project. The Scripture records King David’s generous contribution to the construction of the temple, including gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and precious stones. In describing his commitment to seeing this accomplished, David used this language: “I have set my affection to the house of my God.” This explains his great zeal for this building to be built and his tremendous generosity in supporting it. He had set his affection to the Lord’s house.

David’s enthusiasm challenges us to consider our commitment to those things which represent God’s will for us. Where have we “set” our affections? We decide where our love will be invested. Some set their affections on their careers or hobbies. Where might we better set our affections? Our affections could be set toward the Lord, our families, our ministries, and as David said, “to the house of my God.” David had set his affection toward the house of God.

We know that God’s house is the New Testament church, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). Just as God had committed His presence to the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament, He has promised to meet in a special way in His churches. Is it not reasonable that we might also say, “I have set my affection to the house of my God”? Our generation would benefit greatly if there were more like David, who had a passion for the Lord’s church. Because of his zeal for building the house of God, David generously supported the plans and preparation of the project. When our hearts and love are committed to the New Testament church, we, too, will enthusiastically support it.

CALL UPON ME

“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
Psalm 50:15

This is the heart of God for His people. He wants us to call upon Him. Our Father created mankind with the intention that we might fellowship with Him. This is a very basic and profoundly important concept concerning our purpose. God desires that we seek Him sincerely and frequently. He wants to be included in our thoughts and our plans. We are privileged to walk with God, in communion with the Almighty, in a life of faith. Particularly, the Scripture tells us that we can call upon God “in the day of trouble.” Trouble comes in many forms and degrees. There are troubles of our own making and difficulties that come because of our identification with Christ. Some problems are small and fairly easy to manage, while others are life-changing and overwhelming.

For those who know the Lord in a personal way, through faith in Jesus Christ, we do not have to face our troubles alone. He is always with us and available to assist us. He invites us to call upon Him when we are in trouble. For some of us, we have to admit that sometimes we are more prone to call upon the Lord when we are in trouble. There seems to be this tendency to neglect our personal relationship with the Lord when things are going well for us; but when adversity comes, we see the need to consult the Lord.

In reality, we turned to the Lord to trust Him as Savior because of our troubles. For some, those troubles may have originated with problems in our health, finances, personal relationships, or otherwise. But, they led to our realizing our biggest problems were not physical or emotional, but spiritual. Our greatest dilemma was our spiritually lost condition and the eternal doom that awaited us. Thanks be to God for His promise to “deliver thee.”

When we cry out to God in our troubles, He is there to deliver us. He wants to help us, to comfort us when we are in despair, to guide us when we do not know the way, to protect us when we are in danger, and to befriend us when we are lonely. What a Savior is Jesus our Lord! He has delivered us in so many ways when we have called upon Him. When He comes to our aid in times of trouble, we understand the remaining portion of the text, “thou shalt glorify me.” Our hearts are full of gratitude and praise for the way He comes to us and delivers us in times of trouble.

TILL THE DAY OF HIS SHOWING

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”
Luke 1:80

According to the testimony of Jesus Christ, there was not a greater prophet born of woman than John the Baptist. At the time of John’s birth, his father Zacharias prophesied many things about John’s future ministry. John the Baptist would be the forerunner of Jesus Christ, preparing the way for His arrival. John would preach the gospel of salvation, calling men to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. The day would come when the word of the Lord would come to John and there would be a powerful voice crying in the wilderness. Our text, however, speaks of his childhood and preparation: “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” Before John would be shown to Israel, there would be a time of growth and development, physically and emotionally, as well as spiritually. He would become “strong in spirit” before the “day of his shewing unto Israel.”

These words provide a great pattern and guide for our lives and our families. God has a place of service for each of us, a plan to use us in His great work. But before we embark upon our public ministry, there should be a time of private growth and spiritual training. Becoming “strong in spirit” is a prerequisite for spiritual ministry. In their zeal and haste to begin preaching and serving the Lord, some have neglected the necessary spiritual preparation. Many want to be involved in the Lord’s work and are excited about the public ministry of proclaiming truth, but not as many are enthusiastic about the time “in the deserts” that provide the strength of character and spiritual development that is required for fruitful service. What was John doing prior to “his shewing unto Israel?” He was being prepared. He was growing in the Lord, in his knowledge of the Lord, and in his understanding of his mission.

We are sometimes perplexed by the great casualty rate among the Lord’s servants; the staggering number of them who set out to serve the Lord in His harvest and then quit. Perhaps one reason is the failure to be adequately prepared. This thought also gives great purpose to those who have young children. This is part of our responsibility, to train children to be “strong in spirit,” preparing for the day they will be engaged in the great work of the Lord.