A Sign from the Sun

Bible:

And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz. II Kings 20:8-11 ESV

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:38-40 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever seen a sundial? Long before there were watches or clocks, people were able to tell time by the shadow of the sun as it moved across the sky and cast a shadow on some kind of surface. The first sundials were thought to be used by the Egyptians, while the Chinese also developed their own kind of sundial, but it was the Greeks who refined how they worked. Because the earth is tilted, the best sundials have a vertical rod that is tilted at the same angle as the axis of the earth. If that isn’t the case, the sundial will show slightly different times every day because the sun shines at a slightly different angle every day.

King Hezekiah had some kind of time keeper that had been built by his father, King Ahaz. The Bible talks about steps and a shadow on the steps. It might be that Ahaz had built a staircase that faced the sun in a certain way so that a shadow moved up or down the steps as the sun moved across the sky. Or it might have been something like a sundial with little steps spread across its surface like an accordian, or perhaps a dial built in layers like a wedding cake, with each layer a little smaller than the one below it. We really don’t know what King Ahaz’s time keeper was like, but what we do know is that the sun always moves across the sky from the east to the west, and the shadows move with the sun. It never moves backwards! But God told Hezekiah that he could ask for a sign–for the shadow to move ten steps forward or ten steps backwards, and Hezekiah knew that for the shadow to move backwards would be a miracle. We don’t know how God made this miracle happen, but we know that it did. God healed Hezekiah’s illness, and God moved the shadow backwards ten steps.

God had offered Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, the right to ask him for a sign, but Ahaz had refused. He didn’t want the Lord’s help, but instead he wanted to do things his own way. But Hezekiah asked God for a sign when the Lord had made the same offer to him, and he wasn’t afraid to ask for a difficult sign. God has given us the most incredible, miraculous sign of all in Jesus. Jesus called the sign he was going to give the sign of Jonah. Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days, but he came out alive again, and Jesus died on the cross and was put into the grave. He stayed in the grave for three days, but then he came out again, alive! What an incredible miracle! Jesus conquered sin and death for by dying and by rising again from the dead, and that’s the greatest sign the Lord has ever given, and the only sign we’ll ever need.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating sin and death by dying for us and by rising again from the dead. Help us to always trust you. Amen.

Source:

https://www.timecenter.com/articles/when-time-began-the-history-and-science-of-sundials/

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More Than We Ask

Bible:

And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.” II Kings 20:4-7 ESV

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV

Reflection:

Oliver Twist was a little boy who was an orphan, and he was taken by the local authorities to live in a workhouse. Oliver had to work at picking oakum, which meant untwisting fibers of rope, a very hard and tedious job. The people who ran the workhouse fed the boys who lived there very little. They were given a bowl of gruel at mealtimes, which was barely enough food to keep a young boy alive. One day at mealtime Oliver finished his gruel and went to the man in charge of giving out food and asked for more. Everyone thought that Oliver had done a terrible thing in asking for more, and he was locked up in a dark room by himself because of what he had done.

How very different our God is than this! We can always ask him for his blessings, and we can never ask too much of him. When Hezekiah asked God to allow him to have more time to live, God gave him fifteen more years of life, and he healed him of his illness. God wasn’t angry with Hezekiah, even though he had cried and felt upset and even angry with the Lord. God heard his prayer and gave him what he asked for, and Hezekiah would go on being the king of God’s people, and God would continue to bless and take care of him.

God is able to give us many wonderful things, even more than we can ask for or think of, but of course that doesn’t mean he will always give us what we want. He will do what is best for us, even if it’s not what we expect or wish for. But we never have to worry that God will be angry with us for anything we ask him for, or that he will get tired of our prayers or of helping us and blessing us. We know that his love for us is beyond anything we can possibly understand. He loves us so much that he came to us in Jesus, and gave his life on the cross to win us back for him. Because of Jesus we have more blessings from God than we can count or even really know about. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us with our prayers and to know what things we can ask for that will truly please him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your great help and many blessings, and for always hearing our prayers and answering them in the best way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Dickens, Charles Oliver Twist London: Richard Bentley, 1838.

It’s Not Fair!

Bible:

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. II Kings 20:1-3 ESV

Then Job answered and said:

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what he would answer me
and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; he would pay attention to me.
There an upright man could argue with him,
and I would be acquitted forever by my judge. Job 23:1-7 ESV

Reflection:

Do you remember Job? He was a very good man who loved and served God, but God let Satan test and hurt Job. Job was very rich, but he lost all his riches in one day, and not only that, he lost his seven sons and three daughters as well. Then Job lost his health too, and his whole body became covered with painful sores. Job didn’t think it was fair that he had to suffer so much. He had been faithful to the Lord, and it seemed as if God didn’t even care about him. He felt as if God was treating him like an enemy, and more than anything he wanted to talk to God and get answers to his questions about why all these terrible things were happening to him.

King Hezekiah also felt that God wasn’t being fair to him. After loving and serving God and being a faithful king to God’s people, Hezekiah became very sick, and the prophet Isaiah came to him with a sad message from God. Isaiah told the king that he should put all his affairs in order, because he was about to die. King Hezekiah didn’t want to die yet, and he didn’t think it was fair at all. He cried out to God, reminding him of how faithful he had been, and asked God to hear him and answer him.

Sometimes the Lord allows trouble and hurt into our lives also, and it doesn’t seem fair. We feel as if God doesn’t care about us or about the ways we’ve tried to love and serve him. We might cry out to God the way Job and Hezekiah did, wishing he would answer us and explain to us why things happen the way they do. God doesn’t always give us the answers we might wish for, but he always hears us when we call to him. He is never far away from us, and no matter what happens he loves us and cares for us. When we don’t understand the pain and sadness that we have, we can look to Jesus. Jesus came into our world to take all our sorrows and hurts and sins on himself. He took them to the cross and suffered and died for us there, and it’s Jesus’ cross that helps us see just how much God cares about us. God might not always give us the answers we look for, but he always gives us his help and his love through Jesus, our Savior.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us. Please stay beside us and help us, especially when we have sadness and trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Champion for Jerusalem

Bible:

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Your prayer to me about Sennacherib king of Assyria I have heard. This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him:

“She despises you, she scorns you—
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
the daughter of Jerusalem.

“Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!” II Kings 19:20-22 ESV

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

Once long ago there was a town built by a small lake, and in this lake was a terrible dragon. The people of the town were constantly afraid that the dragon would destroy them, but they managed to keep it from hurting them by feeding it their sheep and goats and other animals every day. After awhile, though, all the animals were gone, and they had to feed the dragon their children instead. Finally there was no one left to feed the dragon except the king’s daughter. The king was terribly sad to lose his daughter in this way, but he had no choice. His daughter was brought to the edge of the lake to feed the dragon, but just then a knight named George rode by. George wouldn’t let the princess be eaten by the dragon, so he took his sword and killed it. The princess was saved because of George, and the town didn’t have to worry about the dragon anymore.

This is only a story, but it’s a little like what was happening to Jerusalem. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was attacking and defeating all the cities of Judah until only Jerusalem was left. Hezekiah was afraid that his capital city would also fall to Assyria, and his only hope was for Sennacherib to be defeated by someone who was more powerful than the Assyrian empire. Assyria was more powerful than any other nation at this time, but there was one who could defeat it, and that was the Lord. The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah and compared Jerusalem to a young woman who could look down on Sennacherib and think about him with scorn. When Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem and made fun of the God its people trusted, he was making fun of the true God of the whole universe. God would protect his people and win over Assyria, and Judah wouldn’t have to worry about Sennacherib and his empire any more.

We were under the power of very strong enemies–sin and death and the devil–and we had no power to free ourselves. Our only hope was for someone who is stronger than death and all the forces of evil to come and save us. Jesus is the champion who beat all our enemies by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead. We don’t have to worry or be afraid of any of the powers of evil hurting us, because Jesus has conquered them, and he is with us every day to protect us. We belong to Jesus, and he is our champion now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating sin and death for us. Please stay with us and help us every day and forever. Amen.

God is Near

Bible:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” II Kings 19:14-19 ESV

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God. Psalm 86:1-10 ESV

Reflection:

Heidi was a little girl whose parents were dead. When she was five, an aunt took her up the mountain to live with her grandfather. Heidi’s grandfather lived by himself, and everyone was a little bit afraid of him. He didn’t like to be around people. But Heidi soon learned that her grandfather was kind and wise. He took good care of her, and gave her so much to eat that she had enough to share with Peter, the goatherd. Her grandfather listened to her talk, and answered her questions. He taught her the names of all the mountains that she had seen when she spent the day with Peter, and told her stories. A grandfather who had seemed far away and forbidding now was close and loving.

Hezekiah had the same experience. He was having all kinds of trouble, with the cities of his kingdom being taken by the Assyrians and his capital city, Jerusalem, being threatened. God had seemed far away from him. But Isaiah the prophet had given him a message from God that promised to save him and his city. Then Hezekiah knew that God wasn’t far and away and stern, but very near to him, loving and caring for him. When he got a threatening letter from the king of Assyria, he took it into the temple and spread it out for God to see, just as a little child might bring a broken toy or a sick pet to show his father and ask for help. King Hezekiah prayed to his Heavenly Father, believing that the Lord would hear him and help him.

Sometimes when we are having troubles, God might seem far away. We might be worried about things we’ve done wrong, and wonder if God still loves us or will forgive us. But God is never far away from us. He loves us and cares for us. He sent Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus died on the cross to take our sins away, and because of what Jesus did we can be sure that God will always forgive our sins and hear our prayers. We can always go to God and bring our problems and hurts to him, and know that he will help us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and helping us and hearing our prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Spyri, Johanna Heidi New York: Harper Collins, 1827.

Help is Promised

Bible:

When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.’” II Kings 19:5-7 ESV

Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22 ESV

Reflection:

Many years ago I was attending a conference in a huge hotel in downtown Chicago. When it was time to leave, I decided to walk down the stairs, but I didn’t know that the doors to the stairway were all locked on the inside. I walked down a few flights and tried to go out the door, but it was locked! I walked up a flight and tried to go out that door, but it was also locked. I tried several doors, but all of them were locked, and I was trapped, alone, in a dimly lit staircase. I was scared. I ran up the stairs until I found a door with voices on the other side, and I pounded on the door. Someone came, and I told them I was trapped. She said the door was locked on her side, too, but that she would go and get some help. Then I sat down on the stairs and waited. I wasn’t afraid any more, because I knew that help was coming.

King Hezekiah was afraid of the Assyrians who were threatening Jerusalem, and he sent messengers to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah sent a message back to Hezekiah from the Lord. God had told him that he would keep his people safe from their enemies. God would send the Assyrians a rumor that would make them return to their own land, and the king of the Assyrians would die in his own land and never come back to threaten Hezekiah and his people. All Hezekiah had to to was to wait and see how God would help him.

We also have God’s promise that he will help us when we are in trouble. We don’t usually know how or when he will help us, but we can always be sure that he will hear our prayers and help us in the way that is best for us. We know this because when we had our worst trouble of all and were separated from God because of our sins and doomed to evil and death, God came to help us in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to take our sins away, and he rose again from the dead to defeat death and the devil. Because of Jesus, we are God’s people, and he is with us to help us and save us now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing our prayers and helping us, and especially for Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Near the End of Hope

Bible:

But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” Then Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezekiah with their clothes torn and told him the words of the Rabshakeh.

As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. They said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.” II Kings 18:36-19:4 ESV

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call! Psalm 102:1-2 ESV

Reflection:

Many years ago a man named Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica. He and his men went in a ship named the Endurance, but the ship got stuck in the ice and over time it was wrecked. This left Shackleton and his men stranded on drifting ice in the freezing south. There was no way they could communicate with the rest of the world to let anyone know where they were or that they were in trouble. They had supplies and a few life boats, and eventually they made it to land, an island called Elephant Island. But they were still very far from help and had little hope of being saved. Their only chance was for Shackleton and a few others to take one of the life boats to a whaling station 800 miles away, across terribly stormy seas. The men left on Elephant Island were near the end of their hope as they launched their leader and his companions in the boat.

King Hezekiah and his people were also in terrible trouble. The Assyrian armies had conquered their cities, and were threatening Jerusalem. The Assyrian officials were taunting them from outside the city walls, saying that their God wouldn’t be able to help them. Hezekiah was very discouraged. Everything seemed to be against him, and God seemed very far away. His hope was nearly gone, but he sent a message to the prophet Isaiah. His last hope was the Isaiah would give him a message of hope and help from God, although it seemed almost impossible.

Sometimes we feel that our hope is almost gone, and that God is very far away. It may be that we have terrible troubles and that God doesn’t seem to hear our prayers. Or we might have done something wrong and feel like God could never forgive our sins. When God seems a long way from us and we are almost out of hope, we can be sure that we can hope in Jesus. He came to us when we were separated from our Heavenly Father because of our sins, and brought us back to God by dying on the cross for us. He promises to be with us always, and he hears our prayers. We might not always know why things happen the way they do, or how God will answer our prayers, but we can know for sure that God is always close to us and ready to help us in the way that is best because of Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to be with us and for bringing us back to our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Source:

http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/Shackleton-Endurance-Trans-Antarctic_expedition2.php

Something Better, Somewhere

Bible:

Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria!  Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’” II Kings 18:28-35 ESV

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:29-21 ESV

Reflection:

Once there was a girl named Dorothy who lived with her uncle and aunt in Kansas. They loved her and she was happy with them, but she also sometimes wished for a different life in a different place. She dreamed of a place somewhere over the rainbow where life would be happier and there wouldn’t be the troubles she faced at home. Then a tornado took her to the wonderful land of Oz, far away, where she had many adventures. But all through her adventures Dorothy realized that she had been the happiest when she had been home, and her only wish was to return to her family in Kansas.

The people of Jerusalem were in terrible trouble. Assyrian officials were standing outside their city walls, taunting them and telling them not to listen to King Hezekiah. They told the people that their God could never save them from the Assyrian army, because none of the gods of the other nations had been able to stop the Assyrians. If the people of Jerusalem would surrender, they would live in peace until the king of Assyria took them to another place and let them live in a beautiful country with grain fields and vineyards, olive trees and honey. They wouldn’t miss their old country because the place the king of Assyria would put them would be such a lovely place. These officials wanted to make the people give up by giving them empty promises of a better place. They wanted to weaken the people’s love for their home country that God had given them by making them long for another place that was better than they had.

We know that our life is with God, but sometimes we start to long for other things. We might think that we’d be happier if we had fewer troubles or didn’t have to do things God’s way. We look away from God and start to treasure things on this earth more than we treasure the things of God. But God the Holy Spirit always calls us back to him, and reminds us that there’s nothing more wonderful than the life we have with God. The life we have with God is so precious that Jesus came to give his life on the cross to win it for us. We know that the love God shows us in Jesus is the most precious thing we will ever have, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the life we have with you. Help us to always treasure your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Fleming, Victor, dir. The Wizard of Oz Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939. Film.

Why is This Happening?

Bible:

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. II Kings 18:13-16 ESV

All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Psalm 44:17-22 ESV

Reflection:

During World War II, many bombs fell on the cities of Europe, and these cities were devastated. Many people died, and many buildings were destroyed. On both sides of the war, there were churches that were hit by bombs and wrecked, and one of these churches was the Church of St. Michael in Coventry, England. This church building had beautiful stained glass windows and a massive towering spire, but on November 14, 1940, many bombs hit the city of Coventry. Hundreds of people were killed, and many buildings burned down. The Church of St. Michael was left as a shell. It can be hard for people to understand how God could allow such terrible things to happen, especially to a place where Christians came together to worship him.

Hezekiah was a good king who loved and followed the Lord. He led his people back to the worship of God, and held a wonderful Passover celebration. But even though Hezekiah was faithful to God, terrible troubles came to him. The Assyrian armies came against the cities of the southern kingdom of Judah and conquered them. The king and his people were afraid that Jerusalem would fall to the Assyrian empire. King Hezekiah sent a huge amount of tribute money to King Sennacherib of Assyria, and begged him to leave his country alone. In order to raise the money he needed to pay off the king of Assyria, Hezekiah had to take all the royal silver from his treasuries, and all the silver and gold of the beautiful temple as well. He had just done some repairs to the temple and covered the doors with gold, and now he had to strip all the gold off these doors and doorposts.

When terrible things like this happen, we sometimes think that God must be punishing us for something. The people of Judah had seen the kingdom of Israel fall because they were unfaithful to God, and they might have wondered if God was punishing them as well. But it’s not always easy to answer the question of why things happen the way they do. Sometimes God’s people live in dangerous and terrible times, and because our whole world is sick with sin, there is often hurt and trouble. Soon after the Church of St. Michael was ruined, a stonemason discovered two charred roof timbers had fallen to the ground in the shape of a cross. This charred cross became a symbol of hope and forgiveness for the people of Coventry. Jesus took all the sin and pain and trouble of the world when he went to the cross for us. Because Jesus died for us, all our sins are forgiven. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have any problems or hurts, but it does mean that we can always be sure of God’s forgiveness and help, no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking all our sins and troubles to the cross with you, and for giving us your love and forgiveness every day. Amen.

Source:

http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/wpsite/our-history/

God Pardons the People

Bible:

There were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the Lord. For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers.

Then the whole assembly agreed together to keep the feast for another seven days. So they kept it for another seven days with gladness. II Chronicles 30:17b-23 ESV

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light. Psalm 36:7-9 ESV

Reflection:

Sarah and Jennet’s parents were strict about table manners at mealtime. Even when they were little girls they were taught to chew quietly with their mouths closed, use their napkins properly, cut only one piece of food at a time to eat, and to sip their drinks without slurping. In their family, good table manners were a way to show respect for each other and to make mealtime pleasant for everyone. But one day Sarah invited her friend Megan to dinner. Megan’s family didn’t eat meals together at the table, and Megan had never learned good table manners. She stabbed her food with the fork that she held in her fist, put her dirty napkin on the table, and talked while she was chewing food. But Sarah’s parents didn’t scold Megan for her bad manners. They knew that she hadn’t been taught good manners, so they overlooked the things she did wrong and enjoyed having her as a guest in their home.

The same kind of thing happened when Hezekiah invited people from the northern kingdom to the big Passover celebration. Most of the people laughed at his messengers and wouldn’t come for the festival. But there were a few people who did come, and they had lived for a long time without celebrating the Passover. No one had ever taught them the proper way to make themselves clean before they ate God’s holy meal. Following the Lord’s law for being clean was very important. It was a way to show respect for God’s holiness and it showed that the people took their sins seriously. God punished people who didn’t obey his laws for being clean, but King Hezekiah prayed for the people who came down to celebrate the Passover without being clean. He asked the Lord to forgive them, and God heard his prayer and didn’t punish the people who weren’t clean. The people enjoyed this Passover celebration so much that they celebrated for an extra week!

We know the same love and forgiveness with God. We can’t come to God clean from sin, because there’s no way for us to get rid of the sin in our hearts and lives. But God sent Jesus to clean us by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Because of Jesus, we are clean from sin and can come to God freely. Our Heavenly Father loves us and is happy when we come to him. We enjoy being with God, and our time with God isn’t only for one week or two weeks. God is with us all the time, and our time with him will continue in his heavenly kingdom, a time that will last forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving our sins and accepting us for Jesus’ sake. In His Name, Amen.