In Part 2 of “Hills”, we hit the pause button just after the rebuilding of the temple had come to a screeching halt in Ezra 4. Now, enter Haggai and Zechariah. These were the 2 prophets God used to encourage Zerubbabel and the Israelites to get it together and get that temple built. I’m not sure exactly what they told the Israelites, but I can imagine it was probably something along the lines of, “Keep pumping those arms! We love hills! Hills make us strong!”
Haggai and Zechariah were so passionate about the task God had given them; they even jumped in and help with the actual rebuilding. What the exiles had been too discouraged and afraid to do for 16 years, only took a mere 4 years to complete. In just 4 years the temple, the heartbeat of the city, was complete. Beware! This is what the enemy does. He makes you think the problems or road blocks you encounter are bigger than they really are. I do not doubt for one minute that marching up your preverbal hill is excruciatingly hard. The more you march, the more your calves will burn, and the stronger your muscles will become. But here is the catch: you have to actually start!
Fast forward 60 years after the temple was completed. Life was good in Jerusalem and things had been going well. More exiles were returning home. Ezra, a priest and Bible scholar, had led some of those exiles back. What he finds is a city that was thriving in the things of the world and greatly lacking in the things of righteousness. After the building of the temple, things took a turn for the ungodly. Many of the Jewish men had married women of pagan nations. Once again, they were headed down a path away from God. Ezra simply called it like he saw it. The Bible says that Ezra wept bitterly, tore his tunic, and threw himself down before the house of God. Ezra knew the Word and he had a deep, ever pressing desire to live for God. He knew that the intermarriages were a recipe for disaster. For example, a Christian today wouldn’t marry someone who worships Satan. This, however, is basically what the Jews had done. Ezra was so impacted by the sin of his people that he began praying and confessing on their behalf, even though he had not sinned. When many of the Israelites saw Ezra weeping and praying, their hearts were changed and they began weeping also. They realized he was right; they had been unfaithful to the one true God. Here is what they didn’t do: they didn’t accuse Ezra of being judgmental because he called them to repent, and they didn’t deny their sins. It was what it was – sin. Instead, they told Ezra to do what he needed to do, and they would support him. Ezra was now in a position to make a decision that was going to be very unpopular among the masses. However, Ezra climbed his hill and the Israelites gladly followed because they knew their God by virtue of personal experience. They understood that God’s way was better than their own. They made the tough choice to separate from their foreign wives and even children!
Finally, I must ask, what is God calling you to separate from so that you can live fully for Him? Yes, I know it’s tough to leave your longtime family church to join another fellowship that is more Bible focused. But how can you grow spiritually connected to a “dead church” just because it is family operated? I know it’s hard to resist temptation when he is so fine and he did say that he might think about possibly one day maybe going to church with you… It’s hard to pay tithes when you already have bills over due. It’s hard to tell your manager, “No I won’t lie on this report,” when the unemployment rate is the highest it has ever been. It’s hard to admit that you, a preacher’s wife, has made a major mistake. When a customer mistakenly leaves you a $100 tip when he meant to leave a $10 tip, it’s hard to bring it to their attention. God has called you to another career, but it’s hard to be a wife, a single mother, work full time, and come up with tuition all at once. It’s a challenge not to curse when the AC and the hot water heater both have to be replaced within the same week. These, however, are just hills in your life. You can’t get to the mountaintop experience standing at the base of the hill. And you can’t climb just one hill and think you are ready to take on the mountain. Every time you choose righteousness, you climb another hill. You get better in the process. Every single time, you get stronger and wiser. Now, I’m not saying that you won’t be gasping for air by the time you make a climb. Even the best athletes sweat. But that is why when we are at our weakest, God is at His best (2 Cor. 12:10). He is most certainly greater.
Rise up! It’s up to you! Be courageous! You have support in His promises! Do it! Choose righteousness! Taste and see how good it feels to climb your hills (Ps. 34:8). Oh yes, hills indeed make you strong. But, God – He’s the One that makes it worth it.