2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 5 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

This morning, in this final look at 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, before we move on to the next passage, one verse kept “sticking in my craw” (as the old Southern saying goes). That verse is v. 17 of this passage. In that verse, we find that Solomon took a census “like the census his father had taken.” Here’s the verse verbatim below:

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600.

Why does it say, “Like the census his father had taken”? That census did not turn out too well for David or for the nation of Israel because of God’s displeasure with it. in 1 Chronicles 21 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” The record in Chronicles places this right after a great victory over the Philistines, so the sin was probably related to a problem with pride and self-reliance. A census was preliminary to a draft of soldiers and a levying of taxes. It seems, therefore, that David’s intent was to increase the royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God. As Deuteronomy chapter 17 so strongly insists, the human kingship of Israel was to be noticeably dependent on God’s divine kingship. For Israel’s king to build up the same kind of power common to pagan kings was tantamount to repudiating God’s over-kingship. This seems to have been the nature of David’s sin so that God was angered and acted to nip it in the bud.

So, why was Solomon’s census likened to that? You can clearly understand from the two texts that this census by Solomon was different from his dad’s census. Solomon was (1) not counting his own people and (2) just trying to figure out how many able bodied foreign men that there were available to build the Temple. The reason that foreigners were used to build the Temple we discussed yesterday. There were few engineering and construction and other building craft experts in Israel because they were an agrarian culture. Thus, the expertise would have come from the foreigners among them. Thus, we can only conclude that the Bible is simply talking about the act of taking of a census was similar between the two kings, not the intent of Solomon’s census being similar to the one taken by his dad.

Then, this comparison goes to motives and our motives can often determine as to whether an act of some kind is a sin or not. The act itself is not sinful in and of itself but our motives behind the act may make it sinful. For example, biblically we know that the love of money is the cause of many, many, many sins. However, money in and of itself is not sinful. It is an inanimate object and thus does not the ability to be sinful or pure. It just is what it is. No more and no less. However, in human hands, when we make money a god in our lives, where we love it so much that we will do anything to get it, keep it, grow it, and maintain it and that we will screw people over in the process of doing all that, it becomes sinful. Similarly, women are God’s most beautiful creatures that He ever created. They are beautiful, wonderful, tender, and all things dainty and all things beautifying in our human world. In and of themselves, women are not sinful. However, when we lust after them, when we fantasize about relations with women to whom we are not married, when we objectify them as sex objects of our lust, when we make stupid decisions in life just to have a woman to be by your side and to meet your sexual needs, and in any way making women the gods of your life, then, yes, in that way they become sinful for you. The lust after a woman is the cause of many, many, many sins. It is the same with wine and other spirits. In and of themselves they are not sinful. However, when they take over your life and they cause you to forsake God, family, and all normal relationships, wine and spirits become sinful.

It is that idea of motives behind our actions is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see no displeasure from God either immediately or in subsequent passages as to the census taken by Solomon. Therefore, in the absence of any writing in Scripture to the contrary, we must assume that Solomon’s census met with no displeasure from God. With David’s census, there was immediate displeasure made known by God. When David conducted the census in 1 Chronicles 21:1-16, the Bible does not spell out what exactly caused God to be displeased with David’s census other than Satan rose up against Israel that caused David to conduct a census. But based on the fact that there seemed to be no real purpose in David’s census other than to give him a sense of pride in how large his army had grown to be, it was sinful and served no purpose that to puff David’s ego up. When you consider how much it costs our country to take a census every ten years, it would have been no different in David’s day. It was wasteful and prideful.

In Solomon’s case and from the text in 2 Chronicles 2:17 – 3:1, the census was to aid in determining the types of jobs people would need to be assigned to build the ‘house of the Lord’ / temple for the name of the Lord. Solomon’s motives for taking a census was for good or righteous reasons but in David’s case, it was because of Satan’s influencing him to seek pride.

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Life Application

I think that, for me, this census issue here in this passage is a reminder to me as a pastor. I must always examine my motives in those moments that things don’t go the way I wanted them to in my church or in my career as a pastor. In my assigned church, did I get upset when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to because (1) NON-SINFUL – the church is following its own pride and preferences and did not follow what the Lord had given you as pastor as the direction He wants the church to take or (2) SINFUL – because the failure of the church to accept your way was because it would help increase the numbers at the church, help make a name for myself, or help advance my UMC pastoral career. It’s the same in my overall career as a United Methodist Church pastor. Am I wanting to move to another appointment because God has told me that it’s time to move on and that I’ve done here all that I can do given how God has talented me? That’s a non-sinful way. Or am I wanting to leave because these people just won’t listen to ME? Sinful. Or am I wanting to leave because I deserve a bigger church? Sinful. Insightful take away for me this morning!

That’s the takeaway. Let us examine our motives for our actions each day. If our motives are not God-glorifying, let us back up, take a pause for a moment, and re-examine why we are doing or even contemplating doing what we are doing or are going to do. Let us seek for our actions and the motives behind them to meet with God’s approval. Let our motives be able to stand the bright light of God.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 4 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

The right people in the right seats. That was a constant mantra of my first mentor in ministry, Pastor Jeff Hickman at LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC. He was talking about leadership within the church. We had many areas of ministry organized under five broad categories within the organization there. The five areas were Sunday Morning Experience (anything to do with worship or Sunday morning volunteers), Next Generation (children and youth ministries), Discipleship & Life Groups (anything to do with spiritual development and with in-home small groups), Community Transformation (anything to do with local, national and international missions and outreach activities), and Administration (anything to do with the ongoing operations of the church such as Maintenance, Vendor Management, Financial Reporting, people management systems, and so on). In a church that regularly has 700 plus guests on campus each weekend who call LifeSong their spiritual home, it is imperative that all of these areas of ministry function well. In that, the saying “the right people in the right seats” was an ongoing mantra.

The leaders of each area of ministry of the church was one of the staff pastors or the lead pastor. Finding the right church members for the right seats of leadership was an ongoing thing. People come and people go as far as leadership is concerned in a church this size and particularly in market such as the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC market where people are moving in and moving out all the time. Thus, just as an example, we left LifeSong to go into full-time ministry in February 2018 when we moved to Illinois. That is almost 2 ½ years ago now. When I see pictures of the congregation at LifeSong now just that 2 ½ years later, I don’t recognize about 30% or so of the people now going to the church. Thus, leadership development and retention is an ongoing issue for this church. It would be easy just to allow whomever says they want to lead a ministry lead it. That’s the easy way. What is harder is to find a person that is passionate about serving the church in the way that they are talented. When you find that, you have something. You have a ministry leader.

This is true for all churches but it is particularly acute in smaller churches. Often times in smaller churches, ministry positions get filled by whomever is the “one who has always done that” or the one that said yes that they would fill that position. Too often in smaller churches, the volunteer leadership positions recommended by the denomination or other church governance authority are just being filled so that we can put a name on a blank line without any consideration as to whether that person (1) is passionate about the ministry which they are going to lead, (2) are talented in the necessary ways for that ministry and (3) whether they have leadership ability. Too often, we don’t have the right people in the right seats. We often just rely on that group of people who have always been the leaders of the church and use their names to fill blank lines on a leadership report. When that happens, ministry suffers. When that happens, people don’t lead because that are not passionate about the blank line they are filling and may not even be talented in that area of ministry by the Holy Spirit.

It is that idea of just having bodies to fill blank lines and the idea of having the right people in the right seats is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, it may lead us to ask the question, “why use foreign craftsmen?” The Israelites were an agriculturally-based (or agrarian) society. As a result, they had very little expertise within their culture in metalworking. Thus, they had to go outside their nation to find people who were experts in this area. Solomon could have picked someone inside the nation who had experience (but not expertise) in metalworking to just have a body or bodies in those metalworking positions. However, what they would have been able to accomplish would not have matched the splendor envisioned for the Temple. In the business world, the desire is always to hire from within, but sometimes you have to recognize that there is not enough expertise within the organization at a particular skill to meet the organization’s needs. At that recognition, a company then goes outside the organization to find the expertise necessary for the envisioned position and for the needs of the organization as a whole.

It is a reminder to us as the church in the 21st century that we must have, as the saying goes, the right people in the right seats to make our church organizations reaches its fullest potential for the kingdom. When we just have bodies in positions who are not passionate about or not talented in the area over which they have responsibility, it stunts the ability of the church to reach that potential.

Life Application

I think that the thing that stands out to me is that in every church there is this issue of warm bodies to fill a position vs. having the right people in the right seats. Just because we are church does not mean we should settle for less than excellent. Too often that is the case for church in so many ways, we give it our leftovers, from time to talents to resources, you name it. It is particularly acute when it comes to leadership. We often find in churches that people don’t want to run a ministry because it requires too much of them from their free time. I want to say well there was this guy who had a full-time job of being one of the co-equal parts of the trinitarian expressions of God, who took on a church leadership position by coming to earth for 33 years, and then dying an excruciatingly painful death on the cross for the church, but that’s just Jesus. He was the best volunteer ever! But back to the point, we then scramble to just put people in seats rather than the right people in the right seats.

Even in smaller churches we must recognize that if we use the same people over and over again for the same positions and have a small group of people holding multiple positions several things happen. First, you are going to burn these people out and they become passionless placeholders and begin to think from a perspective of why we can’t do something rather from a perspective of why we can. Second, when we have passionless leadership in a ministry, there is no ministry that is going to happen – heck, some of the leader’s ministry committee members might not even know they are on the committee because passionless leadership has led to inactivity. Third, when we have passionless placeholders instead of leaders, we could be preventing another member of the church with passion for that ministry from actually leading a ministry for which they have passion. We could have someone who has been a member less time that never gets considered and the ministry suffers because they were not put to work in the right place in the church, if at all.

Are you leading a ministry right now for which you are not truly passionate about? Do your committee members hear regularly from you about opportunities to serve the kingdom? Do you think about new ways for your ministry to achieve its kingdom goals? Do you committee members even know they are on the committee that you lead? Is this helping expand God’s kingdom by the way in which you are leading your ministry? The answers to the questions may reveal to you that it is time to start developing a replacement for you. You should begin mentoring someone to take over your ministry position. You should look at who among your fellow church members would be a great fit (passion, talents, and leadership skills) for the ministry which you now lead. Let’s begin to help our churches to find the right people for the right seats! The impact on the kingdom of us doing so will be immeasurably greater – when we have the right people in the right seats.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 3 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Often we get hung up on the fact that we are not out there standing on street corners preaching of salvation or that we are not witnessing enough to others about Jesus Christ. Of course, we need evangelists of the street corner variety and any other variety – those that are skilled in bringing the message of Christ from town to town in special events and other types of non-church setting presentations of the gospel. We need, too, more of our Christian brothers and sisters to be bold enough to share Jesus Christ directly by witnessing in their daily encounters with others. These are two areas where Christianity in the western world has fallen on hard times. We do not have enough evangelistic events and we do not seem to emphasize to our church members the need that they have to witness to the unsaved as a part of their daily routines. We need a resurgence of these areas of evangelism in America and other western nations.

However, just as important as these things, there is another way that we must testify to the one true King, Jesus Christ, is through our business dealings in our jobs in our workplaces. How we act as employees and business people is as telling to an unsaved world as us attending church on Sundays. We spend a lot more time working and activities related to it than we do with church, sadly. The average American adult works around 45 hours per week. The average commute on each end of our work day is 30 minutes. That’s an hour per day five days a week. So, there’s 50 hours per week on getting to and from work and working. It takes an average adult an hour to go through their morning activities (bathing, getting dressed, eating the morning meal, and gathering up the kids and things needed for work) so there’s another 5 hours a week. Throw in an hour a day after work for decompression time at the end of day in whatever form that might take so there’s another 5. In all, on average, we devote 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week to work-related activities. There’s only 168 hours in a week. Deduct from that the 50 hours of sleep that we take time for each week, we are awake around 120 hours per week. Therefore, half of our waking hours each week are devoted to work. No other aspect of our lives claims as much attention in our lives as do our jobs. No other aspect of our lives is as telling as to who we are as Christ followers than how we carry ourselves in our work settings.

I once saw a special video by Pastor Mark Gungor that compared women and men. What Mark tells us in the video is that God wired men and women differently. In a woman’s brain, everything is related because they are emotionally-based creatures (and we do thank God for that because, man, this world would be a dull, drab, ugly place without the beauty brought to it by women and their emotions). Thus, their brain, Gungor says, are like a bowl of spaghetti noodles – everything intertwined and touching each other. Women retain memories such much better than men because our memories attached to our file system of memories by the glue of emotions. If you have an emotion attached to an event, you will remember it. Thus, women remember more not because they are tracking thing but rather simply because they are wonderfully emotional, by nature. On the other hand, men’s brains are like a warehouse of stored boxes. We can take down a box (representing some part of our life) and play with the things in the box and then we put the box back on the shelf. And NEVER DO WE let the boxes touch. Men, being the less emotional, more operating from an emotionless, rational starting point, can easily compartmentalize their lives (not letting the boxes touch). We can separate work issues from our home life because we put that box back up on the way home from work and then open our family box and so on. Women cannot understand this but it is the way men are wired. We do not like for their to be overlap in our parts of life. We cannot handle it very well when we have to have multiple boxes open at the same time.

Why do I bring this up? Well, the illustration is right on point when it comes to how we treat our Christian faith, both men and women, in our work life. When it comes to our Christian faith in the workplace, we are all men in Mark Gungor’s illustration, even women. We put our Christianity in a box when we clock in at work. Some of us even demonstrate different morality measures at work than what God expects from us in His Word. Some of us are cutthroat at work while we moral paragons outside the workplace. Some of us have loose morals at work because we treat work as though it is a separate box from the rest of our lives. The rest of our lives box is one in which our Christian values reign. However, in our work box, anything goes. Since we spend half of our waking hours in this box, shouldn’t our Christian values be more present here in this box? You here it said, “business is business” and thus some of us as Christians check our Christian values at the door when we clock in. Business is business is a separate thing. It is a separate religion with its own set of values into which Christianity is not supposed to invade. Right?

That idea of representing Jesus Christ’s values at work and in our business dealings is what I thought of this morning as to the reason that there was such a good relationship between Hiram of Tyre and the Israelite kings, David and his son, Solomon. Hiram could trust them and they had always demonstrated integrity to him. Let us read 2 Chronicles 2:1-18 once again with that idea in mind.

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, although Hiram was one of David’s and Solomon’s friendly allies, he was the ruler of a nation that worshipped many different gods and simply saw the God of Israel as another of the gods that were available out there for worship. Hiram was happy to send materials for the Temple because of the respectful, honest and mutually beneficial relationships that Hiram had with these two Israelite kings. David and Solomon used their business dealings with others to demonstrate the integrity of a man of God and testify to Him as the one true God.

Life Application

I think that we go back to Mark Gungor’s example of the difference between men’s brains and women’s brains for our life application this morning. As we have said, we as Christians often take the man brain approach when it comes to the penetration of our Christian into other parts of our lives, particular our work life. We must have a woman brain approach to our Christian faith. That being, “everything is touching and everything is related!” Our Christian faith cannot be a box that we pull out and play with on Sunday and put back on the shelf after we get home from Sunday dinner. We cannot use it for all of our life parts and then leave it out for or work life part. We must have the everything’s related approach to our Christian faith. It must be part of everything we do. We must testify to Jesus Christ and what He has done in our life and how it has changed our values in everything we do. Too often, we go to church on Sunday but live like hell the rest of the week. Too often, we think of our Christian faith and the fellowship of believers called the church as a nice add-on to our lives that is like an option when buying a car. A back-up camera is a nice option on a car but it’s not absolutely necessary to your enjoyment and the utilitarianism of your car. It’s nice if you have it, but its not integral to you to the operation of the car. It could go out on you and it would not cripple your use of the car. A lot of us are like that about our Christian faith. It’s a nice add-on option but its not integral to our daily operation of our daily lives – when IT REALLY SHOULD BE! Our Christian faith should be the spark plugs of the car of our lives. It should be involved in every beat and stroke of the engine of our lives. Let us commit to letting Jesus Christ to invade every part of our lives and let Him guide us in the decisions we make in every aspect of life – including and especially in our business dealings as employees, business owners, buyers, sellers, etc.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 2 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Yesterday was another unique day in the life of the church I serve. We have not been back at worshiping inside for very long. We have been worshiping back inside as of yesterday for four Sundays now. On three of those Sunday now, we have had some issue that we have had to overcome. First, on June 14th, our first Sunday back inside, we had a problem with the AC unit that serves the 2nd and top floor of our educational building. We had to move what classes that would have met up there to the first floor. Adjust and adapt. The second Sunday, June 21st, went off with no glitches. Last week, June 28th, it was the AC unit that serves the first floor of the educational building. We had to turn the temp on the unit serving the upstairs way down so the cool air would cascade downstairs. Adjust and adapt. Yesterday, July 5th, we had a complete power failure in the sanctuary and educational buildings. One of the two tandem transformers that services these two buildings blew out causing the electricity to shut down for these buildings. Although the power company was swift in its response, their job was not complete until about 15 minutes after our services were to be complete. Therefore, we had to have all our Sunday School classes meet jointly in a combined class in the fellowship hall at our Sunday School hour. Then, we had to have our Sunday Worship Service in the fellowship hall too, right after the Sunday School session was over. There was no complaining by our people. We just rearranged things and moved on with study and worship. Adjust and adapt.

We have been through so much together as a church over the last few months and worshipping in various kinds of formats – from daily devotional posts with Sunday video summaries, to parking lot church, to a complete worship service via pre-recorded video, back to parking lot church, and then finally church under the trees for a few weeks. Even when we’ve been back inside, there has been some kind of challenge to overcome three out of the four Sundays.

This reminds me of the fact that being the body of Christ is not about the building. It is about the people. It is not about the how old and beautiful the sanctuary is. It is about the worship. It is not about the traditions and the ornateness of our worship style. It is about the fellowship of believers together in a place. It is not about the slowness of adapting to new strategies of Sunday morning visual and audio communication methods. It is about praising God. No matter if our beautiful building with its stained glassed windows and long history that it holds within, none of that matters in the end. If our church burned down tonight, we would still be the church. We would adjust and adapt. We would be the same fellowship of believers even if we built a new sanctuary better adaptable to modern technologies. We would still be the same church. We would be meeting on the same spot of dirt to praise the Lord.

Some where at some time back in the 1880’s they probably first met here in Lamar in some makeshift or adopted place or maybe even under a tree, that didn’t matter. It was still the people of the church. It was wherever they worship and under whatever canopy, it was what would become Lamar UMC. It is the same today, even if our center for worship on our campus bounded by to private homeowner properties on one side, North Darlington Avenue on another, the library and Main St. on another, and Boykin Avenue on the other were to burn completely to the ground, we would still be Lamar UMC.

That idea of the people being the church is what came to mind as I read through this passage 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, this morning. I know that by the time of Jesus all of the ornateness of the Temple had become almost as if a god to the people of Israel rather than it being simply the PLACE where they worshiped God. It started out as a praise to God by David and Solomon but later turned into something else. There is a warning sign in this for us, God’s people of today.

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we should try our best to build beautiful, accessible and welcoming places of worship to be a testimony and credit to God. In so doing, though, we must remember that God is not contained in our building or lovely setting. He is far greater than any structure that we build and dedicate to Him. Therefore, we must focus our praise on Him and not the place that we have built for Him.

Life Application

I think that this time of the pandemic has been instructive to us as a church (and not just us at Lamar UMC, but all churches, but certainly, yes, at our church we have learned much). This time of mechanical failures (which may be the result of the main buildings of our church sitting idle for 3 months with little activity) has reinforced those lessons. We must remember that sure we should and it is right to build an excellent and beautiful house of worship. Whatever we do for the Lord, we should do with excellence. We should never do anything that we do halfway or take shortcuts when it comes to the Lord. We would not give our jobs anything less than our best so we should give our churches everything we got, our best, our excellence, and that includes our buildings.

However, what we should not do is fall in love with the buildings themselves. They are just buildings. Bricks, plaster, mortar and cement. If the building burned down or was blown away in a hurricane or a tornado, we would still be the church. The buildings we build, however excellently we build and maintain them, are just functional for a purpose. That purpose being praising the Lord. That purpose being giving God glory. If we get caught up in the carpet color or type, If we get caught up in whether you can bore holes in historic walls, if we get caught up when whether new technologies would ruin the ambience of the historical nature of the place, if we get caught up traditions, if we get caught up in all these trappings of a building and lose sight of why the building was built. Our church buildings serve a function and should not become something we worship. Their function is two fold and two fold only. One is to deepen the faith of the saints who are already members of the fellowship that meets in the buildings. The second and more important one is to be a place from which we reach out and seek the lost and bring them into relationship with God. These are the only purposes of our buildings. To make them any more than that is to make the buildings into something that we worship rather than God.

In that light, the pandemic and the mechanical struggles that our church has seen in the past few months is the blessing and the reminder to us that the church is the church even if we meet under the trees, in parking lots, by the beach, on top of a mountain, in a storefront, you name it. The building doesn’t matter. It’s praising God that matters. Everything else is a function in support of that.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 1 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

In our church, we are having an ongoing debate through our actions and decisions about the chicken or the egg and which comes first. There are those in our church who believe we must get more people in the seats of the church before we make drastic changes to who we are and how we do it. There are those in our church who believe that we must make drastic changes to who we are and how we do it before we can get more people in the seats. To put it in even more blunt terms, there are those who say that we must get more people in the seats before we make changes because they don’t want to make changes and there are those who want to take a gamble (and it’s a huge one) and change things in hopes that more people will come. It is the fundamental test of the ages of any church, not just the one I currently serve. At some point, there must be a generational passing of the baton from one generation to the other. The churches who do this well will survive and thrive and those that don’t will grieve and die.

As David made preparations for seeing that Solomon would be successful, so too must we make these decisions in churches so that it will survive and thrive. There are things that must be done now to ensure the survival of an aging church. Now that we live in a post-Christian culture, this generational passing is probably the most critical one in my church and in your church in the history of the American church to this point.

First, there has a be a culture change in the church from spiritual apathy to spiritual hunger. That starts with the pastor. He must beat the drum for a good while about how our walk with Jesus Christ should be the most important thing in our lives, not just a nice little add-on thing to our lives, not just some habit that we do perfunctorily each week, not just something that we do on Sundays and maybe Wednesday. There must be a culture change where we see church and our spiritual growth in Jesus Christ as that most important thing in our lives. For far too long, pastors have babysat their congregations and not challenged them to make Jesus Christ the most central thing in their lives. It was just assumed that that’s where Christ was in their lives. No longer is that true and the pastor must awaken the fire in the bellies of all the church members of how our faith is central to our lives in all the other days of the week and not just on Sunday. Pastors must change the culture from one of apathy to one of urgency of what it means to be a church and that church really matters to our daily lives and Christians and that our church should matter in the daily life of our community. Preaching must speak plainly and speak the truth. Preaching must challenge. The tone for spiritual awakening must begin in the pulpit.

Second, the pastors must begin to develop some type of leadership development of the next younger generation of adults in the church, a leadership greenhouse of sorts where they are challenged to care about their walk with Jesus and the fellowship of believers to which they belong. Maybe, start a small group of selected next younger generation folks in the church who seem to have potential. The pastor must invest in them in a small group type setting so that individual attention can be given to their giftings in the Lord. Such a small group must be a time of challenging, of nurturing, of getting them to have a passion for the things of the Lord as they are expressed in the local body called the church. By investing in them, you are making preparations just as David was for Solomon.

Third, simply put and bluntly, you have to get the oldest generation who hold the keys to the kingdom at the church to trust the next younger generation of potential leaders. Without that, they will leave the church for places where they feel accepted, trusted, and encouraged to be leaders. The current generation of leaders, the aging leaders of the church, must be willing to gamble and let the next younger generation fall flat on their face at times. They must be willing to mentor the next younger generation at the church. Not just pick people from their own generation to wear multiple hats because you can trust them to get things done and done right. The current generation of leadership can’t continue with the attitude that you can’t trust them to step up. If we keep leadership within the current generation, there will be no next younger generation when the current generation starts dying off. We have to nominate next younger generations as leaders and step in beside them and mentor them in their leadership. Somebody handed the reins to the current generation and there’s never been a more critical hand-off than the one that needs to happen. If the next younger generation doesn’t feel trusted to lead, what next younger generation people you still have left are eventually going to leave.

Fourth, the next younger generation of leadership must be willing to step up to lead. That begins with making church more important than baseball, more important than the beach and vacations, more important than any of the other ways that they seek pleasure in their lives. They must have passion for the Lord and passion for seeing the community come to Christ. And, most of all, they must demand that the older generation that holds the power in the local church to share it with them. They must be willing to fight their way to the table and demonstrate that they can be trusted with leadership. That development of what next younger generation leaders is critical. They have got to be set on fire and set free to transform the world through their church and through the message of the gospel. They have got to be the ones who make our churches impactful to their community. They have got to be the ones who have the fire in the belly to carry the church past where we are today.

Fifth, all of us, the local church as a whole must learn what’s working in reaching a post-Christian world and what’s not. We must realize that that the egg must come first before we can expect the chickens to come. We must change the way that we package the message of the gospel into ways that are understood by communities that typically have the many second and third generations of families that have not darkened the door of a church EVER. To expect this new world in which we live to understand worship styles from 50-100 years ago is making traditions more important than reaching people for Christ. To use a football analogy, what makes a great football coach is one who maintains the culture of the program over time but who adapts his coaching style and his offensive and defensive schemes to match the times. A great coach expects excellence in his program but how he packages the excellence can change over time to meet the talent that he has and to meet what’s going on in the world of football. We must think similarly in the church. Our message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ will not and should never change or be monkeyed with in any way. However, we can begin to use new methods that meets the current ways of communicating with people who are several generations outside of having ever gone to church.

These are the preparations that we have to make as local churches to hand off the church to the next younger generation of leadership. If we don’t do it well, we will wither and die – my church, your church, any church.

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we can remember from past scripture readings that David had wanted to build a Temple for God. God denied his request because, as He told David, he had been a warrior and He wanted the Temple to be built by a man of peace. God, though, did allow David to make extensive plans and preparations. David bought the land, gathered most of the construction materials, and received the construction plans from God. It was Solomon’s responsibility to make the plans a reality. His job was made easier by his father’s extensive preparations. God’s work can be moved forward more seamlessly when the older generation paves the way for the younger.

Life Application

I think that David provides us another example of how he was a great leader. He set up the handoff of leadership to the next younger generation of leadership so well. He planned for Solomon’s leadership. He never thought that this little kid running around the palace could never be trusted with the reins of leadership. He taught his son. He groomed his son. He prepared for his upcoming day when he would be king. Are you doing that at your church? Are you challenging each generation to be ready? Are challenging the current generation to prepare for the next generation? Are you challenging the entire body of the church to have passion and truly care about the things of God? Are you challenging the entire body to be passionate about the gospel? Are you challenging the entire body to think more than just about themselves and their own generation? Are you challenging the entire body to think about giving you glory by doing whatever’s necessary to spread the gospel message inside and outside our churches? How we answer these questions will determine the survival of our local churches.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 1:14-17

Solomon’s Prosperity

Opening Illustration/Comments

When Elena and I lived in Rock Island, IL when I was the associate pastor for business services at Calvary Church in Moline, IL, we lived in a quirky old farmhouse style home that was built in 1911. It has most recently been remodeled in 2017, about a year before we bought it. It was a neat old house with lots of distinctive character. I miss that old house but not the unevenness of the heat in the house in the winter time. However, the thing about that house that I thought of today was a saying that we had applied to wall in the stairway from the second floor down to the kitchen. You would see it as you came downstairs each and every day. The vinyl wall art said, “It’s not about me!” in cursive writing. It was a reminder to us that we serve God and not the other way around. That is the fallacy that many of us fall prey to as Christ followers and even those who are not Christians who have some concept of a Supreme Being. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. However, too often we get the order wrong. We think #1 me and #2 God, when it should be the other way around.

We, including Elena and me at times (hence the reminder in our last house’s stairwell), tend to think of God in only personal terms. Yes, He is a personal God, but He is not our personal butler or our personal genie. We often seem to forget that we are the created and He is the Creator. The prosperity gospel concept gains traction with each generation of believers because we do not have a proper view of God nor a proper view of ourselves in relation to Him. We think of God as our own piggy bank or wish granter. Even non-believers have a sense that the universe owes them something. God does not owe us anything. He is the Creator. So, let’s examine the idea of the prosperity gospel for a moment.

The prosperity gospel is an umbrella term for a group of ideas — popular among charismatic preachers in the evangelical tradition — that equate Christian faith with material, and particularly financial, success. It has a long history in American culture, with figures like Osteen and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, glamorous, flashily-dressed televangelists whose Disneyland-meets-Bethlehem Christian theme park, Heritage USA, was once the third-most-visited site in America. A 2006 Times poll found that 17 percent of American Christians identify explicitly with the movement, while 31 percent espouse the idea that “if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.” A full 61 percent agree with the more general idea that “God wants people to be prosperous.”

Central to the prosperity gospel was the idea of tithing, or giving money to the church, ideally one’s “first fruits” — or initial earnings. This money, many prosperity gospel preachers promised, was an investment. By showing faith, parishioners could have a “hundredfold” return on their investment, a reference to a verse in the Gospel of Mark about those who suffer for Christ receiving a hundredfold what they have lost. Thus could Ken Copeland write in his Laws of Prosperity,

“Do you want a hundredfold return on your money? Give and let God multiply it back to you. No bank in the world offers this kind of return! Praise the Lord!”

In this mentality, tithing is a financially responsible thing to do. It’s a show of faith and a shrewd investment alike, a wager on the idea that God acts in the here and now to reward those with both faith and a sufficiently developed work ethic. Here, in this passage, we see that Solomon was blessed for his obedience with wealth and power beyond that of any other king of the Israelite nation including his father, David. Some might say that this evidence of the prosperity gospel theme. If we obey the Lord, He will financially bless us.

That is simply not the case. Throughout human history, there has been more people whose lives by human economic security standards have gotten worse from being obedient to God as a Christ follower. Many Christians die for their beliefs and do so willingly. By the standards of the prosperity gospel, they were not being blessed thus they were doing something wrong in the eyes of God. However, that all depends on what your definition of blessings is.

Scripture Passage

14 Solomon built up a huge force of chariots and horses. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He stationed some of them in the chariot cities and some near him in Jerusalem. 15 The king made silver and gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees that grow in the foothills of Judah. 16 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Cilicia[d]; the king’s traders acquired them from Cilicia at the standard price. 17 At that time chariots from Egypt could be purchased for 600 pieces of silver, and horses for 150 pieces of silver. They were then exported to the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram.

Passage Analysis

Here in this passage, we see that Solomon was blessed with prestige, power and wealth. However, it was because early in his reign before corruption set in, these things were secondary to Solomon. He did not care about the wealth, the power, the prestige. He simply wanted to please the Lord. That God blessed Him was a gift in the providence of God. Paul lived the life of meager existence, but he was no less blessed than Solomon. If we define our blessings from God through material things, we have missed the point altogether. We do not invest in God and then He pays us a return on our investment. The blessings that come from obedience to God are not always financial (and if they are, it’s simply that it was in God’s sovereign right to do as He pleases). Even when our blessings are financial, God expects us to use our wealth to bless others, not to hoard it up and become enamored with how God has financially blessed us. God’s financial blessings are intended to help us be more effective financiers of the expansion of His kingdom and showing the love of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.

Life Application

I think that there are three applications to our daily lives. I think they are these:

  • First, we must remember that God provides us what we need when we need right on time when we fully trust Him. We should not get wrapped up in this whole idea that our wealth is tied to our obedience to God. We must remember that we can be destitute and still have been fully obedient and trusting in the Lord. When we love the Lord and want to serve Him, over time, we become aware that God gives us what we need and thus we are able to just live in the joy of the moment and not be all so concerned about what the financial trappings of our life are.
  • Second, when God does choose to provide us with financial blessings, we should remember where those gifts come from. We must remember to give God praise through our wealth. We must use our wealth primarily to help others in need and to further the cause of God’s kingdom. We are not to see God’s financial blessings are some personal trophy that can only be used on us.
  • Third, we must remember that the prosperity gospel teaches us selfishness. It teaches us that God is there to serve us. It teaches us that if we invest in God, He is so thankful that YOU helped HIM out that He will bless you. That’s just such warped thinking. God is not our butler or our genie. We are here to serve Him and Him alone. We are to give Him glory and Him alone. He is the Creator and we are His created. We are to bow to Him and not the other way around.

We have to remember…It’s not about us! It’s about Him!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 1:1-13 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Opening Illustration/Comments

You hear it all the time. We hear stories of those who have won the lottery’s biggest jackpots. Sure, you’re probably thinking that if you won the $700 million Powerball, you’d run straight to a financial planner and invest everything that you got to keep after taxes, but maybe you’d just buy one nice thing first. A luxury car you’ve always dreamed about — or a mansion! One common theme of people who win the lottery and then lose it all is that that one nice bag turns into a spending spree on any number of legal (and illegal) items. But some people find themselves dogged by friends and relatives who found out about their winnings — which is why some lottery winners try to remain anonymous. Here are some horror stories from past major lottery jackpot winners:

  • After 25 years married to her husband Thomas, a woman named Denise Rossi suddenly handed him divorce papers — without telling him that she’d won the lottery days before. Turns out that in her state of California, you have to disclose your assets during divorce proceedings, which Rossi failed to do. If she’d just been up front about her winnings, her ex-husband probably would have gotten half of them. Because she tried to hide it, though, he got it all and she ended up with nothing.
  • In a truly tragic turn, a lottery winner by the name of Abraham Shakespeare lost everything — including his life — after he hit it big. A former truck driver’s assistant, Shakespeare was a victim of his own generous impulses. He always tried to provide for the people who came to him wanting help, including a woman named DeeDee Moore. After offering to help manage Shakespeare’s winnings, Moore began stealing from him — and then murdered him in an attempt to take the rest of his money.
  • When he won $31 million in in 1997, the first thing Billie Bob Harrell Jr. did was quit his job at Home Depot and take his family to Hawaii. He then gave a lot of money to charity, bought lavish gifts for his family and friends, and donated 480 turkeys to the poor (seriously). The downward spiral started when total strangers noticed what was going on and started harassing Harrell for donations, and then he and his wife separated. He ended up committing suicide only 20 months after he won the lottery.
  • When William Post III won $16.2 million, the first thing he did was spend twice what his first annual installment was worth within three months of receiving it — and things only got worse from there. His bad spending habits continued, he was eventually arrested for shooting an ex-wife (his sixth ex-wife, specifically), the person who helped buy him the tickets sued and ended up taking the winnings, and his brother hired someone to kill him. There’s so much going on there, but it seems likely that the lottery curse has something to do with it.

And these are just a few of the horror stories of major lottery jackpot winners that are out there for you to read about. We all think that money and lots of it will make us happy. However, sudden windfalls such as the lottery often prove to be too much for most people to handle. That’s what makes Solomon’s request of God so remarkable here. It is just in our human nature, it seems, to be wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. Most of the time, sudden riches are our ruin. Most of the time, those who did not earn their fortunes through their own effort drown in the temptations of wealth. Sure, there are folks out there that are suddenly wealthy or those out there that are second or third generation family of some company founding genius businessperson that do handle their wealth responsibly, lead quiet lives, are exceedingly generous, and stay out of the limelight. These are the exceptions though.

And, too, our society seems to worship those who are wealthy. Just look how fascinated we are with these reality stars that we have made wealthy by being voyeurs into their lives. We seem to have made celebrities out of people who have no particular talent. We have made them wealthy. We seem to care what Kim Kardashian does – why? What does she do to enhance the world? We seem to have a fascination with Snooky and the gang from Jersey Shores – why? Why do we care what these airheads who contribute nothing of value to society do and say? And then MTV seems to be about nothing but making stars out of young bimbos and studs of questionable intelligence for having sex drama in coastal towns and have their aim in life as how drunk they get and who they have been to bed with. We make these people wealthy and hang on their every vapid word and we make them celebrities. Why?

As we stated in yesterday’s blog, nothing on this side of eternity lasts including wealth, fame, and fortune. Then, that Solomon asks for something other than the vapor of wealth and fame is extraordinary and gives us pause as to exactly what it is that we worship. That idea of having our priorities straight is what came to mind this morning. Let us think about why that is as we read this first passage, 2 Chronicles 1:1-13, for the second of two times that we will we read through it and contemplate on it.

Scripture Passage

1 Solomon son of David took firm control of his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him very powerful.

2 Solomon called together all the leaders of Israel—the generals and captains of the army,[a] the judges, and all the political and clan leaders. 3 Then he led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle[b] was located there. (This was the Tabernacle that Moses, the Lord’s servant, had made in the wilderness.)

4 David had already moved the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the tent he had prepared for it in Jerusalem. 5 But the bronze altar made by Bezalel son of Uri and grandson of Hur was there[c] at Gibeon in front of the Tabernacle of the Lord. So Solomon and the people gathered in front of it to consult the Lord.[d] 6 There in front of the Tabernacle, Solomon went up to the bronze altar in the Lord’s presence and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings on it.

7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

8 Solomon replied to God, “You showed great and faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. 9 O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! 10 Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly,[e] for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”

11 God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— 12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”

13 Then Solomon returned to Jerusalem from the Tabernacle at the place of worship in Gibeon, and he reigned over Israel.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that God’s offer to Solomon stretches the imagination: “Ask, and it will be given to you!” (2 Chronicles 1:7). Interestingly, Solomon put the needs of his people first and asked for wisdom and knowledge rather than riches. Wisdom is the ability to make good decisions based on proper discernment and judgment. Knowledge, as used in this passage, refers to the know-how necessary for handling everyday matters. Wisdom applies knowledge.

Solomon realized that wisdom would be the most valuable asset he could have as a king. Later, he wrote, “Wisdom is more precious than rubies, nothing you desire can compare with her!” (Proverbs 3:15). The same wisdom that was given to Solomon is available to us because the same God offers it. How can we acquire wisdom? First, we must ask God to grant us wisdom. Second, we must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to studying and applying God’s Word – the source of divine wisdom for our lives. Solomon could have asked for anything. but he asked for wisdom to rule the nation. Because God approved of the way Solomon ordered his priorities, he gave Solomon wealth, riches and honor on top of what he had asked for. Jesus also spoke about priorities. He said that when we put God first, everything we really need will be added unto us as well (Matthew 6:33). Putting God first in our lives does not guarantee that we will have earthly riches and fame like Solomon had, but it does mean that we will have richly rewarding lives. When we have a purpose for living that comes from the wisdom of God and placing things of the Lord as top priority in our lives, we learn that earthly treasures are not the source of our happiness. That realization will lead us to have a contentment we have never known before.

Life Application

From personal experience, I know that when we give control of our lives over to the Lord, the last thing we give over is our desire for money. When we do finally give it to Him to tame in us, we learn that all the things that we cared about before begin to have less meaning. When we give up a desire for things and money and put God first, our priorities change. We really don’t care about being rich. I want to be able to comfortably pay my bills and take care of my family and leave them a little financial nest egg when I am gone. I no longer have to have the shiniest, newest things. It is just meaningless to me. My cars are 13 and 10 years old and they have been well-maintained and they still look good and get me where I need to go. Isn’t that ultimately what the car is supposed to do. Why does it matter how new your car is? When my wife and I came to the realization that the rat race of things and the debts that go with them is simply maddening, we decided to put God first in our finances. We got rid of debt as much as we could and live off of less than 90% of what we make – no matter how much we make. When we got off the hamster wheel and lived more simply, we have become aware that our money is his money and our first objective is to honor Him with how we use it. That’s wisdom that only comes when we put God first in everything including over our desires about money.

What is first in your life? If it is not God, you will never find wisdom. You will never find peace. You will never find contentment. It is only through submitting everything to His control, including our desire for money and fame, that we find those things. Nothing on this side of eternity lasts. Just like when you drive a brand new car off the lot it devalues at least 15%, everything on this side of eternity fades and leaves you empty.

Seek the kingdom of God first, not second, not when you have time, not when you make it to a certain age, not when you make it to a certain level of economic security. Seek His Kingdom first. The things of God’s kingdom last and have eternal value that never fades.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 1:1-13 (Part 1 of 2)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Opening Illustration/Comments

Last night, I watched an episode of the History Channel series, Unearthed, and this one was about the great city of Babylon, the empire of which it was the capital, and about its great rulers, Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II. Hammurabi[a] (c. 1810 – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty of the Amorite tribe,[2] reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC (according to the Middle Chronology). He was preceded by his father, Sin-Muballit, who abdicated due to failing health. During his reign, he conquered Elam and the city-states of Larsa, Eshnunna, and Mari. He ousted Ishme-Dagan I, the king of Assyria, and forced his son Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute, bringing almost all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule.

Hammurabi is best known for having issued the Code of Hammurabi, which he claimed to have received from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. Unlike earlier Sumerian law codes, such as the Code of Ur-Nammu, which had focused on compensating the victim of the crime, the Law of Hammurabi was one of the first law codes to place greater emphasis on the physical punishment of the perpetrator. It prescribed specific penalties for each crime and is among the first codes to establish the presumption of innocence. Although its penalties are extremely harsh by modern standards, they were intended to limit what a wronged person was permitted to do in retribution. The Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses in the Torah contain numerous similarities.

Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne in 605 BC and subsequently fought several campaigns in the West, where Egypt was trying to organize a coalition against him. His conquest of Judah is described in the Bible’s Books of Kings, Books of Chronicles and Book of Jeremiah. His capital, Babylon, is the largest archaeological site in the Middle East. The Bible remembers him as the destroyer of Solomon’s Temple and the initiator of the Babylonian captivity. He is an important character in the Book of Daniel. After ridding Babylon of domination by the Assyrian empire (headquartered in Ninevah to the north in what is now modern day Syria), Babylon (located in the southern part of modern-day Iraq) flourished under Nebuchadnezzar. A new era of architectural activity ensued. Nebuchadnezzar ordered the complete reconstruction of the imperial grounds, including the Etemenanki ziggurat, and the construction of the Ishtar Gate—the most prominent of eight gates around Babylon. A reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate is located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—said to have been built for his homesick wife Amyitis. Under his rule, Babylonia extended as far north as Macedonia, to the west in the Sinai, to the east to what is now the Caspian Sea, and to the south as the northern half of the Arabian Peninsula.

The capital city during this time was amazing for that point in human history. It was the largest city in the world. It was the home of great architectural wonders. It was a center of advanced study of the arts and mathematics. It was a technologically advanced city for its time. The special about the wonders that were the city of Babylon was so interesting. It was also interesting to me because as I have been for the last year been studying the books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles about God’s chosen people, the Israelite nation, and how they ultimately are conquered by the Assyrians to the north, the Babylonians in the south.

But the reason I bring these things up this morning is the fact that the majesty and wonder that was the city of Babylon is no more. It was an amazing city from the scant historical records about the city. It was the center, the hub, the capital of one of the great empires of history. But today, there are only ruins of what once was an amazing testament to the capabilities of man. However, now, the empire is gone. The grand city was abandoned through deportations during the post-Alexandran Greek empire’s rule of the area by 275 BC. Thus, the city became insignificant and wasted away to nothing. By the time the Muslims conquered the area in the 7th century AD, they were using it as a source of bricks for building other cities. Today, there are only ruins. The desert reclaimed much of the area and foundations of the wonders of what was are buried under mounds of dirt and sound. It is only in the last century that Western and Middle Eastern archaeologists have begun to reclaim the ruins of the city from the ravages of the desert and of time.

It is a reminder to us on this Independence Day week in America that our country is a human endeavor. We are just the latest of the human empires that have dotted the world throughout history. Babylon, its capital and its empire, were once the envy of the world. The only place that people in our century can get any real exposure to its existence in a currently actively read document is the Bible. If it were not for the Bible, it is likely that there would never been much interest in excavating the sites of the city of Babylon. It seems that the only thing that survives is God’s Word, and things of God.

There is physical evidence of man-made empires of the biblical era. The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, all of them are documented extrabiblically to have existed. We know these things. But we know very little of the people and their daily lives, particularly of common men. However, with the Bible, we know of the mind of God. We know of the mind of the Israelite people way better than any of these great empires. We know of the mind of Christ. We can feel intimately close to the people of God and to Christ himself through the Bible. All other things are temporary. Only the Word of God is permanent. Let us remember that as a nation. We will not last forever. The opulence of America, we think will last forever. However, we are but the latest in a succession of empires that have ruled the world. We will not last. Only things of God last.

That idea of only that which is of God is the only that gets truly preserved is what I thought about this morning as we start of in 2 Chronicles. In it, we will see a history of the southern kingdom but very little of the northern kingdom. Let us think about why that is as we read this first passage, 2 Chronicles 1:1-13, for the first of two times that we will we read through it and contemplate on it.

Scripture Passage

1 Solomon son of David took firm control of his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him very powerful.

2 Solomon called together all the leaders of Israel—the generals and captains of the army,[a] the judges, and all the political and clan leaders. 3 Then he led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle[b] was located there. (This was the Tabernacle that Moses, the Lord’s servant, had made in the wilderness.)

4 David had already moved the Ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the tent he had prepared for it in Jerusalem. 5 But the bronze altar made by Bezalel son of Uri and grandson of Hur was there[c] at Gibeon in front of the Tabernacle of the Lord. So Solomon and the people gathered in front of it to consult the Lord.[d] 6 There in front of the Tabernacle, Solomon went up to the bronze altar in the Lord’s presence and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings on it.

7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

8 Solomon replied to God, “You showed great and faithful love to David, my father, and now you have made me king in his place. 9 O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! 10 Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly,[e] for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”

11 God said to Solomon, “Because your greatest desire is to help your people, and you did not ask for wealth, riches, fame, or even the death of your enemies or a long life, but rather you asked for wisdom and knowledge to properly govern my people— 12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!”

13 Then Solomon returned to Jerusalem from the Tabernacle at the place of worship in Gibeon, and he reigned over Israel.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we begin 2 Chronicles. In it, we see that while 1 Chronicles focuses mainly on David’s life. This second half of Chronicles focuses on the lives of the rest of the kings of Judah, the southern kingdom. Very little is mentioned about the northern kingdom, Israel. There are two reasons that so little is written about the northern kingdom. First, Chronicles was written for Judeans who had returned from captivity in Babylon. Second, Judah represented David’s family, from which the Messiah would come. Israel was in a state of constant turmoil, anarchy and rebellion against God, but Judah, at least, made more sporadic attempts to follow God.

Life Application

The northern kingdom, from the get-go after the split, pursued false gods, so there is nothing to report of them in this book focused on highlighted the hope and the future of the people of God. Only that which is of God survives eternally. The Bible is alive today and will always be alive as part of our faith. It is not some ancient historical manuscript from a lost civilization that is only read by historians and archaeologists. It is read by billions of people worldwide and has been for millennia and will be for millennia on end. Why? Because it is of God. It is not of man.

Everything that we put stock in from a human endeavor standpoint will not last. It is only the things of God that will last. The northern kingdom when it broke away from the appointed rule of God, they immediately became a pagan nation, just like all the pagan empires around them. None of them survived. They all thought their humanly built empires would last forever. We Americans think that about our country and its empire. We are just another empire, folks. We will have our moment at the apex of human endeavor for a while longer, but we will not last. We will not be the king of the hill forever. None of the empires before us have lasted. Neither will we. Only the things of God survive.

That’s where we need to be putting our eggs. In the basket of the things eternal of God. Where are your priorities? Are they in trusting in America as the eternal empire? Are they in collecting as many toys as we can? Are you placing your trust in the current narrative of political correctness that has become a false religion in our society? Are you placing your trust in anything other than God? It will not last. Begin now to put your trust in the only one, truly eternal thing that matters, God. It is He who will judge our eternal life which lasts a whole lot longer than even the longest major world empire has ever lasted. Where are you going to put your trust?

OVERVIEW OF 2 CHRONCLES

Personal Reflection on Overview of 2 Chronicles

This morning, we begin the next book of the Bible, 2 Chronicles. As 1 Chronicles ended, we saw that the baton of kingship was passed from David to Solomon. It was under Solomon that the Israelite kingdom reached its greatest expanse geographically and reached its zenith of influence among the ancient Middle Eastern kingdoms and empires. The country was strong and secure and economically vibrant. It was a time of peace and prosperity in the Israelite kingdom. Although there were undercurrents of tribal jealousies that smoldered under the surface, Solomon was a shrewd and wise ruler for most of his days and was able to manage it all and keep opposition dispersed. Solomon’s kingdom was undoubtedly the Golden Age of Israel. 

From that point forward, it is like watching how rich families rise and fall. Many of the wealthiest families that you see in the world over the past two centuries have usually been started by a shrewd and entrepreneurial founder of a company. His ingenuity and management skill creates a vast empire of wealth. Usually the second generation is equally astute though not as cutthroat as his father before him. But usually this son of the founder is able to expand the wealth empire but not on the scale of nothing to supreme wealth as the father did. However, in succeeding generations, the lack of being in touch with the reality of having nothing as the founding father did (and who instill that in his direct heir, his son) usually leads to frivolous spending and lack of concentration on the business enterprises of the family. These succeeding generations often turn over business operations to unrelated employees so that they can pursue fun. With each generation, the family becomes more and more like these depraved reality shows that you see on MTV. Ultimately, these families end up not resembling anything like the hard working, hard charging founding father of it all. These families are not even grateful what that founding father did. They just assume wealth is a way of life and that the money will never end. With each succeeding generation the creation of wealth ends and the party lifestyle ensues. You can see Israel in what I just described. David founded it. Solomon expanded and strengthened it and then the succeeding generations just messed it all up to the point that the Israelite kingdom (both the northern part and the southern part) was wiped off the map.

The book of 2 Chronicles shows us this rise and fall. In it, we can see ourselves, the United States. We grew up in homes where we had full and complete access to the things of God. And, many like us in the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation and all of Generation X, we scattered from the church. It was not hip enough for us. It was stuck in the mud even then to us (and some traditional churches still haven’t changed a bit since the Gen X exodus). We sought to live for ourselves. We knew best. We questioned whether God even existed. We humanized Jesus into a radical, anti-establishment rabbi with great philosophical wit and wisdom and took away His deity. We made Jesus into a regular guy not the Creator of the Universe. We made Jesus just one of the ways to get to heaven. We made ourselves our own gods. We followed our own hearts and did what was right in our own eyes. We lost our way seeking ever greater and greater senses of pleasure. Then we raised succeeding generations to be just like us who then as the Millennial generation and now Generation Z are taking the world even deeper into godlessness and pleasure seeking.

It is then look into the demise of once great kingdom of Israel that should stand as a stark warning to us as a nation as we approach Independence Day weekend. The warning to us is that as we pursue political correctness, as we pursue all roads lead to heaven, as we pursue the elevation of the rights of self over the rights of society, as we pursue running further and further away from the Word of God as a nation, there will be a reckoning for a nation now just as there was for biblical Israel. Let us not ignore this history. Those who ignore or rewrite history are destined to repeat it.

Amen and Amen.

OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF 2 CHRONICLES

This overview is a combination of materials drawn from the following two websites: http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/41781 and from https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-2-Chronicles.html

Purpose:

The Books of 1 & 2 Chronicles cover mostly the same information as 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. The Books of 1 & 2 Chronicles focus more on the priestly aspect of the time period. The Book of 2 Chronicles is essentially an evaluation of the nation’s religious history.

Date:

The Book of 2 Chronicles was likely written between 450 and 425 B.C.

Key Verses:

  • 2 Chronicles 2:1 – “Solomon gave orders to build a temple for the Name of the LORD and a royal palace for himself.”
  • 2 Chronicles 29:1-3 – “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them.”
  • 2 Chronicles 36:14 – “Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.”
  • 2 Chronicles 36:23 – “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the LORD his God be with him and let him go up.'”

Author:

The Book of 2 Chronicles does not specifically name its author. The tradition is that 1 and 2 Chronicles were written by Ezra.

Brief Summary:

The Book of 2 Chronicles records the history of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, from the reign of Solomon to the conclusion of the Babylonian exile. The decline of Judah is disappointing, but emphasis is given to the spiritual reformers who zealously seek to turn the people back to God. Little is said about the bad kings or of the failures of good kings; only goodness is stressed. Since 2 Chronicles takes a priestly perspective, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is rarely mentioned because of her false worship and refusal to acknowledge the Temple of Jerusalem. Second Chronicles concludes with the final destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Time and Place of Writing:

The final verses of the 2 Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:21-23) indicate that the Chronicler wrote after the release of the exiles from Babylon (c. 538 B.C.). The lack of Hellenistic influences suggests that he composed his history before the Alexandrian period (c. 331 B.C.). Nevertheless, opinions vary over the precise date of composition.

Some interpreters have proposed that the Chronicler wrote as early as the reconstruction of the Temple under Zerubbabel (c. 520-515 B.C.). At least three evidences support this view:

  • The Chronicler consistently presented the Temple and its personnel in close partnership with the royal line of David (see “Purposes and Distinctives”). This emphasis suggests the possibility of composition near the days of Zerubbabel when expectations of royal and priestly partnership were still high (e.g., Zech. 4:1-14).
  • The Chronicler gave much attention to the details of priestly and Levitical duties (1 Chron. 6:1-53). This focus suggests a date of composition during the time when the new Temple order was being established.
  • The Chronicler’s omission of Solomon’s downfall due to intermarriage (1 Kings 11:1-40) stands in striking contrast to Nehemiah’s appeal to Solomon’s difficulties (Nem. 13:26). This omission suggests that the Chronicler may have written before intermarriage had become a major issue in the postexilic community.

The majority of interpreters have held that the Chronicler wrote during or after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the latter half of the fifth century or the early decades of the fourth century B.C. The main evidence in favor of this view is the royal genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24, which some interpreters believe extends up to five generations after Zerubbabel.

A specific date of composition for Chronicles cannot be determined. It seems best to accept a range of possibilities from sometime near the days of Zerubbabel to sometime soon after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (c. 515-400 B.C.). The major themes of the book fit well within these boundaries.

The Chronicler wrote for historical and theological reasons. His extensive use of historical documents (see “Author”) and devotion to numerical and chronological details (e.g., 1 Chron. 5:18; 2 Chron. 14:1, 9; 16:1, 12, 13) indicate that he intended to give his readers an inerrant historical record. But he did not merely offer information about the past; he also wrote to convey a relevant theological message. Comparing the Chronicler’s history with those of Samuel and Kings reveals that he shaped his account of Israel’s past to address the needs of the postexilic community. He wrote to encourage and guide his readers as they sought the full restoration of the Kingdom after the Babylonian exile.

The people who had returned from exile faced numerous difficulties. The restoration had not brought about the dramatic changes for which many had hoped. Instead, they endured discouraging economic hardship, foreign opposition and internal conflict. These difficulties raised many questions: Who may legitimately claim to be heirs to the promises God gave his people? What political and religious institutions should we embrace? Should we hope for a new Davidic king? What is the importance of the Temple in our day? How may we find the blessings of security and prosperity for our restored community? The Chronicler addressed these and similar questions in his history.

Purposes and Distinctives:

The book of Chronicles was originally untitled. Its traditional Hebrew name may be translated “the annals (events) of the days (time).” This expression appears often in the book of Kings with other qualifications (e.g., 1 Kings 14:29). It also occurs elsewhere in this form without further qualification (Neh. 12:23; Esther 2:23; 6:1). Some Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Old Testament) texts refer to Chronicles as “the things omitted”; i.e., a supplement to the history of Samuel and Kings. Jerome (and Luther following him) called the book “the chronicle of the entire sacred history.” Our modern title stems from this tradition.

The Chronicler’s theological message may be summarized in many ways, but three concerns were particularly prominent:

  • The People of God. Throughout his history the Chronicler identified the people who should be included among the heirs of God’s covenant promises. The prominence of this theme appears in his frequent use of the expression “all Israel” (see notes on 1 Chron. 11:1; 2 Chron. 10:1; 29:24). The Chronicler’s concept of God’s people was both narrow and broad. On the one hand, he looked on those who had been released from exile as the people of God. Representatives of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who had returned to the land, were the chosen people (see note on 1 Chron. 9:3). As such, they played a vital role in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.

On the other hand, however, the Chronicler identified God’s people with all the tribes of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1). The restoration of Israel was incomplete so long as some of the tribes remained outside the land, separated from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As a result, the Chronicler went to great lengths to include both the northern and southern tribes in his genealogies (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), to present an ideal of a united Kingdom under David and Solomon extending to all the people (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1) and to depict the reunification of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the days of Hezekiah (see note on 2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). The returnees were the remnant of God’s people, but they had to pray and hope for the restoration of all the people of God. As Hezekiah put it in his day, “If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate” (2 Chron. 30:9).

  • The King and Temple. In the Chronicler’s view, God had organized his people around two central institutions: the Davidic throne and the Jerusalem Temple. These political and religious structures were fundamental to the life of Israel. In his genealogies, the Chronicler gave special attention to David’s lineage (1 Chron. 2:10-17; 3:1-24) and to the organization of the priests and Levites (1 Chron 6:1-81). He emphasized that God had chosen David’s line as the permanent dynasty over the nation (1 Chron. 17:1-27; 2 Chron. 13:5; 21:7; 23:3). The establishment of David’s throne was a demonstration of divine love and blessing for Israel (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11).

The Chronicler also focused on the Temple as the dwelling place of the Name (2 Chron. 7:12, 16; 33:7). The joy and splendor of music in Temple worship were chief concerns in the Chronicler’s history (see notes on 1 Chron. 6:31-47, 9:15-16, 28-34, 15:16-24; 16:4-6; 25:1-31; 2 Chron. 5:12-13; 23:13, 19, 29:25-30; 34:12).

The Chronicler drew a close connection between kingship and the Temple in many other ways as well (e.g., 2 Chron. 13:4-12; 22:10-24:27). With this emphasis on king and Temple, he instructed his postexilic readers not to lose sight of either institution. The full restoration of the Kingdom could not take place apart from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As the Lord said to David, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his Kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chron. 17:11-12).

  • Divine Blessing and Judgment. The Chronicler composed his history to show his readers how to receive God’s blessings in their day. He accomplished this end by drawing close connections between fidelity and blessing, as well as infidelity and judgment (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 6:14; 7:11-22; 15:2; 16:7-9; 21:14-15; 24:20; 25:15-16; 28:9; 34:24-28). The king and the Temple could not in themselves secure God’s blessing for Israel. His blessings depended on obedience to the Mosaic Law (1 Chron. 6:49; 15:13, 15; 16:40; 22:12-13; 28:7; 29:19; 2 Chron. 6:16; 7:17-18; 12:1-2; 14:4; 15:12-14; 17:3-9; 19:8-10; 24:6, 9; 25:4; 30:15-16; 31:3-21; 33:8; 34:19-33; 35:6-26) and to the prophetic/priestly instruction (2 Chron. 11:4; 12:5-8; 20:20; 21:12-19; 24:19-25; 25:7-10, 15-20; 26:17-20). Blessings came to those who upheld the purity of Temple worship (2 Chron. 15:1-19; 17:1-6; 24:1-16; 29:1-31:21; 34:1-35:19) and humbly relied on God instead of human strength (1 Chron. 5:20; 2 Chron. 13:18; 14:7; 16:7-8; 32:20).

When the people of God and their kings turned to sin, the immediate retribution of illness and military defeat often followed (1 Chron. 10:1-14; 2 Chron. 13:1-16; 16:12; 18:33-34; 21:15-19; 25:14-24; 26:19-20; 28:1-5; 33:1-11). Even so, when the people came under God’s judgment, they could be restored to blessing by humbly seeking God through repentance and prayer (1 Chron. 21:1-22:1; 2 Chron. 7:13-15; 12:1-12; 33:10-13). By emphasizing these themes the Chronicler showed his postexilic readers the way to divine blessing in their day. The full restoration of God’s people would come only as they lived in fidelity to the Lord. The prophet Azariah stated the matter succinctly to King Asa: “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2).

As the book unfolds, prominent motifs appear a number of times, but certain themes are emphasized over others in each portion. The history divides into main parts: (1) the genealogies of God’s people (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34), (2) the united Kingdom (1 Chron 9:35-2 Chron 9:31), (3) the divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27), and (4) the reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Each part contributes specific elements to the Chronicler’s overall theological purpose.

  • The Genealogies of God’s People (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34). Genealogies in the ancient Near East followed a variety of forms and served many different functions. These variations appear in the Chronicler’s use of genealogies in the first nine chapters of his history. Some passages follow the form of linear genealogies that trace a single family line through many generations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:34-41); others are segmented and sketch several family lines together (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:1-3). The Chronicler’s genealogies also skip generations without notice, emphasizing persons and events that were important to his concerns (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:4-15). Beyond this, just as other ancient genealogies often included brief narratives highlighting significant events, the Chronicler paused on occasion to tell a story (1 Chron. 4:9-10; 5:18-22).

 In addition to different forms, the function of ancient genealogies also varied. They occasionally sketched political, geographical and other social connections. In some such cases, the expressions “son of” and “father of” had a meaning other than immediate biological descent. In line with these ancient (yet ordinary for that time) functions of genealogies, the Chronicler provided an assortment of lists, including families (e.g., 1 Chron. 3:17-24), political relations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:24, 42, 45, 49-52), and trade guilds (e.g., 1 Chron. 4:14, 21-23).

The Chronicler included extensive genealogical records in his book to establish that his readers were the legitimate continuation of God’s elect people. He accomplished this end by reporting the special election of Israel from all of humanity (1 Chron. 1:2-2:2), the arrangement of the tribes of Israel (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), and the representatives of the tribes who returned from Babylon (1 Chron. 9:16-34).

By identifying the postexilic readers as the continuation of the chosen line, the Chronicler pointed to their opportunities and responsibilities. Since they were God’s people, they were offered the opportunity of God’s blessing in the Promised Land. They had a solid basis for hope in the full restoration of the Kingdom. But their identity as God’s elect people also entailed many responsibilities. The Chronicler’s genealogies focused on the breadth and order of the tribes of Israel, emphasizing especially the importance of the Davidic and Levitical families (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1a). If his readers were to receive the blessings of God, they had to observe these divinely ordained arrangements carefully.

  • The united kingdom (1 Chron. 9:35-2 Chron. 9:31). The Chronicler viewed the reigns of David and Solomon as Israel’s period of glory. He focused on the positive qualities of these kings and chose not to reference many of their well-known shortcomings and troubles recorded in Samuel and Kings (see notes on 1 Chron. 9:35-29:30 and 2 Chron. 1:1-9:31). David and Solomon ruled over all the tribes and territories of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1); they provided rich blessings through their political structures (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11; 9:8) and the Temple (1 Chron. 22:1; 2 Chron. 7:11-22).

For this reason, the united kingdom laid the foundation of hope for the postexilic readers. God had chosen David’s line and the Temple in Jerusalem to be the instruments of blessing for his people through all generations.

But this hope of blessing was conditional. The Chronicler also presented David and Solomon as models to be imitated. The postexilic community had to devote itself to the ideals of the united kingdom. Humble and faithful reliance on God, commitment to Davidic rule and devotion to the Temple were essential to receiving the blessing of God.

  • The Divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27). The Chronicler’s record of Israel’s history from Rehoboam to Ahaz focuses on events in the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Although he relied on the book of Kings for much of his information, the Chronicler omitted large blocks of material dealing with the Northern Kingdom, Israel. In his view, the important historical events of this period took place in Judah, where the Davidic king and the Temple resided.

In many respects, the Chronicler evaluated the kings of this period according to the ideal of the united kingdom. He applied several criteria to Judah’s kings (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”). Was the king faithful to the Law of Moses? Did he support the Temple order established by David and by Solomon? Did the king listen to prophetic and priestly instruction? Did he rely on foreign alliances, or seek God in humility and prayer? The writer evaluated some kings negatively (Jehoram, 1 Chron. 21:4-20; Ahaziah, 1 Chron. 22:1-9; Ahaz, 1 Chron. 28:1-27) and others positively (Abijah, 1 Chron. 13:1-14:1; Jotham, 1 Chron. 27:1-9). For the most part, however, he distinguished between each king’s years of fidelity and infidelity (Rehoboam, 2 Chron. 10:1-12:16; Asa, 1 Chron. 14:2-16:14; Jehoshaphat, 1 Chron. 17:1-21:3; Joash, 1 Chron. 22:10-24:27; Amaziah, 1 Chron. 25:1-28; Uzziah, 1 Chron. 26:1-23).

The Chronicler reported these events to illustrate how the conditions of Israel depended on her fidelity to the ideals established in the united kingdom. With remarkable regularity, he demonstrated that God blessed his people when they proved to be faithful and chastised them when they turned away from him. Victory, security and prosperity came to those who sought the Lord, but defeat, trouble and illness to those who forgot him (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history addressed the needs of the postexilic readers by explaining their situation and offering them guidance. Just as Judah’s kings had experienced God’s chastisement, the postexilic community suffered difficulties because of infidelity. God’s promises of restoration had not failed; the people had failed. Similarly, just as the kings of Judah were blessed as they turned toward the Lord, the Chronicler’s readers could hope for restoration, security and prosperity if they would do the same.

  • The Reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Beginning with Hezekiah, Israel entered a new phase of her history. The Chronicler presented Hezekiah as a new David/Solomon; Hezekiah reunited the faithful of Israel and Judah around the Davidic throne through worship and celebration at the Temple (see notes on 1 Chron. 29:1-36:23 and 1 Chron. 29:24). This reunited people experienced several periods of failure: Manasseh’s apostasy (1 Chron. 33:1-10), Amon’s entire reign (1 Chron. 33:21-25,) and the overall reigns of the kings of Judah just before the exile (1 Chron. 36:2-14). But each of these failures was followed by God’s gracious renewal of the people: Manasseh’s restoration (1 Chron. 33:11-17), Josiah’s reforms (1 Chron. 34:3-35:19), and the return from exile (1 Chron. 36:22-23).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history also offered hope and guidance to his readers. Despite the failures of the reunited Kingdom, God continued to grant blessings to his repentant people. These events reminded the readers that God extended his mercy to them, offering them his blessing. At the same time, however, the events of this period demonstrated the requirements placed on those who longed for the full restoration of the Kingdom during the postexilic period. The nation must turn to the Lord in humility and live faithfully before him.

Christ in Chronicles:

As with all references to kings and temples in the Old Testament, we see in them a reflection of the true King of Kings—Jesus Christ—and of the temple of the Holy Spirit—His people. Even the best of the kings of Israel had the faults of all sinful men and led the people imperfectly. But when the King of Kings comes to live and reign on the earth in the millennium, He will establish Himself on the throne of all the earth as the rightful heir of David. Only then will we have a perfect King who will reign in righteousness and holiness, something the best of Israel’s kings could only dream of.

Similarly, the great temple built by Solomon was not designed to last forever. Just 150 years later, it was in need of repair from decay and defacing by future generations who turned back to idolatry (2 Kings 12). But the temple of the Holy Spirit—those who belong to Christ—will live forever. We who belong to Jesus are that temple, made not by hands but by the will of God (John 1:12-13). The Spirit who lives within us will never depart from us and will deliver us safely into the hands of God one day (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). No earthly temple contains that promise.

Practical Application:

The reader of the Chronicles is invited to evaluate each generation from the past and discern why each was blessed for their obedience or punished for their wickedness. But we are also to compare the plight of these generations to our own, both corporately and individually. If we or our nation or our church is experiencing hardships, it is to our benefit to compare our beliefs and how we act upon those beliefs with the experiences of the Israelites under the various kings. God hates sin and will not tolerate it. But if the Chronicles teach us anything, it is that God desires to forgive and heal those who will humbly pray and repent (1 John 1:9). If you could have anything you wished from God, what would you ask for? Fabulous wealth? Perfect health for you and your loved ones? The power over life and death? Amazing to think about it, isn’t it? But more amazing is that God made such an offer to Solomon and he chose none of these things. What he asked for was wisdom and knowledge to complete the task God had assigned to him and to do it well. The lesson for us is that God has given each of us a commission to fulfill and the greatest blessing we can seek from God is the ability to carry out His will for our lives. For that, we need the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17) to discern His will, as well as the understanding and intimate knowledge of Him in order to motivate us to Christlikeness in both deed and attitude (James 3:13).

1 Chronicles 29:26-30

Summary of David’s Reign

Opening Illustration/Comments

Today we conclude our eight (8) month journey through the book of 1 Chronicles. Three hundred twenty plus pages of personal musings on these scriptures later, we reach the end of 1 Chronicles. Tomorrow, we will begin 2 Chronicles. For today, let us reflect on the fact that David ended his life on a high note. It is because of David’s willingness to cleanse himself of his mistakes of the past, repent and return unto God that David is known as a man after God’s own heart. He is viewed as Israel’s greatest king. He is viewed as a great biblical hero.

Although Solomon’s kingdom was a step above David’s kingdom, Solomon is not remembered as fondly by the Jewish people or by readers of the Bible because he did not finish well. David did! Solomon allowed his love of women to bring in pagan worship rituals into the kingdom through is marriages to pagan women. Solomon started well. He expanded upon the territories conquered by his father. He started and finished the Temple. He executed a plan of governmental organization that allowed the nation to flourish to its greatest height during his reign. However, his failure to rid his life of pagan religions and his failure to seek God sowed the seeds of destruction of the great Israelite kingdom that began almost as soon as he died. Solomon started well but did not finish well.

That’s the difference in the fondness we have for David and the somewhat ambivalent feelings most of us Bible readers have for Solomon. It was Paul who wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6-8

6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

And in Matthew 25:23, we read:

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

I think that is the hope that the author of 1 Chronicles is trying to give us. There is hope for all of us even when we have dishonored God and we have paid the consequences for it. The key is repentance and then renewal. While the Jews were in exile in Babylon, they clung, through the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, to the hope of finishing well. Then, and we, have our example in David right here. The final words about David was that he “enjoyed long life, wealth, and honor.” That’s finishing well, don’t you think? Considering what we know about David, he had repented of his sins and all the disastrous family and royal consequences that it had and finished off his days as humble and as in love with the Lord as he was a young lad standing on the battlefield across the way from Goliath. He finished well.

It is that idea of finishing well that I want you to consider as we read 1 Chronicles 29:23-25 this morning:

Scripture Passage

26 So David son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. 27 He reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 28 He died at a ripe old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth, and honor. Then his son Solomon ruled in his place.

29 All the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, are written in The Record of Samuel the Seer, The Record of Nathan the Prophet, and The Record of Gad the Seer. 30 These accounts include the mighty deeds of his reign and everything that happened to him and to Israel and to all the surrounding kingdoms.

Passage Analysis

In this conclusion to the book of 1 Chronicles, we reflect on the fact that it vividly illustrates the importance of maintaining a relationship with God. The genealogies in Chapters 1-9 emphasizes the importance of a spiritual heritage. The second part of the book details the life of David. Few men or women in the Bible were as close to God as David was. His daily contact with God increased his capacity to worship and strengthened his desire to build God’s Temple. David’s life shows us the importance of staying close to God – through studying and obeying His Word and communicating with Him daily through prayer. In David’s life, we also see how quickly our lives can deteriorate when we fail to stay well grounded in the Lord. That David ends his life in a positive way is reflective of David’s ability to recognize his sins, repent of those sins, and renew his pursuit of the Lord.

Life Application

Let the takeaway today be as it was for the exilic Jews in Babylon – one of hope, one of return to favor in the Lord. No matter what we have done in our lives, God will forgive us for our sins through the perfection of Jesus Christ and our own decision to repent from our sins that have been convicted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We may have really screwed up the majority of our lives. We may have ignored the presence or even the existence of God for most of our lives. We may have blatantly shaken our fist at the Lord in bold arrogance. However, when we accept Christ as our Savior, He is quick to forgive and wipe our past away. He, then, uses the Holy Spirit to convict us of every sin in our lives as He sanctifies us. When we repent and turn away from those things that the Holy Spirit identifies as unholy in our lives, we become closed to the Father and more like Jesus Christ.

Even if you have screwed it all up in the past, we can be forgiven when we repent and turn away from those sins. Even if we were the chief of sinners as Paul says, in 1 Timothy 1:15-16

15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

when we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, God can use even the worst of sinners. If he can do with Paul and David, He can do it with you. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish that matters!

Amen and Amen.