Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hope of Remembering

This morning as part of my daily Bible reading I read 2 Chronicles 14, 15, and 16 which summarized the reign of King Asa of Judah.  King Asa was one of the good kings. In chapter 14 we read that, Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of YHWH his God (v. 2; NLT).  He led a campaign to rid the country of pagan shrines and worship and he encouraged the people to follow the ways of YHWH, and as a result God gave the land peace.

There was a time when  Zerah from Ethiopia set out to attack Judah with an army of 1,000,000 men.  Asa led his army of 580,000 men against them, but he also called on God for help.  2 Chronicles 14:11 says: 
And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you” (ESV).

The text goes on to say; So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled (2 Chronicles 14:12; ESV).  Not only did Asa and Judah recognize God at work in the victory, but so did the surrounding nations, for they left Judah alone.

That is until King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and captured the city of Ramah.  In response King Asa doesn’t turn to YHWH, but he makes an alliance with King Ben-hadad of Aram.  When I read that I thought, “Why did he do that?  Did he forget how God had already given him a great victory?”  Reading further I realized I wasn’t the only one who asked those questions.  God sent the prophet Hanani to King Asa and Hanani told the King:

“Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:8, 9; ESV).

In response King Asa threw Hanani into prison and began to oppress his people.  For a king who started out with so much promise Asa ended his reign badly.  I think the main reason for this was due to the fact that Asa failed to remember.  He failed to remember God’s Law, which he urged the people to follow when he first become king.  When you forget the principles that make up the foundation of your life then you will experience your life caving in upon you.

Asa also failed to remember God’s mighty power.  God’s power delivered the King and Judah from the mighty army of the Ethiopians, but when Israel invades Asa forgets the previous victory given by the hand of YHWH and turns to an earthly ally.  Instead of experiencing a greater measure of God’s power, Asa experienced the difficulties and defeats of war.

Here is the application I want to make to our lives: we find hope for living by remembering what God has done for us.  It is so easy for me to focus on my present circumstances and forget about how God has worked in my life in the past.  When this happens I feel both hopeless and helpless, because there is nothing that I can do that will change my circumstances.

The moments I discover hope are those moments when I reflect on how God has worked in the past.  For me this begins with the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Because of Jesus resurrection not only do we look forward to everlasting life with God, but we also can look forward to the restoration and transformation of all of creation.  The resurrection is the “first fruits” of what God is going to do with the Church and with the rest of creation.

The promise of resurrection is vital to our Christian hope, but I also need to remember how God has already come through for me.  It is one thing to continue to look forward, it is another thing to recognize God’s constant help throughout life.  In the Old Testament we read about the men and women of faith erect markers to serve as reminders of God working in their lives.  In the New Testament we discover that Jesus gave us the sacrament of Communion to serve as a reminder of His actions and of our commitment to Him.  Having traditions and markers to serve as reminders of God at work in our lives is essential.

I need to remember how God provided a job when I needed one.  I need to remember how God encouraged me through prayer, Scripture, and people when I needed encouragement.  I need to remember the lessons God has taught me along the way.  This is why I have a shelf in my study devoted to little trinkets, because each one reminds me of God working in my life.  This is why I keep a journal, so I can look back and be reminded of the truth God was teaching me.  These things remind me that I am not alone, that God hasn’t given up on me, and that there is every reason to hold on to hope.

If we don’t intentionally take time to remember what God has done in the past and in our lives we will forget God’s power, love, and grace during those times that we need it most.  Hope during the tough times of life comes through remembering the truth that God has come through in the past, and therefore there is every reason to expect Him to come through in the future.

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