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Oh, how difficult it is to realize we’ve been wrong about something! For so many of us, it’s quite painful to let go of a long-held understanding of one thing in order to make room for a more expansive perspective or (and this is the worst) an opposing viewpoint on one thing or another.
The writer of Psalm 79 envisions God’s future activity along the lines of an action movie. The bad guys are the nations who have conquered Israel, defiling God’s temple, destroying Jerusalem, and slaughtering the people. Yet the Israelites will not pay back those who have scorned them. Rather, Psalm 79 calls out for God to be the hero who pours out his wrath on the nations and saves his people.
It’s harder and harder to trust these days. Partly, this is due to the epidemic of cynicism that plagues our society. But, our cynicism comes as the institutions and individuals we once counted on turn out to be untrustworthy. Yet, even in our cynical age, there is something in us that looks, even yearns for something truly reliable, something that we can truly count on.
With occasional oases of hope, the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah are a desert of divine judgment. But then, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone changes. Though the Lord is still a God of justice and judgment, emphasis is placed on restoration and renewal.
Hezekiah was manipulated by flattery and fell prey to pride. Like any other human being, he had his weaknesses, and these were costly, not only to him, but also to his people. Our leadership whether in our jobs or families, whether in our churches or communities, can also be compromised by our weaknesses.
This story portrays vividly the power and puzzle of prayer. God healed Hezekiah, doing that which required supernatural power, in response to Hezekiah’s supplication. This is the power of prayer. The puzzle comes from the fact that God seemed to change his mind in response to Hezekiah’s prayer.
I would however like to offer a different perspective on the main goal of marketplace ministry. Could it be that God’s plan is to simply provide irrefutable evidence in the most public spaces of his Sovereignty, which would give every person and system the ability to clearly choose or reject his Lordship?
Psalm 78 focuses mainly on the sad history of Israel’s persistent rebellion against the Lord. Though he showed them mercy time and again, and though he disciplined them for their disobedience, the children of Israel regularly turned away from God and failed to keep his covenant.
The challenges of our lives may not be quite as dire as those of Hezekiah, but we all face apparently invincible problems in our lives. There are times when these challenges – at work, at home, in our relationships, in our own hearts – seem overwhelming. In such circumstances, we are certainly free to pour out our fears and needs to the Lord. Yet, sometimes we need to do more than ask for God’s help.
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