Saturday, March 24, 2018

Get It Together

Print Passage: 2 Chronicles 7:12-22
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 58:6-12

I recently attended Menopause the Musical which was playing at the Playhouse in Westport Plaza of St. Louis County, MO. It was a hilarious celebration of women and the change. What I did not realize was this musical was birthed out of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, just two years ago. So in the midst of women and their natural body change during menopause, their trying to maintain sanity and get along with themselves and others, there was an underlying theme that we must get along despite any circumstances that affect our lives.

I observed portions of the historical March For Our Lives Walk on March 24th organized by students from Parkland, FL. Our children are trying to teach us how to get it together regarding gun legislation. They are fighting against the lobbyists and some politicians. Approximately 800,000 people marched on Washington, D.C. and there were also marches across the world. Their themes were Enough is Enough and Never Again.

In order to get it together we must obey the rules given by Jesus in Matt 22:37-39, Jesus said …, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (NKJV)

This spring quarter focuses on ways God’s people acknowledge the greatness of God. We are in Unit I “Follow in My Ways” of the three units of the quarter. This is the last lesson of the four lesson study. The scene takes place at Mt. Moriah. It was here that Abraham offered up his son to God, and it was the site where King David bought the threshing floor from a Canaanite to build an altar to the LORD to stop a plague against the people (2 Samuel 24). Upon David’s death, his son King Solomon built a glorious Temple and prayed to dedicate it to the honor of God and request the LORD keep the promises made to his father, David. Our last lesson focused on God’s dramatic fiery acceptance of Solomon’s prayer and the result following God’s response.

Following the dedication of the Temple and the Feast of the Tabernacles, the people were sent home joyful and glad for the things the LORD had done for David, Solomon, and Israel. (2 Chron 7:9-10) And Solomon finished all he had in mind in completing the LORD’s Temple and his own palace. (vs. 11) However, as we discussed last week, God wanted more than a Temple for Himself. He can’t be contained in a structure made by man. God was most interested in the house he promised that would be fulfilled through the lineage of David and ultimately produced King Jesus, our LORD and Savior, and the Son of God. To address His requirements God came to Solomon at night and declared, beginning at 2 Chron 7:12-13, “Then the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,’ (NKJV)

This was the second time God appeared to Solomon at night. The first time was at 2 Chron 1:7-10 when God inquired of Solomon what he wanted as king and Solomon requested wisdom and knowledge to lead the people. The LORD was pleased and promised Solomon that and much more. Now God is letting Solomon know He heard his prayer and is affirming it. Although it was not Solomon’s request, the LORD is advising him He will choose this house, this place, as a house of sacrifice.

God will answer the prayers of the people. However, if the people turn from God due to their disobedience, they can expect outcomes of famine (due to no rain or locusts) and plague as mentioned within the curses by Moses when he warned the Israelites of how they would be disciplined by God. (See Deut 11:17; 28:21, 38). This sounds as if God is addressing a national judgment and advising they have to get their act together.

God continues to advise Solomon of His conditional blessing in a most quoted Scripture, 2 Chron 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV) Here we have national repentance, prayer, and reformation. The LORD will forgive the nation when they humbly return to Him. However, He expects them to pray sincerely for the removal of the judgment, seek His face sincerely, and sincerely turn completely from their wicked ways. This is the only way God will hear them and provide national mercy. Also, the LORD does expect His people to accept their just punishment even though they have received mercy.

Critics of 2 Chron 7:14 indicate it is only applicable to Israel. Although it was originally addressed to the chosen nation of Israel, it is rightly applied to any nation that is biblically based. It is the sure road to restoration and revival as long as the conditions are kept. God is the same today, yesterday, and forever more.

As we stated, God has accepted the Temple as a house of sacrifice. He further promised His omnipresence in the Temple in 2 Chron 7:15-16, “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (NKJV) As Solomon neared the end of his dedicatory prayer at 2 Chron 6:40, he implored the LORD to open his eyes and have attentive ears toward the prayers offered within the Temple. The LORD promised to do so.

He also promised to consecrate the Temple where He would put His Name, eyes, and heart forever and always. Naturally all of God can’t be contained in the Temple. Secondly, God will advise Solomon and the Israelites this promise is subject to their obedience for which they will be disciplined (vv 19-22). Verse 16 seems to imply that the Temple would endure for all time; yet we know that it was destroyed in 586 B.C. The explanation, of course, is that God’s promise was conditioned on Israel’s faithfulness and obedience.

God further promised Solomon personal prosperity in his house just as He had promised King David. The promise was based on Solomon remaining obedient to God. The promise is given at 2 Chron 7:17-18 and the passage reads, “As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep my statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.” (NKJV)

The LORD’s message now focuses on the other house that God had promised David, the one where there would always be a King from the seed of David which ultimately resulted in Jesus Christ. God promised to perpetuate Solomon’s kingdom, upon condition that he persevered in his duty. If he hoped for the benefit of God’s covenant with David, he must imitate the example of David. To walk as David does not mean that David was perfect. What it means is, David knew how to acknowledge his guilt and sincerely repent to the LORD. Therefore, God called him “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). With all the wisdom Solomon had, he needed to be able to follow in his father’s example.

We must know that God will not bless us for our disobedience. We must remain in His favor. So what are the consequences of disobedience? God knew the proneness of the Israelites to backslide into sin and issued conditions at 2 Chron 7:19-20 which declared intently, “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (NKJV)

As the leader Solomon must take this personally. This condition is directed to my people of 2 Chron 7:13-14. The primary warning is against idolatry. Do not serve other gods. This is a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments and it has never been repealed. Our God is a jealous God. The consequences of disloyalty caused the Israelites to lose the Promised Land and go into Babylonian captivity. God took His eyes off the Temple and rejected it. Therefore, the Temple experienced His judgment. This grand, beautiful Temple shall come down to the amazement and astonishment of their neighbors. Instead of being treated with reverence it will be treated with contempt.

The Temple as intended to be a place where God’s people could worship joyfully. Passers-by will be stunned to see the Temple lying in ruins. 2 Chron 7:21-22 outlines the conditional warning the LORD promises will occur should they disobey. The passage reads, “And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them.’” (NKJV)

Just as the exquisite Temple is a physical symbol of the harmonious, obedient relationship between God and Israel, so also is a burned heap of rubble would be a visual reminder if the people of God choose a disobedient relationship instead. The Israelites will not be able to say they did not know. God had not only warned them initially, but He had sent prophets to warn them of their disobedience. Yet they forgot the warnings until God’s patience finally wore thin centuries later when He implemented His promise to destroy the Temple because of the people’s idolatry. In the case of the Israelites the view of the Temple as a heap of rubble will not reflect poorly on God. It will reflect poorly on the people who went against Him. Everyone knew they were His chosen people who had a history like none other, but they chose to worship otherwise.

Deborah C. Davis

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Finding Inspiration

Print Passage: 2 Chronicles 7:1-9 Devotional Reading: Psalm 138
I needed to find some type of diversion from the negative news reports and decided to go on a History Tour. Our first stop was the Holy Family Catholic Church in Cahokia, Illinois. The church was founded in 1699 by Canadian missionaries. It actually consists of two church buildings. One they labeled “Ever Ancient”. It is the Log Church, built in 1799, and has been declared not only a National Historic Landmark but the oldest church west of the Allegheny Mountains. It was constructed of black walnut timbers in the traditional French Colonial style and is only one of five built of this style in North America that remains today. Our tour guide, Bill, stated it would cost upward $1 million to repair/replace certain beams.

Then I went to their second church building where they actually conduct their regular church worship service. It is a larger, more modern edifice they call “Ever New”. Here I picked up a newsletter and was inspired by a Biblical reflection as to why we celebrate Lent. In the early Church it was a time for prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving. Today Christians tend to maintain the practice of abstinence, resolving to give up certain behaviors and addictions. Whatever the sacrifice, it is a reflection of Jesus’ fast, and a participation in His struggles in the wilderness. I was inspired.

Our next stop was the Missouri History Museum. Our group visited #1 in Civil Rights – The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis. It is good to be aware of information. Hosea 4:6 states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”(NKJV)

In a 1964 editorial of the St. Louis American the co-founder, Judge Nathan Young, proclaimed “You could write the entire story of civil rights by going back to the history of St. Louis.” It stands out as a city that sent four (4) civil rights cases to the Supreme Court. The first case was the Dred Scott vs Sandford. In 1857 the Court ruled African Americans aren’t full citizens under the U.S. Constitution. By the way, the Supreme Court’s decision was disliked by Northerners who hated slavery to the point that the American Civil War broke out over the controversy four years later in 1861 and ended in 1866. Then Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1868 which gave African Americans full citizenship.

The second case occurred in 1938. In Gaines vs Canada the Court ruled State Universities must accept black students if the state doesn’t also have a black college for them to attend. In 1948 the Court ruled the third case, Shelly vs Kramer, stating the States can’t enforce restrictive deed covenants that prohibit the sale of a home or property to someone based on race. Fourth, in 1968 Jones vs. Alfred H. Mayer Co. the Court ruled sellers of property can’t discriminate based on race, and Congress can regulate the sale of private property to prevent racial discrimination. I wonder how many are thankful to God for these provision. A psalm of David, Psalm 136:1-3, states in exuberance, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the LORD of lords! For His mercy endures forever:” (NKJV) I found more inspiration in knowing from where God has brought us from. Thank you LORD for what you have done and thank you for such a beautiful day.

This spring quarter focuses on ways God’s people acknowledge the greatness of God. We are in Unit I “Follow in My Ways” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of the four lesson study. The scene takes place at Mt. Moriah. It was here that Abraham offered up his son to God, was the site where King David bought the threshing floor from a Canaanite to build an altar to the LORD to stop a plague against the people (2 Samuel 24), and upon David’s death, his son King Solomon built a glorious temple. Our last lesson focused on the prayer of Solomon dedicating the temple to the honor of God and requesting the LORD keep the promises made to his father, David. Today our lesson focuses on God’s response to Solomon’s prayer and the result following God’s response.

In our study last week we found that Solomon did not allow his position to come between him and God. He humbled himself before God and the people and knelt down at the bronze altar in prayer. This was the altar at which the daily sacrifices were made as it was situated in the outer court. This was where the blood was shed and the sinner pardoned. No matter how good a person was, without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness. Apart from the bronze altar, there was no approach to God. It was a blood covenant and therefore the innocent animal represented the sinner and took his place on the altar. It is in this setting that Solomon humbles himself and ascends this special platform and stands before the altar.

Solomon concluded this prayer of intercession by eloquently pleading to the LORD at 2 Chron 6:41-42, “Now therefore, Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of your strength. Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, And let Your saints rejoice in goodness. O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.” (NKJV) To seal the prayer we know there was sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered (2 Chron 5:6) that were at the holy feast after the holy vessels were taken into the Temple which were accepted by God’s gracious answer immediately after Solomon’s prayer as reflected in 2 Chron 7:1.

The passage reads, “When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.” (NKJV) The fire from heaven did not come for the reason of the killing of the sacrifices, but it came in acceptance of Solomon’s prayer. This was dramatic evidence God was pleased with Solomon’s sincerity. He already intended to keep His promises to David because He does not lie. What is consumed is apparently whatever remains on the altar at this point because so many sheep and oxen had been sacrificed earlier when the Ark of the Covenant had been placed into the Temple that it became impossible to keep track of their numbers. (2 Chron 5:5-6) Also, we must never forget that our God is an all-consuming fire. This must have been fearful to the people. Yet only the burnt offerings and the sacrifices were actually consumed by God in His acceptance. Similar demonstrations of heavenly fire accompanied the dedication of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron (Lev 9:22-24).

When the dramatic fire from heaven appeared from heaven the people also observed the glory of the LORD fill the Temple. This is the same thing that happened at 2 Chron 5:14 when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple. The priests were unable to enter the Temple to minister their duties due to the sacred presence of the LORD. The people were not afraid but were joyous and thankful in a manner that was fitting to such a magnificent, dramatic display of God’s power. The passage at 2 Chron 7:2-3 reads, “And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.’” (NKJV)

As I stated before, the people were in fear of God’s tremendous display of His fire power from heaven and their witness of His glorious presence enter the Temple. Yet they did not flee. Fear does not lead to worship. Holy humility results in worship. With thankfulness and adoration, they worshipped and praised God. 2 Chron 7:3 highlights their reverence. The courts of the Temple were crowded during the dedication of the Temple. Many Israelites were present who bowed their faces to the ground in humility to worship. The people submitted totally to God and His power. They had reason to say God was good. He had demonstrated His all-consuming fire, but they were not consumed. They had much to be thankful. So they sing the very popular refrain which is part of the Israelite worship in the Old Testament record. They worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: ‘For He is good, For His mercy endures forever. This refrain occurs about 40 times in the Old Testament.

Now comes the actions of worship of the people which follows their words of praise presented in the previous verse. Remember it is necessary to go to the altar and offer sacrifices in order to be able to approach God. So we see in 2 Chron 7:4-5, “Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.”(NKJV) It should be highlighted that once again Solomon did not allow his position to stand in the way of worshipping God along with all the people. He did not order servants to do anything, but he took part because he was just as much a worshipper as each member present. Solomon led by example and stirred up the hearts of the people. This extravagant display of sacrifice was unparalleled. Everything about the dedication of the Temple was exceptional and extraordinary because of the God we serve.

Music was an important part of the worship service at the Temple. Certain groups of the Levitical tribes were designated as temple musicians and singers, offering their praises to God. The passage of 2 Chron 7:6 shouts the beauty of worship through music. It reads, “And the priests attended to their services; the Levites also with instruments of the music of the LORD, which King David had made to praise the LORD, saying, ‘For His mercy endures forever,’ whenever David offered praise by their ministry. The priests sounded trumpets opposite them, while all Israel stood.” (NKJV) The mention of King David’s name is noteworthy. Although God did not allow him to build the Temple, David was allowed to make preparations. One of the preparations was organizing the ministry of worship. David had a real gift of music, providing soothing harp music to King Saul when the king was distraught. He also commissioned most of the instruments and songs for the Temple services as well as writing most of the songs in Psalms. So the fact that King David had made certain musical instruments to use in worship for praising the LORD fits well with his own status as a musician.

God consistently exceeds our expectations so much so there should be no limit as to how we sincerely define our praise and worship of Him. Such was the case with the Israelites. Theirs could be described as an extravagant worship for an extravagant God in 2 Chron 7:7 which reads, “Furthermore Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was in the front of the house of the LORD; for there he offered burnt offerings and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the fat.” (NKJV) With such a vast number of sacrifices, the bronze altar was too small to accommodate them. Rather than any of them be turned back, Solomon dedicated an area in front of the Temple for additional sacrifices to be made. It is possible the blood of them all were sprinkled upon the altar.

The burnt offerings address sin or dedication to the LORD. The grain offerings symbolized thanksgiving and the choice part of the grain was expected to be offered to the Almighty. The rules for both the burnt and grain offerings are found in Lev 2. Regarding the fat offering, there were certain restrictions imposed on the Israelite diet in eating fat. In animals pure fat grows in an excessive amount in some areas and produces large quantities of rich fat; i.e. pure fat near the stomach, the intestines, etc. The people were prohibited from eating the pure fat part of the animal because, in theory, the fat was the richest part of the animal and belonged to the LORD.

When Moses and Aaron celebrated the dedication of the Tabernacle it was a great occasion. But the Tabernacle was not a stationery, but continuously moved throughout the wilderness with God’s presence. The celebration of the dedication of the Temple, on the other hand, has excited the Israelites to come to Mt. Moriah from every tribe to take part in a dedication which symbolizes God’s presence in their midst and at rest. They were overjoyed in their celebration. 2 Chron 7:8-9 reads, “At that time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt. And on the eighth day they held a sacred assembly, for they observed the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days." (NKJV) It also includes a number of worshippers who have travelled from upper Syria all the way down to the Wadi of Egypt which is situated at the southwestern border of Palestine and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

The people begin their celebration dedicating the Temple for a period of seven (7) days and then worshipping the Festival of Tabernacles which is kept for another period of seven (7) days. The eighth day is a day where the entire assembly comes together in high praise to lift up the LORD and conclude both the dedication and the Festival of Tabernacles. We know from 2 Chron 7:10 on the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad joyful and glad of heart for the good that the LORD had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel. (NKJV) They were inspired.


Deborah C. Davis