The Trust that Gets God’s Attention

His name was Jonathan. We were in the same first grade class. One day I made him angry by winning a race in PE, dethroning him as the fastest runner in first grade. Jonathan threatened to beat me up after school. Every day as soon as the dismissal bell rang, I shot out of the classroom. Jonathan and his cohort were close behind me, shouting threats of what they would do when they caught me. After a couple weeks of arriving home breathless and quaking with fear, my mom asked me what was going on. When I told her, she became quite indignant. She spoke with Jonathan’s dad, a pastor of a local church. He was apologetic and assured my mom that I would never be bullied by his son again. I never found out what unpleasant consequences Jonathan faced, but that was the end of our adversarial relationship. By the end of the school year, we had become recess buddies.

My experience with bullying pales in comparison with King Hezekiah’s encounter with an enemy of his kingdom. Hezekiah is one of my Old Testament heroes. Although he was far from perfect, in Second Kings 18 and 19, Hezekiah’s response to devastating threats was exemplary.

In 722 B.C.E, Assyria conquered Israel. Centuries earlier Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms. The northern kingdom was defeated and taken into captivity. The southern kingdom of Judah was spared. Twenty years later, Assyria decided to expand their conquest. Tiny Judah would be no match for their might.

At first, Hezekiah tried to appease Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, by paying tribute. Sennacherib accepted the tribute and proceeded to attack Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, anyway. Then the threats and taunting started.

What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me?

With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariots and charioteers? What’s more, do you think we have invaded your land without the Lord’s direction? The Lord himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’” (2 Kings 18:21, 22, 24, 25 NLT).

Sennacherib and his army tried to strike fear into the hearts of Judah. Not only did he boast of his superior strength, but he also cast doubt on their faith. After all, “God Himself” had instructed Assyria to destroy them.

Hezekiah had done everything he could do. Still, he faced a formidable foe with impossible odds. Clearly, there was no winning this battle.

Look at Hezekiah’s response. After he received the letter from the enemy and read it, “he went up to the Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord” (2 Kings 19:14). First, Hezekiah declared the greatness and power of God, as the ruler of every kingdom and the creator of the heavens and the earth. Then, he acknowledged the threatening situation for the people of Judah. Finally, he cried out for deliverance. “Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (v. 19).

Hezekiah’s response was a demonstration of trust. He could have thrown up his hands in despair and surrendered to Sennacherib. He could have formulated an escape plan. Instead, he trusted the Lord and got His attention.

The prophet Isaiah encouraged Hezekiah with a remarkable message from God. The Lord had heard Hezekiah’s prayer. He promised a good future for Judah with bountiful crops. Not only that, the Lord would cause the king to “return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He [would] not enter [the] city” (v. 33). God assured Hezekiah, “For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it” (v. 34).

God did exactly that.

The angel of the Lord went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there (v. 35-36).

What a miraculous victory! God promised to deliver Judah, and Hezekiah didn’t even lift a finger. God took care of Judah’s bullies and the Assyrians never returned.

How will we respond when we encounter overwhelming obstacles in our lives? Will we panic or despair because the situation is so much bigger than ourselves? Or will we go to the Lord, spread out the problem before Him, and declare our trust in Him?

Let’s choose to trust. As New Testament believers, we can have confidence in God’s care for us.

Romans 8:28 promises:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

We may not know how. We may not know when. But we can have one hundred percent certainty that God will work everything together for our good. Trust the Lord and get His attention.

When God’s people obey, God shows up in a big way.

By Julian Jagenberg @pexels.com

Joshua led the Israelite army to march around the formidable city of Jericho. The Lord had instructed him to place seven priests and the Ark of the Covenant at the front of the line. Nobody was to make a sound for six days. On the seventh day, seven priests were to blow the trumpets. Only then could the army shout. (See Joshua 6:1-27.)

Gideon led 300 Israelite soldiers to fight the vast army of Midian. Under the Lord’s command, he sent about 32,000 men home. Gideon divided the soldiers into three companies of 100 soldiers each. Upon the signal, the men were to break their jars with torches inside and blow their trumpets, shouting “For the Lord and for Gideon.” (See Judges 7:1-25.)

Paul and Silas traveled to the city of Philippi after receiving a vision from the Lord. Several days later, they were beaten and thrown into jail because they were considered a public menace when a slave woman was delivered from the fortune-telling spirits that made her master money. At about midnight, with their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God loudly enough for the other prisoner to hear. (See Acts 16:6-40.)

These three distinct stories share a common theme of obedience. Joshua and Gideon were both given unusual battle plans. Both men followed the Lord’s orders. God performed mighty miracles and the Israelites won incredible victories.

Paul and Silas went to the place God had told them to go, but after only making one recorded disciple, they were falsely accused and put in jail. Instead of having a pity party and moping about their unfair circumstances, the two Jesus followers decided to praise the Lord. A divine visitation shook the jail, setting all the prisoners free. When the jailer went to check out the situation, none of the prisoners had escaped (a huge miracle by itself). As a result, the jailer and his entire household put their faith in Jesus.

God’s people obeyed, and God showed up in a huge way!

By Andrea Piacquadio @pexels.com

In the middle of obeying, it didn’t make sense. There were plenty of occasions for doubt to creep in and to quit before the plan was completed.

Joshua’s army could have stop marching before the seventh day. They might have felt silly marching silently around Jericho. But they persevered.

Gideon’s men could have decided to join all the others who had gone home. What chance did they have against the Midianites? But they didn’t give up.

Paul and Silas could have lamented about what a waste of time it had been to come to Philippi in the first place. How could the Lord have planned for them to land in jail? But they trusted Him instead.

However, in each situation, when they looked back, they could see the unmistakable intervention of God.

The walls of Jericho fell and the city was captured.

The Midianite army was soundly defeated.

The Lord visited the jail and a prominent family in Philippi was saved. (The Bible doesn’t say, but I wonder how many prisoners gave their lives to Jesus that night?)

What has God asked you to do?

What next step do you need to take to move forward in obedience?

Take courage, my friend.

It might not make sense in the middle. It might not be easy. But don’t give up.

As you obey the Lord’s leading, expect Him to show up. That’s the kind of God He is.

Special thanks to my son, Jason Babcock, for sharing a devotional that inspired me to write this.   

Where Has All the Integrity Gone?

Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus the question in a dismissive manner during their encounter (John 18:38, NIV). Jesus had appeared before Pilate for sentencing. During their brief conversation, Jesus declared, “The reason I was born and came into the word is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37). In Pilate’s world, truth was subjective, determined by the person considering it. Much like the society in which we live today.

The fact that Jesus mentioned “the side of truth” reveals that truth does indeed exist. Truth isn’t what we decide it will be. Truth isn’t like a chameleon changing color to blend into its environment.

In our current political environment, truth is difficult to discover. I have family members and friends who identify with a wide variety of political viewpoints. They are all good people. Some of them stand strongly on one side of the political aisle; others stand just as convinced on the other side. Political viewpoints come with particular beliefs. As a result, truth is reported by news media, social media, and other sources (on both sides) with subjectivity. It is often tricky to sort through so much information for the facts.   

As one who is passionate about the truth, my spirit is grieved by the partial truths and spin that surround us on every side. Where can we go to find out what is really going on and get the whole picture? Our country suffers from a lack of integrity, which prompts me to inquire, “Where has all the integrity gone?”

Now more than ever, we need leaders of integrity.  

Charisma can only carry leaders so far. Healing of our nation requires more than promises and new policies. Integrity is the quality that is essential to restoring trust. We need strong leaders to navigate the chaos and confusion of the times and model integrity before crowds and behind closed doors in top-secret meetings.  

Leaders of integrity tell the truth. They make sure that their words and actions match. Always. They are also genuine in every setting and have nothing to hide.

As Christian leaders, we must rely on the LORD to empower us to lead with integrity in our sphere of influence. We stand on the truth as revealed by the Word of God, and we live the truth without compromise. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can make a difference where God has placed us.

Let’s pray for the restoration of our nation, and let’s be leaders who honor the LORD and those we lead by leading with integrity.

“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you” (Psalm 25:21, NLT).