Monthly Archives: June 2015

2 Chronicles 8 & 9

These two chapters basically cover Solomon’s entire reign, and only the positive stuff. Remember that the author is writing to post-exilic Israel to give them hope for a brighter future based on the greatness of their past, and nothing was greater than the reign of Solomon. But what stands out to the post-resurrection Christian is that the Kingdom of Israel pointed beyond itself. That kingdom was not the end game in God’s plan of redemption. Jesus says in Luke 11:31:

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

It is amazing that Jesus was always very clear about who he was, and that was why he was eventually killed. You can’t read the gospels and think Jesus was simply a good man or a prophet. He was and is King of kings and lord of lords, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Solomon simply points us forward to him.

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2 Chronicles 7

I’m reminded reading about the dedication of the Temple how God throughout redemptive history consistently condescends to give his people evidence of his existence. After Solomon finished praying, “fire comes down from heaven” and consumes the offerings and sacrifices that had been made. Then is says the “glory of the Lord filled the temple,” so much so they couldn’t enter it. It doesn’t say what that glory consisted of, but whatever it was, the people immediately went down to the ground, worshiped and gave thanks.

This God, because he is the one true God, the maker of heaven and earth, reveals himself to his people. Faith is more than belief in his existence; it is trust in his character, in his person, but we need to know that he in fact does exist. The ancients believed the gods existed, that there was another realm they could not see. Atheism would have been inconceivable to them. So the question was whose god was the real God, and Yaweh over and over again showed the Israelites his power, which backed up his authority. I love it that our God is a God of evidence.

And speaking of that, the night after the celebration the Lord appears to Solomon to remind him of the covenant, the covenant of works. Looking back you know this is not going to end well, at least for the Jews before Christ came. Verse 14 is the famous verse that some Christians have wrongly applied to America:

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

It is true God can bless or curse pagan countries based on what they do (witness Jonah and Nineveh), but the Lord here is clearly speaking about his people, those called by his name. They obey they will be blessed, they disobey they will be cursed; as he says, he will uproot Israel from “my land, which I have given them.” Bottom line, in order to dwell in the Lord’s land, that is in relationship with him, you must be perfect. Canaan was a type of heaven, where God dwelt, and as Jesus said after the Sermon on the Mount, be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Only one person ever was, and he gave us that perfection that we might dwell with God, forever.

2 Chronicles 6

Solomon prays after the dedication of the temple. Here are a couple versus at the beginning of the prayer:

‘Since the day I brought my people out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built so that my Name might be there, nor have I chosen anyone to be ruler over my people Israel. But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’

This is Solomon reciting what the Lord had said. Notice God uses the word “chosen” four times in two sentences. Most people recoil from the idea of a God who chooses, yet it is affirmed throughout Scripture, over and over and over again. God’s plans do not depend on our choosing, which for me is a great comfort. Why would you want to worship a God whose plans and purposes depend on human decisions? The reason people default to this is because of perceived fairness; to them it’s only fair that the ultimate decision is up the person himself. If this isn’t the case, then they conclude people are not truly free, and thus not ultimately responsible for their actions.

But in God choosing one man, Abram, he thereby did not choose every other human being on earth at that time. That alone makes their argument, such as it is, moot. He call Israel, “my people” in verse 5. That means they are his possession, what he owns them, and thus no other people are his people. He did not choose any other people. Is this not unfair? Of course not! He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, good and true and just and holy and wise, etc., and as Moses says, “His works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” When Jesus is named in Matthew, he is given the name because “he will save his people from their sins.”

I prefer a God who chooses, even if I don’t understand how human freedom and accountability coexist with it. The acceptance of this mystery is testified to in my conscious, I know I am free and accountable, and in my trust of the character of God. Charles Hodge explains in his Systematic Theology

An event may be free and yet certain, and therefore that the theory of contingency which supposes that an act to be free must be uncertain, is unscriptural and false. . . . If certainty be compatible with freedom, providence which only secured certainty cannot be inconsistent with is. Who for any metaphysical difficulty–who, because he is not able to comprehend how God can effectually govern free agents without destroying their nature, would give up the doctrine of providence? If God cannot effectually control the acts of free (me: and thus accountable) agents there can be no prophecy, no prayer, no thanksgiving, no promises, no security of salvation, no certainty whether in the end God or Satan is to be triumphant . . .

Indeed! It cannot be said any better. The rest of the prayer is the covenant of works played out through petition.

2 Chronicles 1-5

The book opens with God telling Solomon he can have whatever he wants, and Solomon famously asking for wisdom and knowledge rather than riches and long life, and thus God gives him both. We see all the great wealth he has, and his focus on building the temple. The temple is built on Mount Moriah, which has an important place in redemptive history. It was on this mount that God first pointed us toward what would be required to redeem his people when he told Abraham to take Isaac there and sacrifice him. Remember when Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering, Abraham told him that “God himself will provide it.”

The whole of scripture points to this one thing, that God himself will save his people from their sins, thus the name of Jesus. God is Savior. His sovereign, omnipotent purposes to save his elect will be accomplished. In fact, as Jesus said as he was dying on the cross, it is finished, or accomplished. Wow, does that take all the pressure off of me, or what! I am saved from sin and death, once for all.

I’m reminded here as they put the finishing touches on the temple that they built what is called the “Most Holy Place,” and it was the curtain that separated us from this place that was torn in two when Jesus accomplished his mission. This place where only the high priest could enter, and that only once a year, was opened up to us by Christ’s body. Now we can enter whenever we want! The God of the universe available to us, no longer as judge, but as Father. What a radical transformation in the relationship, with the change all coming from God’s side. We are transformed by his love because his wrath has been satisfied in Christ.

When the temple is finally finished, the ark of the covenant is brought in to the Most Holy Place, and the writer tells us what is in it in chapter 5:

10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt.

Highlighting the covenant of law, which means blessings for obedience, curses for not. The symbolism of it being put in the Most Holy Place is powerful. At the heart of the Jewish sacrificial system is the law of God, as if he were saying, you can’t keep my law, so you can’t enter a relationship with me unless you guilt is covered by a sacrifice, and thus blood. Jesus kept the law perfectly, which we could not do, and thus when he covered our guilt by his sacrifice, it is forever. As the author to the Hebrews calls it, a more perfect sacrifice.

When they are done I love what they sing, and in unison, “He is good, his love endures forever.” Even to this day, devout Jews believe that, that one day he will send a Messiah to save them. Too bad too may of them can’t see he’s already come.

I Chronicles 29

Once everything is set up and ready to go for building God’s temple, David recites this most amazing prayer:

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

David’s “doctrine of God” was amazing, and could not be more Reformed. In his universe, God is the sovereign ruler; everything comes from him, through him, and to him. And the prayer goes on in the same way as David acknowledges that all the wealth they have given for the building of the temple has come from God. He never confuses God and man, which is what all sinful human beings do. He says, “our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” That is, without hope without the Lord, but with him we have eternal hope. Everything David says and does points us toward what is ultimate and not what is ephemeral.

The chapter and book ends with Solomon ascending the throne, and David dying at “a good old age.”

I Chronicles 28

Prior to his fast approaching death, David now prepares the people and Solomon for the building of the temple. Very interesting that he says he got these plans directly from the Spirit of God:

12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.

and

19 “All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”

Where God dwells on earth, as if any dwelling could contain him, must be built to his own exacting specifications. Though humans would build it because God uses human agency to accomplish his plans, his temple is a product of his mind. As I think back on the Pentateuch, and how exacting all the details were for his dwelling, I am reminded here that God’s presence with men must be mediated, and it is an awesome thing. Think about the fear and awe people experience before a great thunderstorm or tornado, or huge waves on a beach, or any number of amazing spectacles in all of creation, and we have a very small glimpse into what God’s presence must be like.

Over and over again in the OT we are reminded how incredible is the salvation Christ has secured for us; he is the perfect mediator. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . .

In three paragraphs in this chapter, David uses the word “forever” four times. Maybe it’s hyperbole, but given scripture is God-breathed, I think this hearkens to an actual forever, that God’s kingly rule on earth would in fact be eternal. We know the end of the story, and that is exactly the case!

 

I Chronicles 23-27

Lots of names and lots of counting. Chapter 23 starts with David old and making Solomon his successor. Then he gathers all the leaders and priests and Levites together, and thus begins the counting. Since this book was likely written by a priest or Levite, the focus is on worship, and all the preparations that go into what will become the temple and a golden age in Israel’s history. The writer goes into intricate detail about who did what when. From what I’ve read, it seems the purpose for the people of Israel post-exile was to give them hope, that the Lord saw fit to bring about this great kingdom with his presence at its center, and that he can do it again.

Of course we know the end of he story, and that only in Christ can God’s presence among his people be finally and firmly and forever established. He is the final temple, the final fulfillment of Israel, the eternal tabernacle where God will dwell among us; the final sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Can you imagine what ancient Israelites would have thought if they knew that our very persons would be the new temple! That this God who is a consuming fire, the one that evoked such fear and awe, that brought death because of his holy and perfect justice against sin, now by his Holy Spirit lives within us! And we his Church, his very body, bring his kingdom rule into this world of darkness to establish that rule forever. God was, and is, in the driver’s seat all along.  No wonder Paul ends his explanation of all this with doxology in Romans 11:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

We are driven to worship by the specter of such a great salvation.