Imagine getting offered a deal and then having it taken away. Imagine that you get bitter, angry, and possibly even depressed. Imagine God keeps prompting you through songs on the radio to forgive them but instead you stay on the downward spiral. Imagine that it causes your work to suffer. Imagine that it causes your home life to suffer. Imagine that it is impacting all of your relationships and drive. How far off track will you need to go before you turn back? How bad does it have to get before you will obey what God is telling you? Do you realize there is still hope? Imagine a friend offers you hope in the form of medication. Imagine you say no thanks God will take care of this. You haven’t lost all hope in God but you have lost hope in forgiveness and people. Until that day when the tipping point hits …
For me, I have shared this story with many people through my blog as well as at work during an opportunity to share a Story Slam. Forgiveness is the key! I learned on the other side that the lesson was worth sharing as so many people started to come and ask to speak with me, I guess they saw the change and wanted to learn more, I learned about all the trials and troubles, betrayals and deception that had taken place in their lives and the only message or response I had for them was to forgive. They would say the same thing I had been for months “but Phil you know what they did to me” and I would share that is what I would say to God when He kept asking me to forgive but that I learned that day when 7×70 started to play on the radio and God and I had it out that forgiveness was the key for me to heal, it wasn’t about them, it was about my response and hence all of our responses, and even after I forgave them I had one more aha moment when the words “as you forgive others, I will forgive you” came and so I started to ask God to forgive me for having rejected Him by not forgiving when He asked the first, second, … times and how the pain, the drain, the emotions of carrying the unforgiveness was gone right after that. Not forgiving is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick, it doesn’t work that way.
So we need to turn back to God! When we you stray from God’s will and God’s way, you need to turn back and obey His commands. He will take you back and celebrate it just like we learned in the story of the prodigal son. Return to a life of the living! Return to God’s plan to give you a hope and a future! Return to God’s plan that we will live life and live it more abundantly. Where are you at in your life? Are you walking it out with Jesus, in obedience. Are you walking away from Jesus, out of disobedience? Are you stopped at a crossroads and trying to figure out what you should do? Why don’t you just turn back to God and humbly receive His instruction, direction, correction, and forgiveness. Remember what God’s Word says that “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven forgive their sins and will heal their land.“
Is today your day?
Today’s reading gets started in 2 Kings 17:
‘Hoshea son of Elah began to rule over Israel in the twelfth year of King Ahaz’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria nine years. He did what was evil in the Lord ’s sight, but not to the same extent as the kings of Israel who ruled before him. King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked King Hoshea, so Hoshea was forced to pay heavy tribute to Assyria. But Hoshea stopped paying the annual tribute and conspired against the king of Assyria by asking King So of Egypt to help him shake free of Assyria’s power. When the king of Assyria discovered this treachery, he seized Hoshea and put him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the Lord their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the Lord ’s anger. Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the Lord ’s specific and repeated warnings. Again and again the Lord had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and decrees—the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.” But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord ’s command not to imitate them. They rejected all the commands of the Lord their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord ’s anger. Because the Lord was very angry with Israel, he swept them away from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the land. But even the people of Judah refused to obey the commands of the Lord their God, for they followed the evil practices that Israel had introduced. The Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel. He punished them by handing them over to their attackers until he had banished Israel from his presence. For when the Lord tore Israel away from the kingdom of David, they chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. But Jeroboam drew Israel away from following the Lord and made them commit a great sin. And the people of Israel persisted in all the evil ways of Jeroboam. They did not turn from these sins until the Lord finally swept them away from his presence, just as all his prophets had warned. So Israel was exiled from their land to Assyria, where they remain to this day. The king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. They took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns. But since these foreign settlers did not worship the Lord when they first arrived, the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: “The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land. He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped him correctly.” The king of Assyria then commanded, “Send one of the exiled priests back to Samaria. Let him live there and teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land.” So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the Lord . But these various groups of foreigners also continued to worship their own gods. In town after town where they lived, they placed their idols at the pagan shrines that the people of Samaria had built. Those from Babylon worshiped idols of their god Succoth-benoth. Those from Cuthah worshiped their god Nergal. And those from Hamath worshiped Ashima. The Avvites worshiped their gods Nibhaz and Tartak. And the people from Sepharvaim even burned their own children as sacrifices to their gods Adrammelech and Anammelech. These new residents worshiped the Lord , but they also appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests to offer sacrifices at their places of worship. And though they worshiped the Lord , they continued to follow their own gods according to the religious customs of the nations from which they came. And this is still going on today. They continue to follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the Lord and obeying the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands he gave the descendants of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel. For the Lord had made a covenant with the descendants of Jacob and commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow before them or serve them or offer sacrifices to them. But worship only the Lord , who brought you out of Egypt with great strength and a powerful arm. Bow down to him alone, and offer sacrifices only to him. Be careful at all times to obey the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands that he wrote for you. You must not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship other gods. You must worship only the Lord your God. He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” But the people would not listen and continued to follow their former practices. So while these new residents worshiped the Lord , they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same.’
— 2 Kings 17:1-41
Today’s reading continues into Ezekiel 23:
‘This message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, once there were two sisters who were daughters of the same mother. They became prostitutes in Egypt. Even as young girls, they allowed men to fondle their breasts. The older girl was named Oholah, and her sister was Oholibah. I married them, and they bore me sons and daughters. I am speaking of Samaria and Jerusalem, for Oholah is Samaria and Oholibah is Jerusalem. “Then Oholah lusted after other lovers instead of me, and she gave her love to the Assyrian officers. They were all attractive young men, captains and commanders dressed in handsome blue, charioteers driving their horses. And so she prostituted herself with the most desirable men of Assyria, worshiping their idols and defiling herself. For when she left Egypt, she did not leave her spirit of prostitution behind. She was still as lewd as in her youth, when the Egyptians slept with her, fondled her breasts, and used her as a prostitute. “And so I handed her over to her Assyrian lovers, whom she desired so much. They stripped her, took away her children as their slaves, and then killed her. After she received her punishment, her reputation was known to every woman in the land. “Yet even though Oholibah saw what had happened to Oholah, her sister, she followed right in her footsteps. And she was even more depraved, abandoning herself to her lust and prostitution. She fawned over all the Assyrian officers—those captains and commanders in handsome uniforms, those charioteers driving their horses—all of them attractive young men. I saw the way she was going, defiling herself just like her older sister. “Then she carried her prostitution even further. She fell in love with pictures that were painted on a wall—pictures of Babylonian military officers, outfitted in striking red uniforms. Handsome belts encircled their waists, and flowing turbans crowned their heads. They were dressed like chariot officers from the land of Babylonia. When she saw these paintings, she longed to give herself to them, so she sent messengers to Babylonia to invite them to come to her. So they came and committed adultery with her, defiling her in the bed of love. After being defiled, however, she rejected them in disgust. “In the same way, I became disgusted with Oholibah and rejected her, just as I had rejected her sister, because she flaunted herself before them and gave herself to satisfy their lusts. Yet she turned to even greater prostitution, remembering her youth when she was a prostitute in Egypt. She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. And so, Oholibah, you relived your former days as a young girl in Egypt, when you first allowed your breasts to be fondled. “Therefore, Oholibah, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will send your lovers against you from every direction—those very nations from which you turned away in disgust. For the Babylonians will come with all the Chaldeans from Pekod and Shoa and Koa. And all the Assyrians will come with them—handsome young captains, commanders, chariot officers, and other high-ranking officers, all riding their horses. They will all come against you from the north with chariots, wagons, and a great army prepared for attack. They will take up positions on every side, surrounding you with men armed with shields and helmets. And I will hand you over to them for punishment so they can do with you as they please. I will turn my jealous anger against you, and they will deal harshly with you. They will cut off your nose and ears, and any survivors will then be slaughtered by the sword. Your children will be taken away as captives, and everything that is left will be burned. They will strip you of your beautiful clothes and jewels. In this way, I will put a stop to the lewdness and prostitution you brought from Egypt. You will never again cast longing eyes on those things or fondly remember your time in Egypt. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will surely hand you over to your enemies, to those you loathe, those you rejected. They will treat you with hatred and rob you of all you own, leaving you stark naked. The shame of your prostitution will be exposed to all the world. You brought all this on yourself by prostituting yourself to other nations, defiling yourself with all their idols. Because you have followed in your sister’s footsteps, I will force you to drink the same cup of terror she drank. “Yes, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “You will drink from your sister’s cup of terror, a cup that is large and deep. It is filled to the brim with scorn and derision. Drunkenness and anguish will fill you, for your cup is filled to the brim with distress and desolation, the same cup your sister Samaria drank. You will drain that cup of terror to the very bottom. Then you will smash it to pieces and beat your breast in anguish. I, the Sovereign Lord , have spoken! “And because you have forgotten me and turned your back on me, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You must bear the consequences of all your lewdness and prostitution.” The Lord said to me, “Son of man, you must accuse Oholah and Oholibah of all their detestable sins. They have committed both adultery and murder—adultery by worshiping idols and murder by burning as sacrifices the children they bore to me. Furthermore, they have defiled my Temple and violated my Sabbath day! On the very day that they sacrificed their children to their idols, they boldly came into my Temple to worship! They came in and defiled my house. “You sisters sent messengers to distant lands to get men. Then when they arrived, you bathed yourselves, painted your eyelids, and put on your finest jewels for them. You sat with them on a beautifully embroidered couch and put my incense and my special oil on a table that was spread before you. From your room came the sound of many men carousing. They were lustful men and drunkards from the wilderness, who put bracelets on your wrists and beautiful crowns on your heads. Then I said, ‘If they really want to have sex with old worn-out prostitutes like these, let them!’ And that is what they did. They had sex with Oholah and Oholibah, these shameless prostitutes. But righteous people will judge these sister cities for what they really are—adulterers and murderers. “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Bring an army against them and hand them over to be terrorized and plundered. For their enemies will stone them and kill them with swords. They will butcher their sons and daughters and burn their homes. In this way, I will put an end to lewdness and idolatry in the land, and my judgment will be a warning to all women not to follow your wicked example. You will be fully repaid for all your prostitution—your worship of idols. Yes, you will suffer the full penalty. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord .”’
— Ezekiel 23:1-49
Today’s reading continues into the New Testament with Acts 16:
‘Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God. The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.” But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!” When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town.’
— Acts of the Apostles 16:25-40
Today’s reading then continues into Revelation 7:
‘Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, “Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.” And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God—144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel:’
— Revelation 7:1-4
Today’s reading then closes with Psalms 119:
‘Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies, for I have done what is just and right. Please guarantee a blessing for me. Don’t let the arrogant oppress me! My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled. I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love, and teach me your decrees. Give discernment to me, your servant; then I will understand your laws. Lord , it is time for you to act, for these evil people have violated your instructions. Truly, I love your commands more than gold, even the finest gold. Each of your commandments is right. That is why I hate every false way. Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them! The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand. I pant with expectation, longing for your commands. Come and show me your mercy, as you do for all who love your name. Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil. Ransom me from the oppression of evil people; then I can obey your commandments. Look upon me with love; teach me your decrees. Rivers of tears gush from my eyes because people disobey your instructions. O Lord , you are righteous, and your regulations are fair. Your laws are perfect and completely trustworthy. I am overwhelmed with indignation, for my enemies have disregarded your words. Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much. I am insignificant and despised, but I don’t forget your commandments. Your justice is eternal, and your instructions are perfectly true. As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live.’
— Psalms 119:121-144
So where are you at today? Are you ready for forgiveness and peace? Are you ready for a hope and a future? Are you ready for a transformation where the old is gone and the new has come? Are you ready to being the journey of knowing right from wrong? Then let’s pray together to invite Jesus into your heart and your life so that His peace which surpases all understanding can guide you and comfort you, protect your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. If this is the first time you have prayed to invite Jesus into your heart, leave me a comment so that I can rejocie with the angels in Heaven. If this is a recommitment to Jesus, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If you are stil questioning or seeking, don’t go it alone, feel free to leave me a comment so we can discuss it.