2006-05-01 - Life's Burdens
Author's Note: If you use the Lifeway's Explore the Bible series of material for Sunday School this devotional will be familiar to you. But I believe it different enough to warrant a second look.
Some Christians would settle just for the New Testament. Back in the early centuries, there were even sects that pushed such an idea. For Jews throughout the ages, the Old Testament has served in two capacities: a book of history and a book of faith. As a book of history, it shows the history of God's people and in so doing the history of God's faithfulness to his people. In this sense, it gave Jews confidence in their God knowing that nations that mocked God fell beneath his hand while the nation of Israel was secure in his hand. As a book of faith, it held spiritual lessons for them. It also holds lessons individually for them and for us. One such lesson covered in the Old Testament is dealing with burdens.
We all have burdens. I struggle at times with my relationship with coworkers on certain difficult projects. If you think working for yourself will cause those headaches to cease, let me assure you they do not end when you're the boss as I've been there before. Work and life in general at times may seem like just one problem after another with occasional scattered piles of troubles - jobs, annoying neighbors that think the streets are drag strips, road rage, over-committed schedules, money problems, and on and on and on. It is a fact that life is full of ups and downs. Those downs are the burdens we all experience. Some are big and others are little but a down is still a down even if it is less down than another down. Whom do I turn to with burdens? Where should I take them? Only God can take care of them but he will only help when we ask for it.
Do you take your burdens to the Lord? Of course we do, but are we ever reluctant to take burdens to the Lord? I know there are times that I am. Why? Sometimes shame or guilt holds us back. We know we got into the situation because of bad choices so we're too ashamed to go to God for help. We may even think we deserve the problem. We may not take the burden to God because we think it is a sign of weakness to have to turn to God for all things. And other times we may not take our burdens to God because we think the problem is too small. Let me assure you if God loves you enough to send his son, if he loves you enough to count the hairs on our heads, then he loves us enough to listen to us with any problem regardless of the size.
In the book of Isaiah, we see a man, King Hezekiah, with a problem. In fact, we see a city or nation with a problem. The bully on the block, Assyria, was coming to beat them up and take their lunch money and snack money and supper money and everything else. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, is coming to reconquer the land his father had held. When his father passed away many nations including Judah felt the king would be too wet behind the ears to really squash a serious rebellion. Now, he has been going through reconquering nation after nation. By the time Isaiah 36 finds him, he has just conquered an important city in Judah called Lachish and is on his way to Jerusalem with his great army. The field commander and some troops preceded him as messengers to warn the people of Judah to surrender. They met with Jerusalem's representatives outside the city wall.
The field commander, or Rabshekeh, came to make Israel doubt. The Judean officials asked him to speak in Aramaic but he spoke loudly in Hebrew so everyone on the wall could hear him. Doubts come with trouble. Doubts come to get us to surrender. Doubting Christians do not know victory. Doubting Christians cannot offer hope to the world when they themselves appear to have none. A doubting Christian is a victory for Satan. So when trouble comes there will always be doubts and there'll be "friends" like the ones Job have who want to convince you that you deserve the problems and try to shame you into accepting those problems. But do not be fooled. That is not God's plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) - For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Problems can make us personally question God. Can God really help? You know the people of Jerusalem had to be asking themselves that question with an army approaching. In problems, there are also questions from the world much like the questions asked by the field commander on the behalf of the Assyrian king. What are you basing your confidence on? (Isaiah 36:4) Whom do you trust in? (Isaiah 36:5) Is your God really able to help you when others have failed? (Isaiah 36:18-20) These just add to your own questions and doubts. Does God even care enough to help me? Why would he help me with my problem if he won't help the world with big problems like famine, poverty, hurricanes, and earthquakes? If God will let good people go through bad things like cancer, why should I think God would help me with my finances? The people of Jerusalem had two options: trust God totally or trust the Assyrians and surrender. When these questions come remember that we as God's people have exactly two choices as well: trust God or trust anything else and surrender to it.
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted
Take time today to read Isaiah 36 and 37.i