Today we finish Chapter 3, “The Rewards of Righteousness.” To go back to the beginning of Chapter 3, see “Living in the Light of God’s Lamp, Part 7.”
God knows that we are mere mortals, and that our resources are limited. There is really no physical thing that we can give to Him that He doesn’t already own. The world is His and everything in it. But the one thing that God has given us complete power over is our own hearts. He wants us to give our hearts to Him on our own initiative, just as any true lover would do. But the beauty of it is, once we give our hearts to Him, our huge, incomprehensible God lavishes us with all manner of good gifts and rewards—things so huge that only He can provide them.
It’s a simple formula, and God has made it quite clear. Not long after the war with the Ethiopians, Asa received a message from God delivered by a prophet named Azariah—a message we would do well to post on our refrigerators, or anywhere else we can be frequently reminded:
“Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chronicles 15:2b)
It looks like an equal equation, but it’s really not. When we seek God and find Him, He receives a broken, sinful creature, yet we find the most incredible, faithful, unearthly love we will ever know. We find peace, guidance, counsel, wisdom, gifts and prosperity. However, if we forsake God, we not only miss out on His love and every good gift He would bestow, but we also leave ourselves open for trouble.
The prophet Azariah went on to remind Asa that when Jeroboam ruled Israel, and they worshipped the golden calves, and were without teaching priests or the law, there was no peace, “for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands.” Was that just a coincidence? Not on your life. Nation was crushing nation, and city was crushing city, because God troubled them with every kind of distress.
What?!! God troubled them? That’s putting it lightly. God “afflicted” all the inhabitants of the lands. He may as well have poked them with a red-hot cattle prod. You see, when God “forsakes” you, He doesn’t leave you alone. He doesn’t turn His back on you. He makes your life difficult because He cares. He wants to get your ire up because that’s often the only way He can get you to turn back to Him.
The prophet Azariah capped his message to Asa with these final words:
“But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”(2 Chronicles 15:7)
Azariah was referring to the work God wanted him to do; work to cleanse his kingdom of the idolatry and to turn the hearts of the people back to God. God required it of him, because Asa alone had the authority to do so. Soon afterward, Asa began his second set of reforms intended to turn the people back to God. He was so intent on this, that he commanded everyone to enter into a covenant to seek the LORD God with all their heart and soul…or they would be put to death. This may sound like forced devotion to God, and indeed it was, but Asa knew that it was better to force them to turn to God in this life, than to allow them to jump headlong into hell without Him.
God rewards us for our righteousness right here in this life. While we can expect a reward in heaven, our loving God doesn’t require that kind of delayed gratification. When all the world seems to be going to heck in a hand-basket, God looks and sees those who are seeking righteousness and rewards them. Our righteousness is our godly “work” and we will be compensated. He will uphold us. He will strongly support us. He will provide for us. He will defend and protect us. He is with us when we are with Him.
And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely there is a God who judges on earth!” (Psalm 58:11)
This ends Chapter 3. We’ll begin Chapter 4 in the next installment.