FRIDAY MORNING MANNA

The Beginning and the End: The Old and the New  

         Then He who sat on a throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, Write for these words are true and faithful. And He said to me, It is done! I Am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Rev. 21 5-7, N.K.J.V. 

All too quickly the old year ends in two days from this last Friday of 2017, and the New Year 2018 begins. Like sunset, then sunrise…..and a new day begins in your life and mine. Or are we meeting, actually beginning the New Year with the “same old, same old” mentality, bad habits, unChristlike traits, pride and vanity, “the works of the flesh” instead of the “fruits of the spirit,” into the next year? Will it be really new? In what sense?  

Let’s consider the latter part of King Hezekiah life chapter, which, hopefully never happens but could suddenly become our lot. If it does, would we have benefitted from his experience which was set in Scriptures for the benefit of all generations following, particularly ours so polluted and corrupted with the prophesied physical and spiritual diseases of the last days? As the cliché says, Life is full of surprises—good and bad.

In sharp contrast to the reckless rule of his father, king Ahaz, was the prosperous rein of his son Hezekiah—God’s reward for the reformation he wrought, including the restoration of the temple services in the kingdom of Judah, averting the threatened judgments upon the southern tribes which were fast following the wickedness of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

“Set thine house in order.  But “in the midst of his prosperous reign, King Hezekiah was suddenly stricken with a fatal malady, ‘Sick unto death,” his case was beyond the power of man to help. And the last vestige of hope seemed removed when the prophet Isaiah appeared before him with the message, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.’ Isa. 38: 1. The outlook seemed utterly dark; yet the king could still pray to the One hitherto been his ‘refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’  Ps. 46: 1. And so ‘he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord saying, I beseech Thee O Lord, remember now how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done which was good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.’ 2 Kings 20: 2, 3, K.J.V.

   “He whose ‘compassions fail not (Lam. 3: 22) heard the prayer of His servant. ‘It came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of My people, Thus saith the Lord . . . I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee; on the third day thou shalt go up into the house of the Lord. I will add unto thy days fifteen years;  . . . . 2 Kings 20: 4-6.

Pleads for a Sign that God will Keep His Promise. God yields.  “Like Moses . . . like Gideon . . ., like Elisha . . .Hezekiah pleaded for some sign that the message was from heaven. ‘What shall be the sign,’ he inquired of the prophet, ‘that the Lord will heal me?’ . . . ‘This sign shalt thou have of the Lord . . . :”Shall the shadow [on the sun dial] go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?’ “It is a light thing, Hezekiah replied, ‘for the shadow to go down [forward] ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.’

      “Only by the direct imposition of God could the shadow of the sundial be made to turn back ten degrees; and this was to be the sign to Hezekiah that the Lord had heard his prayer. Accordingly, ‘the cried unto the Lord: and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the [sun]dial of Ahaz.’  2 Kings 20: 8-11.  Restored to his wonted strength, the king of Judah acknowledged in words and song the mercies of Jehovah, and vowed to spend his remaining days in willing service to the King of kings. His grateful recognition of God’s compassionate dealing with him is an inspiration to all who desire to spend their years to the glory of the Maker.

Did Hezekiah keep his vows to God in gratitude for a most amazing double miracle?  “In the fertile valley of the Tigris and the Euphrates there dwelt an ancient race which, though at that time subject to Assyria, was destined to rule the world. Among its people were wise men who gave much attention to the study of astronomy; and when they noticed that the shadow on the sundial had been turned back ten degrees, they marveled greatly. Their king, Merodach-baladan, upon learning that this miracle had been wrought as a sign to the king of Judah that the God of heaven had granted him a new lease on life.  Sent ambassadors to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery, and to learn, if possible, more of the God who was able to perform so great a wonder.

      “The visit of these messengers from the ruler of a far-away land gave Hezekiah an opportunity to extol the living God. How easy it would have been for him to extol the living God . . . . to tell them of God, the upholder of all created things, through hose favor his own life had been spared when all other hope had fled! What momentous transformations might have taken place had these seekers after truth from the plains of Chaldea had been led to acknowledge the supreme sovereignty of the living God!

“What have they seen in thine house?”— this Season?   “But pride and vanity took possession of Hezekiah’s heart, and in self-exaltation he laid open to covetous eyes the treasures with which God had enriched His people. ‘The king showed them the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.’  Isa. 39: 2. Not to glorify God did he do this, but to exalt himself in the eyes of the foreign princes. He did not stop to consider that these men were representatives of a powerful nation that had not the fear nor the love of God in their hearts, and that it was imprudent to make them his confidants concerning the temporal riches of the nation.

    “The visit of the ambassadors to Hezekiah was a test of his gratitude and devotion. The record says, ‘Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.’ 2 Chron. 32: 31. Had Hezekiah improved the improved the opportunity given him to bear witness to the power, the goodness, the compassion, of the God of Israel, the report the ambassadors would have been as light piercing darkness. But he magnified himself above the Lord of hosts [sounds familiar and similar to the man of sin of prophecy!] He ’rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up.’ 2 Chron. 32: 25.

     “How disastrous the results which were to follow! To Isaiah it was revealed that the returning ambassadors were carrying with them a report of the riches they had seen, and that the king of Babylon and his counselors would plan to enrich their own country with the treasures of Jerusalem. Hezekiah had grievously sinned [at his juncture of his extended life!]; ‘therefore there was wrath upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem.’ –Ibid.

      “’Then came Isaiah the prophet unto King Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered [at lease he did not lie, like some in high places of government!], All that is mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.’

     “Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. . . . .

      “The story of Hezekiah’s failure to prove true to his trust at the time of the visit of the ambassadors is fraught with an important lesson for all . . . . Those with whom we associate day by day need our help, our guidance. They may be in such a condition of mind that a word spoken in season will be as a nail in a sure place. To-morrow [or next year] some of these souls may be where we can never reach them again. What is ourinfluence over these fellow travelers?

The Power of Multiplication in Unconscious Influence. “Every day of life is freighted with responsibilities which we must bear. Every day, our words, and acts are making impressions upon those with whom we associate. How great the need that we set a watch upon our lips and guard carefully our steps! One reckless movement, one imprudent step, and the surging waves of some strong temptation may sweep a soul into the downward path. We cannot gather up the thoughts we have planted in human minds. If they have been evil, we may have set in motion a train of circumstances, a tide of evil, which we are powerless to stay.

      “On the other hand, if by our example we aid others in the development of good principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the same beneficial influence upon others. Thus hundreds and thousands are helped by our unconscious influence. The true follower of Christ [the true Christian] strengthens the good purposes of all with whom he comes in contact. Before an unbelieving, sin-loving world, he reveals the power of God’s grace and the perfection of His character.” .E. G. White, Prophets & Kings, pp. 340-348.

If anyone waves these all away, sayings: “As long as you have a relationship with God, that’s all that matters,” ask:  What kind of relationship? Remember, it is not with any fellow mortal, even those we hold dearest to us but with Him who alone is the immortal Life giver, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and Last, the Creator and Redeemer, the merciful High Priest and Judge of all the earth, and, soon coming Lord of lords and King of kings!

New Year 2018 can be the difference-maker in the arc of our moral and spiritual growth.  Suggestion: Put this at the top (f you haven’t already), of short priority list of New Year’s 2018 Resolutions:

  

  I will, by God’s grace, strive to enter in the strait and narrow gate with Christ, who opened it, by rededicating myself and all God has blessed me with, a sinner so unworthy of His love, goodness and mercy by renewing my covenant relationship with Jesus, my wonderful Savior. So help me God Almighty!

     “The soul that is yielded to Christ, become His own fortress, which he holds in a revolted world, and He intends that no authority shall be known in it but His own. A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies, is impregnable to the assaults of Satan.” Ibid, The Desire of Ages, p. 324.  

     “Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness, and relies wholly on the merits of the Savior. By prayer, by the study of His Word, by faith in His abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them by hand that will never let go [see Isa. 42 16] . . .  Those whom Christ has forgiven most will love Him most. These are they who in the final day will stand nearest to His throne.”- Ibid, Ministry of Healing, p. 182.                               (To be continued next year!)