Nov 15 2020 Take Root to Bear Fruit
21st November 2020
31 "Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then every one of you will eat from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, 32 until I come and take you to a land like your own--a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death! "Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, 'The LORD will deliver us.'
Lord, thank You to be together in a very different way today – but You are still here and present in our hearts. You long to hear from us, to speak to us, and to be with us. We lay our burdens at your feet. We cast our cares on You because You care for us. You reign as King. No one will ever replace You – You are our king and Lord and we worship You. We stand in Your presence blameless. In Your Name we pray.
This is part 2 of Hezekiah- so I will go back and give a brief summary on how this relates to us.
Hezekiah was king of the southern kingdom, Judah. He and David were the 2 great kings of Israel. He followed the Lord fully and there was no other king like him. He defeated the Philistines and stood up to the world superpower of the day – Assyria, and he refused to follow what they wanted him to do, and so the king of Assyria sent his army into Judah and besieged the fortified cities. Hezekiah is trapped in Jerusalem –a messenger comes giving terms of surrender.
For us, as we look at this, we need to see that the King of Assyria represents the dark forces of evil. He follows the strategy of the serpent in the garden! When we read this story and look at the king of Assyria, we can understand how we ourselves are attacked by Satan. Paul said, don’t be unaware of Satan’s schemes – he uses the same tactics.
First – he spoke wrongly about God. His goal was to get the people to think wrongly about God. If Satan can get us to think wrongly about God, that is how he gets us.
Here is how he spoke wrongly about God. God is not with you, for you, does not love you, will not protect you, and He doesn’t have your best in mind.
The serpent said – God doesn’t want you to eat this fruit because then you will be like Him.
The king of Assyria does the same thing.
Then he uses God’s word against them – Like the serpent – Did God say, you cannot eat any of the fruit of the trees of the garden – he takes God’s word and twists it. He is saying that not only can God not be trusted, but his word cannot be trusted.
Then the king tried to divide God’s people – trying to get us to fight against one another – and we forget where the real battle lies.
Finally – the way the king of Assyria does this – to create fear – to get us to be afraid.
Fear is a natural normal emotion. They are surrounded by this superpower – so of course there is fear. We live in a time where there will be natural times to have fear – health concerns and other things going on in our world. The problem is when we allow fear to get out of control. When it gets out of control, it wreaks havoc in our lives!
All of us have a level of fear – what is that level? What is it doing inside of me?
Fear is the natural feeling of the possibility of an impending loss. So when they are surrounded in Jerusalem, it is the loss of lives – for us, with COVID – maybe a loss of health and or a loss of life!
If you think you don’t have any fear – let me give you two indicators that you might.
Anxiety and Anger – those two things.
If you see your anger levels or anxiety levels going up – over whatever it is – then you know that under that is fear.
For some, it might not be your health of life, to sickness, but maybe it is losing your freedom or rights – and anxiety or anger build up inside of us. Our battle is not against flesh and blood – so with that, let’s look at His word.
33 Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria…
35 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?"
He is spreading fear and anxiety - trying to get them to respond. Here is their response:
36 But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, "Do not answer him."
That is interesting! If we were surrounded, we would have a lot to say – and they remained silent.
If we go back to the garden, Adam and Eve’s fatal flaw was that they engaged the serpent. They simply should have turned to the Lord.
Instead – they got in this conversation! We don’t realize – you won’t win an argument by yourself against Satan!
There is this strange verse in Jude:
But even when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil and debating with him concerning Moses' body, he did not dare to bring a slanderous judgment, but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!"
And he realizes, God must be the one who wins the victory! He must leave the final victory to God. We spend too much time focused on human weapons and strategy trying to defeat a spiritual enemy in a spiritual battle – so today we want to look at how to use spiritual weapons – in a spiritual battle
2 Kings 19: When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD... 6 Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard--those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.' "
God used Isaiah to speak. God is involved here. God is effectively saying to Hezekiah – I’ve got this! I’m in control Then he says – the king will hear this report – and he will hear this report and will leave and go back to his homeland to deal with some issues there. SO this report comes that a larger enemy has come against Assyria – we think that is the report – the king will leave, but he doesn’t!
Why didn’t he leave? Hell just make it worse, so what does Hezekiah do? He goes back to the temple:
20 Then Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning the king of Assyria. 21 This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him… " 22 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!
He gives them encouragement, and then pronounces judgment. This is not about YOU, but Assyria is My enemy – and I will address this.
In verse 29, there is a promise and a blessing – and we will come back to that.
32 "Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria: " 'He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. 34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.' "
God is going to do it all.
35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.
This is kind of like Pharaoh and the Passover…
When the people got up the next morning--there were all the dead bodies! 36 So the king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. 37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons killed him with the sword,
What this story tells us – there is one God, all powerful, over all. He protected Hezekiah and Judah – and the god of Assyria was unable to protect him against his own sons. Back to the promise and the practical part:
29 "This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah: "This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that. But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
When they laid siege to a city, they would burn the crops and lay siege and starve them out. God is saying – don’t worry – you will be fed – the people will be taken care of – and then there is this next line – we will focus on:
30 Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
One translation says – take root downward and bear fruit upward.
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. "The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
A remnant is a small group that remains faithful. And there is a pattern of a small group of faithful followers being whittled down – like Gideon – a great example – where Israel only had a small number – and God said – you still have too many! And He whittled it down to 300 – small – and they won.
Jesus talks about small things becoming great things.
I’m not a prophet – and surveys show that church attendance has declined significantly – I’m not a prophet, but maybe God is whittling the church down – creating a remnant – a faithful group. We need to be careful to not view this with an attitude of superiority! To think, we are the remnant – we must be great! That is what cults have done – David Koresh, that was their whole ploy.
But with 2020, I think we need to take root downward – go deeper and deeper in our relationship with the Lord – and I will give you practical ways to do this.
The first – it relates to our devotion and worship – First tear down the high places in our lives – those things - those ways and thinking where we have mixed the ways and thinking of the world into our service and worship of Jesus. I think all of us have a high place or two – and only you know what that is. First – tear those down!
Second – do the hard work of soul forming through spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines – the core of our being – I have mentioned these in the past.
Psalm 46 – cease striving and know that I am God – We need to practice listening to God – as one friend says – SHUT UP AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD!
It could be your car – a room in your house, or a walk in the woods – and if we are to hear from God, we must silence ourselves long enough to hear from Him.
Third – cry out to God. Supplication – crying out to Him to address our needs, insecurities, fears, and angers. Plus prayers of lament – complaint – the honesty of our hearts before God.
Third attain – create space for God. Sacred pauses – special moments to turn to being with God in the moment because God is present with us always. It doesn’t have to be an hour – it could be five seconds – to say, God is here, now, at work, when everything is going haywire. We need to make that part of who we are.
Contemplate and recognize His activity around us. How is He working in THIS situation? With COVID, or the election? How is He at work in ME? How do I join Him in that work?
Next – learn to practice gratefulness and thanksgiving – being grateful for what God has done.
Those are some practices.
To go deeper, we need to go deeper theologically and biblically – a foundation for our discipleship. Is your theology and bible built on a solid foundation that works in discipleship. Too many of us rely on radio theology – built on your favorite preachers on the radio, podcasts, or your favorite pastor. You can build some stuff out of that, but not on that alone.
You must commit yourself personally to it – and that takes work.
And then – address – see if there are any hurtful ways in me – Those hurtful ways we hurt ourselves or others –
Finally – we need to go deeper into community – and when I say community – that is an important word – our church is structured on small groups, ministry, and church. And you can go to each of those – and not be involved in community. Those people you are engaged with should become family – not just a group or a service you go to. We need to ask ourselves – do I have a spiritual family that is growing? Do I have spiritual relationships that are growing close just like my family?> That is what the new testament teaches – they became a spiritual family.
I’m going to stop there – and pray – and then go back and help Henry – to start the worship
Lord, thank You so much – we give you praise for all you have done for us. Help us to go deeper – to take root downward that we might bear fruit upward – in this stressful time – the perfect time to take root downward – in Your name we pray – amen.