Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Man who had it All

Read 2 Chronicles 8-9.

Solomon expanded his kingdom.  Constructing his palace, the Temple, and other Jerusalem projects required twenty years.  Next, he turned to building the cities that King Hiram had given to him.  Then, he continued the expansion beyond Israel's borders.  He had a presence on the Mediterranean Sea.  This caused his fame to spread even more.

Along the way, he strengthened his political capital by creating allies through marriages.  Pharaoh's daughter became one of those.  These foreign wives brought with them their pagan religions and soon would result in Solomon's spiritual compromise.

The Queen of Sheba traveled some 1200 miles to see for herself.  Once she personally saw the great wealth and heard the great wisdom of Solomon, she was overwhelmed.

Solomon ruled Israel another twenty years.  His kingdom ultimately extended from the Euphrates River to  Egypt.

What would the man who has everything be thinking now?  We are not left in doubt.  He wrote about it in the book of Ecclesiastes.  "I said in my heart, 'I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.'  And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind." (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17)

Acquiring stuff is not what life is all about.  Sooner or later we realize that all that stuff is temporal and one day we will leave it behind.  Solomon compares it to chasing the wind.  Once you grab a fist full of wind there is nothing there.

Our love for God and the lives that are changed through our service for God, we will enjoy forever.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The One necessary need in Worship

Read 2 Chronicles 7.

This is the second time God stopped the service in the dedication of the Temple because of His overwhelming presence.  The immediate response was worship and saying, "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."  That line was put to music and as the offerings were made, they sang those words.

The dedication was followed by continued celebrations and feasts with one last great assembly before returning home.

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon again to remind him of what is of primary importance.  Worshiping God was not about the buildings, as beautiful as they were.  It was not about the enormous quantity of the sacrifices that had been offered, though the altar in the Temple could not handle all of it.  It was not about the number of people who attended, though one would assume every able bodied person in the country tried to be there.

The LORD Himself must be the primary focus of life and behavior.  Worship is not a ritual.  It is a personal relationship with God.

In what is surely the most well-known passage of 2 Chronicles, God instructs the king about hard times ahead and the consequences of disobedience.  Yet, if the people will seek to Him, He will be found of them and helped.  "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (v.14)

So  many desire God's intervention and answers to prayer but they fail to humble themselves in surrender to the LORD and be willing to forsake all that displeases Him.  Even for those who try to live godly lives, busyness gets in the way of spending quality time with the LORD.  As Jesus said to Martha who was so busy doing good and needful things, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but one thing is necessary." (Luke 10:41)

That one thing is Jesus.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Worship in the Temple today

Read 2 Chronicles 6.

At the dedication of the Temple, King Solomon makes two strong statements in verse 6 quoting the LORD God.  "I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel."

Three thousand years later, Jerusalem continues to be the spiritual focal point of the world.  The Jews may have nationally forsaken the God of their fathers, but God has not forsaken His eternal, unconditional promises to Abraham and to David.  Indeed, Jesus, the Messiah, has the legal right to the throne of David and will one day rule and reign on earth from that city.  Though presently we live in what the Bible calls the time of the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul looked forward to a day when "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-27).

What a beautiful sight that must have been!  Here was a kneeling king, on  a bronze platform, thanking God for keeping His promises and dedicating this sacred place for future answers to prayer.

The Temple was a place for teaching, for offering prayers, for offering sacrifices for various reasons, for coming clean with God.  No other nation on earth enjoyed such a relationship with God.  "Let your saints rejoice in your goodness" (v.41c)

Even Solomon admitted that the God of heaven cannot be contained in a man-made building.  Though we are to worship the LORD together as a fellowship of believers, Paul gave us a thought-filled reminder that should help us discipline ourselves every day of the week.  "Or do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God is Worthy of our Best

Read 2 Chronicles 3-5.

The location of the Temple was Mount Moriah.  This is one of the most sacred spots on earth.  It was the very spot that David purchased from Ornan in 1 Chronicles 21 and worshiped there.  A thousand years before Solomon, Abraham walked up this same mount to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22.

Today, it is known as the Temple Mount where the Moslem Dome of the Rock stands.  When Israel constructs its future Temple,  according to Biblical prophecy, it will be on this site (Daniel 9, Revelation 11).  Obviously, some major events will need to take place first in order for the Jews to regain the use of that property.

We are given the details of the construction and items inside.   The place was ornate with carved woodwork.  The pure gold coverings and burnished bronze furnishings made it glisten.  Expensive?  Yes.  Opulent?  Yes. Many would consider this unnecessary and a waste of money that could have been better used to meet other needs.  But keep in mind that God gave King David these instructions.  God provided the resources to complete what He had ordered.  In chapter 2, Solomon stated that the Temple would be great because God is greater that all gods.  They worshiped God with the best because He is worthy.

When the Ark was in place, the musicians began to praise the LORD: "For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."  At that, God filled the place with His visible presence and stopped the service!

Questions for all of us:
1. Do we worship God and live for Him with a "just enough to get by" attitude?  Or, do we worship and live for Him with the best we have to offer?

2. When was the last time the presence of God was so strong you had to stop what you were doing and enjoy the moment?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two Penetrating Questions about Worship

Read 2 Chronicles 2.

Solomon took up the passion of his father, David, to build the Temple.  He also wanted to construct palace for himself.  Immediately, the new king employed 153,600 men to go to work on the projects.

He had the plans.  He had the vision.  He had some resources.  But he lacked some needed materials, especially the high quality cedar wood found just to the north.  Those belonged to his neighbor, the king of Tyre.  So, Solomon reached out to Hiram for a construction partnership.

Not only was the task great, but the building was to be great.  Why? Because "our God is greater than all gods."  Solomon wanted the architecture to reflect the greatness of God.

Then, he asked two questions:
1. Who is able?
How can any building do justice to the greatness of God?  Who is able to design and construct such a place?  God cannot be contained in a man-made building.  In truth, the most beautiful worship facility in the world is only a box for human gathering space.  No structure can house the God of heaven.  Our best efforts are inadequate.

What makes such a gathering space a center of worship is what takes place within it and the hearts of the people who participate.  As David wrote in Psalm 22:3, "Yet you are holy, enthroned (literally to "sit down") on the praises of Israel."  It is the picture of the LORD enjoying the worship of His people and filling that space with His presence.
2. Who am I?
How humbling it is when the creation compares itself to the Creator!  We have nothing to offer except what God has given to us.  What we bring in worship to Him is a heart of love, a life of obedience, and a song of praise.  And, that is not limited to a building either.

"Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."  Hebrews 13:15  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Qualifications for Answered Prayer

Read 2 Chronicles 1.

Solomon had settled in as king of Israel and already God had made him great.

Though many other events surely took place prior to this, the first recorded act of the new king was to worship God.  He left for Gibeon, the location of the Tabernacle at this time.  Out of his wealth, Solomon offered 1,000 burnt offerings on the bronze altar.

The heart of worship and acts of giving so pleased the LORD that He personally appeared to the king.  God offered in response to give to Solomon whatever he wished.  The most pressing burden on the king's heart was that he lead God's people well.  He prayed for wisdom and knowledge.

Again, Solomon's heart and expressions so pleased the LORD that He granted him his requests.  Then, God gave the king what he did not ask for-wealth, possessions and honor.

What was it about Solomon that  pleased the LORD and brought about such results?
1. He made the worship of God was a priority.
2. He gave generously as a major part of his worship.
3. He acknowledged that his responsibilities and everything else had been given to him by the LORD.
4. He cared about meeting the needs of those around him first and foremost.

As a result of this kind of heart and obedience toward God, he experienced a personal encounter with the LORD Himself and received the answer to his prayer and much more.

"Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24b)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Time for a check of Motives and Integrity

Read 1 Chronicles 29.

David never worshiped, nor even saw, the Temple he had dreamed about and longed to build.  He did the next best thing.  He made sure that the generations that followed would have a place where God's name would be honored and people could come to make their lives right with Him.

Before all the people the king stood to finish the needed preparation work.
1. He reminded the people of the motive of building this Temple.  It was not going to be a monument to David.  It was for the Lord God.

2. He stood with integrity and spoke of his own financial commitment.  A true leader never asks the people do something they are not willing to do.

3. He modeled generosity in announcing that now he would give "over and above" or "in addition to" all that he had already given.  All projects in the Bible were funded with generosity giving, not with tithe money.

His charge to everyone else was a spiritual one, not financial.  "Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?" (v.5)  The first lesson of stewardship is that God is the Owner of everything.  If I give myself to God, then giving generously is simply being a faithful steward.

The leaders went first.  That's what leaders do.  When the people heard David and saw their leaders give willingly and wholeheartedly they followed.  Many have commented that this was the largest offering in history.

Don't miss David's response of thanksgiving.  It is one of the finest prayers in the Bible.
"Oh, LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own." (v.16)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

6 Indispensible Principles for every Leader

Read 1 Chronicles 28.

Once the organization was in place and the leaders had been appointed, King David called for a meeting with his community of leaders.  The purpose was to cast vision for the succession plan and what that would mean in regards to the Temple construction.  The blueprints, if you will, are found in verses 11-19.

But being the great leader he was David provides us with six timeless leadership insights.

1. He had it in his heart.  He could no longer stand the fact that God was being worshiped in a tent.  He dreamed of a beautiful, world-class, permanent facility worthy of the living God.  All great plans begin in the heart of a leader.
2. He made the preparations.  Such a massive project would have never happened without all the materials, manpower and money being organized and ready for use.  No great plan was every achieved alone.

3. He delegated the responsibility.  It is always difficult to let go of one's personal dreams and entrust someone else with it.  Egotistical leaders selfishly cannot do it.  Insecure leaders fearfully will not do it.  A secure leader who understands God's bigger picture will.

4. He communicated the transition publicly.  Everyone in the larger organization heard firsthand what was happening and who would be leading.  Open and honest transparency builds trust. 

5. He reminded everyone why they were doing it.  In obeying the Lord, not only would there be an immediate benefit of enjoying the blessing of the land, but they would establish the worship of God for future generations. (v.8)  They would be leaving a spiritual legacy.

6. He charged the next leader directly and spiritually.
"...know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you." (v.9)
"He will not leave you or forsake you." (v.20b)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let's Go to Work

Read 1 Chronicles 23-27.

King David organized the ministry.  First, 38,000 Levites charged with specific assignments to care for worshiping God.  Imagine, 4,000 alone were assigned to praise the LORD!  With the Temple being built in Jerusalem, worship of God would have a permanent home.  There would be no more need to move the Tabernacle around as had been done for 500 years.

The priests received their appointments to serve.  Next, the musicians were "set apart" to take care of writing, singing and playing instruments.  Asaph's family, among others, served as music directors.  The book of Psalms contains some of his songs.  288 had been exceptionally trained and skilled in music.  Gatekeepers for the Temple, those with financial responsibilities, and others were given specific oversight of the house of the LORD.

Then, David organized the military into 12 divisions of 24,000 each.  In addition, each of the 12 family tribes were maintained and leadership appointed for each one.  The king's own affairs required those to be in charge.  He appointed what we would call Secretaries of Treasury, Agriculture, etc., along with personal, trusted advisers.

No one can do an influential work alone.  The bigger the job, the more people will be needed to accomplish the tasks.  One of the key purposes of the church is organize itself and put everyone in the congregation to work.  It is an employment agency for God.  Church was never meant to be a spectator sport.

The Apostle Paul stated that God gave each of us spiritual gifts to serve the LORD and leadership in the church "to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12)

Monday, February 4, 2013

5 Things for a Christian parent to Communicate

Read 1 Chronicles 22.

It was in David's heart to build a magnificent Temple for God.  But God made it clear that Solomon would be the one to oversee the construction.  Solomon was young and inexperienced.  So, David took care of the needed preparations.

He set in motion all the preparations of needed materials, manpower,  and money.  More importantly, he prepared Solomon for the necessary leadership.

David's counsel to his son:
1. He was not a biological accident.  He was there at that time by the will of God.
2. God had a plan for his life that only he could fulfill.  It was his destiny.  That future included a personal, family relationship with God.
3. He would need "discretion and understanding" in order to obey God's word.
4. He would prosper as a result as a result of obedience to the LORD.
5. Therefore, he would have no need to fear nor be discouraged.  Indeed, he could be strong and courageous.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Worship and giving are Inseparable

Read 1 Chronicles 21.

King David ordered a national census.  There was nothing inherently wrong in conducting a census.  Counting the people had been done before and since this time.  We are not told what David's motive was, but it appears to be some point of pride and reliance on Israel's military strength, rather than God.  Here, Satan incited David to do this.  In the parallel passage of 2 Samuel 24 it was the anger of the LORD that prompted this in order to punish the nation.  Commentators see no conflict and compare it to the book of Job.  There the LORD allowed Satan to have limited influence to ultimately accomplish God's purposes.

Guilt overcame David when he realized his sin.  The LORD responded by sending the Prophet Gad.  Interestingly, the king was given a choice of three judgments lasting three years, three months or three days.  The king decided to leave the judgment with God, "for his mercy is very great" (v.13).

In a very dramatic description, the angel of the LORD (most likely a preincarnate appearance of Christ) with a sword unsheathed exercised punishment upon the nation.  Over a three day period, 70,000 men died.  Then, God said, "It is enough."  David and his inner circle of leaders were allowed to see this angel.  He was hovering over a place belonging to Ornan.

From God to the angel to Gad the message came to David to build an altar of worship on that site.  When Ornan and his family saw the king with his entourage coming his way, the family hid in fear but Ornan bowed in respect.  David asked for the threshing floor at full price.  Ornan countered to give everything to the king.  Note the great sacrificial offer of Ornan.  This was his livelihood-his threshing floor for the place of worship, his oxen for the sacrifice, his wood sledges for the fire.

In the 2 Samuel account we have that wonderful quote from David in response to Ornan, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing."  True worship of the LORD and giving that costs us something are inseparable.  Worship is a participatory action.  We humble ourselves, we sing, we pray, we give, we listen to the word of God, and then live accordingly every day.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dealing with those nagging Problems

Read 1 Chronicles 20.

Once the mercenary army of Syria had been defeated, David waited until the spring to deal with the Ammonites.  Israel's army completely overthrew Ammon and brought to David all the spoils of that land, including the king that rejected David's kindness.

The parallel passage to this chapter is 2 Samuel 11.  There we are told that while Joab fought the Philistines David was committing adultery with Bathesheba.

From time to time Israel would defeat the Philistines and control them, but they never truly conquered them.  Goliath's brother and other family members evidently were as big as he was and they met a similar fate in battle.

Like the Philistines, some of our problems never seem to go away but rise up and nag us from time to time.  Paul had such a struggle.  He battled, whatever it was.  He prayed for its removal, but the thing just would not go away.  For us whether that is a temptation to sin, physical ailment, or a nagging need we may rely on the words of Jesus, quoted by Paul.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Risk of being Kind to others

Read 1 Chronicles 19.

This is for everyone who ever had a kindness backfire on them.

When King David heard that a neighboring monarch had died, he sent a group of personal representatives with his condolences to the family.  His only intention was to "console" the son who would become the new leader of the Ammonites.  It was a kind gesture from a neighbor.  Surely, this should have been a building block of relationship and peace between the two nations.

However, the new king of Ammon came under the influence of the other princes.  They could only see this as a spy mission.  Believing this to be a threat from the powerful king of Israel, they humiliated the very ones sent to show kindness.  One foolish decision followed another as they prepared for war.  The Ammonites hired surrounding armies to fight for them.  Israel fought for themselves, depending on the LORD for the outcome of this unprovoked war.  The cost to the Syrians alone was 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers killed.

1. Sometimes one's best intentions and motives may be misunderstood.

2. Hurting people hurt people.

3. Evil eyes only see evil in every act of others.

4. Personal sin block people from accepting the pure motives of others, resulting in behaviors of anger, nit-picking, and distrust.

5. Insecure people see kindness as a weakness and react by trying to seize control.

Run the risk of being kind anyway!  There is One is heaven to sees our hearts and knows our true motives.  He is the rewarder of those who do the right thing.