Friday, June 21, 2013

Let's Keep Our Arms Up

The story related in chapters 18 and 19 of the Second Book of Kings (Fourth Book of Kings in the Douay-Rheims Bible) offers striking parallels to our own time. Hezekiah was King of Judah in the late 7th century B.C., during a time when that kingdom was in decline. For many years now, the people of Israel had been unfaithful to the covenant God had made with their fathers, living in sin and worshiping idols. In punishment for this, God had allowed their once-great kingdom to be divided into two separate kingdoms (Israel and Judah) both governed by a succession of more or less wicked and mediocre kings. Hezekiah, however, was a good king who was pleasing to God—in fact, one of the best since David (cf. 2 Kings 18:3). As a reformer, he made serious and partially successful efforts to restore true worship of God and to convert the people of Judah back to holy lives in fidelity to the Mosaic law.

In chapter 18, Sennacherib, the pagan king of the Assyrians, is preparing to march on the Holy City of Jerusalem with a strong army and destroy the Temple. He sent a blasphemous messenger to the king and people of Jerusalem who proudly boasted that the almighty Sennacherib would decimate the city and that the God of the Hebrews could not possibly prevent this (see 2 Kings 18:17ff). This wicked messenger employed psychological warfare, yelling to the Jerusalemites that they should cease their useless prayers for deliverance and instead surrender to the King of the Assyrians who was going to conquer them anyway.

As told in chapter 19, King Hezekiah was horrified and deeply saddened by such blasphemy, and he refused to be swayed by it. He humbled himself, rending his garments and putting on sackcloth, and he prayed fervently to God that Jerusalem would be delivered from the hands of the King of the Assyrians. The prophet Isaiah then came to him and told him that God had heard his prayer and would deliver Jerusalem. He did so in spectacular fashion: as the army of Sennacherib camped around the city the night before the planned siege, an angel of God killed 185,000 of the Assyrian troops (2 Kings 19:35). The next morning, King Sennacherib left for Nineveh without so much as touching Jerusalem (19:36).

This story has several lessons to teach us today. Like the ancient kingdom of Judah, America today is a once-great empire in decline. For decades we Americans in general and Catholics in particular have been unfaithful to God in our private and public lives, killing millions of our own children through legalized abortion, using artificial contraception in violation of Church teaching, growing weak in religious belief and lax in the practice of our faith, voting for “Catholic” representatives who support abortion and homosexual “marriage,” and worshipping a variety of idols—politics, sports, sex, power, pleasure, money, fame, possessions, etc. And now, in punishment for all this evil, God is allowing a wicked, radically secularist, anti-religious administration in our federal government to force employers to provide immoral drugs and procedures—contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients—to their employees under the guise of “health care”. Perhaps this is what we justly deserve.

However, God in His Infinite Mercy is always willing to hear the prayers of those who humble themselves and sincerely repent—even in a time of general crisis and decline. Many Americans have now turned away from these evils and are trying sincerely to live good lives. Like King Hezekiah, they are aghast at the horrible sacrilege a powerful leader is attempting to perpetrate in their land. Like King Sennacherib, who attempted to desecrate Israel’s most hallowed sanctuary, the Holy Place of the Temple, President Obama and his cohorts are attempting to violate our most cherished liberties—freedom of religion and freedom of conscience—both of which are permanently enshrined in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Note that when threatened with destruction, King Hezekiah did not take up arms for military defense. Rather, he lifted his arms in confident prayer to the all-powerful God. This is fundamentally a spiritual battle we are now fighting here in the United States, not just a political or legal battle; thus it requires spiritual weapons. This is a war between good and evil. Those on the side of evil trust in the power of the Obama administration, the media elite, and their wealthy lobbyist backers. Those on the side of good must place their entire trust in God—which means praying and fasting for the restoration of our religious liberties and moral conscience rights. That’s what this Fortnight for Freedom is all about. If we sincerely humble ourselves and turn to God in earnest, fervent prayer as King Hezekiah did, he will certainly not fail to hear our prayers and deliver us from the evil now hanging over our nation. If we keep our arms raised in prayer to God as Moses did during Israel’s battle with the Amalecites (cf. Exodus 17:10-13), we will ultimately be victorious—no matter how long and difficult the struggle may be.

1 comment:

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