God's love

God humbles us.

God humbles us.

2 Chronicles 33

It’s kind of hard to believe that—after seeing such a wonderful example of a king in his father, Hezekiah—Manasseh could be so wicked. He virtually reversed every good thing his father had done during his reign. However, maybe that’s what happens when a twelve-year-old becomes a king! Can you imagine putting a teenager in charge of a country? Mercy!

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'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 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 sees and hears us.

God sees and hears us.

2 Chronicles 7

God sees you. God hears you. Have you ever found those things hard to believe? Has it ever felt like you were alone and abandoned instead? Like no matter how much you were hurting or how hard you were crying out, there was just nobody "up there" to listen to you? 2 Chronicles 7 would like you to know that those feelings aren’t reality.

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 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 understands you.

1 Chronicles 28

If I had ever believed in the theory of evolution, I'm pretty sure my first pregnancy would have blown that belief out of the water. As I went through that experience, week by week, I marveled at the little life unfolding in my own body. From the heart that is fully functional and begins to beat by five weeks to the whole development process, it was very hard for me to understand how people (especially doctors who know the intricacies of pregnancy) could believe that there is no design involved in human development.

Beyond those considerations, one of the problems with believing in evolution is that it erases the idea of a personal God who knows you, who knew you even before you were born. Maybe some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of such a personal God; is it a more palatable idea to think that there is no purpose to our existence? That we’re just random accidents and that there’s no meaning behind where we came from or where we’re going?

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

Photo © Unsplash/Tai’s Captures

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that, and David certainly didn’t believe it either. In his final charge to Solomon, he challenged him to remember God: "And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought." (vs 9)

Is that a comforting thought to you? It certainly is to me. God knows you. And it’s more than just knowing who you are or knowing your name or recognizing your face. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He understands the inner workings of your mind. He understands where your every desire comes from and hears every thought you have.

In addition to that—and probably best of all—He is gracious and merciful and sympathetic. You know, we’re all messed up. And the fact that He understands the intricate workings of your heart only makes Him more compassionate toward you. He doesn’t use this intimate knowledge as ammunition against you. On the contrary, because He understands you so completely, He is the one who is in a position to help you. And He wants to help you.

The only thing that surpasses God’s knowledge of you is His love for you. He knows every hair on your head, He hears every cry of your heart, and He loves every bit of you!

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

Photo © Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

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.

God is not exclusive.

God is not exclusive.

1 Chronicles 19

When reading through the Old Testament, it’s very easy to jump to the conclusion that God is an elitist, exclusive kinda guy. After all, it seems He chose a nation (Israel) for Himself, called them out of slavery, and worked very hard to try to give them everything He could. On such a cursory reading, it could be easy to conclude that God loved and protected Israel to the exclusion of all other nations.

God wants us to be fearless.

God wants us to be fearless.

1 Chronicles 14

"Perfect love casts out fear." (1 Jn 4:18) This is so true. It was in distrusting God (who is perfect Love) in the Garden of Eden that led to the first human beings feeling fear. And the more we come to know God and trust in Him again, the further we will be separated from fear. We see a premium example of that in this chapter of 1 Chronicles:

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 is the one who remembers.

God is the one who remembers.

1 Chronicles 8

After eight chapters, we are nearly done with the genealogies. (At least the ones at the beginning of this book. I’m sure we will encounter more as we go along.) In today’s chapter—as I’m sure you noticed if you read it—there wasn’t particularly much to take hold of. Just another long list of names, following a previous seven chapters of long lists of names.

God freely associates with sinners.

God freely associates with sinners.

1 Chronicles 3

I am generally amused by one of the accusations leveled at Jesus: He is a friend of sinners. The Pharisees saw Jesus associating with people of "dubious" reputation (according to them), and they couldn’t stand it. They despised those people, so in their paradigm, their God should also despise those people.

Blood and Water {ex7:20}

exodus-struggle-blood-and-water-poem.png

I love this river
I have stood on its banks
frolicked in its swell
almost been swept away by its current

But
I won't soon forget
the moment I met You
and I realized
that the mouthful of
—what I thought was—
clear, cold, refreshing water
was nothing more than
coppery, hot, metallic blood

I'd like to say
that since that moment
I've never cupped my hands again
to draw this putrid liquid
up to my mouth
but You know
that personal Niles are hard to abandon

I've been kneeling
at this river
my whole life
and You know just how
deep a canyon
it has carved in my heart

Still You couldn't bear
to leave me here
fervid and thirsty
never having tasted
Water from the Fountain
that will never
run dry

 

God's ways are everlasting.

God's ways are everlasting.

1 Kings 12

What a beautiful little nugget there is tucked away in this chapter of 1 Kings. Solomon has died, and his son Rehoboam has taken over the throne in Israel. The people—who had endured hard labor under Solomon—came to Rehoboam and asked him to ease up on them a bit. After asking for some time to think it over, Rehoboam consulted his father’s advisers. This is the advice they gave him: "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." (vs 7)

God disciplines because He loves.

God disciplines because He loves.

1 Kings 9

This is, I’m sure, a recurring theme we will encounter as we continue our journey through the Old Testament: God disciplines the ones He loves. And His discipline always carries a redemptive component (otherwise there’s no point to it). But often, I find that it’s God’s discipline that garners Him the most criticism. People tend to look at His "threats" of discipline in the Old Testament as something punitive, harsh, and retributive. And that’s how God gets a bad rap.