Summary: What is necessary for God to help in time of difficulty.
Have you ever been to Key West by car? I lived in Florida most of my life and did not make that journey until I was in my late 40’s. I was quite impressed with the Keys. I was impressed with the beauty of the water and the scenery. But one thing really impressed me. I was impressed with the number of bridges you had to cross to get there. I pondered that and what you would have to do to get back to the mainland of Florida if a hurricane was bearing down on the keys. The thought has stuck with me that if you could not cross each of the bridges as you came to them, you would be stuck in the face of looming disaster.
Have you ever thought about the bridges we as Christians must cross if we are to receive help from God when disaster is looming? There are bridges to cross. God has requirements that He wants us to meet before He will help in our difficulty. It is true that God offers unconditional love to anyone who will accept it, but He also has a conditional promise for help in times of difficulty. A conditional promise is the connection of IF and THEN. It states that IF one action is taken by one party THEN a different action will be taken by the other party. The action of the THEN part is always conditioned on the action of the IF part.
In II Chronicles 7:13-14 God states His conditional promise to help in difficult times. To set the stage, Solomon has completed building the Temple. He has been in prayer with God for all of Chapter 6 asking God to help the Israelites stay close to Him and to help them return when they stray. He and the people of Israel have had a feast of dedication. God comes to Solomon at night and says:
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,”
“And My people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
To paraphrase we could say that God has said ‘if tough times come and my people will cross four bridges that are before them, then I will hear, forgive, and heal’. Let’s look at the bridges we must cross and the order in which we must cross them. Just a note about crossing bridges, you have to cross them in the right order and when you come to them. Somewhat rhetorical but I believe there is a very good reason God puts these bridges in this order.
The Bridge of Humility:
What does it mean to humble oneself? It is important to note that this is humbling oneself before God. It is not humiliation. What is humility in the biblical sense? What are the characteristics of humility? In order to understand this concept let’s examine a few passages of scripture.
Isaiah 6:1-7: This is Isaiah’s call into God’s service. In this chapter Isaiah comes into the presence of God Almighty. He becomes overwhelmed at God’s glory and the awesomeness of His presence. In verse 5 Isaiah shouts “Woe is me for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah has beheld the glory of the living God and recognized two things. The first thing is the character of God, that is His holiness and righteousness. The second thing is his own personal sinful condition. This is one aspect of biblical humility. That is that God is holy and righteous and that as humans, we are sinful and unworthy.
The second passage I want us to look at is Luke 15:11ff. It is the parable of the prodigal son. You know the story. The younger son left his father’s house after receiving his portion of his father’s inheritance. He squandered his money in sinful behavior and when he had to resort to feeding hogs to survive, he came to his senses. The section I want us to focus on is verses 20-22. In those verses, the prodigal is coming home to confess the error of his ways and beg his father’s forgiveness. Notice in particular verse 20 when the father saw him, he felt compassion for the prodigal son, ran to him, and started demonstrating how great his love was for his son. The father did not tell his son “I told you so”. He just rejoiced and showed his love for him. How do you think the son felt? Do you think he was overwhelmed by the love the father showed to him? Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 that ‘God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’. This father’s love overwhelmed his son. While he was still stinking like a hog pen, dirty from living outside of his father’s house, flat broke, and full of shame and guilt, totally down and out, and feeling unworthy to even be a son, the father accepted him just as he was, loved him unconditionally, forgave him for his leaving, and celebrated his return. The part of biblical humility I want us to see here is that while we are unworthy, God will overwhelm us with His love and celebrate our return to Him.