Drinking Deeply

Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 3:30 PM

Where is your faith?

On Friday we examined Luke 8:
22One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake." So they set out, 23and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?"
And the question that immediately came up was, "How should the disciples have approached Jesus?" Jesus clearly rebukes them for their lack of faith (or their misplaced faith), but were the disciples to just sit there by themselves? (and a parallel passage in Mark 4 makes this even clearer)

Today I came across Isaiah 37 which I believe sheds a great deal of light on an appropriate response in the midst of trials.

To put it in context, in Isaiah 36 Sennacherib, the King of Assyria invades Judah and comes up to Jerusalem where Hezekiah, King of Israel was staying. He makes many boastful claims against Judah, saying that God would not deliver them, that the Assyrians had destroyed many a city already, and all their gods were worthless.
13Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: "Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14Thus says the king: 'Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, "The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." 16Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. 18Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, "The LORD will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?'"
What does Hezekiah do?
1As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD.
Notice the posture that King Hezekiah takes prior to going to the house of the Lord. He tears his clothing and covered himself with sackcloth, a traditional sign of mourning. Was he just acting? Why was he doing this? Reading on we see:
2And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. 3They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, 'This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. 4It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.'"
What is Hezekiah mourning about? He isn't mourning because he's going to die. He isn't mourning because his line is ended, but he's mourning because God's name is being mocked, His glory unknown, and His people in danger. Now of course, Hezekiah is included in this group, but his focus is not upon his own life, but upon God's glory.
5When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, 6Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the young men of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'"
Hezekiah is reassured. God is listening and God will respond.

8The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah, for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. 9Now the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Cush, "He has set out to fight against you." And when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying, 10"Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 11Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? 12Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?'"

The prophecy is beginning its fulfillment, but Rabshakeh (the king's messenger) continues to mock and revile the God of Israel.
14Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: 16"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD."
And here is what I want to focus the main portion of this post upon. Lets walk through the prayer verse by verse.
16"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
How does Hezekiah begin? Note the clear contrast between him and the disciples in the boat. Instead of "master! master! we are perishing!" Hezekiah begins in worship. He declares God's omnipotence, God's promises, God's authority, God's sovereignty, and God's previous works. Hezekiah begins with the focus not upon himself, but rather upon God.
17Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
Hezekiah, in moving on to petition, is not praying for his own rescue. He is not praying because he's afraid of his life, but he's praying that God would hear the words that mock Him. Presumably "hear" means "respond in judgment" or something of that sort. Hezekiah's first and foremost priority is God's glory in defending God's name.

Now, given, the disciples probably could not have seen this for themselves. It is hard to picture a situation where the disciples could have ask God to destroy the storm because it was mocking God or something like that, but we can certainly apply it to our own lives. Are there things in life that we hate? Are offended by? Are outraged by? Are these things we get worked up over because they're wrongs against us? Against people? Against nature? Or rather, shouldn't we get worked up because of our zeal of God's Name? Ultimately the wrong is not against us, it is not against people, it is not against nature, because all these things have no value in themselves. All these things have values that are conditional, they are conditional upon a God who gives them value. The wrongs are not first against me, people, nature, but are first against God.

Why don't we kill people? Because God created us in His Image and will demand a reckoning. (Genesis 9:5-6) Not because people are worth something on their own like the humanists claim.
18Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed.
Hezekiah's petition continues, but notice how he interweaves his declaration of God's power and authority through it. Prayer isn't something distinct from worship! Our prayer ought to be bathed in worship (and similarly our worship should move us to prayer.) Once again, God is not a god like those mute idols of wood and stone, no, God is a living God who will not be destroyed, will not fall, will not be mocked without eternal consequences.
20So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD."
Once again: The prayer is not for Hezekiah's deliverance. No, the prayer is for God's glory. Deliver us so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.

How big is this prayer? Glorify Your name! Someone once asked during a sermon, "What if all your prayers were answered from the last week? How much would the Kingdom of God be extended?" Are we praying for "oh, I have a midterm and I'm not prepared, help me pass so I can stay in Stanford" (though I suppose we can argue that we can make that prayer that God would glorify His Name in our miraculous passing of an exam.) Or are we asking that God would break those that mock His name, that God would reveal His glory to the campus? That God would convert sinners, raise the dead, perform miracles? That God would use His people as a sword of truth, demolishing pretensions and arguments raised up against Him. Or are we content with what we have, praying the small prayers and thinking that somehow we are furthering God's kingdom in that?

Don't get me wrong. Small prayers are not bad. In fact, if God is sovereign and watching over everything, we should be praying for all things. What is bad is if all we have are small prayers, that we never take God's perspective on things. Yes, God delights in giving gifts for His children, but don't thing that this is all God does. Don't fall for the "God is here when you need Him" trap. God is watching every moment. Continue to seek His glory. Seek Him and Him alone first. Pray that God would break the proud and bring them to repentance. Pray that the lost would seek God, that the brokenhearted would be renewed.

I confess, I am not a model of this. I do not pray as I ought. I do not seek Him first always, but I have been continually convicted in the past weeks of how small our prayers are. How much of my prayer requests are constantly "Oh I'm thinking about my future..." and how little of it is "Jesus come! Let the earth know your name and declare your glory!"

But yet, in all of this we can remember the cross. We can remember that in the midst of our failures we can come before God boldly, not because of who we are or what we've done, but because of what Jesus has accomplished on that cross, tearing the curtain in two and granting us access through His own blood to the Lord God Almighty. We can make these petitions knowing that God, who is Lord over all, will accomplish all that is asked in His Name, for His glory's sake.

So how can we apply what Hezekiah did when trials come?

1) Lament and repent - We mourn first. We mourn because this suffering and storm comes because of sin, because of the sins of Adam, because of the sins of us. We rend our hearts and cover ourselves in sackcloth, turning from the ways of darkness into the glorious light.

2) We come in worship - God is God deserving of all worship. God is God Almighty, greater than any other, it is Him that upholds the world and it is Him that maintains it. No kingdom, no storm, no problem set, happens apart from His will.

3) We come for God - Closely tied in with the above. We're not praying for deliverance so that we are better, no we pray for God's glory. We're coming before His presence so that His name will be furthered, so that His kingdom will be strengthened.

4) We come in faith - God is our Father! We, as adopted children, now have God's promises on our side. He who did not spare His only Son, how will He not also with Him, give us all things? Now, this doesn't mean that whatever we ask for is granted to us, but it does mean that whatever happens we know it is ultimately for the best. Glory to God for He has planned all things for His name's sake!

Glory to the Lord in the highest.

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Blogger ts said...

perhaps you've started out asking the wrong question. maybe Jesus was asking why they didn't order the storm to be calmed themselves (in Jesus' name, of course)? your interpretation of His question could be right, but i think it's arguable.

i totally appreciate the point of your post, though! that's a good quote about "what if all your prayers were answered?"  

~

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