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“THE LORD BEGAN TO SEND”
by Philip Owen

     Most of us have seen a stage play or a drama in which one of the actors steps out of character and makes an aside to the audience to explain some action or motive that might otherwise be misunderstood by the viewers.  In a similar fashion, God often steps outside some dramatic event that He has recorded in the Word in order to provide us with an observation from His perspective, something we might otherwise miss.  We find an example of this in the fifteenth chapter of II Kings.  The chapter records the reign of Jotham as king over Judah, summarizing his rule with these words:  Jotham “did what was right in the sight of the Lord. . . .  Only the high places [sites where the heathens worshipped their idols] were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places” (v. 34a, 35a).  Following a few brief additional remarks, we read the comment to the audience, so to speak:  “In those days the Lord began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah” (v. 37).  Since we are provided with no further elaboration, it would be easy to overlook the remark except for the fact that six verses later we read that “Rezin . . . came up to Jerusalem to wage war” (16:5).  Although Rezin could not defeat Judah at that time, he did manage to “clear” the “Judeans out of Elath entirely” (v. 6).  God’s brief comment provokes the following thoughts.

     God is always working in the affairs of men and nations.  His comment in our text is a reminder to us that, though never visible and often not at all obvious, God, nevertheless, intervenes in human history to direct and order all things according to the counsel of His own will.  Whatever the immediate practical, personal, or national reason for Rezin’s forays against Judah, God had his finger on the king’s heart and mind and his hand on his armies.  They could attack Judah because, unbeknownst to them, God had sent them, but they could not conquer (Ahaz) because God did not will it so.  In short, the calamities that befall men and nations are never the result of accident, chance, or sin run amok.  God is moving more surely and purposefully than the hand that guides the pawn on a chessboard.  And although God does not always choose to comment on His activities and reveal His controlling hand behind the scenes, He nevertheless controls all, whether godly or ungodly, men or nations.  He is not limited to influencing the righteous and then hoping to foil the wicked, or failing of that, meliorating the damage they do.  On the contrary, He is in perfect and complete control of all.  If the United States rests at peace with its neighbors and other nations of the world, God has so ordered.  If not, God has so directed.  If we, personally, are enjoying peace and blessing, God has so ordered.  If not, God has so directed.

     God often uses the unrighteous to chasten the righteous or to test their faith.  Our text makes clear that it should come as no surprise to us that God often uses ungodly nations and wicked men to scourge His wayward children.  “He began to send,” we read.  This was the beginning.  Judah’s “cup of iniquity” was not yet full.  Nor would it be for many decades.  In the meantime, these skirmishes served to provoke His people to turn to Him.  Ultimately, they ceased doing that, and what the Lord began to do through Rezin, the King of Aram, He finished through the Babylonians, who ultimately defeated them and carried many away into foreign captivity.  As with nations, God works in individual lives.  In the early stages of sin and rebellion, the chastening may be gentle, but as the unrepentant one persists in his sin, the chastening becomes increasingly severe until there is no remedy.  Our nation is running at a sprinter’s pace away from God and toward sin.  We have begun to feel His chastening hand.  The specific sort of judgment that lies before America is uncertain, but that it will become increasingly severe is sure.  We may, as individuals, be unable to change the course of the nation, but we can rest under the hand of God:  He will “begin to send” personal blessing, rather than chastening, if we will trust and obey.

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