Good king, bad king

Of Lion’s head and a mouse’s tail… Pride and prejudice?

2 Chron. 29 Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.

32:24 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the Lord, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the Lord’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah.

2 Chron. 33 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.

12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.

There are many stories of good kings and bad kings in the Old Testament – 1 Kings; 2 Kings; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles. Each account started with the same phrases -his age when he became king, length of reign, whether the king did what was right or evil ‘in the eyes of the Lord’.

So with Hezekiah and Manasseh:
Hezekiah started at 25 and reigned 29 years. Manasseh started at 12 and reigned 55 years. H did right and M did evil.

There are 4 long chapters written of the many accomplishments of Hezekiah in his 29 years of reign. There are only 20 short verses summarising Manasseh’s 55 years as king.

How did they end? They both died of course. Yet one great difference is that the good king turned proud (32:25) and the bad king humbled himself. (33:12)

In both, God had a response. When Hezekiah had pride in his heart and did not acknowledge the kindness God shown him, God’s wrath was on him. When Manasseh humbled himself, God was ‘moved’ by his entreaty. He listened to M’s plea. When Hezekiah repented of his pride, God’s wrath did not come on them during his days. (Question: does it mean it came in the days after his reign? Implication: our pride has consequences.)

Lessons to learn:
When all is well and we have so many accomplishments under our belt – even those of purifying the temple (ch.29), leading the people in worship in the Passover (ch.30), raising funds (ch.31), winning battles (ch.32), beware of pride. What a good capable person I am! I did it all – I am a good king, I did great things for my people and for God. So with us Christians, even the things that seemingly to be of the Lord, for the Lord, to the Lord – these doing and giving and being, successful things can become our idols – which makes us proud and forgetful. We forget that all good things come from the Lord – even the heart for doing right and being right in the eyes of the Lord. All by grace and mercy of God..

When all is not well, when we did badly, when we are hopelessly in the deep dark pit of evil and sin, there is hope. God listens to the humble heart – to the entreaty and plea of even the most evil king – reigning badly for 55 years. God is moved (33:13a). He brings us back to him – He restores us to knowing that the Lord is God. v.13b

Beware of pride and prejudice. Repent and be restored. Let me not forget.

In search of blissful contentment…

Have you ever watched a baby sleeping quietly in his mother’s arms? Such picture of blissful contentment…

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King David wrote Psalm 131.  What did he say?

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David does not strike me as a proud man. So I was intrigued when he said: My heart is not proud, Lord. My eyes are not haughty. (Psalm 131:1a). It does not seem like a humble man to say of himself as being not proud, is it?  I used to believe that humility is something one loses when he thinks he has it. But that is not the case here. Why?

He said something more that helps to explain the context – where he’s coming from when he said he’s not proud. He said: I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. (131:1b)

David prayed: “I am not proud, Lord.” That he addressed God as Lord, showed his submission before a greater person. David was not ‘ambitious.’ In simple terms, he did not strive to understand great matters – things that are beyond his understanding… things too wonderful for him to comprehend.

v. 2 gives us further context – that of contentment. Contentment of a weaned child. What does that mean? What is a weaned child? Why did David use that metaphor?

What is the significance of weaning a child in the Bible? Gen. 21:8

Answer: According to Jewish custom, the time when a child is weaned is cause for celebration. A weaned child has survived the fragile stage of infancy and can now eat solid food rather than breastfeed from his or her mother. (https://www.gotquestions.org/weaning-child-bible.html)

To be weaned like a child is to be off the needs of this world. To be off the need for significance, for affirmation, for self-righteousness and self-reliance. A weaned child is content in his mother’s arms. He knows he will be given solid food instead of his usual milk.

There are four significant themes in the 3 short verses. First is that of pride. David confidently prayed that he is not proud – not in his heart nor in his eyes. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matt. 12:34b) When I read haughty eyes, what comes to mind is looking down on others. Haughty eyes imply that I am better than you are. David was neither proud nor haughty. He was the humble shepherd boy who fought Goliath in the name of his God who helped him fight the lions to protect his sheep. He was the humble servant and musician of King Saul. He spared Saul’s life time and time again even when Saul tried to kill him.. even he was already anointed by Samuel to be king to replace Saul.

Second word is ambition. David does not think important to know all there is to know, to understand things that are beyond him. He neither had ambition to fight a giant nor to become a king. Why?

Contentment: Because he is content like a weaned child. Godliness with contentment is great gain. When has a weaned child ever sought to be wise, all-knowing, powerful and influential? There is calmness and quiet in the soul when there is contentment… no striving, no struggling, no contentious spirit.

Application:
Pride is at the heart of man. We are all proud by nature. Even in our good works and ministry in the name of God, even as we know the value of God’s approval, perhaps we seek more the approval of men. We might even think more of ourselves than what God thinks of us. Adam was lured into wanting to be like God. Pride and ambition often get us into a state of dissatisfaction, of anxious striving and chasing after the wind.

Contentment is being at peace like a weaned child – getting satisfaction and peace from knowing that his needs are taken care of. As God’s children, we are called to dependence on God for all our needs and wants. We trust and we rest.

Finally, we declare our hope. We know it is possible to attain such state of complete peace. We call on others to go on the road with us in hope… hope in the Lord who provides us with everything that we need and call us to be everything that we hope to be.

Psalm 131
A song of ascents. Of David.

1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

I don’t understand your mind…

“I don’t understand your mind.”

“Yes, whatever you wish.”

the-happiest-couples

These are two difficult sentences for me. The first one is difficult to accept. Why? Because it implies that my mind is complicated. The person who said it, cannot understand me.

The second sentence is difficult to give. Why? Because it means that I am saying yes to a wish that might not be the same as mine.Am I being difficult to understand? 😀

I will make it clearer. The first sentence is difficult for me to hear because hubby said it to me.

The second sentence is what I said so we will not get further into another argument. And I do mean it. It is not easy. It takes lots of practice… 30 years and I’m still trying to perfect it. Not by a long shot!

My two-cents thought on midlife crisis revolves around these two sentences. It is not one way street though. I too often do not understand his mind. I just do not say it as often. When menopause and andropause meet, that is about the perfect formula for a midlife crisis. For those who do not know what andropause mean or do not believe in it, I assure you that it exists. Don’t take me wrong. I am not saying hubby has it. Do not tell him I did. I will deny it. I am saying that I was/am menopausal. I often wonder if I am still in it or already out of it.

Bottom line.. regardless of menopause or andropause,
“I do not understand your mind” is not only a probability. It is a reality in human relationships.

“Yes, whatever you wish.” is the antidote to crisis. It is based on the principle of pleasing my neighbor. Take note that it is not about being people-pleaser, it is not about being afraid to say ‘No.’ It is not said for fear of rejection. It is not uttered because of fear of failure – that i do not meet the expectations of others. I say “yes, whatever you wish.’ to hubby because I submit to his authority. I submit to him because the Bible teaches me to do so. I submit to him because I love him and respect him.

Respect… that is the most wanted and needed ingredient in a marriage – the one thing a wife must give her husband and the one thing hubby values most.

Forgive and forget?

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Here we go again… so abusive! That’s my frustration each time an employee repeats a mistake. And each time he does, I would grudgingly forgive – always with reprimand and lecture, giving him a piece of my mind. And sometimes even practice the active forgiveness by giving him something to eat (even though…. I do not think he/she deserves it..)

Matthew 18

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

What is Peter’s state of mind when he asked this question?

It seems to imply that ‘he was wronged.’ Others made the mistake. He’s on the right side. “My brother sin and I forgive.”

How often? This also implies that there’s a limit. Until when? How many times do I have to forgive?

Up to seven times? Peter even answered his own question. He must have thought that seven is the perfect number. Up to 7, that’s it…more than enough.

What did Jesus mean when he said ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times? but up to seventy times seven.

Is 490 times the perfect number? Again, no. Seventy times seven simply means to lose count of the number of times to forgive. Imagine having a notebook to keep count of the number of times to forgive an ‘offender!’ Would it be not simpler to stay away from the person?

Jesus taught this lesson with a parable – a story to make the truth more concrete.

Matthew 18:23-35 gives account of the unmerciful servant.

There are 3 main truths to learn from this story.

The greater the debt, the greater the mercy. v. 24-27

Forgive as you have been forgiven. v.33

Forgive from the heart. v.35

To ponder:

If God wrote off the big debt that I owe Him – for the things He gives that I do not deserve (grace) and for the things He withholds that I do deserve (mercy), is there anyone on earth that owes me anything bigger than that? Am I bigger than God that I should not forgive?

If God keeps no record of my wrongs, who am I to start counting?

If God were to forgive grudgingly, perhaps He might have withheld punishment, would He not also withhold giving me good things?

So when I forgive, I need to forgive from the heart because when I do, then I can be actively forgiving like God does. Active forgiveness is repaying good with evil. It is having compassion like God being compassionate to me. To have compassion is to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of others. To be compassionate is to step into the shoes of the people who needs my forgiveness – perhaps he did not mean what he said, perhaps he’s going through a lot of stress, maybe I misunderstood his actions.

And most of all, seventy times seven means practice makes perfect. So when my brother ‘sin’ against me and I forgive him, I am just practicing what God did for me – it’s far far more than 490 times.

Lord, Let me remember the price you paid on calvary for my sins. What great mercy you have shown me! Please show me how to forgive as you forgive… truly and freely with love.

Counting the countless…

Solomon, the richest and wisest king of Israel… Of his material and human resources, numbers could be given: daily supply of food, areas of land owned and ruled over, numbers of flocks, herds of cattles, horses, horsemen, deputies, even food for the animals – everything could be counted.

Do you know what did he have that could not be counted?

I Kings 4
29 Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.

Solomon is known for his wealth and wisdom. Wisdom likened to sand on the seashore! How wise of Solomon to ask for something that cannot be counted! And how paradoxical too… Solomon prayed:

1 Kings 3:7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

Asking in Humility:
1) Solomon knew his God v.7a: who he is..God is his Lord and his God. what he did…It is God who made him king.
2) Solomon knew himself v.7b: who he is.. a ‘little child’. what he knows not: I do not know which way to go. He saw himself as a servant of God.
3) Solomon knew his people v.8.. who they are…They are God’s people – people He has chosen… a great people too many to be counted..
4) Solomon knew his task v.9: to judge with wisdom – knowing between good and evil.

Humility is the state of mind – a recognition of who one is in relation to God and fellowman. It is thinking others are more important than oneself and believing that God alone suffices.

God was pleased that Solomon asked unselfishly. He asked with pure motive – to do his job well. So God gave him more than he asked.

To have wisdom like the sand of the seashore.. what a priceless and countless blessing.
Perhaps, it is because Solomon emptied himself before God – fully depending on Him that God filled it to the brim and even overflowing. How often when I think I am sufficient – that I know – it is in those times when I need to tell God – I do not know.. show me… give me wisdom.

Authentic vs Original

There were two inspirational speakers. The first narrated all her success stories – all of them true of course. The other shared candidly some of her failures as well. Of the two, I am more inspired by the latter.

In today’s world of fast-paced cut-throat competition, to be first is to take home the bacon. To be first is to be original: existing from the beginning, which can also serve as a model for others to follow or imitate. It is an advantage to be original in ideas whether in food, inventions, in movies, in fad and everything else there is to market.

To be authentic, on the other hand, is to be genuine; not fake. Henri Nouwen impressed on me a thought which I like. He said in one of his books: I seek not to be original but to be authentic.

In the literary world, plagiarism is a big issue. Ideas/thoughts in words, phrases or sentences are to be printed with quotation marks, notations, citations with the intention to give credit to the ‘original’ writer. While I agree that to copy other people’s ideas and claim it as your own is not right, I think that thoughts and ideas can be authentic because the mind is authentically created by an authentic Creator.

One can be authentic while he might not be the first or original. In contrast, being the first or original does not precede authenticity.

I like to write: to express my thoughts in black and white. Many of my words and ideas are not original. They are by-products of the experiences i share with the people around me, from the people before me (from the thoughts and ideas they shared – through the books/articles/journals/statuses printed/posted). But even as my words might not be original, my words are to be authentic: whether they be happy or sad; pleasant or not. What is authentic? How can we tell whether something, someone is genuine or fake?

Words are products of the heart. Luke 11:45 tells us A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Yes, it is difficult to discern the heart of a person. For the outsider/observer: ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ For the insider, what is from his heart will somehow be revealed in his words and deeds. Authenticity comes from within.

God’s Word, the Bible is the perfect model of words expressed in authenticity because God’s Word is Truth. God’s character, his will, his purpose, his heart validates his authenticity. He is the Only ‘True’ God; Creator of all things: original and authentic!

 

 

The secret to a long happy prosperity …

Do you know that the Chinese have their sought-after ‘trinity’? It’s the trinity of 福禄寿(Blessings, Prosperity and Longevity). Here is the recipe to all three. Read on and find out the ingredients and process to have a taste of the long, blessed and prosperous life.

Proverbs 3
Wisdom Bestows Well-Being
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life (longevity) many years
and bring you peace and prosperity. (blessings and prosperity)

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

The two key ingredients are love and faithfulness. (v.3) The result and promise to living a life of love and faithfulness is favor and a good name. (v.4)
To be favorable with God and man: this was how Samuel and Jesus were described when they were growing up. Favor means approval, support, popularity. Is it not a great blessing to have the thumbs up of God and man? It is not easy because often, you can get only one or the other. The secret to finding favor with God and man is love and faith. Live the 2 great commandments – love God and love man faithfully.

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

These two verses are favorites of many Christians.
Ingredients: There are two positive verbs and one negative. There are also adverbs that describe the verbs.
Positive: Trust (in the Lord with ALL your heart); Submit (in ALL your ways.)
Negative: Lean not (on your own understanding)
Promise: The Lord will make your paths straight.
The next verse explains further how to trust and submit.

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Ingredients:
Do not be “queh (false or fake) gao (goodness or wisdom).” The literal Fookienese translation is false goodness or fake wisdom. Synonyms are self-sufficient, proud, conceited, trusting in your own self. It means to be humble. How?

Fear the Lord. It is depending on the Lord. To fear is to honor and obey. It means to desire to please God by avoiding what is bad and staying away from doing evil.
Promise: Health to the body and nourishment to the bones. It means well-being inside and out. Is this not the path to longevity?

9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Prosperity! Overflowing and brimming over – just the adjectives many like for their bank accounts. Method? Honor God with our wealth. How? Give the ‘first fruits’ of our labor. First means priority – give to the Lord first – prioritize giving to please Him, to obey Him, to honor Him. It does not mean that we only give ‘at’ church. It means we use our material wealth wisely. How we manage the wealth given us is a matter of stewardship. It is to know that everything comes from God. It is acknowledging that without His grace and mercy, we cannot make money on our own. When we have the right mindset, then we can give generously. Indeed, I have experienced that we can never ‘out-give’ the Lord.

Applications:
A blessed life is about living wisely. How do we live wisely? Think wisely. How? Seek wisdom. Where? In God’s Word. What did He say? Love and faith – wear these two around our neck. Trust and obey – walk these two with our heart and our feet. Pride and evil – stay away from these two. Work and give. Input-output; manage our wealth wisely.