Sunday, May 27, 2018

Peace in the DMZ

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I was recently struck by the similarities between a story in Second Chronicles and a newspaper headline about North and South Korea.  The headline was South Korea Turns Down the Volume as Trump Talks Up Summit.   The caption below the picture explained that South Korean soldiers had removed high decibel loudspeakers that were used to broadcast positive messages along the contested border between North and South Korea. As a prerequisite to a peace summit, the North Koreans asked for the speakers to be turned down because it demoralized their troops and was an effective tool against the propaganda and lies put out by the North Korean government. Interestingly, this is a strategy that has been used for thousands of years both for good by countries like the US and South Korea and for bad by countries who used various communication channels to restrict freedom and  promote lies. A couple of days after I saw the headline in the paper, I read the story in 2 Chronicles 32 of Assyria's threats to Jerusalem. Though the situation in the Bible happened over 2700 years ago, it is relevant today because propaganda and lies still cause us to doubt God  and let fear rule our decisions.  I have written two books on Hezekiah because I think this story is relevant to each of us.  

In 2 Chronicles 32, King Hezekiah and his leaders were in a tough situation.  The Judean town of Lachish had fallen to Assyria after a devastating siege.  Lachish was only 39 miles away from Jerusalem and Assyria's armies had decided that Jerusalem was their next target.  An Assyrian advance team had been sent to Jerusalem to convince King Hezekiah and his leaders to surrender without a fight.  

The Assyrian emissary's goal was to strike fear and confusion into the hearts of the people. Just like the South Korean government broadcast their message along the North Korean border, the Assyrians blasted their message in Hebrew so that the people would understand and be afraid. 

They played on the people's normal fears that they would die of starvation like the people of Lachish.  They asked the people, "On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst."  It is interesting to me that Satan used food to draw us away from God as a strategy both in the Garden of Eden when Eve realized that the fruit was "good for food" and when he tempted Jesus to "tell these stones to become bread."  Jesus responded to Satan's attack by quoting scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3. " Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[a]”  We have to trust that God will give us what we need. Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." When we look to food, money or any thing else as our security, our salvation and our happiness, we aren't trusting God. 

The Assyrian officials used words to attack the people's faith in God as misguided; other other cities had trusted their "gods," yet they had all fallen to Assyria. The Assyrians used logic to make their case against the Lord God delivering Jerusalem. They asked, “Do you not know what I and my predecessors have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my predecessors destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my predecessors. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!” 2 Chronicles 32:13-15

I think it is interesting that the Assyrians accuse Hezekiah of misleading and deceiving the people when they were the ones who were lying and distorting truth. Satan used the same strategy in the Garden of Eden was to accuse God of lying by asserting to Eve, "You will not certainly die."  Satan often will call the truth a lie so that we doubt it.  Satan often uses fear to cause us to doubt God and His sovereignty. Doubt weakens our faith and leads us to disobedience and away from God's blessings. 

Hezekiah's response was to pray and ask his friend to Isaiah to pray. Hezekiah's prayer is recorded in 2 Kings 19 and ends with his plea, "Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” God miraculously intervened and wiped out the Assyrian armies and peace reigned in the land.  

When we are faced with overwhelming situations that cause us to doubt God, we have to get on our knees and pray.  We have to go to the source of truth. We have to be aware that the same loudspeakers can be used to communicate truth and lies.  We need to fill our mind with His Word so that we can discern truth and counteract Satan's lies .  Too often I don't go straight to God, because I have let doubt weaken my faith; I start to worry, I call friends and get their opinion, I google and let anxiety rule my heart.  This is not the best strategy for overcoming anxiety.  Philippians 4:6 tells us  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."   This passage in Philippians continues, "And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Though we might not be under siege by the Assyrian army, we can have peace and freedom from anxiety by bringing every situation to God in prayer.  

Are there places in your life that you doubt God?  He is big enough to handle your questions and doubts.   Fill your mind with the Word of God - often a slight distortion of truth - propaganda from the enemy can cause us to doubt God's goodness, power and love.

Are you facing an impossible situation?  You are under siege and it seems like there is no way out. Bring your worries and requests to God.  His power and might is not limited by what we can see, the resources we have or our abilities.   Peace will come when you praise God, give thanks for all that he has done through time and make your requests known.

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