2 Chronicles 30:6-10
6 Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king and his leaders, and spoke according to the command of the king: “Children of Israel, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; then He will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.
7 “And do not be like your fathers and your brethren, who trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as you see.
8 “Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.
9 “For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.”
10 So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them.
The call to repentance went out. It wasn’t too unlike previous calls for people to return to the Lord God. From one corner of the country, the message was sent throughout the nation. Many responded right away, and others came later. Some replied to the man issuing the call that they would gladly return to the Lord. Some replied that he was a fool and was not speaking the Word of God. It was from that place that began the career of one of the greatest evangelists of the age. The place was Los Angeles, California, in 1949. The preacher was a fellow named Billy Graham.
The call to repentance and revival is not a new thing, and in the history of the church, many have issued the call. Because of modern media and air travel, Billy Graham is estimated to have spoken to over two billion people in his long career. King Hezekiah of Judah was just trying to reach out to his brothers in Israel and Samaria, and so he sent out runners, but I am sure the young king would have loved the chance to speak to all of them at once, rather than sending out messengers. Imagine if the message of repentance could have come from the king of Judah himself! Imagine if the words had been spoken aloud “in person” rather than read from a scroll by a well-meaning but inexperienced messenger. Would Israel have responded differently? Honestly, judging from today’s climate of indifference toward God and His preachers, and judging from the reception Jesus Himself experienced in Judea, I doubt that having televisions throughout ancient Israel and Judah would have made any difference at all.
God loves His children–even the stubborn ones. He will discipline the stiff-necked, and He will bless the faithful. He will bring hope to the powerless and strength to the weak. He will judge all of us by the same standard, and yet in His sovereign grace He extends mercy to those who love and accept His Son. But at the time of Hezekiah, the people had lived so long in idolatry and wickedness that many didn’t remember a time of peace and joy in the Lord. Few remembered how the Lord had delivered them from their enemies, how He had handed all of Canaan to them, how He had broken to yoke of slavery once before. Few understood that the few blessings they had were gifts from God, not the result of their own holiness or their own works. Only God’s grace and love kept the remnant alive in Israel and kept the fires of faith burning in those held in bondage in Assyria. And Hezekiah called out to remind all of Israel and Judah that repentance and faith would return God’s blessings not only to those who heard the call but also to those for whom they prayed: the slaves held by the kings of Assyria.
1 “Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you,
2 “and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,
3 “that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you.
4 “If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.
5 “Then the LORD your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
6 “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
Moses had known this day would come, that the children of Israel would be disobedient, that they would depart from God and be driven from the land for their own discipline. And Moses also knew what they would need to do in such a situation: repent and return to the Lord God of their fathers. Hezekiah preached the same message. Jesus preached the same message. Reverend Graham preached the same message. And yes, I am preaching the same message.
Our nation is undergoing struggles against faith such as we have never seen in our history. Our land is rife with stubborn pride and resistance to the teachings of God. The same modern media that once enabled Mr. Graham to preach to millions are now being used to spread virulent atheism and paganism and idolatry. Insidious challenges to public morality are being played out in our courts. Evil has crept into even the once-monolithic Roman Catholic church, and there are far too many well-publicized examples of evil within other branches of God’s church, too. The Internet feeds our self-centeredness and pride, inflames our selfishness and doubt, and even mocks our faith.
No more! It is time for runners to be sent out, to speak the Word of God face-to-face. It is time for this nation to respond to the direct call to repentance. It is time for the message to go out that God can and will save us from our own pride and half-belief. It is time for the gospel of Christ to truly be preached to all creatures.
But who will be the runners? Who will carry the message? Who will speak this message to the nations?
19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
20 “that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
There is hardly a town or city in America that does not have a Christian church. And there is hardly a street or apartment building that does not have one Christian resident. And there are very few workplaces that do not have at least one Christian employee.
Do you see? The runners are already in place! There is no need for someone like King Hezekiah to send out people from Jerusalem to the far corners of a nation. The people with the message are ALREADY in those places.
But they are silent. They hesitate to speak the truth in love. They are afraid of ridicule and mockery, afraid of persecution or simple refusal. They claim they are shy or not suited to speak. They claim they are too new at this, too young to be taken seriously, or too old to get involved. They don’t have the time, or the time is not right, or time just gets out of their hands. They hold back from speaking their testimony because they doubt their testimony themselves. They are silent even as Satan is roaring louder than ever before.
The runners that King Hezekiah sent out were laughed at and mocked, and yet some people responded to the call. A few came from the tribes of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun and “humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 30:11) What did our Savior say? “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) ONE sinner. Just one! Would we be silent and not bring the joy of salvation to one sinner who doesn’t know the Lord? Would we refuse to obey our Savior and Lord who told us to make disciples of all nations? Would we stand still rather than run to all who have not yet heard? Would we not share the message of the gospel of peace with God when there are so many perishing without it?
WE are the runners. We are the messengers sent with the message of repentance and salvation. We are the ones who will be laughed at and mocked. We are the ones who, when our race is run, will return to Jerusalem with some few repentant sinners in our wake. We are the voice of one crying in the wilderness of America, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” We can no longer be silent, brothers and sisters. It is time to obey the calling of the Lord God. Run! Speak! And rejoice in our Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.
Father God, let no one place a stumbling block in my path as I pursue Your calling. Grant me the words to speak and the courage to speak them. Grant me joy as I share the joy of Your gospel. Grant me wisdom to overcome the wiles of Satan. Be Thou my armor and my shield, my sword and my swift sandals. Be Thy Spirit my constant Companion and Guide. Be Thy Son my only truth, my only way, my only life. Amen.