Hell is a real place. Jesus described it thoroughly while on earth. One cult leader said, “The sinner makes his own hell by doing evil…in place of material flames and odor, mental anguish is generally accepted as the penalty for sin.” This is not the description Christ gave in the most compelling illustration recorded for us in Scripture. The rich man “lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23). What was his torment? Mental anguish was assuredly part of it, but he requested, “send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). He asks for a drop of water in Hell when God was willing to give him living water in life.
Isaiah speaks of the hope Israel has in God. The gods of this earth can never satisfy or provide. While God is ready to satisfy, our human nature is to put God on hold while we experiment with other joys in life. The only problem is a sinner can leave God on hold too long. God is poised to “pour water upon him that is thirsty” (Isaiah 44:3). the rich man put God on hold while he fared sumptuously. He found his satisfaction outside of God. The blessings of God refused became the blessings of God restricted once his eternal choice was confirmed. One of the torments of Hell is the elusiveness of complete satisfaction which can only be found in God. As you share the gospel this weekend, ask God to help others realize their thirst. God is ready to pour water upon the thirsty. Refuse God and they will receive nary a drop in Hell. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, you receive the living water with such abundance you will never thirst again. it springs within your life as everlasting life.
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. (Psalm 42:1)
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Hezekiah was the crusade leader for Judah. He was excited about worshiping God. He even invited those from the northern kingdom, Israel, to come down to Jerusalem and worship with them. Outside of David and Solomon, no other king of Judah is as celebrated as Hezekiah. None after him nor any before him compared to his devotion (2 Kings 18:5).
As you read the last verse of 2 Chronicles 31, it is clear Hezekiah was all in. “And in every work that he began…he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” With all his heart—that is an interesting phrase. There are a lot of people who are doing things with all their heart. Some pray the rosary with all their heart. Others help in disaster relief with all their heart. Some “pioneer” by knocking on doors for their system of beliefs with all their heart. Some lead area-wide crusades with all their heart. Is this the standard for doing what is right? Does it mean, if you do something with all your heart, you will prosper? Is the key to success simply you should want it more than the next person?
If the standard of right was “all your heart” there would be many things worthy of your pursuit. However, your heart is desperately wicked. You cannot even trust the pursuit of your heart. There must be a guide for hearts on fire. Notice Hezekiah’s guide: “Hezekiah…wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God…in the commandments” (2 Chronicles 31:20-21). The word “truth” describes things which are honest, sure, and lasting. The only thing worth doing is the thing that is eternal. Seek heavenly things (Colossian 3:1). Do the work of God with all your heart according to the commandments of God. There are many “crusades” you could join, but only those who do it with all their heart according to the instructions of God are lasting.
“If only my situation were different.”
“If only I had more time/money/friends.”
Some of the most destructive words in your vocabulary are “if only.” It flushes everything you have in order to make room for to wish for what you haven’t. Horatio Spafford lived through the devastation of the Chicago fire. As a prominent businessman, he was poised to bounce back from the catastrophe. In the meantime, he and his family would enjoy a vacation in England. There they would be refreshed and assist his friend, D. L. Moody in the evangelistic services. The day the ship sailed for England, Horatio was unavoidably detained due to business matters. He kissed his wife and three daughters telling them he would follow them shortly. He never saw his daughters again. There was a collision at sea and the ship sank rapidly. His wife was saved with only a few other passengers.
Spafford could have said many “if only” statements. “If only I had been there. If only I had not sent them alone. If only we hadn’t lost so much in the fire.” As you can see, “if only” does not stop naturally. Before you know it, you may as well say, “If only I were God!”
You can’t be God, but you can rest in Him. Someone has said, “Peace is not the absence of difficulty, but the presence of God.”
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on thee: Because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: For in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Spafford’s personal reflection as he did later sail over the place his daughter sank to their watery grave is engraved in the chorus of words he wrote. “It is well with my soul.” God is in control of the details. He is even in charge of the immaterial souls of men. Trust in the Lord forever.
Have you found yourself disappointed as you look longingly over the horizon? Can you relate to the father of the prodigal son who probably daily searched the crest of the hill for his son’s return? The Bible is accurate when it says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Isaiah 22-25 presents a unique contrast in the sources of hope.
A rare personal denunciation takes place in Isaiah 22 when he speaks against Shebna. We all are often focused on our homes, our gardens, our children, our schedules, and our hobbies. It is a unique person who serves the people around them. Shebna was a trusted government official. Yet, he was consumed with his own affairs and did not take much interest in his responsibility to care for the people. He was more concerned with his sepulcher than with serving. Isaiah tells Shebna he will die in another land and will be forgotten. If he was not concerned with others; others would not concern themselves with him. It appears he would be deprived of the thing for which he labored most—his sepulcher.
His replacement was going to be a man named Eliakim which means “my servant.” He would be everyone’s hero. All their hope would rest on this man. As great as the man Eliakim was he could not bear the burden of Judah’s hope. Isaiah uses the picture of a nail that bears too much weight and it is broken. Eliakim was noble. He was faithful, but he was only a man.
Another Servant would need to bear the hope of the whole world! The next couple of chapters uses the illustration of Shebna’s demise applied to the world. Those in the world who are consumed with themselves will be deprived of the things they desired most. The earth will be cleansed of self-seeking people who reject God and despise serving Him. But the Servant of the Lord will bring salvation. Those who hoped in Him will be rewarded. All the suffering will become a celebration. Death will be swallowed up in the victory.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; We have waited for him, and he will save us: This is the Lord; we have waited for him, We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)
Hope thou in God, and serve Him. In the end, your wait will be rewarded.