A passage I’ve been finding to be particularly encouraging while preparing to leave for Japan –
“And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel presented themselves to him [King Rehoboam] from all places where they lived. For the Levites left their common lands and their holdings and came to Judah and Jerusalem,… And those who had set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the LORD, the God of their fathers. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.”
– 2 Chronicles 11: 13-14, 16-17
I don’t like to mention politics…but I’m going to do that a little bit here. I was thinking about all the controversies about President Obama “toning down” the National Day of Prayer – and the uproar that stirred up within the Christian community. I was pretty resentful too when I first heard about that – “oh how dare he”, “oh what is America coming to” – but now I don’t even think of it as such a big deal. I can’t say that I know what the President’s motive was in doing that – who knows, maybe he was able to have a more sincere and less politicized prayer time because of it – but I can see why some see this as a sign of America’s declining spiritual condition. From the way I look at it though, talking about national prayer only as this one-day thing is already enough indication of that anyways. So thinking about all this along with Japan, the “dry and barren land” I’ll be in for the next month, and Taiwan, I find what happened in this passage to be really encouraging.
Rehoboam was a king that didn’t follow God (2 Chronicles 12:14 “he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the LORD”) and Judah was quickly becoming a spiritually desolate land (1 King 14:22 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD” during Rehoboam’s reign). Yet here Rehoboam and Judah were made “secure” by the faithfuls who had their hearts set on seeking God – those who were so set on seeking God they left their homes in the apostate nothern kingdom of Israel to come to Judah in order to worship in Jerusalem. While they were nevertheless subject to an ungodly king in Judah, these people strengthened and brought blessing to the kingdom simply by following God.
This passage reminds me is that regardless of the political climate and the spiritual condition of the country, God is willing to use even just a small handful of His people to bring revival. Especially in a dry and barren land. All He asks of us is that we set our hearts, our whole hearts, to seek Him. When we’re willing to that, He will bring revival to the US, to Taiwan, to Japan, and to the whole world. Having or advocating for “Christian” things like the word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance or a National Day of Prayer isn’t going to make a nation “Christian”. I’ve come to see that these are only meaningful if they come out as the expressions of a nation’s worship. I know I used to hold onto these things as if they are enough as proofs of America’s Christian-ness (hmm, you could probably still find stuff like that if you go far back enough in my old xanga entries) – but really America can have all these things and still be a spiritual desert. Only prayer and hearts that yearn for God can make a desert into holy ground – not efforts to impose Christian ideals and morality into every aspect of a nation. It’s not even about the ruler in power – whether it’s a super Christian president or a king like Rehoboam. Like Jipsanim keeps telling us – if there’s even just one right heart before God, Japan can change, Taiwan can change, American can change, and the world will change.
But the encouraging part about all this is also the hardest part: setting God as the center and the focus. The sad thing about the story in this passage is that the faithfulness of these people and the priests and Levites only lasted three years. After that, Judah, along with Israel, fell into the long period of decline that eventually led to their exile. 主阿, let it not be so for us!
In this dry and barren land
Among a people turned away
we will stand apart and seek your name…
…A holy nation set apart, a royal priesthood seeking purity of heart
We will stand, we will stand in this dry and barren land