Is the word of the Lord always good?

This week’s reading  brought me to one of my not favorite verses in the Bible:

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.”    (Isaiah 39:8)

This is a response to Isaiah’s declaration that all the glory and wealth with which God had blessed Hezekiah’s ancestors would be destroyed or taken away by Babylon, and that Hezekiah’s own descendants would be carried off into captivity.

And that delcaration was God’s response to Hezekiah showing off all his stuff to some envoys from Babylon. The chronicler tells us that God was specifically watching Hezekiah’s interaction with these envoys in order to test him and see what was in his heart (2 Chron. 32:31).

I guess God was none too pleased with what he saw, and didn’t mince words with Hezekiah about the consequences.

The thing that is so vexing, though, is that Hezekiah cared very much when he was told by God that he was going to die from an illness (Isa. 38:2), or when he thought the Assyrians were going to take Jerusalem (Isa. 37). He didn’t say the word of the Lord was good then, or chock it up to the will of God. He mourned, fasted, prayed, and sought God’s deliverance. But when it came to the future of the nation, or even the well being of his own family, he suddenly had peace with “the word of the Lord.” He was willing to stop, settle, and accept as long as it didn’t directly affect him.

It is interesting to compare this with Abraham’s intercession for Lot (Genesis 18), and Moses’ intercession for Israel (numbers 14). God told them how things were gonna be, but instead of resigning, they interceded—and God responded. It is also interesting to compare this with Eli’s answer when God tells him  that his sons will die and his house will be cut off because of the inadequacy of his response to his son’s sins: “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” (1 Samuel 3:18).

We can’t know what God would or wouldn’t have done had Hezekiah or Eli chosen to repent, reach out, and plead with God, of course. But it makes me curious (and a little intimidated) to perform an experiment and analyze the sorts of things I am willing to fervently seek God about, and the kinds of things I piously identify and resign to as God’s sovereign will.

Am I like Hezekiah and Eli who could have pressed in, but stopped seeking, and cloaked their unrepentant apathy in spiritual-sounding words? Or do I own my own part in things, and then see past myself to grieve, strive, work, and seek for others?

Or, I guess another way to look at it is, am I really trying to pursue God’s heart and perspective on things, or is my desire to “please God” more motivated by hoping he’s happy enough with me to make things go well for me? I think the answer to that question will largely determine where I’m willing to stop and resign.

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6 thoughts on “Is the word of the Lord always good?”

  1. Thanks Crystal. Insightful as always. I like the idea of asking what if Hezekiah or Eli had ‘chosen to repent, reach out, and plead with God…’
    What is difficult to grasp, I think, is that prayer doesn’t make sense. It is foolishness. If God is God, how can our pathetic pleading make him change his mind? Yet, that is exactly how he has chosen to work in this world. We can’t make sense of that; we must simply put our passions and heart-felt concerns to work in prayer and passionate intercession. In other words, I have to keep telling myself, don’t try to understand prayer — just pray!

    1. It certainly is amazing that God gives us the opportunity to move his heart through prayer…no matter how one looks at it. It does make sense to me, though, if God has a multitude of good and right ways to accomplish his will in the world, and chooses to interact with us relationally, that he will respond to us as we choose to walk and partner with him. (Or respond to us as we choose not to, but I’d rather try to stay off that side of the coin.)

  2. I wonder how David looks, when he fasted and mourned in repentance when Nathan called him on the carpet, then moved on after the baby died . . .

    1. Hi, Emily! Yes, it is certainly true that sometimes God says, “Nope, sorry, this is the way it needs to be.” And when God speaks with indisputable finality, we need to be willing to yield and move on in submission. But I’m coming at it more from the angle of what our motive for seeking (or not seeking really is). I feel that this can become evident in where we’re motivated to stick it out and plead, and where we’re willing to accept a thing as “the will of the Lord”. For instance, if we were facing financial ruin, I’m pretty sure I would pray fervently and not assume it was just God’s will for us to go through the possibly avoidable difficulty. And that’s great as far as it goes. However, the frequency and degree that I pray for my president and my country is seriously lacking. It doesn’t affect me as immediately, so I’m more willing to think that God is just giving us what we deserve as a nation, while taking a very sloth attitude about intercession. Maybe he is doing just that, but I certainly don’t know that he won’t respond to my prayers and do something amazing in our nation anyway. I find I’m much less likely to seriously seek God about things that will point a finger at my need to change in some way or step out of my comfort zone. Heaven help me if I conveniently choose in those times to tell myself what I’m really doing is trusting God or resigning myself to his will.

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