2 Kings 18:1-6  1 In the third year of Israel’s King Hoshea son of Elah, Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king of Judah. 2 He was 25 years old when he became king and reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi daughter of Zechariah. 3 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. 4 He removed the high places, shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. 6 He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following Him but kept the commands the LORD had commanded Moses.

It’s about time, don’t you think?  I mean, I have been reading this book of second kings for a while now and I am really getting tired of hearing about kings who did evil.  King after king didn’t follow the Lord like their ancestor David.  So they ruled their ways into destruction.  But then comes Hezekiah; he was different.  He didn’t follow after the wickedness of his father or his grandfather, or even his great-grandfather.  He didn’t lead by popular vote or succumb to the way of culture.  

Instead, he took a stand for God.  I find this truly remarkable!  This was a young man who had no one modeling Godly behavior for him.  He didn’t have a heritage from the Lord through his parents.  And he could have gone the path of least resistance, which would have been leading the same way daddy did.  But he didn’t – he dared to be different.  He dared to live a life of righteousness.  He dared to destroy idolatry and bow down before no other king.  He was a rebel for God!

I know it can be hard to take a stand for the Lord in your life.  Sometimes our surroundings feel like they are choking us out.  Many of you don’t have families that gave you a heritage in the Lord, so you are forging your own way.  And I want you to know that it can be done.  A young man by the name of Hezekiah dared to live for the Lord.  He made a decision that he would be different regardless of what was going on around him.  He destroyed the things that were not pleasing to God and surrendered his life to Him.  If Hezekiah could do it, you can do it to!

Where courage comes from

1 Sam 14:6  Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few. ”

Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving.  I am just letting that thought simmer today.  It doesn’t matter if the obstacle is tiny or if it is huge beyond belief; nothing can stop Him from saving.  He is that big, that powerful, and that mighty to save. 

So here’s the scenario.  The Israelites are trying to figure out how to fight the Philistines.  The problem is that they don’t have any weapons (see yesterday’s post.)  So Jonathan sneaks off with his caddy, er, I mean, armor-bearer.  Same thing, really except one carries golf clubs and the other carries weapons.  They didn’t have a golf cart handy, so they trekked through wilderness and cliffs to see the enemy.  Apparently Jonathan has a plan to take them on himself, with the help of his armor-bearing caddy.  And before he even knows how big of a task it is going to be, he utters this statement: Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving.

Here he is, about to face some insurmountable obstacle – an enemy force – and his faith rises up in the Lord his God.  Fear is nowhere to be found; only faith and courage are present.  He stops and asks the Lord what the next move will be.  When he hears from the Lord, he moves forward.  This, my friends, should be our same journey.  It should be a journey filled with faith and courage.  It should be a journey of hearing from the Lord and moving into our battle positions.  Let’s learn from Jonathan today that nothing can stop the Lord from saving!  Because that’s where courage comes from: knowing that the battle is the Lord’s and that nothing can stop Him.

The Sun Stands Still

Joshua 10:12-13  12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

To me, this is one of the most remarkable supernatural works in the Bible.  In the New Testament, we see Jesus defying nature – things like walking on water and commanding the storm to be still.  In the Old Testament, we see Elijah calling down fire from heaven.  But this one has to be the most ridiculous of all.  Get this, Joshua is busy annihilating the armies of 5 kingdoms.  It is a victorious day to say in the least.  Now when you are having a day like that, who wants it to end?  Those are the days that you want to last forever.

So Joshua does something completely unexpected and out of the norm of the law of nature.  With confidence, he tells the Lord that he wants to make time stand still.   He wants this day to last so that he can wipe out the enemy.  The crazy thing is – it happens.  The sun stands still in the sky.  It does not move farther to the west; it does not set.  In fact, it says in verse 13 that it stayed like that for about a day.  In other words, God gave him an additional 24 hours to fight.  I would assume that if God made the day longer, He also provided strength to the Israelites to keep fighting and winning.

My guess is that this is a prayer that we have all uttered.  We have probably cried out to God for more time in the day only to have Him respond that we should first make more effective use of the time He’s already given us.  What I want to focus on, is not that.  What strikes me with the passage is the courageous faith of Joshua. He has an expectancy that God is going to respond to his request. Geez, sometimes I don’t even have the faith to ask God for measly little things.  I’m gonna chew on this one today.  What would happen if I had the courage of Joshua?  All I know is I would like to find out.

The ingredients of courage

Joshua 1:6-9 6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

People who really love to cook have discovered the joy of creating.  It is more than eating to them, it is an art form.  Whether it is a new experimental dish or one that is tried and true, they can make it to perfection with a touch of personality.  Most of these people don’t follow recipes in cookbooks either.   They add a little of this and a little of that until the flavor rises to their expectations.  It is a skill, one that I do not possess.  I can make a mean Mac N Cheese, though… from the box.

But a dish is only as good as the sum of its ingredients.  If you leave out an important ingredient, your dish will be doomed.  Just ask the baker who forgot the salt or the chef who forgot the seasoning.  Failing to use all the correct ingredients creates a flop.  Those vanilla cookies might taste like vanilla, but vanilla bricks probably wasn’t what you were going for.  My wife and I were recently watching a baking contest (sounds exciting, huh?) and one of the guys forgot to add the shortening.  Result: the cake tasted awful.   Ingredients are what make up the whole.

Apparently courage has ingredients, too.  Here in Joshua 1, God tells Joshua to have courage.  Now if I were Joshua, I would be pretty stoked about this whole talk with God.  Basically God tells him, “you can’t fail, because I’m going to make it happen.”  These are words that will make any Christian giddy.  He basically says, “I said I would do it, now I am going to use you to do it.”  I love it!  He doesn’t have to be terrified or discouraged, because the Lord promised him that He would be there wherever he would go.  It’s interesting that God would even mention these words terrify and discourage.  Maybe He knew it was inevitable that those things would be thrown Joshua’s way.  But He gave him the heads up not to worry; instead be strong and courageous.    The real source of this courage comes from knowing that God is going to be right there pulling it off with you. It comes from knowing that you are in the center of God’s will walking out the promise that He gave you.  So God infused Joshua with courage that day.  That’s the first ingredient.

There’s another ingredient, however, that is often overlooked.  That ingredient is following the commands of the Lord.  You see, Joshua was promised the victory.  He was told by God that He was going to be successful.  But God also instructed Him to do what he was told.  “Don’t turn to the right or to the left,” God said.  “Obey my words and my law that I gave to Moses.”  It was when Joshua did those things that he was promised success.  It was upon that condition that he was promised success wherever he would go.  If he would have chosen not to follow the Lord’s commands, he would have been  foolish to have courage facing the battles that lied ahead. Both ingredients, obedience and God’s promises, were required for this courage.

The same is required of us today.  We are foolish to take courage in the Lord’s promises if we are unwilling to do our part.  We cannot say, “Lord hand me the victory while I take a nap.”  In the same way, we cannot follow the 10 commandments and expect the Lord to give us everything we think we want.  Instead, we need to seek Him and ask what His promises are for us.  In order to have real confident courage, we need both.  These are the ingredients of courage that God gave to Joshua that day.  Try them out for yourself and see how it tastes.