Perseverance in the Storm

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)

I can look back, like all of us, and remember the times in my life that were not so good. Yet as I look upon those memories I can see the hand of God’s providence in carrying me across the raging waters against the whipping wind. I am not one to compare the scars of my life with anyone else, as no matter how bad they may have seemed for the others their scars were just as bad. I do delight in boasting that the Lord has always been faithful to never fail in bring me through. Even when I have tried on my own to come across, and when I stumbled, He was there to lift me to the peaceful shore. I heard a Pastor say once, “We are either going into a storm or coming out of one.” That is life here in this world. Because of what happened many years ago in a Garden of Paradise we live under the curse of fallen man’s sin. There will always be trials and tribulations until we reach our heavenly home where peace and joy will reign in the presence of our Almighty Lord.

Perseverance is more than just hanging on for dear life, it is more than just hoping it will all work out, and it is not just going through on trial and error. Perseverance requires faith. Faith in your own ability is a good thing, but, faith in that the Lord has already worked the way of passage for you is much better. The Lord is before the beginning, is now, and is where we are going. He has already worked through the storms in our life, He already knows the plan for our passage through, all we need is to have the faith to follow Him through. It is the action of faith that is pleasing to God as we walk through life trusting that He will care and provide for those who love Him. “For we walk by faith, not by sight–“ (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I am reminded of King Ahaz of Judah. He was the son of King Jotham who was coregent with his father King Uzziah and his sole reign was from 740 B.C. till 735 B.C. King Jotham was disposed as king by pro-Assyrian factions in favor of his son Ahaz. King Ahaz was twenty when he became king of Judah and reigned for sixteen years. (735 B.C. – 719 B.C. approx.)

Upon Ahaz gaining the throne he was faced with a combination of forces formed by King Pekah of Northern Israel and the Syrian King Rezin. These two kings of the north we trying to compel Ahaz to join them in opposing the Assyrians. Since the Kingdom of Israel had split after the death of King Solomon with 10 tribes forming the Northern Kingdom of Israel and 2 tribes forming the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the two Jewish kingdoms had been in a feud with each other. (1 Kings 12:16) Now with the pressure of a growing power from the Assyrians, Syria and Israel needed the added strength of Judah to help resist them. Ahaz refused to join them and the two kingdoms to the north waged war against Judah.

The first battle between them did not go well for Ahaz and many of his soldiers were lost or carried away. (2 Chronicles 28:5) With the purpose of Pekah and Rezin to force Judah to join them against Assyria was also favorable to the Egyptians to the south of Judah. The Egyptians would have much rather had three confederate governments on their northern border that the powerful Assyrians. With the Egyptians favoring the enemies of Ahaz placed a lot of pressure on him and his government.

Again Syria and Israel attacked Judah and laid siege against her. The people of Judah became greatly afraid in the conflict between the two kingdoms to the north. The pressure from Israel, Syria and the Egyptians and also from the population of Judah became a burden of great weight upon Ahaz. Ahaz favored the King of Assyria, King Tiglath-pileser, and was seeking to find aid from him.

Syria and Israel remained camped in Ephraim near Judah. . Syria had once been subjected to King David when he ruled the complete Kingdom of Israel. Now the people of Judah feared reprisal from the Syrians as a result of those past times. This brought even greater fear to the Judeans and more pressure on King Ahaz

God called on the prophet Isaiah to go to where Ahaz was and deliver His message to him. Isaiah was to take his son Shearjashub along with him. Shearjashub’s name means “a remnant shall remain.” Ahaz was tending to the defenses and securing the water supply to Jerusalem when Isaiah came to him. Isaiah delivered God’s message to remain calm and not to seek help from the Assyrians but to trust God. In Isaiah’s message he spoke of the enemy of Judah as firebrands that are smoldering. The indication in these words is that the firebrands are not blazing but smoking which means they are about to go out. It is a message from God that the enemies of Judah will fall to the Assyrians and Ahaz need not fear or join the Assyrians. Isaiah was speaking to the king calmly as a friend, but Ahaz rejected the message that Isaiah had given him from the Lord. Isaiah becomes bolder in his language towards the king and addresses Pekah as the son of Remaliah. This was a custom of those from the east in that they would slight the honor of the one to whom they are speaking of by calling them the son of their father. This was especially degrading to Pekah as it signified that he had not achieved the stature of his father Remaliah. (1 Samuel 20:27 1 Samuel 20:31) Still Ahaz was not moved and continued to lean towards his own plan, which was to summon the aid of the Assyrian king. (Isaiah 7:7)

King Ahaz went ahead with his own plans in spite of the words of Isaiah and trusted not in the Lord to provide a way for his escape from the two northern kingdoms against him. He was not the man of God that his father King Jotham was, he knew of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but did not believe that he was the God of the universe. King Ahaz worshiped the idol gods of his neighboring countries and feared them. He did not have faith that God would provide, he could not see God, and all that Ahaz could see was the weapons and soldiers that opposed him. King Ahaz called not upon the Lord but called upon King Tiglath-pileser of the Assyrians. (2 Kings 16:7) King Tiglath-pileser attacked Damascus and slew King Rezin (2 Kings 16:9) and carried away many Syrian captives along with some Israelites. (2 Kings 15:29) The Assyrians subdued the Syrians and the Israelites and also encounter the Egyptians. (2 Kings 23:29) But Ahaz paid a great price for not trusting in the Lord and going the way of the world in which he lived.

King Tiglath-pileser came to King Ahaz’s aid but in the end he gave him more trouble than help. The Prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz the woes that lie ahead for the nation of Judah as he mentions the files of Egypt which are found in great numbers around the Nile. Assyria is known as bee keepers and the bees of Assyria are as numerous as the flies of Egypt. Thus so the size of the armies that will come against Judah. (Isaiah 7:19) In Isaiah’s words the Assyrians were coming to take Judah. God would use the Assyrians as His instrument for devastating Judah. (Isaiah 7:20)

The irony I see is that God was going to use the Assyrians to rid Judah of the Syrians and the Israelite threat to their northern border. “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.” (Isaiah 7:4) “Thus says the Lord GOD: “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.” (Isaiah 7:7) Storms in life can effect one to make two different choices. Trouble can drive one away from God or draw one closer to God. One way leads to a path of destruction and the other to victory. One way is short sighted and the other is a vision through eternity. King Ahaz chose to see with his physical eyes and not have faith in the words of the man of God Isaiah. If he had persevered in the way of the Lord, if he had faith and trusted the Word of God, if he had answered the call of the Mighty One to follow Him home, then he would be at rest there today.

The question then is this, what are we going to do when the storms of life come crashing upon us? Are we going to go the way of the worldly advice and man-up and stand on our own wisdom which may be good but never is perfect? Are we going to trust those of the world who claim to know it all but are short sighted and only see with their eyes? Or are we going to place our trust in the Word of God and have faith in the vison that He gives knowing that His wisdom is Infinite. God is where we have been, God is where we are, and God is where we are going. God knows how to get us there safely to our home with Him. That is the way to persevere through this world, to place our trust in His Word and to act on faith as we follow His Son our Lord and Savior. We can overcome the storms in life as He has overcome. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” (1 John 5:4)

We serve a God of Love, He is within us, He is about us, and He is before us. “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:11)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 29, 2014

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