My Vocation

My vocation has become clearer as the years go by: to study the unchanging God without something else to do, some pragmatic reason or result. This is what I feel most called to do: simply enjoy the study of God – not write about it, not view it in relation to its political residue or imagine that my opinions will have some visible  social effect. The joy of inquiry into God is a sufficient end in itself, not only as a means to some practical consequence.

Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 95

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Get back up again

“But Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asheroth out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.’” (2 Chronicles 19:2, 3)

The Bible is all about imperfect men and women, with only one exception, Jesus Christ. Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter – all of them were godly people, heroes of faith even, and all of them were deeply flawed in certain respects. Jehoshaphat was no exception. It was wrong for him to have entered into an alliance with Ahab, and God would chastise him for it. But still the Lord also recognized the good that was in him, how in spite of his wrongdoing he had set his heart to seek God. 2 Chronicles 19 tells us about the good that Jehoshaphat did even after the disastrous alliance with Ahab. He went out among the people and brought them back to the Lord. He appointed judges in the land and encouraged them to fear God and judge justly. He appointed leaders in Jerusalem to decide disputed cases and charged them to warn their brothers presumably against wrongdoing and injustice. I think the lesson here is although sometimes we do wrong, we should not stop doing good. Yes, we sometimes fall and we will certainly suffer the consequences of falling, but then we should get back up again by God’s grace, and resume doing what is good. As Samuel once said, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.” (1 Samuel 12:20)

Lord, forgive me for the many times I’ve done wrong. Help me to get back up again and do good once more because your grace is greater than all my sins. Amen.

Deliverance from Death

“As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘It is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; God drew them away from him.” (2 Chronicles 18:31)

Fearing Micaiah’s prophecy that he would die in battle, Ahab took measures against it. He disguised himself while Jehoshaphat wore his robes. No wonder the commanders of the king of Syria turned to fight against Jehoshaphat; they thought he was the king of Israel. But Jehoshaphat cried out to God for help, and the Lord delivered him. This incident in Jehoshaphat’s life reminds me of God’s commitment to protect those who love him: “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:14, 15)

The same cannot be said of Ahab. Clearly, he was stubbornly wicked. Instead of letting Micaiah’s prophecy lead him to repentance, he resorted to wiles to escape God’s judgment. And indeed the commanders of the king of Syria were misled; they pursued Jehoshaphat instead. Still, there was no escaping God’s judgment. An arrow randomly shot struck Ahab, which led to his death. This time I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 8:8. “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”

Lord, thank you that I can cry to you for help and trust in your deliverance in times of trouble. May I never trust in wickedness to deliver me. Cause me to always trust in you instead. Amen.

What my God says, that I will speak.

“But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.’” (2 Chronicles 18:13)

Chapter 18 of second Chronicles opens with Jehoshaphat entering into a marriage alliance with Ahab king of Israel. I don’t understand why Jehoshaphat did this, since Ahab was notorious for wickedness. No good could possibly come out of this alliance. At any rate, Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join him in going to battle against Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed, but first he wanted to inquire for the word of the Lord. 400 of Ahab’s prophets prophesied favorably regarding the battle’s outcome, but Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. Reluctantly, Ahab had to summon Micaiah, the prophet whom he hated because he never prophesied good concerning him. Ahab’s messenger pressured Micaiah to join the other prophets in speaking favorably, but Micaiah was resolved to speak only what God speaks. And that is precisely what he did: he prophesied that Ahab would die in this battle. As a consequence, Ahab commanded that Micaiah be put in prison.

There is a lesson here for us who preach. We preach not to please men, but to faithfully communicate God’s Word even if it means displeasing those to whom we preach and incurring their ire. Of course, we must speak the truth in love, but it is still the truth that we must speak. As Paul says, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Lord, give me the courage to speak the truth in love even if it means wounding others out of faithfulness to you and to their souls. Amen.

A Courageous Heart

“The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.” (2 Chronicles 17:3-6)

Once again we see a demonstration of the principle that righteous living brings tremendous blessing. My understanding is that during Old Testament times the Lord’s SOP, so to speak, was to reward obedience with temporal blessings because his people were still in their spiritual infancy, and they needed material and visible props to strengthen their faith. Today to walk by faith means not to walk by sight. This means we are not dependent on circumstances to determine whether God is favorable to us. As long as our hearts are right with God we know that we are blessed whatever our circumstances might be. We are content whether we experience abundance or want because God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places. But still the principle holds true that those who seek God and walk according to his commandments will be blessed by him, if not materially, then spiritually – the latter being the greater blessing by far. I find it interesting that Jehoshaphat’s heart is described as being courageous in the ways of the Lord. I think it had something to do with his being counter-cultural. He did not walk according to the practices of Israel. He did not follow the ungodly ways of the culture and social environment that surrounded him. Instead, he sought to be different by walking in God’s commandments even if everyone else was walking in the opposite direction. This is what true courage means.

Lord, please give me a heart that is truly courageous like Jehoshaphat’s. Help me to walk according to your commandments even if this runs counter to how most people live nowadays. Amen.

Alpha Monkey

Alpha monkey, swinging wildly,
From one fruit tree to the next —
He’s the object of their envy;
Their misfortune can’t be fixed.

He is high and they are low,
He is grinning as he goes,
While the tribe lives so and so,
He is way above his foes.

Until came that fateful morning
When he reached out for a vine:
Yes, he reached out but caught nothing!
It is time for beasts to dine.

As his destiny unravelled
(His good fortune then was ending),
His compatriots all marvelled:
”Now we didn’t see this coming!”

Copyright 2020 Dennis M. Cortes

(Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash)

When the end is not better than the beginning

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

What happened to Asa? He was supposed to be this godly king whose heart was wholly true all his days. But then we read that when Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, Asa turned to Ben-hadad king of Syria for help instead of relying on the Lord. As a result, the rest that God gave Judah came to an end. Henceforth, there would be wars. Hanani the seer rebuked him for his foolishness, but instead of learning his lesson, Asa did it again! When his feet became diseased, he did not seek the Lord but sought help from physicians. Something was very wrong with his relationship with God at this point. Around two years after, he died. This is sad: beginning so well and yet ending badly. His heart was true but not blameless. In other words, he wasn’t perfect. He was sincere, but he was not consistent. And if we aren’t careful, we can also end up badly like him.

Lord, please preserve me so that I may persevere to the end and say at the end of my days, “The end is better than the beginning.” Amen.

The Coming Change

The change this world is waiting for
Will come about through little things:
A simple song, a lovely poem,
A striking though imperfect thought.

Like shards of light that pierce the dark,
These broken fragments of the heart
Are smoke-soaked mirrors that reflect
A deep undying primal Light

That brighter grows as ages pass,
Unseen by unaccustomed eyes,
But soon will be the common sight:
On(c)e pierced, now piercer of the night!

Copyright 2020 Dennis M. Cortes

(Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)

Asa’s heart

“The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2)

“It is an honor and happiness to be in bonds to God.” (Matthew Henry)

So much of our misery is the result of forsaking God. True happiness may be found only in seeking, loving, and obeying God. Asa lived a happy and meaningful life because he lived for God. He spent his energies in fighting idolatry in the land and repairing the altar of the Lord. And his zeal for God inspired great numbers to seek the Lord because they saw that God was with him. Because they sought God with all their heart, he was found by them and “the Lord gave them rest all around.” Such is the influence of a godly person! Peace and happiness not only for himself but for others who have been touched by his life. To be sure, he wasn’t perfect. There were things he left undone. “Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days,” (verse 17). As Matthew Henry points out, “There may be defects in some particular duties where yet the heart, in the main, is upright with God. Sincerity is something less than sinless perfection.”

Lord, may my heart be like Asa’s – wholly true to you all my days. Amen.

Obedience brings blessings

“And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 14:2)

“He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace . . . ‘The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.’” (verses 6b, 7b)

“And Asa cried to the Lord his God, ‘O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.’” (verse 11)

Peace on every side. Victory in war against a superior enemy. What was Asa’s secret? For one, he did what was good and right in God’s sight. For another, he prayed and asked God for help. The timeless truth we learn from his life is that obedience brings blessings. The Lord was on his side because Asa was on the Lord’s side. Of course, obedience must be genuine – from the heart. There is such a thing as wrongly motivated obedience: a form of bribery, a way to get what you want from God. This kind of obedience doesn’t last long especially if the blessings it expects don’t arrive. True obedience always brings blessings, but these don’t always have to be material. Sometimes God withholds material blessings from his obedient children so that they may experience spiritual blessings, which are far better: patience, faith, love that always trusts, perseverance, conformity to Christ’s sufferings, joy in the midst of tribulation, peace that surpasses understanding . . .

Lord, help me to obey you out of love and not out of a selfish desire to receive material blessings. Help me to trust in your wisdom and love, and help me to recognize and appreciate the blessings with which you certainly reward true obedience, blessings which are often disguised in the form of suffering and apparent denial of our prayers. Amen.