Summary: When things get tough we sometimes wonder whether God is present with us. Bot God is always here and his promises never fail. He will judge those who do wrong in his world. He is constant in his judgements.
Well let me begin by saying this is a difficult reading.It’s a difficult reading not only because we need to understand something of the complex history between Assyria and Judah and the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel … but even more fundamentally it’s difficult because it deals with human pride, death and destruction and where God is in all of that.
And both individually and corporately these are issues that all of us have to deal with at some stage in our lives.
If we think about our own community here … we have seen the building at St Theodore’s DESTROYED … there’s just a plot of land there now … and … hopefully … in the next few months we are going to see part of this site redeveloped as well. As a community we’ve also experienced the passing of loved ones in the past couple of years … and at some point or another, we’ve probably all been prideful in some way … we’ve thought … well … ‘we’re OK … we’ve done pretty well for ourselves.’
When building permits get granted and sites get sold and local residents have no complaints about our plans … we can say ‘God’s in this!’ … ‘God is blessing our work!’ … ‘We’ve been faithful!’And don’t get me wrong … I’m not suggesting that this is not the case, what I am suggesting, following today’s reading, is that things are not always what they seem and that we have to keep coming before the Lord in prayer lest we neglect God in our planning.
So let me pray …
I’m going to begin with a story:
It may come as a surprise to you to hear this, but I am not much of an athlete.It’s not that I’m unfit or incapable … it is simply that I have very little interest in competitive sport … this is very un-Australian! As a child this inevitably frustrated my father, as he from a young age loved sport and played every sport that was accessible to him and was relatively good at it. These days he’s a golfer, playing 2-3 times a week (despite full-time work), with a very respectable handicap. (He has a stack of trophies sitting on the shelf in the Dining Room).
But when I was at school, even though I didn’t really like sport … you know how it is at school … —never having any sporting achievements in sport is kind of tantamount to not having a personality— and so there were those odd occasions that I gave it a bit of a go, in the hope that I might be able to win a ribbon or a prize that I could show off to my friends and take home to my dad. So 3 events stand out in my mind:
1. When I was in Primary School, I trialled for a Cross Country race, only the ten top people in the try-out would get to compete: I came in tenth … out of eleven … however I had trained for a few weeks and the guy who came eleventh just decided at the last minute to try out. Not having come prepared he competed in his school uniform and school shoes.
2. Then in High School, there was a mandatory Swimming Carnival and everyone had to swim in at least one race. Each race had eight competitors. I came third … because five people didn’t show up – But I came home with a 3rd Ribbon!
3. And my favourite … one year, I don’t know why this happened … but my sports house at school came first at the end of the year … and every member of the house got a BLUE first ribbon. FINALLY … I came home from school with a blue ribbon … I don’t know if I even told my parents how uninvolved I was in obtaining the ribbon … NOT IMPORTANT … the point was … I came FIRST.
Actually … IT’S RIDICULOUS … isn’t it, that I would boast about coming first! I mean at least in the first two incidences, I competed … but I effectively did nothing to bring home the BLUE ribbon in this third example. It’s too long ago to remember clearly now … but no doubt I got some boasting rights just for having this BLUE RIBBON hanging in my bedroom!
In today’s passage, we learn something about PRIDE and how God responds to our PRIDE.
Our focus is on Assyria
It’d be helpful to have your Bible open because I am going to jump around a bit …
So turn with me if you will to v7 … about half way through v7 we read: 'It is in his heart [that is the King of Assyria] to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few. For he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols what I have done to Samaria and her images?”