1 Chronicles 7:20-29 – The Difference Between What I Expected & What God Was Teaching Me

Posted: January 22, 2020 in 13-1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 7:20-29

Descendants of Ephraim

When you review the history of the tribe of Ephraim, which this genealogical passage gives us an opportunity to do, the thing that you have to think of is pride. They were proud warriors and were often miffed if people did not recognize that. It reminds me of my first full-time position in ministry. After years of interning at my home church, getting my masters degree in Christian ministry, and applying for countless ministry jobs and interviewing for some, I finally got a position in full-time ministry at a non-denominational church in Moline, IL. I don’t know if promises were made or that’s just what I heard or wanted to hear. However, what I thought was going to be a true ministry position, such as an executive pastor role, within 6 weeks after I arrived there began to dissipate. What eventually turned out was that even though I had a title of staff pastor, I was nothing more than the church accountant.

I was not, in my opinion, groomed to take on roles and activities of spiritual leadership for our congregation. I was eventually told that my role for the church was just not compatible with taking on those type functions within the church. I felt that I had been told one thing but demonstrated another. It hurt my pride. It really bothered me that I was not allowed to have more influence in the discipleship efforts of our church, at least from an official standpoint. It angered me and bothered me. Why are these people recognizing that I have some depth to give, something to offer, other than counting beans? Add to that, the transition from corporate accrual accounting to non-profit cash basis accounting was more difficult than I had thought it was going to be. Further, the style of management control of the senior pastor was something completely foreign to me. It was a micro-management style that I was completely unaccustomed to after a decade of working on the east coast and my boss being on the west coast when I worked at my last corporate job. All of these factors played into a time of fear, loss of confidence, and anger/sadness of not being mentored toward being a true pastor. It was a time of hurt pride. It was time where I was angry with God for leading me to a place where I was not allowed to become what I thought I should be. It was a very difficult 1 ½ years in Illinois from a professional standpoint and certainly from a ministerial standpoint. I felt like Jacob must have felt when, after working 7 years for Laban in order to gain Rachel’s hand in marriage, he found out that he was being married off to Leah. He then had to work another 7 years to gain Rachel’s hand in marriage.

I felt I had paid my dues in working hard in ministry in volunteer capacities at my home church in Lyman, SC over the previous 8 years (to the point I was considered part of the leadership team of the church) and had become trusted enough to lead discipleship efforts in addition to my finance responsibilities at the church. During the 1 ½ years at Illinois, I would think to myself that I was able to do more actual ministry as part of the leadership team, on a volunteer basis, at my home church than I was being allowed on a compensated basis in Illinois. I questioned why I had even gone to Illinois at times and why I had even left the corporate world. It was a tough time spiritually for me. It was a tough time for my pride because of all the  hard work I had put in. Interning for 8 years at LifeSong (which at times was like having a second full-time job), going to seminary (which at times was like having a 3rd full time job). I thought I should win the professional spoils of that. Recognition of the hard work. Allowed to grow into pastoral ministry. It didn’t happen. It was the whole Leah and Rachel episode for Jacob for me.

However, what I did learn from that whole experience and what makes me appreciate having been there for that year and a half is several-fold. I am now thankful for having had the experience even though it was a tough time. I do not hold any ill will toward the senior staff leadership at the church in Illinois because it taught me something about ministry (and it was not that I believe that the senior leadership there was trying to teach me that, but rather God was). What God was teaching me there was that ministry is not always about the title that you hold. Ministry is about seeing what God wants you to see. That ministry is about relationships that you develop with the people that you serve. What Elena and I came to learn in Illinois was that God put us there to just love on the people at that church. We did much ministry there on a one-on-one relational level that we may have not learned otherwise. During our time there, we were able to develop some intense relationships with couples within that church that were profound not just for them but for us as well. We began to see that this simple fact was the reason that we were put there by God – to have relationships. To impact people’s lives not because what position I held, not because I was this or was that at the church, but because people learned that we genuinely loved and cared about them and for them. It was worth the trip. It was worth the coldest winters I had experienced. It was worth being something less than I had anticipated to have had all those relationships. To meet the people we met, to be impacted by them, and to impact them. That experience taught me so much.

So here I am now in Lamar, SC at small church in a small town and dealing with the challenges of a church that is a crossroads in its development. We were sent here by God to try to awaken this church to its potential for the kingdom. We may fail miserably in that effort. We many succeed wildly in that effort. We may be somewhere in between. But through it all, our Illinois experience gives me a sense that no matter how things turn out for me professionally as the pastor in the sense of my title and my job here but God’s definition of success may be some of the relationships we develop here. It may be a God-defined success here if we impact one couple to become passionate about the things of God, to be on-fire for their local church, to put God first in their lives rather than one of many options in their live, it will have been an successful appointment. Conversely, there may be people here, maybe an individual, maybe a couple that impacts Elena and me in a way that could have never happened if we were not here in Lamar, SC for this season. Then, it will have been a God-success of an appointment.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read the genealogy of the tribe of Ephraim and did research on what we can learn from that tribe. The thing that came up in the research is that pride was a particular problem for the warrior tribe of Ephraim. But when we shed our pride and learn what God wants us to learn, then, we have had success. Things don’t always go the way we want them to go, but God has lessons in any situation that He puts us in. Valuable lessons. Things that prepare us for the next thing. Things that mature us in our walk with Him. If we can just shed our pride at things not turning out like we want them to, then, we can learn those things, beautiful things, that God needs to teach us in that season of life. So, now, let’s read the genealogy in 1 Chronices 7:20-29 and then read about what I learned about what we can learn from the tribe of Ephraim after that:

20 The descendants of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered, Tahath, Eleadah, Tahath, 21 Zabad, Shuthelah, Ezer, and Elead. These two were killed trying to steal livestock from the local farmers near Gath. 22 Their father, Ephraim, mourned for them a long time, and his relatives came to comfort him. 23 Afterward Ephraim slept with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Ephraim named him Beriah[d] because of the tragedy his family had suffered. 24 He had a daughter named Sheerah. She built the towns of Lower and Upper Beth-horon and Uzzen-sheerah.

25 The descendants of Ephraim included Rephah, Resheph, Telah, Tahan, 26 Ladan, Ammihud, Elishama, 27 Nun, and Joshua.

28 The descendants of Ephraim lived in the territory that included Bethel and its surrounding towns to the south, Naaran to the east, Gezer and its villages to the west, and Shechem and its surrounding villages to the north as far as Ayyah and its towns. 29 Along the border of Manasseh were the towns of Beth-shan,[e] Taanach, Megiddo, Dor, and their surrounding villages. The descendants of Joseph son of Israel[f] lived in these towns.

In this genealogical passage about the tribe of Ephraim, we are reminded that Israel’s twelve tribes were named for Jacob’s children or, in the case of Ephraim (and Manasseh), his grandchildren. Ephraim was born in Egypt to Joseph’s wife, Asenath. Joseph named his second-born son “Ephraim” because “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52). When Jacob gave his blessing to his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, he chose to bless the younger Ephraim first, despite Joseph’s protests. In doing so, Jacob noted that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh (Genesis 48:5–21).

Throughout the Old Testament, the name Ephraim often refers to the ten tribes comprising Israel’s Northern Kingdom, not just the single tribe named after Joseph’s son (Ezekiel 37:16; Hosea 5:3). The Northern Kingdom, also referred to as “Israel,” was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC (Jeremiah 7). The Southern Kingdom, also known as Judah, was conquered by the Babylonians nearly 140 years later (586 BC). We learn from the tribe of Ephraim (and the other tribes) about our human essence, who we are as people. The history of the early Israelites reflects our universally flawed and sinful nature. As the book of Romans says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are several specific events regarding the tribe of Ephraim that we can learn from. While God gifted the tribe as warriors and valiant fighters (1 Chronicles 12:30), Ephraim failed to follow God’s order to remove the Canaanites from the Promised Land (Exodus 23:23–25; Judges 1:29; Joshua 16:10).

During the time of the judges, the Ephraimites became angry with Gideon because he had not initially called for their help in battling the Midianites (Judges 8:1). Gideon wisely displayed godly kindness and extolled the tribe’s commitment and willingness to serve the Lord, thus diffusing what could have become an ugly situation (Judges 8:2–3). However, ugliness did arise later, and again it can be linked to Ephraim’s pride, jealously, and self-centeredness. When Jephthah chose to fight (and defeat) the Ammonites without the aid of the proud Ephraim warriors, a civil war erupted, and 42,000 warriors from Ephraim were killed. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, we are to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Do not seek glory for yourself; all honor and glory always belong to God, not to man.

Often, God chooses to use us in a manner less glamorous or spectacular than we would like. Do we pout? Do we yearn for glory? Do we control our pride and jealousy and accept God’s will? Many of us, like the Ephraimites, have difficulty learning those lessons well. God says that we should accept what happens to us as His will, regardless of how good or bad those circumstances seem to us (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

Help me, oh Lord, to see in every situation even the ones that don’t turn out the way we want them to that you have something to teach us. Help me to be humble enough to see the beautiful things that you want to teach me. Help me to see that, Lord, even on days when I have suffered what I consider a defeat but really is you teaching me something new that is valuable to my later ministry down the road.

Amen and Amen.

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