Responding to God
2 Chronicles 29: I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel.
Hezekiah announces his intention to make a covenant with God. He sees that the old covenant has been broken and is in need of repair. His “new covenant” is really a reinstatement of the “old covenant.” While the statement suggests that Hezekiah’s taking the initiative here by approaching the Lord with an offer, the fact is that God has patiently waited for a response like this. If Hezekiah sees this whole event as his initiative I guess that’s okay but actually God is, and always is, the “First Mover.” That’s how it is for us too. Like the prodigal, we think to ourselves, “I will arise and go to my Father,” as though it’s all our idea in the first place. And, just like it is in that story we arrive and find that the Father has been patiently waiting for us all along. To “decide to make a covenant” is a good thing, an important decision. However, such a move is only possible by what John Wesley might describe as the “grace that goes before” — God at work making it possible for us to come to that decision in the first place.
Take Away: Do you need to work some things out with God? Guess what? He’s already moving to work things out with you!
2 Chronicles 16: You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help.
These words are addressed to the man who prayed the wonderful prayer of 1 Chronicles 14. Now 26 years have passed and Asa’s nation is once again threatened. This time, though, he turns to the king of Aram for help, sending a “king’s ransom” to him in exchange for his support in the war. The combined force of Judah and their hired army is victorious and the enemy is defeated. As Asa celebrates this God’s man Hanani shows up. He tells Asa that God’s not pleased with him. In fact, the Lord’s insulted that Asa would trust in Ben-Hadad instead of himself. The consequence will be a series of wars, one round after another. I wonder if I, like Asa, insult the Almighty. Do I turn anywhere but heavenward in dealing with the issues of life? The very same God who saw me through in the past stands ready to see me through the issues of this day. In fact, that’s his preference! The Lord doesn’t say, “When you’ve tried everything else without success, I’ll help you.” Instead, his message is a wonderful word of commitment. He promises that if I call he’ll answer. God doesn’t want to be my last chance. Rather, he wants to be my Partner in every issue of life.
Take Away: Don’t make God your last resource…he wants to be your first.
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.
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.
On the solid rock I stand
1 Chronicles 28: Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch.
The job David is leaving his son is a big one. He must lead Israel and he must build a Temple for the worship of Jehovah God. David wants his son to know that God is utterly dependable. Others will deliberately or accidentally let him down but God remains faithful all the way. With that in mind David wants Solomon to put his weight fully and firmly on his God, and for him to keep it there. That’s good advice to a young man who’s about to become king but it is also good advice for you and for me. Everything and everyone else in life is destined to disappoint us sooner or later. Only the Lord is fully trustworthy. If I look anywhere else, I’ll find plenty of reasons to be anxious and discouraged. In the Lord I find my Rock.
Take Away: We need to pass our faith on to our children – they will need it just as much as we’ve needed it.
1 Chronicles 18: Thus David ruled over all of Israel. He ruled well, fair and evenhanded.
David succeeds on all fronts. Here’s a King who prays passionately, fights successfully, and rules justly. All this could have been said about Saul, but when Saul rejected God, God rejected Saul. Now, finally, the promise made to Abraham long ago has come to pass. His descendants possess the Promised Land and his offspring number in the hundreds of thousands. Israel is now more than a family of wanders or even a nation of ex-slaves. Israel is a nation of the people of God led by the man God, himself, has picked to be their king. The story continues with the ups and downs of life and, as well all know, failure is on the horizon. For the time being though, I think I’ll just camp out here and rejoice with the people of this distant day. God keeps his word. He does good things in and for his people. He enjoys blessing our lives. Yes, this is a good place to hang out for a while.
Take Away: When the Lord blesses us we need to take time to enjoy and appreciate those blessings.
1 Chronicles 9: The first Israelites to return from exile to their homes and cities were the priests, the Levites, and the temple support staff.
After page after page of genealogy we arrive at the wrap up statement that “this is the complete family tree for all Israel.” After wading through the names (or maybe skipping them) we breathe a sigh of relief, ready to get back to the story telling of the book. Instead, there are more names! The writer skips over the years of exile to the beginning of the return to Jerusalem. He speaks of these people differently, though, and it feels as though the writer may be a contemporary of some of these folks. In just a few paragraphs we’ll be back to the story of King Saul and begin marching through the king stories of Israel and Judah. However, having just finished the genealogy followed by the list of early returnees to Israel after the exile, I can’t help but reflect on how connected it all is. Other nations that are exiled are absorbed into the culture of the Babylonian and, later on, Persian empires. These descendants of Abraham, though, hold together. There are changes to their culture and traditions, but they remain a separate people through it all. It’s only because of that that I can read “this is how it ended” followed immediately by “this is how it continued.” There’s only one way to explain it: it’s the Hand of God. This God made promises to Abraham and centuries later to David. Through the prophets, even in the darkest of days before the exile, there’s the promise of restoration. Now, in an almost offhand way I see part of the fulfillment of that. “Here’s the end of the story…now, let’s get back to the story.” Caution: God at work here!
Take Away: The Lord’s faithfulness spans lifetimes and generations. His faithfulness never fails.
A miracle working God
1Kings 17: The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty….
The drought brought about by the judgment of God is a hardship for everyone. Elijah goes into hiding and for a time God sends ravens to feed him. Now, as the drought brings famine to the land, the man of God is sent to Zarephath for long-term lodging. The widow there is nearly out of food and about to surrender to starvation when Elijah shows up. He makes the startling promise that as long as the drought continues she won’t run out of oil or flour. And that’s how it is. For the duration of the ordeal God supplies the need. It’s good to know that God is the Way Maker in our lives. Only he can make something out of nothing. I need to be careful to not be so blinded by my circumstances that I count God out. Generally speaking, he works through the normal course of life to bless us, but he’s not limited to that. If necessary, he can work his purposes by suspending the laws of Creation and performing miracles. That’s the God I serve!
Take Away: Never count God out.
The big picture
1Kings 4: People came from far and near to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.
Under King Saul Israel becomes a military power. Under David, the nation is united and made secure. Now, under King Solomon Israel becomes an admired, respected nation. It is one thing to be feared and safe and secure and something more to be respected, viewed as a positive contributor to the world in general. That’s what happens as Solomon leads Israel. Those who were enemies or at least subdued rivals now come to Israel in peace to sit at the feet of her wise king and to bring goods for trade. It has taken hundreds of years but this nation of slaves has received the inheritance promised to their ancestor Abraham. I know this is the high water mark for the Kingdom of Israel, but what an impressive mark it is. Because of the patience of power of the Almighty the impossible has happened and Abraham’s journey from Ur to the Promised Land is complete. I know I’m supposed to read this story and be impressed with Solomon, but today, I can’t help but be impressed with his God; a God who makes unbelievable promises to unlikely people and then delivers on those promises. If I ever find myself doubting God, I need to step back from the close up snap shots of the Bible and get the big picture. It’s pretty impressive.
Take Away: We too have huge, amazing promises from the Lord. How thrilling it is to remember that he always keeps his promises.
Singing songs that rhyme
2 Samuel 22: I stood there saved — surprised to be loved!
As a conclusion to David’s story we’re given what is probably a favorite song from the great king. We might call this a displaced Psalm. With characteristic passion and absolute honesty David praises God but also tells of dejection and fear. God answers with earth shaking power. He rescues the one he loves and puts him back on his feet, giving him victory. From that experience, David says he’s learned some things about God. The Lord sticks by people who stick by him. When I turn to him, I find he’s already turned to me. And, even when I know I’m unworthy, I’m surprised by his wonderful love for me. David concludes, “That’s why I’m singing songs that rhyme your name.” I see why the writer of these books of Samuel likes this song!
Take Away: The Lord is good to us and we have every reason to sing his praises.