Tuesday, December 12, 2006

He is there, and He is listening

2 Chronicles Series:
Overview: Orthodoxy
Uzziah: If the whole body were an eye...
Jehoshaphat & Ahab: Mark my words
From Solomon, to Jehoshaphat, to Uzziah and now to Hezekiah... Hezekiah was one of the shining lights among the Kings of Judah. Not spotless, but when he sinned he humbled himself. Early on he starts to reopen The Temple and reestablish worship there. But I'm going to home in on two incidents. Firstly, as he calls Israel back together for Passover. Secondly, as he faces the mockery of Sennacherib. Above all, we see:


The LORD who hears from heaven....
1. The LORD who hears from heaven....
to accept the intercession of his King
2 Chronicles 30v1-27

Hezekiah makes a broadcast to the nation, calling them to come and celebrate The Passover. The festival that remembered God's rescue of his people from Egypt. They're invited to come and remember their salvation together. It's not just Hezekiah's idea - the King and the assembly agree that this is a good plan.

So the invite is issued. Come! "Return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of Assyria". They're warned not to follow in their father's footsteps by being faithless and stiff-necked. Rather they should yield to the LORD and come to his sanctury - come to the place that God has chosen for his name - to the Jerusalem temple. Come, Hezekiah says, and meet with God's people and meet with God - fix your eyes, hearts and will on his mercy. It's a compelling invite to find mercy and compassion and grace in God, if they will return to him.

Yet, offered grace many mock Hezekiah for his message - they look just like the enemies of God. Perhaps they're angry that their idols have been torn down? They're not interested in God's grace to them? They don't like Hezekiah's reforms, his "new" theology and "new" practices....

In sweet contrast some do humble themselves. The hand of God is on them to do what Hezekiah has commanded - for his word in this is God's command! They love this offer of grace and come running. What great mercy this is to turn them from their spiritual adultery to know the LORD once more. And so they come and hold a great assembling. But, they're not really ready for worship - they're not consecrated... this is not worship by the book.

The last time we saw someone not worshipping by the book it was Uzziah The Leper taking over tasks God had given to the Priests. But this is different. Uzziah was proud. Here there is shame, humility and awareness of sin. The Levites are ashamed, the people come to worship in weakness - unclean but desperate to remember their God. Will God strike them down? Hezekiah imagines this could happen - and should happen - and so intercedes for them. He calls out to God to pardon those who seek God. And shockingly, v20, God hears! He hears the intercession of the King for sinful people. The party continues and, v27, their prayers are heard by God in heaven. God hears their worship.

What of us? My temptation in reading this was to take Hezekiah's place in the story and rejoice first that God hears our prayers. But Kings point to Jesus before they point to me. Surely, I'm more able to see myself in the worship of the people, seeking God but not in full obedience to his word. Falteringly coming to him. Our worship is never perfect... our hearts rarely true... our minds swiftly distracted... affections easily led astray.

Like them we depend on the intercession of the King. We depend on the greater King, the greatest King! The one who forever intercedes for us, acquire pardon for us not just in his words but in his blood. Our King, Jesus, is not just the perfect King but the perfect passover lamb! He reigns! He rules! He wins! We come to God to worship and are heard because we come in Christ. In Christ, we are heard. We come for grace and grace alone. We throw ourselves on his mercy in Christ.
"Lord, I come before Your throne of grace,
I find rest in Your presence And fullness of joy.
In worship and wonder I behold Your face,
Singing what a faithful God have I. "

(Rob Critchley)
2. The LORD who hears from heaven....
to vindicate His name
2 Chronicles 32v8-23

The King of Assyria comes and mocks. He blasphemes. He has two strategies. One is that He treats the LORD like the gods of the nations. He mocks and says that no other god has saved their people from Sennacherib. And Sennacherib has evidence on his side - he has swept everyone else aside!

Secondly, he mocks Hezekiah's reforms. Hezekiah has removed their idols and Sennacherib appeals to their mixed loyalties and says they will fall because their King has undermined the gods they loved. He says that their king has deceived them... and so it goes on. The tirade is endless. It's the same sound as those who mocked the call to repentance in chapter 30, and so far removed from the desire of the humble crowd to worship the LORD.

What must it have been like to face this? Jesus knows more than any. He was mocked and blasphemed by the crowds. He faced more opposition and ridicule than any. And yet he stayed on his cross and was vindicated, in his resurrection. God would not let his Messiah be mocked forever. God vindicates his King. His King is right to obey the LORD.

We can trust then that God will act to vindicate his name. The Cross and resurrection prove it. He will get the glory in the end. And God is more concerned about that than we are. When we face opposition, and see our God derided he will stand. And we can cry for that to happen, knowing God's ear is attentive to this cause. He will hear to vindicate himself.

Hezekiah and Isaiah pray and God hears! He acts decisively. The LORD doesn't come to defeat Sennacherib, an Angel is enough to do the job. Sennacherib's army falls in a moment, and then the mighty King of Assyria flees and dies. God wins!

The story of Hezekiah points us to the LORD who hears from heaven! The LORD who is supremely gracious, merciful and compassionate to those who seek him, even failingly. Thanks to our King we turn and find the warm embrace of the God of Heaven!
And we see the God who hears people mock him and acts. Whilst he patiently endures blasphemy for a time he does act and will be shown to win! Our God is mocked and derided, and his ways considered foolish. But, He is not unaware. He wins! He will be vindicated!
HE IS THERE, AND HE IS LISTENING!