Over the past several months, I have thought a great deal about the idea of dependence. This idea has been at the forefront of my thinking because of medical circumstances that the Lord, in his sovereignty and for my benefit, has allowed me to experience. I have found myself asking people to give me a ride here or there. These family members and friends have been so kind and accommodating. They haven’t made me feel the burden of my dependence on them. It was, however, a weight I was painfully aware of! Just ask anyone who knows me well and you will hear them say: “No, he does NOT like to be the passenger in a car! Paul strongly prefers to be in the driver’s seat.”
So I have come to realize in the past few months that the idea of dependence is challenging to me. And this has been precisely the area the Lord, in his gracious plan, has been using to shape me recently. I prefer independence. I prefer NOT to have to depend on anyone else. Life seems to go much more smoothly when I can make my own plans and carry them out on my own, without depending on anyone else.
It is interesting that two verses in the book of 2 Chronicles came to my attention recently when thinking about my personal longing for independence—my desire to make my own plans and carry them out, without having to rely on anyone else. These verses have underscored for me the importance of having a correct object of dependence. Taking them in the order they are found in the Scripture:
2 Chronicles 13:18 (ESV) Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers.
The narrative recorded for our instruction in 2 Chronicles 13 occurs during a time when Israel was a divided nation. The men of Judah, as we are told in the text quoted above, won the battle against the men of Israel because of a specific set of circumstances: they had “relied on,” or trusted in, or depended on, “the Lord, the God of their fathers.” This was a positive outcome because of dependence on the Lord.
The second occurrence of this theme takes place a few chapters later:
2 Chronicles 16:7-8 (ESV) At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand.
In 2 Chronicles 16, Hanani arrives to deliver an unpleasant message to Asa, the king of Judah. To help us better understand the impact of this unpleasant message, it is worthwhile to see the praise that Asa had earlier received from the Lord:
2 Chronicles 14:2 (ESV) And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment.
In short, at an earlier point in his life, Asa had been proactive in leading the people of Judah in doing “what was right and good in the eyes of the LORD his God.” He had taken initiative in destroying places of worship which violated God’s name and character. Not only that, he had commanded the people of Judah to actively seek the LORD and be careful to keep his commandments.
Later in life, however, Asa compromised on the things for which he had been previously praised by God. Instead of trusting in the LORD his God, he relied on the king of Syria to assist him when facing adversity—and consequently, he did not receive the help he had sought. This negative consequence came upon Asa because he had not trusted the LORD his God.
Matthew Henry comments on these verses: “God is much displeased when he is distrusted and when an arm of flesh is relied on more than his power and goodness. By putting our confidence in God we give honour to him, and therefore he thinks himself affronted if we give that honour to another” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
For twenty-five years, Asa depended on the Lord his God and made good and right choices. Something happened, however, and he stopped depending on God and began depending on that which he could see: kings and armies. The message is clear: this could happen to me, to you, as well!
This timely lesson regarding my profound need for dependence on God has led me to think about these three truths:
- The Lord is worthy of our full confidence all the days of our life.
- Though right choices might be made at crucial points of life, these do not guarantee right choices for all of life.
- The people of God, therefore, must be on their guard against the insidious danger of resident pride within which would lead us to choose reliance on something other than the One who is Faithful and True.
Who are you depending on today? Who will you depend on tomorrow? By God’s grace, let’s seriously ponder these questions and be careful to evaluate the motivations of our hearts and the decisions we make to reflect the glory of our Creator-Owner.