But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak,
for your work shall be rewarded.
I'm not sure why, but I kept getting drawn back to this Scripture this week. Perhaps it is because I am so aware of the fears and the sense of powerlessness that so many people are feeling these days. And, sadly, that includes Christians. But, to be honest, it's understandable. We are struggling, both as Americans, and as Christians, to figure out our place in this country and the world.
We know that, as a nation, we have sinned grievously against the Lord. We have been rebellious and disobedient. Can we say, with all honesty, that our laws supporting abortion and re-defining marriage, or our idolatry towards celebrities, money, or whatever occupies our time, are any different than the sins of the ancient Israelites?
At the time that this passage was written, Asa was the king of the southern kingdom, Judah. It has been nearly 100 years since King David began his reign in Hebron, and 20 years since the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms. It has been a time of worshipping at the altars of false gods in the high places, and of disobeying God's commandments. The people were rightfully wondering if God's promises of prosperity to the patriarchs would be revoked because of the nation's sins. Was there any hope of reviving the country and returning it to its pinnacle? And with the continued falling away from their faith, could Judaism survive? Their leaders and their religious leaders had failed them. They desperately needed a ray of hope!
Could not the same thing be said of us and our nation today? I will admit that I am less interested in reviving the prosperity and reputation of this nation, and more interested in reviving the faith of my fellow countrymen. It goes without saying, that many of our political and religious leaders have let us down. That's why this particular verse speaks to me.
Just like King Asa, who received this word from Azariah, the prophet, we recognize that we need to reform our lives... not only the direction of our nation, but revise and renew our individual lives. We must rededicate ourselves to the service of God, knowing that God is always faithful to those who remain true to Him.
Azariah is telling King Asa to approach this reformation of his nation with vigor and with diligence. We should do the same in our individual lives! We should carefully, and continuously apply ourselves to returning to God; to becoming the "new creations" we know we are supposed to be. We are not to approach this work as drudgery, or lazily. We are to apply ourselves with consistent effort, always keeping our eyes on the goal -- to glorify God and His kingdom.
Just think of all He has given you! Aren't His works on our behalf worth our best efforts to serve Him? So, let me encourage you, just as King Asa was encouraged... He was told to "take courage"! In the Hebrew, this means "to strengthen, to repair, to fortify, to take hold of" -- all in terms of rebuilding the covenant relationship with the God who delivered you out of your sins. And that takes work on our part!
It is important to know that our reward on this earth is in the work itself -- when we make the effort to obey Him during times of temptation; when we sense His presence as we cry out to Him in repentance; and when we set our minds, hearts, and hands to His work in this world, and our spirit acknowledges that the good God has done in the past is the pattern for all the good He will do in our future.
It is enough for me to know that God keeps His promises to those who love and obey Him. But this verse reminds me of the moral and physical strength that my God can communicate to me in my times of disillusionment. His Mercy endures forever!