Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Drawing Near to God

      Listening to the news or reading a paper can be depressing.  We are often bombarded with stories of loss, crisis, or conflict somewhere in the world.  However, as we read, we need to consider that over time nothing much has changed.  The names of leaders may change and the circumstances change but at the heart of it all is man's sin nature which has not changed since the Garden of Eden.  Lust for power, money, fame, and sex still drive the natural man who tries to find satisfaction in life through these means.  Of course, that is what sells magazines and newspapers, and creates chaos in our world.  However, if we want a clear picture of what man and woman are meant to be, we need to spend time reading our Bible.
    Throughout the Old Testament, we see the disintegration of man's relationship to a holy God as a result of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden.  Yet, we also see those who have trusted in God such as Noah, Abraham and Jacob.  Their trust and faith, though imperfect, drew them close to the Lord, and He drew close to them.  In fact, reading the Old Testament is not unlike reading a newspaper.  There are good kings and bad kings, faithful and faithless people with every shade in between.  Today, however, I found comfort in reading the story of Asa a good king of Judah.
     In 2 Chronicles chapters 14 and 15, we read the story about Asa who rose to the throne of Judah.  Following the death of Solomon, Rehoboam reigned as king followed by his son Abijah.  During this time, the kingdom had split between Israel who refused to follow Rehoboam and Judah who chose to follow him.  The fortunes of Judah rose and fell depending upon whether the king followed the Lord or abandoned Him for idol worship.  When Asa came on the scene, he restored the worship of God and 2 Chronicles 14:2 reads:  "And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God." He tore down the foreign altars and high places, destroyed the idols, and commanded the people to worship God alone.  Here was a leader who put God first and sought His counsel even in going to war.  Because of his faithfulness, God gave him success in his battles even against great odds.
     Then in Chapter 15, we see Asa receiving guidance from the Lord.  A man named Azariah, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke to him saying:  "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin:  The Lord is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you" (verse 2b).  This is a clear cut instruction not only for Asa but for each one of us today.  If we seek Him, He will be found by us.
     Asa sought the Lord and removed the sin in the camp by destroying all false worship.  Furthermore, he restored the altar of the Lord and gathered all the people for a time of worship.  By this time, some of those in Israel had heard of Asa's success and knew that God was with him.  They also came to Judah to live and worship.  The King led in a renewing of the covenant to be faithful to God and in verse 15c, we read that God gave them rest all around.  Asa didn't stop with this renewal celebration of worship though.  He went and tore down his mother's false idol as well.  I am certain it took some courage to do this, but this King was not half hearted in his commitment.
     There are several take aways we can learn from this passage in the Old Testament.  First, godly leadership is a blessing.  As a leader, Asa led the way back to God.  The Lord blessed the people as a result. We need to pray for this in our nation and for the world.  Secondly, the witness of Judah to Israel and the other tribes was clear enough that many abandoned their allegiance and joined with Judah.  Shouldn't our witness be that clear too?  We don't need entertainment and raz-ma-taz in the church.  We need sound, biblical preaching.  This is what brings men and women to the Lord.  Finally, the truth is clear that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  We will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts.  I know this from personal experience.  As our family has drawn near to God seeking his comfort in our loss, He has been found by us.  His comfort, His love, and His answers to our hearts have been evident.
     If we want to live in God's blessing, we need to be faithful to worship Him alone.  Following Asa's example in the Bible is far more productive than spending time reading a newspaper full of man's attempts to find meaning in all the wrong places.  Remember, as we draw near to God in His Word, He will draw near to us.  It's a promise with many blessings!  Selah!

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