God's character

God puts His heart into His work.

God puts His heart into His work.

2 Chronicles 31

Today’s blog will center around the last verse of this chapter: "In everything that [Hezekiah] undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered." (vs 21) This is the key to prosperity and success in God’s universe—working for God with your whole heart, no matter what you do. This is what God does.

God is a song.

God is a song.

2 Chronicles 29

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but notice the emphasis on music. Particularly this verse: "Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel." (vs 27)

God's love is not passive.

God's love is not passive.

2 Chronicles 28

In this chapter, there is a wonderful example of God’s principle of returning good for evil, inspired by leaders of Ephraim who urged the people of Israel to release the captives from Judah they had defeated in battle: "'You must not bring those prisoners here,' they said, 'or we will be guilty before the Lord. Do you intend to add to our sin and guilt? For our guilt is already great, and his fierce anger rests on Israel.' So the soldiers gave up the prisoners and plunder in the presence of the officials and all the assembly. The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow Israelites at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria." (vs 13-15)

God believes in the separation of powers.

God believes in the separation of powers.

2 Chronicles 26

If you were educated as a child in America, one of the first things you learned about our form of government is that it is based on a separation of powers. Divided into three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—each one has independent powers and areas of responsibility so that (in theory) no one branch has more power than the others. Although many have attempted throughout history to use one branch to usurp the authority of the others, the founders of our country envisioned a system where no person or group of people would hold absolute power.

God is truly just.

God is truly just.

2 Chronicles 19

I was recently having a conversation with friends about justice. Particularly about our "justice" system and whether it correlates to God’s definition of justice. I don’t believe so, and I’ll tell you why. In this world, we are typically limited to a style of "justice" that is more retributive than anything else. For instance, if one person murders another, the only option available to us is to inflict some sort of punishment on the perpetrator for their wrongdoing—whether that be prison time or even sentencing them to death.

God wants to be wanted.

God wants to be wanted.

2 Chronicles 15

In some ways, I wanted to title this blog God is not a stalker. But, I guess I do believe that God is a stalker—in the sense that He will pursue us, leaving no stone unturned in winning us back to Him. But, if we ultimately want to have nothing to do with Him, He will eventually leave us alone.I love it whenever I see plain talk in Scripture. And today, this is the message about God I found in 2 Chronicles 15: "The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, 'Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.'" (vs 1-2)

God's gifts can be squandered.

2 Chronicles 10

Today’s chapter reminded me somewhat of the story of the Prodigal Son—you know, the foolish boy who squandered the riches of his father’s estate. And since we looked yesterday at what an outrageous giver God is, I thought it might be prudent to add a P.S. today—that all of God’s gifts come with freedom. That means, if we are foolish enough, we can squander them all. What God gives, He doesn’t force us to keep or use wisely. We are free to do with His gifts what we want.

When Rehoboam succeeded his father as king, it didn’t take long to discover that he had inherited none of Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, one commentator (Dilday) observed that "with a dozen rash words, Rehoboam, the bungling dictator, opened the door for four hundred years of strife, weakness, and, eventually, the destruction of the entire nation." It didn’t take very much to totally destroy everything his father had built in Israel. His reign ushered in a phase of rebellion that split the nation, a rebellion from which it never recovered.

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

Photo © Unsplash/Paco S

With all his wisdom and insight, it seems that Solomon foresaw this possibility, although it’s unknown whether he had his own son in mind when he wrote these words: "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun." (Eccl 2:18-19) It seems Solomon accurately foretold the fate of Israel.

Rehoboam took everything his father had built and wasted it. He took all of the gifts God had blessed his family with and squandered them. And, although it may be hard for us to believe, God allowed him to do it, and He also allows us to do it. He does not cease to be generous, even if He knows we will squander what He has given us. He gives because He is a giver, not because He will force us to use those gifts in a way that is pleasing to Him. He doesn’t determine outcomes. He doesn’t dictate our behavior. He only determines His behavior.

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

Photo © Unsplash/freestocks.org

God gives us the freedom to take what He’s given us and abuse it, if we wish. We can destroy His gifts, if we wish. There’s part of me that still doesn’t understand that, just as I don’t understand why the father of the Prodigal Son would finance his journey into the far country. The only thing I can say is that God loves to give, and He loves to give with no strings attached. Accepting His gifts doesn’t turn us into puppets. We are free, as Rehoboam was, to squander it all... if we’re that foolish.

God is the God of everyone.

2 Chronicles 4

Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, today’s chapter was about Hiram (aka Huram), the man who handcrafted all the objects in the temple of the Lord. From the altar to the basins to the sculptures to the lampstands and tables, Hiram put his stamp of handiwork on everything. What an incredible honor—to be chosen out of everyone in Israel for such a task! Hiram must have been the most skilled craftsman around.

What I especially liked about this is that Hiram was half Jew and half Gentile. So that means that the man who handcrafted every object for use in the temple of the Lord was not someone who could claim to be one of God’s "elite" chosen—in the sense that the Israelites often thought of themselves. By the time Jesus was born, the religious leaders in Israel espoused the idea that they alone were God’s chosen people, worthy of salvation. Jesus had to remind them otherwise.

Photo © Unsplash/Katie Moum

Photo © Unsplash/Katie Moum

And, right from the beginning, God was including Gentiles in the work of salvation by using Hiram to craft the objects for the temple. This is a lesson we would do well to remember: No group of people—no nationality, no religion, no denomination—has a corner on God. He is the God of everyone. He doesn’t have exclusive clubs and elitist groups. His arms stretch far and wide enough to take in all who will come to Him—no matter where they have come from.

In John 10, Jesus said that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. He also said that not all of these sheep were in the same fold, but when the time is right, they will all be gathered together—one flock with one shepherd. So, it’s probably best to not get in the habit of looking down on any other sheep—especially those that you think are outside the walls of your particular fold. God is the God of everyone. The question is, do you know the voice of that particular Shepherd?

Photo © Unsplash/Peppe Ragusa

Photo © Unsplash/Peppe Ragusa

God is beautiful on the inside.

God is beautiful on the inside.

2 Chronicles 3

All I saw in this chapter was gold, gold, gold. Gold on the floors, gold on the ceilings, gold on the walls. Gold, gold everywhere. It must have been something to walk into that dazzling temple, with every surface sparkling and shining. It must have been incredible to walk into the Most Holy Place (if you were the high priest) and see the wings of the sculptured cherubim spanning the room from wall to wall.

God is the greatest.

God is the greatest.

2 Chronicles 2

After Solomon became king, the first thing he set out to do was build a temple for God. As you might remember from the story in 1 Kings, Solomon enlisted the help of Hiram king of Tyre for building materials and skilled craftsmen. He wanted the temple to be the most glorious, most elaborate sanctuary ever built for a god on the face of the Earth—and indeed it was.

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

God doesn't destroy His enemies.

2 Chronicles 1

I think this is one of the neatest stories in the Bible. Solomon asks for what is most important—and ends up receiving everything that is most important as well as all the "perks." It always reminds me of what Jesus told His disciples: "But seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt 6:33)

God exalts others.

God exalts others.

1 Chronicles 29

1 Chronicles 29 recounts the story of David’s "passing the baton" to his son Solomon. In his final speech, he challenged Solomon and the people to remain true to the Lord, and then there was a large celebration with music, feasting, and joy. But tucked away into the description of the festivities was, I thought, a very important lesson about God.

God is a treasure.

God is a treasure.

1 Chronicles 26

There are so many things in Scripture that I don’t believe are coincidences. So many things that have layers of meaning—literal to symbolic and everything in between. And I found one of these things in this chapter of Chronicles that further outlined which Levites were in charge: "Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David... Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the Lord. And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish... and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives." (vs 26-28)

God can be trusted with the details of our lives.

God can be trusted with the details of our lives.

1 Chronicles 24

In this chapter, we encounter once again the Hebrew practice of casting lots. This time, it was used to create the divisions of priests who would work in the temple: "A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar." (vs 4-5)

God is the best choice.

1 Chronicles 21

Even after David repented of his sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, he was still struggling with the issue of being in control as king. Thus, though he knew he shouldn’t do it, he asked Joab to take a census of the army. Joab was disgusted by the request, but did it anyway. For some reason, David apparently wasn’t ready to place his full trust back in the Lord, and he wanted to make sure he could "walk softly and carry a big army" ...just in case.

When it came time for God to discipline David for this error, He gave David some options: "Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel." (vs 11-12)

Photo © Unsplash/Robert Anasch

Photo © Unsplash/Robert Anasch

Which would you have chosen? It didn’t take very long for David to make up his mind: "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands." (vs 13)

You see, no matter what we’ve done, God is always the best choice. Being in His hands is the safest place in the universe to be—whether we are saved or lost. You will never find more mercy and compassion outside of God, and David knew that. He was well-versed in Israel’s history and Israel’s God, and he must have been very familiar with the famous self-description God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." (Ex 34:6-7)

There is no better place to be than in God’s hands—even when those hands contain discipline for our sinfulness. Nobody loves us more than God, and so nobody will ever treat us better than God. He is always the best choice!

Photo © Unsplash/Vladislav Babienko

Photo © Unsplash/Vladislav Babienko

God has three Rs of His own.

1 Chronicles 20

In English (especially colloquial English), we have two sets of famous Rs. More specifically, the three Rs. There is one set of Rs to describe the main subjects in school: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic (math). Of course, these three words don’t all begin with the letter r, but all of them begin with the sound of the letter r. More recently, a second pair of three Rs has been coined and made famous by the environmental movement, as a reminder for what we should do to protect the Earth: reduce, reuse, recycle.

But, did you know that God has His own set of three Rs? His list—when it comes to dealing with His sinful creatures—is reclaim, redeem, restore. 1 Chronicles 20 gives us a glimpse into the restoration part of a story that unfolded in 2 Samuel 12. You might not have realized it, but an awful lot transpired between two of the sentences in the first verse of this chapter. "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, Joab led out the armed forces. He laid waste the land of the Ammonites and went to Rabbah and besieged it, but David remained in Jerusalem. ** Joab attacked Rabbah and left it in ruins." (vs 1)

Where I marked the text with asterisks was that whole sordid affair with Bathsheba and Uriah that marred David’s career as king. Instead of being out on the battlefield with his army (as he should have been), David remained in Jerusalem... and got into a lot of trouble. It was only after the prophet Nathan confronted him and David repented that he returned to the battlefield as Joab attacked and defeated Rabbah.

Photo © Unsplash/Clark Young

Photo © Unsplash/Clark Young

David had made grievous errors in judgment as king. He had committed adultery and murder, totally straying from the mission God had laid out to him in his role as the shepherd of Israel. He had betrayed Israel’s trust and God’s trust. He had failed. Even after repenting and turning from his sin, should David still have been allowed to be king? Had his sins been too great for redemption?

Apparently not. In a beautiful twist, the very next verse says that the precious-stone-laden crown from the king of Rabbah was taken and put on David’s head. To me, it was as if God was once again anointing David as king. Even though you have screwed up, my child, I can use what was meant for evil and bring good from it. God wanted David to know that He hadn’t abandoned him as king.

When God encounters us in our sin, He reclaims us. He confronts us, relentlessly pursuing us, trying to persuade us to turn around and come back to Him. If we are willing to turn back to Him, He redeems us. No matter where we have been or what we have done, God is able to take all of our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful—even better than we can imagine.

Photo © Unsplash/Dietmar Becker

Photo © Unsplash/Dietmar Becker

And finally, He restores us. If you remember the story of the prodigal son, the father didn’t just accept his son back home. He immediately threw a robe around his shoulders and put the family ring on his hand (or, in other words, gave him the family checkbook). He restored him to his previous position. And that’s what God does with us. Though we have fallen so far, He doesn’t treat us like that. He makes it clear that He doesn’t even see us like that. Just as He wanted David to know that He still thought of him as king, He wants us to know that we are no less precious in His sight because of what we have done. He is just anxious to reclaim us, redeem us, and restore us.

One-Hit Wonder {ex17:1-6}

exodus-gods-graciousness-one-hit-wonder.png

"Israel drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them,
and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:4

God gives.
He doesn't know how to do anything else.
He gives rain to the righteous
        and rain to the wicked.
He gives water to the grateful
        and water to the complainers.

God is good.
He doesn't know how to be anything else.
If you are good to Him,
        He will be good to you.
If you are evil to Him,
        He will be good to you.

Moses struck the rock
with his rod at Meribah
and life-giving water flowed out.

We strike the Rock and
Life is still the thing
that gushes out after us,
a flood of grace
        to meet our anger,
a deluge of mercy
        to defy our shame,
a surge of good
        to repay our evil.

 

God's kingdom is made up of individuals.

God's kingdom is made up of individuals.

1 Chronicles 12

In this chapter, we are given more details about David’s ascent to the throne and his inaugural celebration. Verses 23-37 provide a list of all the warriors from the twelve tribes of Israel who made their way to Hebron to show their support for David’s anointing and recognize him as their new king.

God rules with service.

God rules with service.

1 Chronicles 11

What is, hires more. Have you ever heard that saying? Basically, it’s one way people comment on their bosses. Sometimes it’s a compliment. If you think you’re a brilliant person, you might say that your boss hired you because he is also brilliant. Or if you’re disappointed with the poor quality of your coworkers, you might say that only a lazy, stupid boss would hire lazy, stupid people. (Of course, you better be careful with that way of thinking if you work there, too.)