Rev. Simon McLeay
Sunday 28 May 2017
Speaking truth to Power Simon Mcleay
What’s the greatest Lie that the enemy wants us to believe? I want to suggest one possibility today. Perhaps it’s not the greatest lie. But it’s up there.
That “Our actions don’t mean anything?” In other words “That our lives don’t matter.
Whereas I believe that our actions are of incredible value to God; our actions count. In other words we – can – make – a - difference.
This morning I have given everyone of you a piece of paper, and later in the service I am going to ask you to write a letter to Simon Bridges MP about a matter of concern. I’m not giving you the words. I’m going to ask you to write a personal letter to your MP about a matter that you are concerned about. Because I believe that our voices count. You may or may not have voted for Simon, but he is still our MP – If you live outside Tauranga you can write to Todd Muller. Our voices count.
Today I’m wrapping up the first half of Isaiah. Then we will take a break and later in the year we’re going to come back to second Isaiah and the servant songs. But today is a whistle-stop tour of the messages God gave Isaiah to deliver to King Hezekiah. As Isaiah spoke truth to Power.
Act One: Isaiah 36, 2 Chronicles 32. About 2700 years ago The King of Assyria, Sennacherib was going through the land destroying cities and he besieged Jerusalem. Why on earth would you care? I was at a seminar on Saturday where Glen Morris was speaking about why do we read the bible? He said the bible is a symphony which tells particular stories which bring up the same themes of our lives time and time again. So, God has given us these ancient stories because they speak into our current stories. There was a big bad bully going through the land, stealing and destroying. And the followers of God were being challenged to be faithful. Sounds like the threat of ISIS or debt or depression.
Sennacherib destroyed the city of Lachish and then he sent his bully boys out to scare the people in Jerusalem. He gets them to yell out insults in Hebrew – the common language so that everybody can understand his threats and he was insulting the lord, the God of Jerusalem.
Do you know what its like to be threatened?
Act Two: Isaiah 37 v6 When Hezekiah the King heard these threats he went into the temple and tore his clothes and cried out to God. He went to God. And through the prophet Isaiah God answered Hezekiah and said “Do not be afraid.” Are those words for you today also? Do you need to hear God say to you. Do not be afraid! Powerful words.
Then in v 10 if you are following in your bibles – Sennacherib sent a message to Hezekiah, do not let the God you depend upon deceive you. I’m coming to get you. He ups the ante!
What now? Well this is where Hezekiah is a model for us. He went to the temple of the Lord. He took the threating letter and he laid it out before God. And he prayed with the faithful. 2 Chronicles 32.20 tells us that Isaiah joined him in prayer and they together prayed for deliverance.
Now let me fill you in. Hezekiah had prepared for siege. The people were ready. He had dug an incredible tunnel under the city to bring water in. The army were called up. This was not irresponsible faith; the king had done all he should do. And as the pinnacle of his response he was praying passionately.
Act Three:Isaiah 37.37 And God acted. The prophet records that God unleashed the angel of death as he had on Egypt a millennia before. The army of Sennacherib dissolves and disappears. It is a miraculous deliverance. You might know Lord Byron’s Famous poem which finishes with the lines, “And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword, Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!”
Historically there is a disagreement. The bible records that 185,000 Assyria soldiers are miraculously killed. Sennacherib’s prism found in Ninevah in 1830, doesn’t record a defeat but simply mentions a retreat. Propaganda. Interestingly the historians agree this was the end of Sennacheribs expeditions. It’s like there is a space in the Assyrian story, a gap where we ask. Why did they leave? Given that Hezekiah blocked up the water sources some people have suggested that the Assyrians might have experienced an outbreak of Cholera or similar. However it happened, God acted, Jerusalem was miraculous saved. Our God is a God who saves people. When you are in trouble call out to him. Lay the threat out before him, and get Christian friends around to pray with you.
Act Four: Isaiah 38 A few years later Hezekiah becomes ill and this time Isaiah’s word – truth spoken to Power; was a sobering word. “Put your house in order, because you are going to die.” Wow! Hard word that one. Perhaps a word we also need to hear, at least in the distance. We live in a culture that pretends we are immortal. Yet God tells us keep our house in order, you will die one day. Have you made peace with God? Do you have an enduring power of attorney? Do you have an up to date will? Have you filled out an end of life plan? These are ways of facing our mortality.
I heard someone recently saying – I’ve never met anyone yet who couldn’t have used more money in their retirement. We are obsessed with retirement in NZ. Recently I have been running across people who have too much money. It’s more a stress than a blessing. Jesus’ story about the rich fool is a story about storing up too much for retirement. Find a balance of blessing your family, friends and strangers today. Jesus instructed us – use earthly wealth to make friends and lay up treasure in heaven.
Act Five:Isaiah 38.5 Isaiah brings a message from God. I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add 15 years to your life. And it was so. God is a god who heals. But ultimate healing only comes in heaven. I think it’s important to realise that. When we pray for healing. If we get a little longer – that is wonderful. But ultimately our healing is that Jesus came and lived and died and was raised to resurrection life so that we can share in resurrection life.
Act Six: Isaiah 39. Having recovered Hezekiah does something really dumb. He has people from Babylon come because they have heard of the miraculous sign. And he shows them all the wealth and gold and silver of the temple. From a human point of view Hubris and just plain dumb. It would be like showing thieves around your house, here where we keep the cash!
Act Seven:Isaiah 39. Now Isaiah has another hard word to deliver. He tells Hezekiah that he has been foolish and God is not impressed and that Babylon will come and destroy you one day, but not in Hezekiah’s lifetime. Now the last verse of Isaiah 39 sums up Hezekiah to me. V 8 Hezekiah says the word of the lord you have spoken is good. Because there will be peace and security in my lifetime. (He’s selfish and vain)
Act Eight:2 Chron 36. 70 years later Jerusalem is besieged and destroyed. Jerusalem theology is finished. That was a theology that said that the city would always be safeno matter what people did. Whereas in fact God does not promise to eternally, support us if we turn to wickedness. The people of Jerusalem were taken away into exile and the holy city and temple were destroyed.
That’s the end of the first half of Isaiah, a series of prophesies of judgement and of hope interspersed. Judgement, hope, judgement hope. There is no judgement without Hope; but also there is no hope without honest judgment and discernment. We will return to the second half of Isaiah later in the year.
What do you need to hear? Take your threats before God? That God is a saving God? Or that your days are numbered stop hoarding as if you were immortal? What is God word for you today?