“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:19, emphasis mine)
Read what happens though, in the next verse. Positively horrifying, if you ask me. When God says “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee…”, it’s as if all the chips have been called in and then all the things—immaterial and non, I’m just going to throw that in here right now—with which we sought to substantiate our lives at large in this world, fade, vanish, disappear.
“In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19)
You want this
There is such danger in getting comfortable in your surroundings with reference to your stuff. God would have our needs supplied but only in Him do we find that thing our souls are searching for. The writer of Proverbs, chapter 30 ( verse 8) had it right when he said “feed me with food convenient for me”. But with reference to God, that space in us that yearns for more stuff, or even the divesting and winnowing down of the stuff we don’t need—in order to attain a sense of peace and calm and purpose—necessarily comes from Him alone.
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a)
Did you know that’s the answer for everything? The other day, I was reminded by the Lord to spend more time in the little place He and I have carved out over time. It’s there in all of us, memories, colors, feelings. Places within that bring an emotional response that can then in turn be directed to Him in praise and worship. Places in our hearts and minds that God dwells and that are like doorways back to the foot of the throne of grace (“Let us therefore come boldly…” Hebrews 4:16). Because we all go through our little prodigal moments. And while I believe He is always by our side, always with us, He most certainly is where we left Him, arms outstretched awaiting our eventual return. He knows.
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“This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” (2 Chronicles 32:30-31, emphasis mine)
Read through that again if you have to and think about what it implies (the italicized line). The depth of our heart is fathomless. As acutely introspective a person as God has made me, I am unable to line out the bottom of my heart. I feel things. For people, for pastimes, for atmospheres and qualities and even certain foods. But the weight of these feelings come and go. And I’m left pretty much the same person as when I started out (though I find my personhood is on a steady upward incline as I follow Christ). And so I come upon this passage from 2 Chronicles the other day and begin to understand what it implies. This particular story during Hezekiah’s reign is repeated twice in the Old Testament (see 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38-39). Of his sickness and judgment and repentance before the Lord. He was one of those kings who “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did.” (2 Kings 18:3–David is that benchmark after which all the kings in his line were compared: the “man after [God’s] own heart” see Acts 13:22) But during this time of severe trial regarding an impending war with the Assyrians, Hezekiah made a mistake. It’s a broad correlation, to be sure, but follow me here. Jumping over to the version of the story from Isaiah:
“At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered. And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.” (Isaiah 39:1-2, my emphasis)
Do you see that? And in case you were wondering, those two Babylonian regents’ names have dotted red lines underneath, just so you know. The word for “armor” is misspelled, apparently, as well but that’s neither here nor there. Think about what just happened. The first verse of chapter 38 says “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.” Isaiah, the prophet during that time comes around and tells Hezekiah, yes, his time has indeed come: he’s going to die soon. And so Hezekiah seeks God and God hears and heals him and then grants him fifteen more years of life. But moving forward, in the wake of this miracle and subsequent sign (see Isaiah 38:7-8) Hezekiah welcomes these Babylonian ambassadors into his innermost chambers. In the Old Testament, where many things symbolic were represented by physical objects and spaces, transgressions and infractions were met with their attendant punishments. This act, of squiring Babylon throughout all his kingdom necessarily meant that anything reserved between God and his people was open to the eyes of another kingdom, one that not only had been the enemy but that has always symbolized “the Enemy”. And so Isaiah comes back around and asks “What have they seen in thine house?” (39:4) Hezekiah at least answers honestly: “All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them.” And this is where it gets scary and super serious. But before we go any further, if you’d like a starter crop for creating your own quiet place, find Douglas Wood’s A Quiet Place. Came out a number of years ago, beautifully written and illustrated (by Dan Andreasen).
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
I have made many a mistake in this area. I would have to say that it boils down to needing and wanting validation from something or someone other than God. But as God dwells within (the aforementioned “place in our hearts and minds that God dwells”), letting someone or something else in who doesn’t belong there is dangerous. The repercussions to Hezekiah’s blunder are lined out as follows: “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:6) Hezekiah at least takes it in stride responding with “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.” (verse 8) But it needn’t have gone that far.
You have to have this
“Let your conversation be without covetousness and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5, emphasis mine)
For Jesus to live His earthly life for thirty-three years in perfect obedience means the Father has seen all the ways of humanity exhibited perfectly in the body of one man. And so, “it is finished” (John 19:30). But this also means that the closer you get to the Lord, the more He begins to require those moments of prayer and praise and the active pursuit of His stillness, so as to ensure all the heavy, detail-laden ways of life into which we are now stepping out, continue to be infused with His presence. It takes time but it’s so worth it. Hezekiah wasted the entire stock of Israel’s treasure houses simply by voyeuristically letting the enemy in. Let us learn this lesson, that no matter what God gives us, we are to keep not only His relationship with us front-and-center but the objects (blessings, whatever) free from the prying eyes of those who have no respect and would only want to steal what you’ve got.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
In closing, the point I’m getting at here is God will never leave you (the NLT says regarding Hezekiah that “God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.”), Jesus will never forsake you. There may be times, though, where you feel a void where once you walked with your Heavenly Father and it’s only because He trusts you and desires to see into the depth of your heart, the things that you may not. Like crystal clear water at the bottom of a deep pool. Here, you can help him along. Pray this:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
This one works, too:
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)