2 Chronicles 6:1-11 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

It was about January of 2017 after graduating from seminary 3 years earlier and being called by God to go into full time ministry 6 years before that, I came close to getting my first job in full-time ministry. It was a church in the north central Ohio town of Wooster. I came oh so close. I had two phone interviews. I had an onsite visit over a weekend. I think the job was mine to have all the way to the final interview. In the final interview, it included the founding pastor who was now the pastor emeritus of the church. There was one question he asked me about my desires for the future through this position that they had to offer. It was the question that changed the whole view of the interview council (which consisted of the pastor emeritus, the senior pastor, and the appointed elders of the church). Although I did not think much about it as the interview concluded that Sunday afternoon (after we had been there the whole weekend). We flew home to Greenville-Spartanburg thinking we had the job in the bag. However, days passed with no word. Finally, I was able to get the senior pastor on the phone and he said it was my answer to the final question that disqualified me from the final two candidates for the position. He said that after the answer that I gave that they did not think that this job would be what he called “a destination job” for me.

I was crushed. I had been preparing through leadership training at my home church, LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, to be a pastoral leader since 2011. I had been to seminary and graduated in 2014. Three years after that, I had been still preparing by working part-time off and on at LifeSong. But nothing was happening as to a permanent full-time ministry position. Three long years. Then, there was this job in Wooster, OH that had my hopes so high. Only then to have them crushed by one answer to one question. Why would a church not want a person that wanted to excel and advance? That just baffled me. It then would be another full year before I finally got my break into full-time ministry in the position offered me at Calvary Church in Moline, IL. Even that job turned out to be less than what I had felt God called me to be. Although I learned a lot there about working full-time on a church staff and learned about different styles of administration than what I had built at LifeSong and learned about styles of staff management that was totally different from what I was used to, it still was not what God had called me toward which was full time ministry. Finally, in June 2019, the long and winding road to being a preaching/teaching pastor on a full-time basis came to fruition. For the last 13 months, I have been the solo pastor of Lamar United Methodist Church. It was an eight year road from the call from God to ministry to where I arrived last summer. The road was about being faithful to the road that the Lord has you on right now and staying the course as God tests your commitment to the call.

It is that idea of staying the course to reach God’s promises that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:1-11. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 6

1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

3 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 4 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 5 ‘From the day I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. Nor have I chosen a king to lead my people Israel. 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place for my name to be honored, and I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

7 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 9 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

10 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 11 There I have placed the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with the people of Israel.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see the completion and dedication of the Temple. The construction of the Temple took many years to accumulate the materials necessary to build it and then it took 7 years to construct. Sometimes, the Lord’s promises take a while to come to fruition. However, that does not mean that He has forgotten the promise made. His promises made are always His promises kept. We often must be patient because He is working out a plan so that when the promise is fulfilled we are ready to walk in it with full understanding of what God has done to prepare us for it and for what the promise kept really means.

Life Application

The takeaway that I think we have for today is that we have to be faithful in the field that the Lord has you plowing right now. We have to trust Him with when you move onto the next field to plow. We have to remember that the road may be long by our own standards and desires. There may be days that you feel like questioning the call altogether. But that’s where the trust comes in. Even when times are hard if the call is real, the call will stay with you. Even when times are hard, you can have trust that God will lead you to where He wants you to go. Even when you feel like giving up and feel foolish for having followed the call, keep trusting and keep plowing. I am in my call now. However, even when come into your calling, it’s not going to all be wine and roses from that point. Even when you are operating in your calling, there will be challenges and times when you will question the call even when you are in the call.

The key is staying the course. If God has called you to ministry, stay the course. Endure the long and winding road. There is a purpose in the long and winding road. I would not be where I am at right now if it were not for the time of learning at LifeSong, if it were not for my time in seminary, if it were not for the additional waiting after graduation, if it were not for the near miss in Ohio, if it were not for the year and half in Illinois. Now, the training from the Lord continues. Whatever may come next, Lamar is part of the process. Trust in the Lord. Trust His process. The process may be a long one, but the journey is part of the process. Each step in the process has meaning. Each step in the process has purpose. Each step has a reason. Each step has its own accomplishments for you and for others with whom you come in contact that accomplish something for the kingdom. Everything has meaning. God makes promises and God keeps them. I promise!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 6:1-11 (Part 1 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

As many of you know, although I grew up in the United Methodist Church, I was out of the church for a long time but when I returned to church just before my salvation and for the following 18 years after that, I went to churches that featured informal, non-structured, modern worship services. I grew up with responsive readings and specific things like the Gloria Patri and the Doxology and the Lord’s Prayer are all done in every service. Even recurring, non-weekly worship activities such as communion have prescribed forms and readings associated with them. Often, we sing these things and do responsive readings in these settings without grasping the gravity of what is being said. We have been trained to do these things so often that often they have lost all meaning.

Modern worship forms were and are a reaction against the traditions of traditional church. There are no responsive readings. There are no church colors. There are no acolytes. There are no robes. No bulletins with the order of service (but the tech team and the worship team and the preaching pastor have a timed out worship order that no one sees so that it seems there is a free flow to the service).

Modern worship though does have its own patterns or traditions though. This pattern has become so predictable that it has been humorously parodied in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-egY6t9BMGI

However, in modern worship though there has been such a reaction against the traditions of traditional church that many of the things that were common knowledge about the Christian faith (that the traditions of the traditional church taught us) that no longer are known by several generations of churchgoers. So, that’s the thing that jumped out this morning about the passage this morning. Do we really understand what we are doing when we worship on Sunday mornings, whether it be in traditional or modern worship?

It is that idea of robotically going through worship that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 6:1-11. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 6

1 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

3 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 4 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 5 ‘From the day I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. Nor have I chosen a king to lead my people Israel. 6 But now I have chosen Jerusalem as the place for my name to be honored, and I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

7 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 9 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

10 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 11 There I have placed the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with the people of Israel.”.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that as the people received Solomon’s blessing, they stood, as Solomon prayed. Solomon knelt as he prayed. Both standing and kneeling are acts of reverence. Acts of reverence make us feel more worshipful and they are public displays that we are honoring God. When you stand or kneel in church or at prayer, we should make these actions more than just robotic, habitual responses that have been prescribed by tradition. Let them be self-aware indications of our love for God.

Life Application

The takeaway that I think we have for today is that, regardless of what style of worship service that we go to, help us to remember why we are there. In modern worship settings, we can get stuck in traditions too. We can sing songs that are hits on Christian radio so often that they themselves can become traditions and we get upset when the worship team tries to introduce a song we have never heard before. In traditional church, we can sing hymns that we have sung a hundred times and fail to grasp the meaning of the song. We can sing these hymns without even thinking about what is written in the lyrics. We can sing the Gloria Patri and the Doxology on cue from the pianist. We can recite the Apostle’s Creed and not thinking about the meanings of our beliefs. We can recite the Lord’s Prayers without thinking about what the Lord was teaching us about how to pray when we pray on our own. Either way, modern or traditional, help us, oh Lord, to grasp the gravity of worship. We are worshiping the Almighty God.

We are worshiping the maker of all things. We are worshiping the Creator of the Universe and everything in it. We are taking time to stop from the madness of daily life to worship Him. When we worship in centuries old traditions, let us understand the significance of each element of the worship service. These elements point us toward honoring God for the grace that He has shown us through Jesus Christ. These elements developed over centuries and have survived not out of rote repetition but out the symbolic significance that the element represents in keying us toward Jesus Christ. In modern worship settings, help us to see Christ in simplicity. Help us to see a return to first century worship where it was solely about praising God for what He has done through Jesus Christ through us.

Bottom line, regardless of our worship style, let’s not just go through the motions on Sunday morning. Let us pray up before we walk into the sanctuary or worship center. Let us take time to clear the clutter of our week out of our mind before we enter the place of worship. Let us remember our day of salvation before we enter the halls or worship. Let us remember what we have been saved from – the pits of hell that we deserve were it not for the grace of God expresses through Christ’s redeeming act on the cross and His resurrection. Let us remember that we need to put all that other stuff of life out of our minds when we walk into the place of worship. Let us do the things that we repeat each week in either style of worship by thinking of what these things mean and signify. Let us kneel and understand what that means. Let us stand and understand what that means. Let us bow our heads and understand what that means. Let us recite things that are recited and hear and understand the words we recite. Let us sing and think about the words we are singing. Let us read Scripture and think about what it will mean in the sermon that follows its reading. Let us focus on every movement of the sermon by the pastor and grasp the concepts of Christian faith that the pastor is trying to get us to see and understand. Let’s rededicate ourselves to NOT just being at church in body but not in spirit. Let’s be there to worship God. Let’s be there to do that and not because (1) its what we are supposed to do on Sunday as a tradition in our family for generations and generations, or (2) it’s the cool place to be at the new stylish church. Let us be there, either place, to worship the one and only true God with all the focus, all the mental acuity, all the heart felt emotion, and all the concentration that we have available to us. Let’s be all-in when we walk in.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 5:1-14 (Part 2 of 2)

Solomon Praises the Lord

Opening Illustration/Comments

One of my wife’s favorite things is HGTV. She loves that channel as much as I love ESPN on Saturdays in the fall. She especially loves those shows on there about remodeling old houses and making them more modern. Sometimes the shows take what was once a dilapidated old house about fall in on itself and turn it into a showplace home. I actually love the one of the shows that is set in Pearl, MS, called “Home Town” with Erin and Ben Napier. Erin is the classic Southern girl who loves frilly things and gets super excited about beautifying a home – classic Southern girl. I love how excited she gets as her husband, Ben, and his team transform the ugliness, by gutting the house and reconstructing it from the studs and making it into a modern home. Erin then beautifies the home when Ben is done. He is always impressed with her eye for things that just make the design work. Ben does the tough work of reclaiming the house with new walls, new counters, new cabinets, new bathroom fixtures, and all that. Then, Erin brings in the beautifying of the house to make it a home. The things that they do with abandoned homes is often quite amazing. Homes that are either abandoned or stuck in the 50’s when they get a hold of them and then turn them in 2020’s chic.

I sometimes wish that I could get Erin and Ben to come visit the Pee Dee region of South Carolina where I live. There are an inordinate amount of old abandoned homes on these family farms that dot the landscape of the region. These family farms dot and dominate and the landscape of our region of the state. This region is where the bulk of the state’s agricultural production is centered. Lots of small towns. Lots of family farms. Some big. Some small. But lots of family farms. On a lot of them, you will see old family homes that have been abandoned after great grandma and great grandpa have passed on because the succeeding generations have built there own homes on the family farm. These structures are dying and rotting before your very eyes, day by day. These structures were once vibrant family homes that bustled with activity, I bet. That’s why I wish I could get Erin and Ben to take up residence in our region and do the stuff they do in and around Pearl, MS in our region of South Carolina.

They turn something old and unused into something new and useful. They turn something that’s just a house into a home filled with new things and a place to live. They turned a house into a home. They turn a shell into something filled with life. It is the same with us when we accept Christ as our Savior, our soul is transformed from a dark, dilapidated structure into a fully alive structure. When we accept Christ as our Savior, he comes in an revitalize the soul and makes it holy. Then, the presence of God in our lives, the Holy Spirit can come in dwell. Christ redeems the house like Ben. The Holy Spirit fills the soul with beauty and life like Erin. Without the redeeming work of Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell there. It would be an impure soul without the redeeming work of Christ. Christ makes us holy and thus makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell us. Similarly, Erin could not do the work that she does within these reclaimed homes without the sanctifying work that Ben does to redeem the old home. Ben makes it possible for Erin to do her work just as Christ makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

It is that idea making things holy and alive is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 5

1 So Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.

The Ark Brought to the Temple

2 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 3 So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.[a]

4 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. 5 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 6 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

7 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 9 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place,[c] which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 10 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[d] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the Most Holy Place is just a room until God allows a physically visible manifestation of His presence to occupy the room. Did you notice that the priests were able to go into the Most Holy Place, the room designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant, that is within the Holy Place, the room in which the people of God could worship. The Most Holy Place after this date could be entered into only once a year by the High Priest, after an extensive cleansing ceremony, on the Day of Atonement. On this unique occasion, however, several priests had to enter the Most Holy Place to carry the Ark to its new resting place. Why the difference? The key to understanding this difference is the final verse of this passage. Prior to this moment, the presence of the Lord was not in the Most Holy Place. Prior to this moment, it was just a room. After this moment, it was an extension of God’s visible existence to His chosen people. The presence of the Lord in the room makes it holy ground. It is similar to what God does in our hearts. Our hearts are just a place, just an impure place, until Jesus comes in and reclaims it down to the studs and remakes its into a holy place where the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Now, our souls are a holy place where the Holy Spirit can live. His presence makes us holy.

Life Application

This passage has reminds us that without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our souls are old dilapidated houses that stand empty and without use and without purpose and without a future. It is through the redemptive work of accepting Christ as our Savior that our souls are reclaimed from darkness and uselessness. We are made new through Christ. We are then made holy through Christ’s redemption such that we can have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us for eternity. Without this redemptive and restructuring work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our house would eventually fall in upon itself because of the rotting of our souls. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes us alive and useful for the future. Otherwise we are just a house with no purpose and no use and no future other than destruction from decay.

The Most Holy Place in the Temple was just a room until the presence of the Lord came into it. Then it became the Most Holy Place. It is like what Ben and Erin do in their projects. A old, abandoned empty house becomes a home full of life. The Most Holy Place is just a room without the presence of the Lord. Our souls are like that. They are dead, dilapidated existence of being without the presence of the Lord. Our souls are made holy by the presence of the Lord. So, there’s the thing. Every soul can be made holy, made alive, made a place of lively life, made a place where the Holy Spirit dwells. No matter what you have done. No matter if your house is decayed right now, it can be reclaimed and made a holy place full of life and full of the presence of the Lord through accepting, truly accepting, Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then, the Holy Spirit can come dwell in you and make you holy.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 5:1-14

The Ark Brought to the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Have ever thought about how a church is just a building built by men? What makes a church holy ground? It is not the bricks chosen, or the metal framing, or the wood planks (depending on how your church was constructed). These bricks, the steel beams and metal framing, or these wood planks could have been used by someone else for some other purposes depending on when the orders were placed with the supplier who provided them. It is not the wiring that is holy for the same reason. If you church has pews or if your church has the more modern, more mobile and more easily configurable cushioned chairs, if your church is closed, these chairs don’t go to church equipment museums or retirement homes. Old pews are now often used by chic women to decorate their homes. They distress them and make them look old and they help give that farmhouse feel that’s all the rage these days. The chairs in the educational building’s classrooms are not in and of themselves holy and anything, any piece of personal or real property associated with our churches is not in and of itself holy. What makes these ordinary objects, then, any different from the very same things being used in non-church, secular settings?

The easiest, and most direct answer is absolutely nothing. There is nothing special about any of these things that they cannot be repurposed for some other use if a church dies and its property is sold, or a church remodels and replaces the older stuff. Even a pulpit, a baptismal font or pool (depending on your denominational leanings), all of these things in and of themselves can be repurposed and reused after their usefulness within a church is complete. Thus, then, what makes these things special when they are collected together in a church. The only thing that will make them special is the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit in this place. When these things are brought together and the church is filled with people that are passionate, truly passionate, about two things – (1) deepening the relationship of God among the faithful members of that local fellowship of believers and (2) interacting with the world around the local fellowship such that new believers are constantly being drawn into the midst of the fellowship. And these two primary objectives of the church are not contradictory but rather complementary. In other words, the church exists to reach people for Christ and to disciple them to maturity in Christ. Both evangelism and discipleship are crucial, and they must be practiced in unison with each other. It is the “wash-rinse-repeat” cycle of shampoos. We draw people unto our midst so that they will hear and be saved and then we mature them in Christ daily, weekly, annually so that they will be sent back out into the streets to spread the gospel with ever increasing effectiveness and then the cycle is repeated, over and over. That brings the presence of God. That brings the favor of God upon the artifacts that make up the personal and real property of the church. When the things are being used by spirit-filled believers, they are blessed and sacred as a result of the favor of God being upon His passionate people.

These things, these articles, can become just things when God withdraws his blessing and favor from a church. Before we get all confused and divert off into a losing our salvation conversation, let us remember that we are taking favor and blessing here not about God omnipotence and ever-presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in a saved soul. I am talking about His blessing upon his people. Blessing and favor of God can come and go based on whether we are doing His will or not. If we are not about His business in this world then our church, and all the things in it are no longer blessed. That’s when churches begin to die – when they are no longer doing God’s will in this place that God allowed your church to exist. When we are not about His purposes that’s when His favor wanes. When we are not about seeing discipleship happen, His favor wanes. When we are not about serving the world around our church in real, meaningful, and self-sustaining ways, His favor wanes. When we are not about using these service opportunities to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, then, His favor wanes. When we are not about corporate ways of doing these things together as believers to set examples for each us individually, His favor wanes. When we are not individually as representatives as saved souls and as representatives of our local collection of believers sharing the gospel with those we encounter through discourse or through individual acts of love and kindness and justice, His favor wanes. When His favor wanes because of our unwillingness to give Him glory through doing these things, churches begin to die and our things become just things.

When our churches become about what’s comfortable to us, about what’s easy for us, and what entertains us, about us in here and not them out there, God will withdraw His favor from our churches. He will withdraw His favor and the church will die. God has withdrawn his favor before. God has withdrawn his viewable manifestation of His presence before. The slightest sliver of manifestation of His presence was withdrawn from the Temple when the people of Israel were no longer obedient and no longer faithful to God in carrying out His purposes for them in this world. He withdrew His presence. The Temple then became just a building. The Temple then became something that could be destroyed because nothing in it was no longer covered by the presence of and the blessings of God.

It is that idea of the presence of God making things holy is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 5:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 5

1 So Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Temple of God.

The Ark Brought to the Temple

2 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of Israel. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 3 So all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn.[a]

4 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the Levites picked up the Ark. 5 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 6 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

7 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 9 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place,[c] which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 10 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[d] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left Egypt.

11 Then the priests left the Holy Place. All the priests who were present had purified themselves, whether or not they were on duty that day. 12 And the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and all their sons and brothers—were dressed in fine linen robes and stood at the east side of the altar playing cymbals, lyres, and harps. They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. 13 The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, they raised their voices and praised the Lord with these words:

“He is good!

    His faithful love endures forever!”

At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 14 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that we have visited this scene before in 1 Kings so, then, we want rehash the symbolic importance of the Temple to the people of Israel. However, we will think about one unique feature of this passage that is symbolic as well that we might otherwise gloss over. Did you notice that the priests were able to go into the Most Holy Place, the room designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant, that is within the Holy Place, the room in which the people of God could worship. The Most Holy Place after this date could be entered into only once a year by the High Priest, after an extensive cleansing ceremony, on the Day of Atonement. On this unique occasion, however, several priests had to enter the Most Holy Place to carry the Ark to its new resting place. Why the difference? The key to understanding this difference is the final verse of this passage. Prior to this moment, the presence of the Lord was not in the Most Holy Place. Prior to this moment, it was just a room. After this moment, it was an extension of God’s visible existence to His chosen people.

Life Application

This passage has two obvious implications for us as believers. First, we as churches must be about God’s business. We must not be about serving ourselves, entertaining ourselves, or doing just enough to satisfy ourselves that we are doing God’s work. We must not be about giving God our leftovers of our time, talents, and resources. We must not be about traditions becoming more sacred than God. We must not be about objects within our churches becoming more sacred than God. What we need to be about is doing God’s will in the place that God has planted our church. What we need to be about is the unending cycle of evangelism-discipleship-more evangelism-more discipleship. Our purpose is to glorify God by drawing people unto a soul-saving relationship with Jesus Christ and to disciple each one into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are not about those two things, then favor is withdrawn. The church then just becomes a building. God has withdrawn His presence from it. God has withdrawn His favor over it. It’s just a building and the things within in it, just things. What makes it holy and sacred is God’s favor over the people gathered together within it that are doing God’s will. That’s what makes a church a holy place. That’s what makes a collection of believers blessed with passion, fire, and growth, both spiritually and numerically. It is the favor of God that brings these things. If we are not growing, we must examine seriously as to whether God has withdrawn His favor from our churches. Are we doing God’s will? Or are we playing church? Or are we entertaining ourselves? Or are we a country club where only we can be here? Let us examine ourselves as to why our church now talks more about whether we are going to survive rather than where we are going to put everyone on Sunday morning?

This is God’s wake-up call. Are we living out God’s intended purpose for the church in the world? His presence will be in that church. He will bless that. There’s an old saying from a movie I saw years ago, “You better get busy living or you need to get busy dying!” Let us get busy living by doing God’s will and living out His purpose for our church and so have His favor and His presence upon and in our church. Otherwise, we need to get busy dying.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 3:15-4:22

The Furnishing for the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

Do you remember those days when you were a little kid, when you had done something or wanted to do something that was against the specific instructions of your parents? They had their “all the time rules”- the ones that were standing commandments within the family that were drilled into you from birth almost. They also had those specific “in the moment” rules that covered a specific situation. Examples of the former are “always stand up for your brother or sister no matter what, they are family!” That’s usually a standing commandment within most families. Then, examples of the latter are “you are not to go that party at Johnny’s house tonight!” or for younger kids, “you can’t spend the night with Johnny or Suzy because I said so.”

In these cases, we either comply or we rebel. It is in the rebellion against our parent’s wishes that kids and teenagers can come up with some elaborate stories. Teenagers are better at than little kids but nonetheless, all children create their stories of justification of why it is OK or why it was OK for them to have broken specific rules laid down by their parents. I did it. You did it. We all did it. That’s the thing that you learned from it was that a lie or breaking the rules required so much more mental acuity than did simply complying with our parents wishes. We didn’t have to lie. And the truth so is easier to defend than a life. I remember as a teenager sitting around with my buddies trying to figure out all the angles that could produce holes in our story to one or more of our sets of parents. We had to think hard about how to construct the lie so it seemed plausible. Man, it took way more time to do that than it did to simply tell the truth.

It is that way with God’s Word. It seems that in this day and age where we have drifted from God’s Word that we have elaborate stories too. It is in the areas of life where we are trying to justify that interpretations of the Bible that have stood the test of time for thousands of years that we must create the elaborate stories. Don’t you find it strange that certain behaviors that are condoned by God’s Word and thousands of years of consistent interpretation do not require any justification at all. On the other hand, behaviors that are against God’s Word (where we are trying to justify them as OK) requires lots of justification such as legal briefs, court cases, and public campaigns through the liberal media where such behaviors are depicted as normal and right. We get pounded by the rightness of what is wrong in televised, print and social media. Whereas, on the other hand, that which is condoned by God or not prohibited by God requires no onslaught of trying to change the cultural mindset. It simply is accepted as OK. No media campaigns need. No elaborate rationalizations. No theological gymnastics. It just IS right.

It is that idea of following God’s commands requires no elaborate justifications is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 3:15-4:22, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

15 For the front of the Temple, he made two pillars that were 27 feet[a] tall, each topped by a capital extending upward another 7 1⁄2 feet. 16 He made a network of interwoven chains[b] and used them to decorate the tops of the pillars. He also made 100 decorative pomegranates and attached them to the chains. 17 Then he set up the two pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one to the south of the entrance and the other to the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[c]

Furnishings for the Temple

Chapter 4

1 Solomon[d] also made a bronze altar 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 15 feet high.[e] 2 Then he cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 3 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of figures that resembled oxen. There were about six oxen per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

4 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen, all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 5 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[h] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 16,500 gallons[i] of water.

6 He also made ten smaller basins for washing the utensils for the burnt offerings. He set five on the south side and five on the north. But the priests washed themselves in the Sea.

7 He then cast ten gold lampstands according to the specifications that had been given, and he put them in the Temple. Five were placed against the south wall, and five were placed against the north wall.

8 He also built ten tables and placed them in the Temple, five along the south wall and five along the north wall. Then he molded 100 gold basins.

9 He then built a courtyard for the priests, and also the large outer courtyard. He made doors for the courtyard entrances and overlaid them with bronze. 10 The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple.

11 Huram-abi also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram-abi completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of God:

12

the two pillars;

the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;

13

the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);

14

the water carts holding the basins;

15

the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;

16

the ash buckets, the shovels, the meat hooks, and all the related articles.

Huram-abi made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 17 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan.[j] 18 Solomon used such great quantities of bronze that its weight could not be determined.

19 Solomon also made all the furnishings for the Temple of God:

the gold altar;

the tables for the Bread of the Presence;

20

the lampstands and their lamps of solid gold, to burn in front of the Most Holy Place as prescribed;

21

the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of the purest gold;

22

the lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;

the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, overlaid with gold.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the craftsmen followed God’s specifications carefully and without exception or leeway for personal expression. When God gives us specific instructions, they must be followed to the letter. There is a time to be creative and put forth our own ideas, but when our own ideas add to, alter, or contradict specific instructions that God has already given us in the Bible. For best results in your spiritual life, carefully seek and follow God’s instructions.

Life Application

I know this passage seems kind of mundane, but to us in the 21st century, we look at this passage for the idea that it represents rather than the specifics. Here, the idea is that the craftsmen followed God’s instructions to the letter. The result was an awesome building built to glorify God. The idea for us then in the 21st century is that God’s Word is His specific instructions for us. If we follow God’s Word, the results for our lives will produce blessing for us and glory to God.

But what about free will and personal expression? God made us with free will. God made us with intellectual and artistic capabilities. We are not robots. I know that it sounds weird then to say that we should follow God’s instructions without question and to the best of our ability. How do you reconcile free will with compliance? I think that we have to drift back to our childhood in our parents’ homes to get this idea where we can understand it. Parents gave us boundaries for our behavior and if we crossed them, if they were good parents, there would be consequences. They did not stop us from being creative and expressive. The boundaries were there because they knew that bad things would happen to us if we cross the boundaries they established for our behaviors. It was because they loved us that they gave us boundaries. The boundaries did not stop us from being ourselves and being personally expressive and pursuing the dreams that God has given us the talents to achieve.

It is the same with God and us. He provides us with His Word and we are to follow its instructions so that we will have a beneficial live that brings peace and blessing to us and honor and glory to Him. He does not provide boundaries to us to control us but rather to prevent us from falling into those things that will destroy us. Satan convinces us that God is holding us back from those things that we want. We then begin the justification process and create reams of paper and lots of words to justify why that which God prohibits is OK. Whereas, simply accepting that God has our best interest at heart and complying with His Word requires no justification. It simply IS right. It will produce that which is best for us, good for us, and keeps us from short-term and/or long-term harm. Following God’s Word is right because it is truth. And the truth simply IS right.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 3:1-14

Solomon Builds the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

In reading this passage, I thought about how Solomon and those guys gave God the best of everything from their labor to their materials and so on in the building of the Temple. As we progress through the rest of the Bible, we see that by the time of the end of the Old Testament, the people of God had become so apathetic about worship that they gave God their leftovers for the required sacrifices. Later, in New Testament times, Jesus railed against the religious elite for having gotten so obsessed with appearances that they worshiped the rituals themselves and they seemed to worship the Temple more than they worshiped God. It is the age-old battle that we as the people of God have fought concerning the ditch on one side called apathy and the ditch on the other side called idolatry.  

Drifting Toward Idolatry

First, there is the possibility that we can worship what we have been able to accumulate and our build at our local expression of God’s people, known as the local church. You know these kinds of people and these kinds of churches. It is the people/church that believe that the buildings we or our predecessors have built are in and of themselves a thing that gets worshipped. When we get nervous when our kids get near certain things, when we won’t allow the community to use our facilities, because we are nervous about what MIGHT happen to our STUFF, then it might be that the church itself has become what is worshipped. You know those churches where you feel like you are in a museum rather than an active ongoing ministry facility. There can be that kind of culture in some churches. The question that we must ask ourselves to check to see if we are this kind of church is this? Would you be willing to have your facilities used in providing day care services to families in the community? Would you be willing to have your facilities used as a periodic or an ongoing homeless shelter ministry? The answers to those questions may reveal whether the facilities of the church have become museums or whether they are there to create a space for ministry to operate from. God intended our churches to be centers from which we reach out to the world around it and draw people into conversations about Jesus Christ. God intended our churches to be centers from which we gather together to worship and to learn and to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. God intended that our buildings to be used for ministry internally for our people and externally for the world around us.  

Drifting Toward Apathy

Second, there is the possibility that we can do the opposite thing where we don’t care enough about the place and the activities of the church. From a ministry perspective, I have written about this before as to how we often give the church our least and our last. In Malachi 1 we read as follows:

8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

We read the Bible and condemn the Israelites of Malachi’s time for bringing God their least and their last to the Temple. It cost them nothing to give the leftover and lame animals instead of their first and their best ones. However, we can fall into that trap in today’s church as well. In our jobs, we give it our best. We sacrifice. We work hard and expect our families to understand that this is our career we are talking about. I must go in when they call me in. I must work on the weekend to meet that deadline. I must travel and work like a dog while I am out of town to accomplish a project. Virtually all of us are that way. We give our jobs our best and do all the things we have to do to advance within our companies. Sometimes, we lose our spouses and our families over our jobs and we are willing to make that sacrifice “because they just don’t understand how important this is.” We are willing to make great and grand sacrifices for our jobs.

However, when it comes to the church, we, as the Israelites did in Malachi’s day, give God our leftovers. We donate what we have left over and not the first of our paycheck. We volunteer, if we volunteer at all, when we can fit it into our schedule. We only participate in ministries when we have left over time for it. Further, we often will forgo volunteering opportunities without even calling our ministry leader to tell them that we are not going to be there. And, when we are there, we often do not give our best efforts because, well, it’s only church. There can become a culture in churches where you accept less than the best from people. There becomes an allowance for less than our best when it comes to our efforts for church. The, often, when it comes to our church facilities, we try to take the quick fix and the least expensive route, the “held together with bubble gum and scotch tape” approach. You’ve seen these churches too where it appears that shortcuts have been taken in construction, maintenance, and so on.

It is that idea of the extremes of idolatry and apathy that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 3:1-14, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 3

1 So Solomon began to build the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David, his father. The Temple was built on the threshing floor of Araunah[a] the Jebusite, the site that David had selected. 2 The construction began in midspring,[b] during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign.

3 These are the dimensions Solomon used for the foundation of the Temple of God (using the old standard of measurement).[c] It was 90 feet long and 30 feet wide.[d] 4 The entry room at the front of the Temple was 30 feet[e] wide, running across the entire width of the Temple, and 30 feet[f] high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold.

5 He paneled the main room of the Temple with cypress wood, overlaid it with fine gold, and decorated it with carvings of palm trees and chains. 6 He decorated the walls of the Temple with beautiful jewels and with gold from the land of Parvaim. 7 He overlaid the beams, thresholds, walls, and doors throughout the Temple with gold, and he carved figures of cherubim on the walls.

8 He made the Most Holy Place 30 feet wide, corresponding to the width of the Temple, and 30 feet deep. He overlaid its interior with 23 tons[g] of fine gold. 9 The gold nails that were used weighed 20 ounces[h] each. He also overlaid the walls of the upper rooms with gold.

10 He made two figures shaped like cherubim, overlaid them with gold, and placed them in the Most Holy Place. 11 The total wingspan of the two cherubim standing side by side was 30 feet. One wing of the first figure was 7 1⁄2 feet[i] long, and it touched the Temple wall. The other wing, also 7 1⁄2 feet long, touched one of the wings of the second figure. 12 In the same way, the second figure had one wing 7 1⁄2 feet long that touched the opposite wall. The other wing, also 7 1⁄2 feet long, touched the wing of the first figure. 13 So the wingspan of the two cherubim side by side was 30 feet. They stood on their feet and faced out toward the main room of the Temple.

14 Across the entrance of the Most Holy Place he hung a curtain made of fine linen, decorated with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and embroidered with figures of cherubim.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we may ponder, “why was the temple decorated so ornately?” Although it is true that the magnificence of God cannot be adequately captured by the best of human engineering and craftmanship in anything that we attempt to build, this Temple was going to be our very best attempt at doing so. The care and craftmanship were acts of worship by those who performed these functions and those who designed the things being built or made for the Temple. However, let us remember that a simple chapel or even just a quiet place where you can commune with the Lord is a sufficient and appropriate place to pray and to meet God. As well, let us remember that it is not wrong to want to make a place of worship a beautiful place. Problems arise only when we make the house of worship, whatever that may look like, more important than who it is that we worship – God. In the opposite direction, problems arise when we give the house of worship our leftovers, the dregs, the bottom of the barrel. As you can see, there is a tension between paying too much attention to everything in the house of the Lord being excellent and fine and giving the Lord our best as an act of worship.

Life Application

I think that what we have discussed today reminds us is that there needs to be a balance between getting too wrapped up in the trappings of our churches, the buildings, the artifacts within them, and any traditions associated them and the other extreme of being “blah” when it comes to church – giving church my leftovers not by best and finest. Should we not give our church our first and our best and not what’s leftover of our time, talents and resources? Should we not set a standard that we will be excellent in everything we do in our volunteer work for our churches, in our ministries to our people and to the world around us, and in how we build, keep, and maintain our facilities.

We should have a culture in our churches of giving God the best of everything that we do. It is God that we are worshiping and representing to the world. Therefore, we should have excellence in worship services, excellence in providing services to the outside world, excellence in how we lead our ministries, excellence in participating in our ministries. God should get the same level of excellence that we expect in every other area of life, certainly as much or more excellence than we give to our jobs. We should expect that our facilities are kept and maintained in the most excellent of ways. That does not mean that we are extravagant or wasteful in our spending but not wasteful in the sense of waiting til things break to spend money either.

We are to give God excellence in everything as an act of worship. If we do these things as from a sense of we are doing it to worship the Lord, then God’s heart is warmed. If we do these things from a sense that we love God so much that we want to give Him the first and the best of everything regardless of what it is, that’s what He wants. He loves it when we love Him so much that we honor Him with the best of what we have to give in time, talents, and resources. We do these things to honor God not out of human vanity – where we want the finest and best so others can see it. We give our local church our most excellent and our best because we love God and He is the highest priority in our lives. We must approach our worship of God in this way – doing everything for Him with a spirit of excellence because we are so doggone thankful to Him for offering us salvation through Jesus Christ. We give Him excellence because we know it’s the least we can do because of our eternal security in heaven that we did not deserve but have been given as a gift through Jesus. We can never repay that but we try by giving the Lord the best we got always!

Amen and Amen.

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.