Isaiah 37:36-38

Emotion Commotion

In our reading today we see that God did a great miracle. The army of Assyria was devastated before they ever shot an arrow over the wall into Jerusalem, just as the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah. We also read that Sennacherib returned to his home city and was put to death by his own sons.

It would seem that with the death of Sennacherib that the Assyrian threat would have died with him. This would be wrong. The fact is that Sennacherib will live quite a bit longer than we might think as we read these verses. In fact, he will live five years longer than Hezekiah. So all throughout Hezekiah’s life there was always a threat of Sennacherib reforming his army and coming back to attack Jerusalem. After all, Assyria still controlled a large portion of the known world and was the dominant force in the world.

As Christians we face a similar threat, Satan. Jesus defeated Satan on the cross. He is powerless over us but that does not mean that he is not a threat to us. Satan has changed his tactics. Satan uses temptations to stumble God’s people causing them to fall. The Greek word used in the New Testament, translated offence, stumble, or cause to stumble and sin, is Skandalon. From this word we get our word, you guessed it, scandal. In the Greek it means the trigger on the trap where the bait is put. The image is striking. We can see that this is exactly what Satan is doing today. He has hidden a multitude of traps in the pathways of life and placed bait on the traps that will appeal to us and our emotions.

We do not have to spend much time watching the news before we realize we are a nation of people whose emotions are in control of the decisions many of us make. Anger, road rage, senseless shootings, addictions, addictions, and more addictions, that destroy people and families are all around us. I am convinced that this is because we have been taught to go with our emotions.

 Back in the hippie days we were concerned that the generation before us was not healthy because they stuffed their emotions. We thought it was better to go with our emotions and follow our heart. But look where that has gotten us! That generation is now known as the greatest generation. This, I believe, is because they didn’t stuff their emotions, they had them under control.

Meek is another word we read in the New Testament. We usually put this word in the category of weakness. Our casual definition of meek is taking the bait on the trap. We stumble over our definition. Meekness in the Bible is strength under control. Jesus said that he was meek in Matthew 11:29. We would err if we considered Jesus weak. Aristotle gave us an example of meekness when it comes to anger. Meekness is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:26, “ ‘BE ANGRY YET DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger.’’”

Back in our study of the book of Numbers 22-26, Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel. God would not allow Israel to be cursed. Balaam, realizing he will not get paid, devised a plan where Israel would sin and God would punish them for their sin. He had Balak send in the young girls to hook up with the young men and when they had taken the bait, the girls would introduce the young men to the idols Moab worshiped. The tactic worked and Israel was stumbled big time because the appeal was to their unchecked emotions.

Balaam could not curse Israel. Sennacherib could not get into Jerusalem and capture it or the people. The devil has been rendered powerless to condemn us or even bring a charge against us to God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. But that does not stop him from bringing a charge and condemnation to us.  So, he places stumbling blocks hidden in the path of life and puts bait on them that will appeal to our weakness, that is, our unchecked and unrestrained emotions.

As a Christian I want to be more and more like my Lord Jesus. If He was gentle and meek that is what I want to be. I have had far too much unrestrained emotional freedom in my life. There are two problems with that. One is the obvious consequences of those decisions, and the second is the tendency of repeating the same behavior based on old hard habits I have developed.

Old behavior patterns left unrestrained lead to other dangers as well. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh took the bait on the traps that Satan put in front of him. As a result he was the most evil and longest reigning king of Judah.  Worse yet, he led the people of the nation to do the same. God sent prophets to Manasseh and the people to warn them they were being trapped but they would not listen. So God handed Manasseh over to the Assyrians and he was taken captive. With a hook in his jaw and bound by chains, he was taken to prison in Babylon. Babylon is a symbol of all the pleasures this world has to offer. His behavior became an addiction that bound and controlled him. From captivity he finally sought the Lord and was eventually allowed to go back to Jerusalem where he brought reform to his life and the nation. But, he had done a lot of damage that he could not undo. His lifestyle affected the people and his family. You can read about him in 2 Chronicles 32.

I am concerned about unchecked emotions that lead to addictions. Personally I struggle with poor eating habits. Judging from the ads on TV for diet plans, exercise programs and machines, and all the medicine to control type 2 diabetes, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. It is time for the church to get honest about “acceptable addictions.”  It is time to get serious about where we are in our relationship with the Lord. I for one am praying to see people saved and set free, but if I am unwilling to give up the bait on the trap I know I will never be set free from the trap. This is true for all of us who take the bait.

In the future I plan to do a series of studies that deal with dysfunctional behavior stemming from dysfunctional thinking and old habits. We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that a Christian is a new creation. We are born again. The question is, have we let go of the old life? 

Here are some verses for further study.

John 12:31, 14:29-31, 16:33; Romans 8:31-39; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8, 5:3-5, Galatians 5:1

May God richly bless you!

Pastor Dave