God’s on my side
2 Chronicles 13: Can’t you see the obvious? God is on our side; he’s our leader.
Abijah, king of Judah is making a speech to the vast army of Jeroboam, king of Israel. From his hillside pulpit he reminds them that their nation has rejected God Jehovah. They’ve kicked out his priests and named priests for their man made idols. As have national leaders for thousands of years, Abijah claims that God’s on his side and, because of that, resistance is futile. Meanwhile, Jeroboam has his army pretending to politely listen. Actually, he has a large contingent sneaking around to the back of Abijah’s forces. When they’re in place, the army of Judah will be crushed. As the trap is sprung Abijah finds himself in a position to put his “God’s on our side” rhetoric to the test. The scripture says “they prayed desperately to God.” Know what? He’s right! The smaller army of Judah, in spite of their tactical disadvantage, routes the army of Jeroboam. This humiliating defeat spells the end of Jeroboam’s reign. It also provides us yet another example of what God can do when we trust in him. Of course, if I want God to be on my side I need to pay attention to one little detail: I’ve got to be on his side.
Take Away: The Lord is faithful to his people.
Visiting the graveyard, looking at tombstones
2 Chronicles 12: God was not important to him.
Here’s a story of the man who, because of pure stubbornness, split Israel into two Kingdoms. Under his grandfather, David (a man after God’s own heart), Israel became a united and successful nation. Under his father, Solomon (a man who asked God for wisdom), great things were accomplished and prosperity came to the land. Under Rehoboam (a man who thinks God is unimportant) there is civil war, invasion from Egypt, and spiritual decline. As his obituary is written this phrase stands out: “God was not important to him.” Such a charge states volumes. In fact, when the final story of any life is told, how a person responded to God is the most important fact about them. It remains true today. How I respond to God matters and honestly, God won’t be ignored. In every life, God has the last word.
Take Away: What will be the Lord’s last word on my life?
Leaving everything to follow
2 Chronicles 11: The Levites left their pastures and properties and moved to Judah and Jerusalem.
His subjects have requested that Rehoboam back off a bit and give them some breathing room but he foolishly promises more of the same. The result is that he loses half his Kingdom. From now on we’ll have twin kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Right off Israel enthrones an evil man who shuts down the worship of Jehovah God. However, not everyone in Israel is on his side and several relocate to Judah, not because they like Rehoboam all that much but because they want to worship the Lord. One group, in particular, is mentioned. Traditionally the Levites have served God, first in the Tabernacle and then at the Temple. Now, the Levites living in the new nation of Israel have a decision to make. Will they abandon their calling or will they abandon their property? Many, we’re told, decide for God. They leave home that they can be true to their calling and serve God in Jerusalem. I’m impressed by their decision as I’m impressed by stories of people who leave home to live in some distant place in response to the call of missions. The most many of us can say about following the Lord is that we’ve been inconvenienced at times. Here’s a group of people who abandoned everything to be faithful to God’s call on their lives. People who make that kind of decision are worthy of our admiration. The Lord’s impressed by it too. As Jesus says in Luke 18, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Take Away: Thank the Lord for people who are willing to live out their faith even in the face of real personal sacrifice.
You can draw more flies with sugar….
2 Chronicles 10: Be considerate of their needs…they’ll end up doing anything for you.
Solomon’s accomplishments are impressive…and expensive! All of that building takes a lot out of the nation. When Solomon’s laid to rest and his son Rehoboam ascends to the throne his subjects come to him with a reasonable request: “give us a break!” For a generation they’ve faithfully served his father, focusing their efforts on accomplishing his grand projects. Now, they want to put their efforts into building their own lives, capitalizing on the prosperity Solomon brought to them. Rehoboam goes to his father’s advisors and asks for their opinion and they agree with the people. These folks were committed to Solomon, but Rehoboam is starting new. If he’ll back off and show compassion his father’s people will become his people. These advisors wisely add that, in the long run, he’ll get more accomplished by getting the people on his side than he’d ever get done by using his sovereign authority and just ordering them to work. I know that Rehoboam foolishly listens to the advisors of his own generation and manages to split the country but, for the moment, I’m taken with the wisdom of the first advice he receives. I think there are times when a leader sees a bigger picture than others do. At times like that, he or she may have to prod people to move in the right direction. However, most of the time a leader who conducts himself or herself as a servant who cares for people and has compassion on them is going to accomplish more. A leader who appreciates what people do, who has their best interests at heart, and who is willing to listen to what they say is going to almost always get more done.
Take Away: People follow leaders who they believe have their best interests at heart.
Come and see for yourself
2 Chronicles 9: The Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s reputation.
As an example of how God blesses Solomon the writer tells us about the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Israel. Her identity in history is somewhat a mystery, although most believe she’s a ruler of what is now Yemen or Ethiopia. The point of Scripture is that God keeps his word to Solomon and blesses him in every way. In fact, God blesses him to the point that he becomes well known outside his own region and that the stories told about him are so fantastic that this national leader comes to see for herself. We’re told that she isn’t disappointed. The purpose here isn’t so much to elevate Solomon as it is to proclaim God’s faithfulness to him. Through this blessing, God’s Name is made known even in far off Sheba (wherever that actually is.) When God’s people are faithful to him he can lift them to the point that even those outside the direct influence of the Lord will take notice and come to see for themselves. At least that’s our Lord’s take on the story. In Matthew 12 he says that this heathen woman came from a great distance to meet Solomon and that her act will judge those who have every opportunity and reason to come into the presence of the very Son of God but don’t make the effort. A result of God’s blessing is that it gets the attention of the world.
Take Away: The lives of the people of the Lord are a testimony to the greatness of God.
2 Chronicles 8: Solomon built impulsively and extravagantly.
From other passages we know that Solomon built other things, including his palace before he built the Temple. Some think that’s a bad thing. I think it was just practice. Still, once he started building things David’s son could hardly stop himself. In fact, Solomon’s psychology is that of an impulsive overachiever. From the rest of his story, especially from the Book of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs I see Solomon being consumed by one thing after another. At the beginning of his story he asks for and receives the gift of wisdom, now he can’t rest until he has mastered whatever it is that catches his attention. In fact, the same thirst for understanding that causes him to be a great builder and king will become his downfall as he becomes infatuated with the women he marries and then their various gods. I don’t think the Lord sat Solomon up for a fall in granting him wisdom, but I do think that the seed of failure was in it. In fact, I think that all gifts granted to us: natural ability, attributes, and talents have the potential of being a great blessing or the source of great failure for us. In Solomon, even as we celebrate his wisdom and understanding of an encyclopedia of things, we see a red flag of warning that there’s danger in natural abilities. These things must be continually balanced by an honest admission that we’re incomplete without God, who brings balance to even the most gifted life.
Take Away: When the Lord gifts us in any way the wise course of action is to bring those gifts right back to him and place them under his authority.
Those trumpets would have blown me away!
2 Chronicles 7: The priests were all on duty; the choir and orchestra of Levites…were all there…the priests blew trumpets.
Now this is a worship event! As the new Temple is dedicated it’s an all-out, no expenses spared, all hands on deck worship mega-event. All the priests, wearing their rich garments, are on duty. The Levite choir sings to the top of its lungs while the orchestra provides the music. Over here, we see the trumpet players all enthusiastically sounding the call to worship. The worshipers are on their feet, glorifying God. Our finest worship events today can only hope to match this exciting, awe-filled event that is the dedication of the Temple. I’ve been to some “biggies” in my life like Nazarene General Assembly, Promise Keepers, and some wonderful camp meetings. While I know these aren’t every Sunday events, I think they have a place in the worship life of God’s people. There’s something about combining excellent music, Spirit-filled preaching, and an awesome venue that stirs something deep inside of us. On one hand, there’s much to be said for worshiping in the simplicity of a small church that just loves Jesus. I’m all for it. Still, on the other hand, there’s something to be gained by being part of an all-out, no-holds-barred, let’s-go-for-it worship experience. There’s room in my heart for both!
Take Away: God is worth it!
The unfailing faithfulness of God
2 Chronicles 6: And now you see the promise completed.
Solomon is presiding over the dedication of the new Temple and soon he’ll pray his great dedication prayer. He’s giving his dedication speech about how years earlier the Lord promised David that his son would build a place of worship. David then gave the last years of his life preparing for this great construction project. Now, it’s finished and it’s not only a beautiful house of worship but is a monument to the trustworthiness of God who always keeps his promises. As I read and write devotionally from the Bible this theme comes up quite often and it’s no big surprise that it does. In the opening pages of the Bible, right after that Fall God begins making promises. Following the Flood there’s another big promise that the Lord will never again send a flood to wipe humanity off the face of the earth. Then, we come to a major promise as the Lord speaks to Abram. We find instances of God making and then keeping promises throughout the Scriptures. Here, as Solomon is about to pray his memorable prayer of dedication, he prefaces it by reminding us that God is the original Promise Maker and Promise Keeper. So, as we’re about to bow our heads and listen to the prayer of the wise King, let’s take one more look at the gleaming white Temple and remember that God is always faithful.
Take Away: Heaven and earth may pass away but his word will never pass away.
I love it when God moves in
2 Chronicles 5: Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of God.
Solomon’s building project is complete and it’s a great success. An impressive Temple is now the official place of worship for the people of Israel and all others who will come. The building is complete with the fixtures in place, the offerings ready, and the personnel standing ready to serve. Then God moves in. In a display of glory that hasn’t been seen since Moses climbed the mountain to meet the Almighty, the Glory of the Lord fills the Temple. The Presence of the Lord is so great, so real, that the priests can’t even carry out their assigned duties. Outside the Temple Solomon does the only reasonable thing: he begins to call on God in prayer. Today, I long for God’s glory to fall on his Church, for Him to come in such majesty that the order of worship is set aside and people begin to simply call on the Name of the Lord. Oh God, we seek, not so much the “billowing cloud” as we seek you. Pour yourself out upon your Church as you did upon the Temple so long ago.
Take Away: The people of the Lord need to seek and, yes, expect, the Lord to fill our worship services with himself.
Jakin and Boaz
2 Chronicles 3: The right pillar he named Jakin (Security) and the left pillar he named Boaz (Stability).
These chapters of 2 Chronicles are devoted to the construction of the Temple. Some of the descriptions may be merely historical. Some things, though, like the perfect cube of the Holy of Holies likely carries meaning beyond the description. In the case of the two huge bronze (or copper) pillars at the doorway of the Temple, we don’t have to guess because we’re given the symbolic meaning. The six foot thick, twenty-seven foot tall pillars represent “Jakin” and “Boaz” – that is, Security and Stability. These are wonderful attributes whether we’re talking about the life of an individual or that of a nation. Every time the people of Israel of that era enter the Temple they’re reminded of the Source of their Security and Stability. We may not have a couple of large shining pillars at the entrance to our churches, but we certainly need to be reminded of the truth they symbolize. If I want to live a spiritually secure and stable life I must be firmly grounded in the Lord. The same benefit is available to a nation that allows the Lord to shape its character.
Take Away: We must build our lives on the Rock and not on the sand if we want to live secure, stabile lives.