Saturday, October 8, 2011

Careful What You Brag Over

And he said, What have they seen in thy house? And Hezekiah said, All that is in my house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewn them.  --Isaiah 39:4 (Darby)
 Hezekiah was the king of Judah between about 715-686 BC.  The Assyrians had laid waste to Israel, but in their campaign against Judah they had lost badly.  History puts at least part of the blame on a plague that ravished the Assyrian army, but Hezekiah gets some credit; or, more precisely, God helped Hezekiah out.  This delighted the Babylonians. They sent envoys to congratulate Hezekiah, and more likely, to do a bit of spying out of what kind of opponent he really was.  Hezekiah, it sounds like, gushed all over himself about everything he had bragging up a storm in the process.  When Isaiah arrived in his court, Isaiah was not happy or amused at the befuddled thinking his King had demonstrated, nor does it seem was God.  Isaiah tells the King the Babylonians are going to take everything, and they did.

Various commentators explain this "wrath of God" that is rained down on Hezekiah's head by blaming Hezekiah's vanity.  They talk about how because of his vanity Hezekiah is punished.  Would God really punish an entire race of people because their (unelected) leader was vain?  There is a deep theological problem with that!

There is a fact of life we would all do well not to ignore: we are living every day on a treasure map.  Every day of our lives, if we look carefully, thoughtfully, diligently for them we'll see our lives are sprinkled with blessings, or small divine diamonds.  God richly sows our life with many good things and they are present even in the worst circumstances imaginable, for anyone who cares to put their victimhood aside and see.  If we carry the knowledge of our blessings close to our grateful hearts, we feel our wealth in Christ and we also know in humility the One who should get the credit for us having everything.  Those diamond blessings are ours regardless of circumstances, and regardless of errors in our ways.

Hezekiah was flattered to pieces to have the attention of a powerful nation.  He spilled all his treasure out to some cutthroats who had no good intentions whatsoever.  But, it was not this naivety or vanity that brought the destruction of Judah.  Babylon already had designs on Assyria as well as every other nation-state.  Bragging about his treasure with Babylon revealed Hezekiah's misplaced trust in Babylon, not in God; making the inevitable Exile and destruction of Jerusalem all the more poignant and painful.  As Jesus said, do not cast your pearls before swine; and when you pray, go into a closet by yourself.  Hold your blessings dear and close with lots of gratitude and prayer, and keep looking for more treasure of God's faithfulness to you.

Holy God, do not allow us to become so jaded to the good things you put in our lives that we put our trust in our possessions rather than you.  Amen.

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