Whenever there is something that needs to be done, I always try my best to be prepared. When planning for a trip, I make a list of all the needs for packing. For my finances, I have my budget organized in Excel, outlined meticulously after having some amazing training from Dave Ramsey. Even when I take my dog Max for a walk, I have things I do to prepare. I like being prepared.
In 2 Chronicles we read of groups of people who did not prepare themselves properly for the Passover meal. As a result they did not partake of the meal. Hezekiah prayed for forgiveness for these people who pretty much missed the boat.
Today, I challenge you with your preparedness with God. Do you prepare yourself in the morning by reading God’s Word and by praying? Do you prepare yourself for worship? Do you prepare yourself before Communion? Remember the Parable of the Ten Virgins, with the five women who had no oil for their lamps. Are you prepared for Jesus’ return? Are you prepared to share your faith? Remember what Peter said, to always be prepared to share the reason for your hope. Are you prepared?
“There were a lot of people, especially those from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, who did not eat the Passover meal because they had not prepared themselves adequately. Hezekiah prayed for these as follows: ‘May God who is all good, pardon and forgive everyone who sincerely desires God, the God of our ancestors. Even—especially!—these who do not meet the literal conditions stated for access to The Temple.’”
-2 Chronicles 30:18-19 [MSG]
We see many people not hold back. Many times it is when someone is having a tantrum or voicing an opinion. Then there are those who don’t hold back at the all-you-can-eat buffet. There are those who don’t hold back when they are racing or competing in sports. Not holding back means doing it all. It could be eating it all, giving it all, saying it all.
In today’s passage, we read about the Israelites who responded to Hezekiah’s command with generous hands. “They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything,” the Bible says. They gave the firstfruits of everything—EVERYTHING! There was so much stuff that was dedicated to God that it was piled in mounds. Look at the time involved—over three months of piling items. Talk about not holding back.
When I read of this it brings me great joy. I always love to read about people who are so generous and giving. It is such a special thing to give; it is a gift to give. I always get more joy from giving than from keeping. Sadly the statistics show that most people hold back a lot. I have heard it said if everyone tithed without holding back, giving the ten percent, people would be cared for and there would not be all of the situations we see all around the world. You might think that ten percent is a lot. You might think you cannot do it. But trust me, when you do it, God sees you through. You always have just what you need. So don’t hold back. Live with your hands open.
“As soon as Hezekiah’s orders had gone out, the Israelites responded generously: firstfruits of the grain harvest, new wine, oil, honey—everything they grew. They didn’t hold back, turning over a tithe of everything. They also brought in a tithe of their cattle, sheep, and anything else they owned that had been dedicated to God. Everything was sorted and piled in mounds. They started doing this in the third month and didn’t finish until the seventh month.”
-2 Chronicles 31:5-7 [MSG]
I often hear people say things like “You can’t trust anyone” or “I help everyone but no one is there when I need help.” In Isaiah 36, the question is asked, “Who are you counting on?” That is such an important question. I ask you today, who are you counting on?
Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was threatening Jerusalem. A message from the king’s chief of staff was sent to King Hezekiah asking who he was counting on and to make an attempt to get an alliance to be formed. Instead, King Hezekiah understood the great alliance he had—he called out to the Lord for help. The Lord promised victory and not only did an angel kill the Assyrians at night, but the king met his end at the hands of his very own sons.
People will always fail you. There is no one in your life that can always be there for you and never let you down. People are finite, imperfect, and limited. God never forsakes. God can do the impossible. God loves no matter what you have done. He forgives. He pours out His grace. He fills you up with His Spirit and never leaves your side. So who are you counting on?
“Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?” – Isaiah 36:5 [NLT]
Life can be overwhelming at times, especially when we try to carry everything on our own. The Lord tells us to come to Him for His yoke is light. The Bible says we aren’t to worry, because worry is not from God. Instead, we are to give it to God and trust Him.
It is difficult to give it to God and then not worry. We are so tempted to give only so much to God, and then try to solve the rest on our own for whatever reason we have in our mind. Sometimes we do not even know why we cling to something that drags us down. What is worse is when we see that something is too much for us, and yet we still fight to survive with it weighing us down.
In the Book of Isaiah, the Assyrians were trying to get the people of Israel to not trust in Hezekiah’s leadership and in his word from the Lord of upcoming deliverance. Rabshakeh stood before the people and told them why they should not believe and should not follow Hezekiah or his God. Later Hezekiah even received a letter to bring him down. This could have turned into a situation of doubt and fear. Hezekiah could have drowned his sorrow, ran from his problems, turned his back, or sank down and left Assyria have their way.
Instead, Hezekiah took the letter he received, entered the house of the Lord, “and spread it out before the Lord” (Isaiah 37:14b NASB). Then he prayed, acknowledging God and seeking His answer.
We receive “letters” all the time, letters that crush our spirits, diminish our hopes, challenge us, hurt us, intimidate us, and make us feel anything but confident. We fear, we doubt, we hurt. We get tired, overwhelmed, depressed, and ready to throw in the towel. But instead of allowing the senders of the letters to get the best of us, we have a God who is above all, a God who can do the impossible. We have the option to take our letter, spread it out before the Lord, and let Him have a go. It may seem easy, but it’s not. Nonetheless, after you’re able to fully release it out of your hands and place it in the hands of your loving Father, you’ll find this peace overcome you. It may not happen overnight, but there will be a change.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 [NASB]