Saturday, May 22, 2010

Valley of Beracah by JoAnn Lampe

Week 21: May 23-29
Scripture Reading:2 Chronicles 10-28; Psalm 72-74
Key passage for this devotion: 2 Chron. 10-28

Valley of Beracah*
By JoAnn Lampe

I stand as barren as the winter tree
There is no life, no color left in me.
The dull gray winter sky
My only companion
The back drop
To my solitary stance.

What happened to that once vibrant tree
So full and lush against a sky so blue?
With leaves that waved in joyous abandon
Limbs strong and limber, straight and true.
What, poor tree, happened to you?

Gusting winds, violent storms
Tearing off fragile leaves
Ripping weaker branches from a sturdy trunk
Harsh winters, blazing summers
All taking their toll.

Then a drought
With no rain to nourish
The roots spread out
North, South, East & West
Up and down, side to side
– seeking water, seeking life,
All for naught – there was nothing to appease the drought.

2 Chronicles documents the rise and fall of many kings. We see the good the bad the ugly. We see abandonment, betrayal, loyalty, disloyalty, obedience and disobedience. We see kings flourish and we see them stark and bleak, stripped of all life, dry and parched; succumbing to the storms in their lives.

Some, like Rehoboam, chose to listen to unwise counsel. 2Chronicles 10:8 “But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.” In so doing, he divided his kingdom; ten tribes became Israel (the northern kingdom) the 2 remaining tribes; the houses of Judah and Benjamin, became known as Judah (the southern kingdom).

Some kings like, Asa, started out on the right path 2Chronicles 14:7 “…The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” – but then went off on the wrong path, bribing one king to break his treaty with another king in order to gain security. 2Chronicles 16:7 “…’Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.’”

Some, like Jehoshaphat, although they still had their weaknesses were bold followers of God. When faced with imminent danger to his kingdom, Jehoshaphat, didn’t rely on military advisors or friends. “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD,…” (2Chronicles 20:3 ) The LORD answered the prayers of the people of Judah, with this response: “…’Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’ ”( 2Chronicles 20:15 & 17)

Before marching into battle, “… Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. (2Chronicles 20:21-22)

After spending three days picking up the plunder of the defeated armies, “…they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD… Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lutes and trumpets….And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” (2 Chronicles 20:26 - 30)

What was the difference? Why did Jehoshaphat flourish, why did God give him rest on every side? Because he turned to God first and when God provided, Jehoshaphat gave God praise, not himself. When Jehoshaphat was battered by the storms of life, when there was a drought, his “roots” didn’t go off in all directions looking for water, for life; he went directly to the source of all life, to God. And even before God provided the solution, he praised Him – going into battle he praised Him. So where do you go to find the answer to a problem – to your peers, like Rehoboam? What do you do when the going gets rough, when the winds of life are tearing at your limbs – do you find the easy way out, like Asa? Who do you turn to? Who’s your source of sustenance? Who do you praise before, during and after the battle?

Prayer: “LORD, help me to always remember to turn to you for life and to praise You always so that I may have rest on every side.”

* Beracah means praise

JoAnn Lampe has been at Crossroads for almost 10 years.  She has two married daughters and a grandson.  She enjoys writing both prose and poetry.

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