Derek Smith, Lead Pastor LHBC

2 Kings 18:1-7
In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. 3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. 4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). 5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.

Recently I ran across the story of a very poor holy man who lived in a remote part of China. Every day before his time with the Lord in order to show his devotion, he put a dish of butter up on the window sill as an offering to God because food was so scarce. One day his cat came in and ate the butter. To remedy this, he began tying the cat to the bedpost each day before the quiet time. This man was so revered for his faith that others joined him as disciples and worshipped as he did. Generations later, long after the holy man was dead, his followers placed an offering of butter on the window sill during their time of prayer and meditation. Furthermore, each one bought a cat and tied it to the bedpost.

J.I. Packer writes, “All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition—beneficiaries, who receive nurturing truth and wisdom from God’s faithfulness in past generations; victims, who now take for granted things that need to be questioned, thus treating as divine absolutes patterns of belief and behavior that should be seen as human, provisional, and relative. We are all beneficiaries of good, wise, and sound tradition and victims of poor, unwise, and unsound traditions.”

Hezekiah came into power in Israel at a time when they had some horrible traditions. They had embraced idol worship, and one of those idols was a bronze serpent that Moses had made. If you read back in Numbers 21 you see where God sent fiery venomous serpents to bite the people because of their rebellious hearts toward him. However, the Lord also told Moses to make a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and tell the people to look on the serpent. Everyone who looked to the serpent was healed instantly. Later in John 3:14 Jesus said that just as Moses lifted up that serpent in the wilderness so He would be lifted up for the salvation of mankind. That serpent was representative of Jesus becoming sin on the cross for us. Whoever looks to Him will be saved from the venom of sin. No wonder they revered the serpent like they did!  However, years later they were now worshipping the serpent instead of the God it represented.

Hezekiah saw through this worship charade and decided to return Israel to true worship. The same must be true in our lives. We cannot allow tradition to keep us from experiencing the real life of Jesus. Our Lord is in the business of making all things new. He puts a new song in our mouth, His mercies are new every morning, and He has new people for us to minister to each day. The Lord is cautioning us here not to spiritualize our traditions. We must not promote our preferences or exalt our opinions. We must pray, seek the Lord, listen to His voice, and follow the fresh leading of the Holy Spirit. Vance Havner once said a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out, and soon our traditions become ruts if we hold too tightly to them. We must be willing to take the timeless message of the gospel to an ever changing world in creative new ways, and we must allow the Holy Spirit daily to change our routine so that time with God doesn’t become just that, routine.

Child of God, what traditions have your spiritualized? What preferences or habits have you allowed to distract you from hearing God’s voice and making new disciples? Are you in a rut in your daily time with the Lord? May we like Hezekiah tear down the altars we have created that are not displaying God’s glory, and may we respect the traditions of the past while embracing new gospel centered plans for the future.

Father God, forgive me for exalting my preferences or tradition above You. Lord, I am open to whatever you want to say to Me today and to whatever You want to do in my life and in the church in which I serve. You are God and there is no other, and I know that You make all things new. Give me a fresh sense of Your Spirit. In Jesus name, amen.

Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God