Monthly Archives: March 2019

Facing Death

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

Only God can both save and deliver anyone’s life from death. Those who have faced death and lived are better able to see and know the value, or lack of value, of their life compared to their stuff. For those who face certain death, yet continue to live and who have no hope for eternity, their property becomes the only reason to live. Without their belongings they have nothing. They know they cannot take anything with them when they die so they cling to life as long as possible and covet that which was never theirs. For those who have hope for eternity, who know they are known and loved by God, material possession carries little or no value. Spiritual maturity brings a realization that only that which is eternal holds eternal value. Only the Word of God (God Himself) and people created in His image have value. 

Only God can determine eternal value. He created people for relationship with Him because He wants them with Him for eternity. Those who rebel against Him will continue to exist for eternity but will exist away from His known presence.

Hezekiah lay dying. Isaiah came to the king, delivering a hard message. “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24). Despondent, facing imminent death and deeply afraid, Hezekiah prayed.“‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:3). Isaiah returned, giving another message to the king.“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5 ESV; see 1 Kings 20:5). God listened to king Hezekiah. He did not avoid death but was given more time.

There are two things we should note about king Hezekiah. He did follow the LORD with his whole heart, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD.“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV; see 2 Chronicles 31:20). But his righteous works did not follow in those extra years given by God. The evidence is shown in the life of his son, Manasseh.  

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV; 2 Chronicles 33:9).

King Hezekiah was rich and became proud. After God healed him he did not continue working for God with his whole heart but exulted in his riches. Though he humbled himself, and God saved Judah and Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians, God still punished Israel for not seeking Him with the whole thinking of their hearts.

“But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:25-26 ESV).

God turned away from His judgment and delivered Hezekiah’s life. God saved him because of His love. In his later life, Hezekiah did not return to God the compassion and grace he was given. 

God did not turn away from, or stop the required judgment against sin endured by Jesus even when He asked God. Jesus did respond to God’s mercy and compassion in a way that lifted up God before all the people.

Without an eternal perspective life is self-focused and people are self-absorbed. Created in the image of God, people are given the natural and eternal ability to know Him intimately. Replacing Him with stuff is idolatry. Those who do not intimately know God are agonizingly afraid of death and the unknown. Those who do intimately know God, and are known by Him, are peacefully at rest with death. There may be fear of the process of dying but not of death itself. Death, separation from this sinful world, our sinful flesh and the constant attacks of the Deceiver, brings relief. We know this because of Jesus, who was raised from the dead, tells those who are His they will be with Him in eternity. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

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Abiding Love

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

God turns toward those He calls, offering them His eternal mercy as they obey Him. He cannot abide sin in His presence. David’s words in this Psalm are a reflection of his words in Psalm 5, which pronounces judgment upon those who turn away from God. 

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

God does not trust those who are in rebellion against Him. In the deepest thinking of their hearts lives the desire to do whatever can be conceived to hurt or kill God. People hate God and hate truth, evidenced by their clinging to the insanity of sin. Though created in His image, with all the tools needed to fulfill the design for their lives given by God, people are corrupt and unwilling to work for Him. No one who has sinned is able to do anything to make them righteous before God. God’s intent is to show all who rebel against Him their abject spiritual poverty and do for them that which they cannot do for themselves. He offers all people salvation from His justified wrath. But, they must trust Him and turn toward Him.

Mercy is active love. God actively loves those He has created in His image. Love is God’s active goodness and kindness toward everyone. His purpose for creating people in His image is for intimacy, which is a natural element of God’s eternal character. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15-16 ESV).

No one controls God. Those He brings into His presence enter because they obey His command to repent and declare His Son Messiah, Savior because of what He did. God decided to place upon His Son the sin of those in the world, who rebelled against Him, because of His eternal love for them, not because of anything they could do. People can do nothing to earn salvation. Nothing. God delivers life because of His eternal love. Our response to His love is to love Him in return. 

Hezekiah’s words express his eternal response to God even while his eyes are fixed on his temporary circumstance. “The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 38:20 ESV). With the tools given in the image of God, people can think eternally. God wants us to recognize sin and hate it. He wants us to see our inability to do anything for ourselves that is righteous. He wants us to acknowledge all He has done for us by His grace. He loves us and wants an intimate relationship, receiving our love for Him as a natural part of our being His.

Turn means to return, come back, rotate toward. Where God turned His back on sin, He turns again and faces the one He loves. Deliver means to make strong, to withdraw or draw off, to rescue and set free. Soul is the same word used in 6:3. His soul was greatly troubled and now He is asking for God to withdraw His anger and wrath and give comfort and security. God’s steadfast love means His great mercy, His eternal purpose exercised in conjunction with His eternal goodness. To save means to give victory, be liberated and freed from the effects and sentence for sin. David, Hezekiah and Jesus all prayed God would keep them alive. Death is the ultimate consequence for sin. David and Hezekiah died and those who followed them turned away from God and were banished from the kingdom. Jesus died and was raised, and those who follow Him turn toward God as eternal citizens of His kingdom.

God turns toward the individual who rebels against Him, reaching out in compassion and love. He will not face them for eternity if they refuse to obey His commands and directives.

Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. People continue to sin as long as they remain in the world. Sin has immediate and eternal consequences. Immediate consequences of sin affect the person and those who surround the person, who are influenced by them, even remotely. Eternal consequences are separation from Him who sustains life, which is existence without nourishment. Jesus took upon Himself the eternal consequences of sin and immediately gave to those who are His, the covering of His blood. People who sin, even those covered by the blood of Christ, suffer the immediate consequence but not the eternal effects. 

God turns toward us because we are found in Him. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God delivers us from death because His Son died in our stead and was raised. God loves us with steadfast love because He created us for relationship, giving His image to people. We are saved by Him and for Him. That we would continually acknowledge and praise Him and grow in our intimate knowledge of Him should be natural.