“Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:6 ESV)
This is a follow up blog piece to Here Today Gone Tomorrow. The story of King Hezekiah, and Isaiah Chapter 39, is, illustrative of our tendency to hold on to things in this world and in this life contrary to what God intends for us. Jesus speaks to God’s intention when he urges us to lay up our treasures in heaven, and not to focus on accumulating treasures on earth.
Hezekiah was a pretty good king as kings of Judah go. Many of those kings turned away from God to idol worship and other behaviors influenced by the pagan culture of the nations around them. These were the people who were never completely driven out of the Promised Land as God instructed. The people and their kings became corrupted by those influences and succumbed to them.
The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob split into two camps early on after the people rejected the rule of judges and wanted kings like the nations around them. They split into the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah.
By the time King Hezekiah came around, the nation of Israel had been overrun, captured, and exiled to Babylon. During Hezekiah’s reign the people were hanging on by a thread, with the threat of Babylonian exile dangling like the sword of Damocles over the remnant, Judah, that remained in Jerusalem.
In Hezekiah’s fourteenth year as king, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them, but for Jerusalem. King Hezekiah responded to this threat by turning to God. He prayed, and, as the story goes, 185,000 troops of the Assyrian king died in the camp overnight, sparing the City of Jerusalem from certain doom. (Isaiah 37)
Hezekiah turned to God when circumstances were dire and his death was imminent. Like most of us, though, the King was short-sighted. He focused on the immediate, protecting himself for the remainder of his short life.
I began posting the stories of people whose lives have been dramatically changed from a myriad of different backgrounds when they entered into a personal relationship with God. That was 2015, and I have continued to post these stories from time to time as I came across those stories thought to seek them out.
I haven’t really thought much about it, other than the fact that these stories are compelling, and I felt they needed to be shared. In 2018, however, for the first time one of these pages of stories was the most “read” page on the site. For that reason, I think it makes sense to began sharing the stories as part of the regular blogging that I do.
If there is one thing that stands out to me it is this: There is an amazing consistency in all these stories. Though these stories literally span the gamut of human experience, of people with widely divergent backgrounds in almost every imaginable way, they all ring true to the same theme.
The common denominator is the person of Jesus Christ. These stories are personal evidence that Jesus rose from the dead two millennia ago, and lives on through the Holy Spirit, whom He promised, who continues the work Jesus began in the flesh.
The apostle Paul told a crowd of Greeks and Romans at the Areopagus in Athens many centuries ago that God desires that we would seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him, “though He is not far from any one of us.‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” (Acts 17:27-28) These stories are evidence of the truth of those words that are as vitally true today as they were in Paul’s time.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) John, the apostle who was perhaps closest to Jesus of any follower, said that Jesus was in the beginning with God (John 1:2); all things were made through Him (John 1:3); and that all who receive Jesus have the right to become children of God. (John 1:12) Jesus, Himself, said, “Before Abraham was, I Am!“
He lives today, and the stories of people who have encountered him continue daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. The stories on the page linked below are of people who have experienced abandonment in their lives but found acceptance in God through Jesus Christ.
Have you ever felt like all you do is spin your wheels, but you don’t get anywhere? I have days and weeks like that. Sometimes, it seems my life is like that.
Imagine a people like that….
Isaiah said this of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 26:17-18 NASB):
As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth,
She writhes and cries out in her labor pains,
Thus were we before You, O Lord.
We were pregnant, we writhed in labor,
We gave birth, as it seems, only to wind.
We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth….
As a lawyer, I have spent a lot of time in court. I have represented many people, and I have seen our system of justice at work. I can tell you from experience that it’s far from perfect. That is being kind really.
The truth is that not just our legal system is imperfect; our lives are far from perfect. We all desire perfection, but our attempts at achieving perfection are like giving birth to the wind. Though we strive to make the world a better place, for ourselves, our loved ones and others, we haven’t been able to accomplish deliverance from the imperfections that have been the blight of human existence since time immemorial.
A very close friend of mine was expressing concern about the state of the world recently. Specifically, Donald Trump seems to be provoking the Korean dictator, like a bully provokes a mass murderer. I was not prepared for such an existential discussion, and I did not respond very well.
The concerns are real. I was haunted by the specter of nuclear war as a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I even bought a poster of a mushroom cloud to hang on my wall, not because I wanted the world to end in a ball of fire, but because it was the reality I couldn’t ignore.
But we do learn to ignore realities likes that. Maybe because it’s hard to live with them, we learn to push them back into the recesses of our consciousness. We displace the angst with busyness, entertainment and other distractions.
The fact is that life is short and tenuous. Whether we live to be a hundred or 80 or only 8, life will end. This is also a harsh but true reality, but I’m afraid it isn’t very helpful for someone who is laboring under the burden of the weight of the world. I wish I had said something more.
I firmly believe this world is not all there is. We thirst, and water exists to quench our thirst. We hunger, and food exists to sate our hunger. It makes sense that, if we yearn for something transcendent, something transcendental exists to satisfy our existential longing.
We all seem to “know” this, but the world is so full of a thousand flim flam answers to the ultimate existential question that we hardly have any idea where to start looking. We might be tempted to seize on the first or closest one, like responding to that Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes mailer declaring you might be the winner, or we abandon any hope of an existential answer and resign ourselves to the material world.
Is there proof of something transcendent? How can we know? These are serious and heartfelt questions.