Devotional 181: The High Places Not Torn Down

2 Kings 15:1-4 Azariah Reigns in Judah

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done, except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Then the Lord struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death; so he dwelt in an isolated house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the royal house, judging the people of the land.

2 Kings 18:4 Hezekiah Reigns in Judah

18 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

4 He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.

Most of the high places were tucked away in the shadowed recesses of the mountains, and used by the Canaanites as well for worship to false gods and feasting.

The pattern of man’s willfulness regarding G-d’s word is that no matter how longsuffering, merciful, and giving G-d is, staying His hand as it regards our rightful punishment, we manage to find His commands too restricting and create compromises and loopholes to do that which He says we should not. The high places, as they were used by Israel, were such. They essentially were hedging their faith that Yahweh was the only true G-d, despite all He’d done for them.

In this way, to our shame and peril, we crucify Christ repeatedly.(Hebrews 6:4)

Since the 2000’s began, we have been hard at work maintaining unholy strongholds and building new high places of the heart, even as the hand of G-d strikes the earth with the first wave of His signs, and reigns in our indulgences with a plague.

The high places of the heart are as collective in a nation as they are personally private: racism, injustice, greed, holding onto power that’s ultimately transitory, hoarding wealth at the expense of helping others while forgetting the lessons of charity, compassion, and love that Jesus taught us as we neglect repentance as something for ‘others’ to do.

Examine today in your own spirit where the high places are in your life, and rest assured of two things:

1-They were planted there by your enemy, so even as you may use it as a place of worship, he comes behind you to defile it to the corruption of your soul, for if you keep focused on the mountainside where your high place is, you will not look up to Heaven and the Father’s hand for your blessings.

2-The second thing is that on the day of your judgement, the rocks and shadows will provide no hiding place for the unrepentant, the nonbeliever, and the faithless, heartless, and prideful. (Isaiah 2:19, Rev 6:16)

Today, remove the blasphemous clutter of your high places, wherever and whatever they may be, before the Lord comes to tread on them (Micah 1:3) and find fault in you.

Build an altar to Him, and let Him set them on fire to purify you once again for Kingdom service.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We have walked in the shadows of our high places because we were foolish enough to believe they were loopholes to our obeying Your every word. Indeed, they were a source of comfort and ease, recalling pleasant times in the flesh when we did not know Your wrath was upon us, or if we did, we simply didn’t care.

But the covenant Your Son struck with us through You, and through the holy power of His Name and the spilling of His holy blood, we are now bound fast to Heaven, chosen and set apart, far above the high places we have built, rebuilt, and insist on keeping. We keep them because to let them go means we have no more illusion for the excuse of disobeying You.

“You made me this way” is as poor an excuse as when Adam said, ‘The woman You gave me….” You did not, and You offered me a way out that cost You dearly, and hurt You deeply.

Today then, Father, use whatever is to be my coal to seal this vow to my unclean lips, even as Your finger writes it on my heart: I will tear down the high places of my spirit, my house, my family, so that all may be exposed, for there are no secrets from omnipresence, and Your Spirit surrounds me wherever I go.

I confess that my high places are wood, hay, chaff, tares, and stubble, suitable only for burning, and tasteless salt to be thrown out, before I myself am cast into the outer darkness by Your irrevocable Word, and my soul loses its one chance at redemption to live eternally in the light of Your glory.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.

Devotional 108: The Other Prophesied King

The purging of our heart’s strongholds is long, hard work.

1 Kings 13:1-5

The Message of the Man of God

13 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ 

2 Kings 23:1-3

Josiah Restores True Worship

23 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.

Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.

The only king prophesied by name in the Bible other than Jesus was destined for righteousness and fellowship with G-d.  A good king recognized that the process of purification for the sins of his people began with him, and was a reflection of him. What the king does, the people will follow.

Josiah did a lot of work, tearing down the hedged bets of shrines, high places, altars of human and child sacrifice, unholy objects and idol figures that were a plague on the land, built by his forebears in case the G-d of Abraham was not who He claimed to be.

It is amazing how much of our human attributes we ascribe to G-d’s ability to achieve, never knowing that even our highest possible achievement is our limited way of expressing love to Him, and even prone to error, as when David first moved the Ark of the Covenant, if not done without His permission, guidance, or assistance. These are works of the flesh, burned to stubble in the testing by holy fire.

That being said, we too, were prophesied to be the children of G-d.  Our days were planned before one of them came to be, and now, we live in the fruition of that summoning. Are we willing and able to remove the rebellious items in the high places of our own houses? Are we willing to consent to G-d’s sovereignty in His calling on our lives? Are we willing to put our pride and will aside, and empty ourselves of who we think we are, in order to be who the Father called us to be, and do what He’s asked us to do?

Are we ready to leave all?

Luke 5:27-32 

Matthew the Tax Collector

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

To give up the one thing keeping us from the Kingdom?

Mark 10:21

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

The Father’s call supersedes anything and everything else, and demands obedience if we are to be His servants, discipline if we are to be His disciples, and faith if we are to be in His presence.

It was said of Josiah:

2 Kings 23:25

25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.

Compare that to this:

1 Samuel 15:11

11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

What will be said of us, as the children of the living G-d, called through grace, partaking of His mercy?

It’s up to us.

Therefore I pray:

We thank You, Father, for the mercy of Your calling, for bringing us out of the world to reveal the truth of Your Son through the power of Your Spirit. 

Let disobedience and perverse things be far from us, and let our eyes be pure lamps so the light that enters us brings no stains of darkness to our souls.

Help us to hold fast to Your statutes, obey Your commandments, and allow the purification of our fellowship with You, and the conviction, confession, and remission of our sin to reconcile us to You again, by the Spirit’s prompting.

We would not grieve you with our faithlessness, erecting high places in the worship of the created instead of the Creator, handing our fates over to false gods, and trusting in fables of the stars and zodiac, and put before the doing of Your will the enjoyment of our possessions that Your hand has freely given us, to provoke Your anger.

We would abide in Your love and not Your wrath, for You are jealous for our souls, and have given us salvation that we might be reconciled to You. We will not treat it as a common thing. Bring to mind, when we fall into temptation to backslide, and sin, that we were bought with a price that cost You everything, and the You bestowed the gift to us alongside Your chosen people.

Father, we cry out to You today, to restore good and righteous leaders to us, to break the spiritual choke hold Your sworn enemy has the world in now. Bring our leaders to godly repentance. Convict them, O Lord, and open their eyes to the strife their words and actions create, the pain and the worry, the loss of life You’ve given to all men, not just to one nation, the elite, and the wealthy.

We pray Josiah’s spirit of mind be with us as peg down our tents in new territory, and if it is not, O Lord, Your will still gets accomplished. 

May our deeds withstand the testing fire, that we might claim our reward, and depart from those who would see us hurt, or dead, before our work is done.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 91: A Mother’s Heart

2 Kings 4:12-25

1Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”

14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?”

And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.”

And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”

17 But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

18 And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “My head, my head!”

So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.”

There is a lot in this story left untold: we are not told the woman’s name or status, only that she was notable, so she wasn’t poor, and that she’d set aside a space for Elisha after recognizing he was G-d’s prophet.

G-d honored her faith in her dealings with Elisha by granting her a son, but then it seems her faith was tested, and the son was taken.

She didn’t turn to her husband, who’d proven rather useless in this matter; either he didn’t know what to do, or didn’t care, but what we know is he didn’t even take the boy in himself. She didn’t even tell him the boy had died.

She knew the source to go to, however. Not being an Israelite, she had no access to G-d except through the prophet. Her attitude was that of Martha’s at the tomb of Lazarus: “But even now I know that whatever You ask of G-d, He will give You.” (John 11:22)

Since the man of G-d prophesied her conception, but not the death, of her son, she would go to him to fix the problem.

I can imagine the rush of emotions going through her that run through us all when the Father grants something and seemingly snatches it away: anger, doubt, questions, frustration, and a sense of resolve in that if the Father wants it to be, He’ll fix it.

We’re not told her age, but in calling for the carriage to take her the prophet’s house, she told the driver not to slacken the pace. The journey through the country was likely arduous, but she bore the pain and pace through the heart stopping terrain to reach Elisha before it was  too late.

The thought of it being too late never occurred to her, and she confronted the prophet, putting the onus on him to intercede. He does, but needs to persist; the Father did not render this an easy task even for the prophet, but in the end, her son is given back to her to care for her in the days when she’ll be dependent on him.

A child grows near the mother’s heart, takes comfort from its rhythm, and becomes a part of the mother’s own biology; that is a bond fathers will never know. Her love for her son drove her to do things a ‘notable’ woman didn’t necessarily have to do.

She humbled herself, and went to the prophet, she did not summon him to her.

She kept her counsel, staying in control, not telling anyone what happened; she was not going to speak death over her son, not even to Elisha’s servant. She was going to deal directly with the source who had access and would know what to do.

She held onto her faith that the prophet’s G-d would honor the word that He gave to His servant, and He did.

I remember being in a mall once, and a mother had lost her child. I was around 220, and no lightweight, and she came walking very fast, her face like flint. She bumped me out of the way and I almost fell. Confronting the person who had her daughter by the hand, she stood in the woman’s way and challenged her.

The woman, a grandmother herself, informed her that she’d found the child wandering and they were looking for her, and gave the little girl back as she rebuked the mom for losing the child in the first place, so the story had a happy(?) ending. But I remember the force of that bump. She’d have pushed me over if I’d been directly in her path.

Let’s honor our G-d-fearing mothers today, with prayers and gifts, with our presence (if we can), with a call, with a reverent awe for their sacrifice, and a heart of gratitude that when they knew we were coming, they said to the Lord: It is well.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Let’s pray:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the courageous hearts of our mothers, for the protection, wisdom, and insight they’ve imparted to us. We thank You for giving them hearts of unconditional love, hearts that we’ve broken from time to time, but were never missing that love.

We thank You for gifting them to us, for we would not be able to stand today without them. We thank You for making them willing to sacrifice for us, that they may see us grow and prosper, and do better in the world.

And for my own mom, who now dwells above with You,  I thank You for holding her in Your arms, and bringing her into Your kingdom. I long to see her again, but I know that has its own time, and today, I am content with the memories of her gentle wisdom, her smile, her singing voice, and the love that emanated from her heart even in her anger.

I have yet to plumb the depths and reach the heights of all she gave to me, but there are new paths of discovery ahead, and I know she walks them with me in spirit.

In Your name, I pray blessings and peace to all the mothers of the world who nurture, sacrifice, and love as You have loved. Comfort the suffering, rebuke the negligent, and sustain the family through them.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.