salvation

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 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 a grandfather.

God is not a grandfather.

1 Chronicles 7

The more you read these genealogies, the closer you examine them, the more you will discover that there are certain, shall we say, discrepancies in them. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and neither is it necessarily surprising—considering that most all of these genealogies were passed down through oral tradition. Could you keep nearly four thousand years of genealogy straight without a computerized family tree?

God can be trusted.

God can be trusted.

2 SAMUEL 15

This has to be the most important lesson we could ever learn in life... and it certainly seems it was a lesson David had learned well. As he was fleeing Jerusalem—running for dear life from his own son—he realized that the Levites and the high priest had carried the ark of the covenant out of the temple. This wasn’t unusual. In the past, if you’ll remember, the Philistines had captured the ark and carried it away—sort of like a good luck charm. Well, that didn’t work out so well for them.

God looks at life and death differently than we do.

God looks at life and death differently than we do.

2 SAMUEL 14

I loved verse 14 in this chapter. Let me quote it here from the New Living Translation: "All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him."

God tames the wild heart.

God tames the wild heart.

1 SAMUEL 18

What a great contrast in this chapter—of what men are like with and without God. By this time, Saul was obviously aware that God was with David: "Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul." (vs 12) Furthermore, because God was with David, he had success in everything he did. The more Saul tried to derail his success (and even end his life), the more David flourished.

God dissolves sin.

God dissolves sin.

1 SAMUEL 12

Out of this whole chapter, there was one verse that jumped out at me. As Samuel was giving his farewell address to the Israelites, they began to lament over the new evil they had done—asking for a king. In response to their distress, "Samuel answered, 'Don’t be afraid. It’s true that you have sinned, but don’t turn away from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart.'" (vs 20)

God is not a legalist.

God is not a legalist.

1 SAMUEL 4

I found something in this chapter very interesting. It opens with the Israelites going to war against the Philistines. It didn’t go well. Thousands of Israelites were killed in the battle, and when they got back home, they wondered why they had met with such defeat. As a result, they decided that they would carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them the next time.

God saves individuals.

God saves individuals.

JUDGES 9

Have you ever heard of collective salvation? It is how some people believe the human race is saved—not individually, but collectively; not personally, but as a community. If one is lost, all are lost. If one is saved, all are saved. I suppose it’s a nice idea, but I think it would be hard to make the case that God looks at us as one, big communal organism and not as individuals. Certainly, He wants everyone to be saved, but He’s not the only one who gets a say.

God wants every part of us.

God wants every part of us.

JOSHUA 7

There is a term in this chapter of Joshua that keeps popping up in the Old Testament—something that I have a lot of questions about. It is the Hebrew word charam. In many Bible versions, when a text includes this word, there will be a footnote at the bottom to explain that "The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them." In the Hebrew lexicon, the word can mean to consecrate, to devote, to forfeit, to utterly destroy.

God is not arbitrary.

God is not arbitrary.

JOSHUA 2

So, once God saw that He had people who were bent on fighting, He issued orders that when they had conquered a heathen town, they were not supposed to leave anyone alive. If they were going to conquer it, they were going to conquer it all the way. We’ve examined some of those passages, and I must admit, they can seem a little perplexing.

God wants you strong.

God wants you strong.

JOSHUA 1

Here’s one of my favorite Bible passages (from The Message paraphrase): "God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels." (Eph 6:10-12)

God reveals the heart.

God reveals the heart.

DEUTERONOMY 8

I was intrigued by this verse today: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (vs 2)  As I read, I thought, didn’t God already know what was in the hearts of the Israelites? Of course He did. God knows us intimately and reads our hearts.

God is not nationalistic.

God is not nationalistic.

DEUTERONOMY 7

Wow, this is a pretty heavy chapter. God lays out for the Israelites the plan to take over Canaan. There is talk of both destruction and driving nations out ahead of the Israelites with "the hornet." (vs 20)  God does say that, when the Israelites have defeated a nation, they are to destroy everything associated with that nation's gods. "This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire." (vs 5)

God is the only Savior.

God is the only Savior.

NUMBERS 21

There’s no way to write a blog about Numbers 21 without talking about the poisonous snakes. Oh, the snakes. Here’s how the story reads: "Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.' So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, 'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.' So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived." (vs 6-9)

God requires only a little.

God requires only a little.

NUMBERS 10

And so, the Israelites left Mount Sinai: "On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the Lord’s command through Moses." (vs 11-13)

God is the light.

God is the light.

NUMBERS 8

At the beginning of Numbers 8, God instructed Aaron on how to set up the lampstand in the sanctuary: "The Lord said to Moses, 'Speak to Aaron and say to him, "When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand."' Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses." (vs 1-3)

God saves.

God saves.

EXODUS 31

God is the Savior. He is the only Savior. And one of the ways He helps us remember that is by giving us the Sabbath, a day when we stop working and rest in Him. I love how God says it in this chapter: "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.'" (vs 13)

God takes the blame.

God takes the blame.

GENESIS 42

Chapter 42 of Genesis is illuminating in what it tells us about how people in Joseph’s day perceived God. In verse 25, it says, "Joseph gave orders to fill [his brothers'] bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey." So, Joseph basically gave his brothers grain for free by putting their payments back in their sacks.