The High Places

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The High Places

Christ declares, “I, if I be lifted up . . . , will draw all men unto me.” If the cross does not find an influence in its favor, it creates an influence. Through generation succeeding generation, the truth for this time is revealed as present truth. Christ on the cross was the medium whereby mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. This is the means that is to move the world. {LHU 230.3} (see also, John 8:32).

Happy Sabbath To All

This week’s Friday night devotional starts with the story of King Asa, in the Old Testament. It reveals the ways and means by which the cross creates an influence, in Christ’s behalf, where none can normally be found or expected. (1 Kings 15:14, KJV)

“But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.”

As I was beginning to prepare for this devotional; I noticed that the very old Hebrew/Greek Study Bible was sitting on the shelf, very obviously collecting dust. The years have apparently been taking their toll. There was a small chunk torn out of the bottom of the book’s spline. I had wondered from time to time over the years, why I had even bothered to keep that book. Thinking about that must have made me realize, maybe it was now time to pick it up, dust it off, open up the front cover, to have a look.

While I leafed through the dog-eared pages; I noticed that every-so-often, there would be a small, red ink astereck near the top, left area of some texts. I guess everyone does that – marking their Bibles for future reference!

It was getting to be very interesting as I stopped at each of those marked texts, to ponder what I might have had in mind as I marked them in red. There was one particular text that seemed to literally jump right out at me. Something made me decide to slow down, and to read it carefully to find out more.

In a moment, I could see that there was a reason why that particular text with the red-ink star had jumped out at me. And that is how the text cited at the beginning of this article came to be the center of focus for this study.

The first thing I had noticed about 1 Kings 15:14 was how it seemed to be stating two, main points that appeared to contradict one another. The first point made was how “the high places were not removed.” Later in this article we will come back to this point to examine what is meant here by “high places,” but for now, suffice it to say that said removal of these “high places,” was in fact something that God must have told Asa to do; and that for some reason, Asa did not fully accomplish this reform that God had asked of him.

That being said, we can now state the very obvious second point as being this short text: “Asa’s heart was perfect before The Lord all his days.” (1 Kings 15:4).

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Could it be true? Was Asa’s heart “perfect;” even though he had not actually carried out God’s specific directions for reform? God had asked Asa to reform the nation, (Judah – 1 Kings 15:7-8), and yet, even with Asa’s failure, his “heart was perfect for his entire life.” What a remarkable statement!

Asa’s heart was perfect – He worshipped the true God, and zealously promoted his service; see on 1 Kings 15:3 (note). And even the high places which he did not remove were probably those where the true God alone was worshipped; for that there were such high places the preceding history amply proves, and Jarchi intimates that these were places which individuals had erected for the worship of Jehovah.

The high places were not removed – He was not able to make a thorough or complete reformation; for this was reserved for his son Jehoshaphat: (1 Kings 15:24, 1 Kings 22:41-45). Jehosaphat commanded the Judges to be just: (2 Chron 19:6-9), and unlike his father, King Asa, Jehosaphat, as the surrounding nations gathered their forces and attacked him, ; had trusted in the Lord, completely, and gaining a great victory. (2 Chron 20: 1-37).

One of the more shocking faults of Asa that scripture details for us can be seen in the disrespect and cruelty he had clearly shown towards God’s faithful messengers.

A very important incident in the life of Asa, omitted by the writer of 1st and 2nd Kings, is supplied by the author of 2 Chronicles. Here, Hanani, the seer, was sent to rebuke and threaten the king for his sin in forsaking the Lord and in relying upon the Syrians for aid. To be thus chided and exposed when his diplomatic policy had seemed to prosper so well, was more than one so little used to contradiction could bear, and in his rage Asa thrust the most faithful prophet into prison, adding to his original fault the grievous sin of persecuting an inspired messenger of Jehovah.

Here we have the melancholy spectacle of a prophet of God imprisoned, not by an idolatrous or notoriously wicked king, but by one who has hitherto borne a noble character, and whose heart was substantially right with God. (see 2 Chron 16:7-10).

From the whole narrative of 1st and 2nd Chronicles we gather that the character of Asa deteriorated as he grew old, and that while he maintained the worship of Jehovah consistently from first to last, he failed to maintain the personal faith and piety which had been so conspicuous in his early youth. In his great and fatal affliction “he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.” (see 2 Chron 16:12). Not that he was blamed for adopting the best means within his reach for his recovery, but he was blamed for relying more upon the skill of the physicians instead of upon the Lord’s blessing upon the means they employed.

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It is in our affliction that even today, we all realise our helplessness and need, and when, more than at any other time, we are called upon to depend upon the gracious interference and help of God. It is a lamentable proof of how sadly and deeply the religious spirit has declined when God is forgotten at a period of great extremity, and in the near prospect of death!

We have the example from the life-story of King Asa. This example reflects on where many of us today are headed. Scripture also tells us that “the time of the end” has arrived, and that soon the “end of time” will be here, when the test that is to come to every person on Earth will come, (Rev 3:10), and it will hit hard. We will survive and thrive as we remember that the power of Christ’s forgiveness, is the power of our calling, to His righteoousness, and trusting in what His Sacrifice can do for us, during the hardest days and the most fearful times.

“The final movements will be rapid ones…” (9T 11)

The enemies who rise up against us and bring us into dire straits, and pungeant fear, must often serve, in the hand of God, to try and prove whether our faith is rooted in the deepest soil of the heart, and our zeal in the Holiness of His Son’s Sacrifice for us on Calvary. THATs what will get us where we are going.

To live such a life, to exert such an influence, costs at every step effort, self-sacrifice, discipline. It is because they do not understand this that many are so easily discouraged in the Christian life. Many who sincerely consecrate their lives to God’s service are surprised and disappointed to find themselves, as never before, confronted by obstacles and beset by trials and perplexities. They pray for Christlikeness of character, for a fitness for the Lord’s work, and they are placed in circumstances that seem to call forth all the evil of their nature. Faults are revealed of which they did not even suspect the existence. Like Israel of old they question, “If God is leading us, why do all these things come upon us?” {HDL 8.2}

It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lord’s chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success. He who reads the hearts of men knows their characters better than they themselves know them. He sees that some have powers and susceptibilities which, rightly directed, might be used in the advancement of His work. In His providence He brings these persons into different positions and varied circumstances that they may discover in their character the defects which have been concealed from their own knowledge. He gives them opportunity to correct these defects and to fit themselves for His service. Often He permits the fires of affliction to assail them that they may be purified. {HDL 9.1}

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The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop. If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name, He would not spend time in refining us. He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He refines. The blacksmith puts the iron and steel into the fire that he may know what manner of metal they are. The Lord allows His chosen ones to be placed in the furnace of affliction to prove what temper they are of and whether they can be fashioned for His work. {HDL 9.2}

It is our own character and experience that determine our influence upon others. In order to convince others of the power of Christ’s grace, we must know its power in our own hearts and lives. The gospel we present for the saving of souls must be the gospel by which our own souls are saved. Only through a living faith in Christ as a personal Saviour is it possible to make our influence felt in a skeptical world. If we would draw sinners out of the swift-running current, our own feet must be firmly set upon the Rock, Christ Jesus. {CSW 99.2}

The badge of Christianity is not an outward sign, not the wearing of a cross or a crown, but it is that which reveals the union of man with God. By the power of His grace manifested in the transformation of character the world is to be convinced that God has sent His Son as its Redeemer. No other influence that can surround the human soul has such power as the influence of an unselfish life. The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.–TSS 115, 116. {CSW 100.1}

(next week, we will look at some more of those red marks in that old Bible).

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