Day 215: Forcing our eyes forward

2 Chronicles 8-9; Acts 27

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 9:3-4
And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, his cupbearers, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.

As we read the final chapters in the Chronicler’s description of Solomon, I am struck by all that was omitted from Solomon’s life…

There is only a brief mention of Solomon’s many wives, and nothing is mentioned of how his great wealth turned his heart from the Lord. All of his possessions and prosperity are presented in the most positive way.

I have to remember the Chronicler’s purpose in writing. He focused on all the goodness of David and Solomon’s reign in order to encourage the post-exilic community – who were living in a Jerusalem far removed from the wealth and glory of Solomon’s days.

The Chronicler wanted to force the people’s eyes forward. By reminding them of the promises of the Davidic covenant, he gave his readers hope in the sure promises of God – that God would send a Righteous Branch from the seed of David, and that He would restore His Kingdom on earth.

This is our hope as well. But because we live in a later time in history, we understand more of how God has initially fulfilled his promises. He has sent the Righteous Branch and He has restored His Kingdom on earth – but only partially. The work will not be completed until Christ comes again and we live together with him in the new heaven and the new earth. Then, Christ’s reign will surpass the prosperity of Solomon!

But just like the exiles, these truths must be our comfort – a hope to force our eyes off of our tragic circumstances in this world tainted by sin. Consider Paul in today’s reading from Acts… he literally had lost every physical possession. He was a prisoner sailing to Rome, and at the end of Acts 27, even the ship was destroyed. The only thing Paul had to claim as his own on this earth was his life. And even his life, he had given to Christ.

Where was Paul’s comfort? Where was his hope? His hope was in the resurrected Jesus. His eyes were focused on the future promises that Christ would come again.

As we read of Solomon’s glorious reign over Israel, we are encouraged to fix our eyes on Jesus. We must force our eyes off of our longings, anxieties and difficult circumstances – and let the promise of peace and prosperity under the rule of Christ encourage us to march forward in faith.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!

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Day 214: God Dwells Among Praise

2 Chronicles 4-7

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 5:13b-14
…the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

2 Chronicles 7:14
…if my people who are called by my name 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.

The theme of God’s glory dwelling in God’s temple is prevalent throughout Scripture.

This theme was especially meaningful to the original readers of 2 Chronicles, the post-exilic community. They had sacrificed so much to rebuild the temple – and still, it paled in comparison to Solomon’s temple. The Chronicler recounts how the Shekinah glory descended on the Holy of Holies “when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 5:13).

The external grandeur of Solomon’s temple didn’t cause God to descend; rather, it was the praise of His people that drew God’s glory down.

Later, after Solomon’s heartfelt prayer of dedication (6:12-42) and God showing his approval of Solomon’s prayer by consuming the offerings with fire and filling the temple with His glory (7:1-3), God appeared to Solomon and made this well-known promise.

…if my people who are called by my name 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 (2 Chronicles 7:14).

This is one of the clearest descriptions of repentance and the blessings it brings. Repentance results in forgiveness for the individual and healing for the community. God’s loving-kindness is revealed in the face of true repentance. He loves the penitent heart!

Think of the impact these truths would have had on the post-exilic community!!!

We serve a God who not only forgives, restores and heals – but who also dwells among the praise of His people! What sort of Sovereign and All-Powerful being chooses to live among the lowly and sinful? Only One who is good and filled with loving-kindness. 

These chapters helped to restore hope and faith in God among the post-exilic community. And they do the same for us – living in the church age – as we wait for the return of our Forever King!

Day 213: A Great Purpose & Work

2 Chronicles 1-3; Acts 26

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 2:12
Hiram also said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.”

Acts 26:22-23
To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

A Great Work typically flows from a Great Purpose…

Consider Solomon, ruler of Israel in its most prosperous time. He describes the people of Israel as “numerous as the dust of the earth.” Solomon prays for wisdom to rule such a large people. And then he gets to work building the temple. This is his great purpose – to build a house for God. Solomon understands the weight of the work when he says,

But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? (2 Chronicles 2:6).

Solomon was given a Great Purpose and the privilege of a Great Work.

In Acts 26, we read of Paul’s testimony to the Palestinian king, Agrippa. How is it that Paul is standing before the king of Palestine?? Two years ago, the Jews created such a riot in the temple that the Roman tribune had to arrest Paul. And to save Paul from their conspiracy to kill him, Paul was sent to the Roman governor (first Felix, and now Festus) who lived on the coast in Caesarea.

Think of how God has used the false charges created by the Jews… Paul has been able to testify to the resurrection of Jesus to a Roman tribune, two Roman governors and now the king of Palestine! This two-year “interruption” has been used to bring the gospel to the highest ranking officials in the land!!

Jesus had given Paul a Great Purpose on the road to Damascus. Listen to His words:

I am sending you [to your people and to the Gentiles] to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Acts 26:17).

His purpose was to open their eyes to the gospel of truth – to testify to the death & resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s great purpose led him to do a great work! Just as Solomon built the temple of God, Paul worked to build the temple of the New Testament… he worked to build the church.

Two men. Two great purposes and Two great works.

Which leads me to ask…. What is your purpose? And what is your great work? Not all of us are called to build the house of God or plant churches in distant lands – but all of us have been given a Great Purpose.

Whether a missionary or a box maker, a CEO or a janitor, we are all called to work in a way that gives God glory. This is our purpose – to glorify the God of the universe in all that we say and do!

We have been given a Great Purpose. We have been given the Holy Spirit to equip us to carry out a Great Work! The question is… are you willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to do the Great Work that God has prepared for you? 

Day 225: The Resurrection Life

2 Chronicles 35-36; Romans 8:1-17

We finish 2 Chronicles today with not much fanfare… The Chronicler flew through the last four kings of Judah in lightning fashion – and blasted through the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to end with hope…the declaration of the re-building of the temple by the Persian (Gentile) king, Cyrus.

The Davidic Covenant stands strong. The rebuilding of the temple is the first step toward restoration for God’s people as they look forward to the coming of their Messiah!

Fast forward to Romans 8, and we find one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the New Testament. It is Paul’s celebration of the gospel and the Messiah’s saving work on the cross. You can sense the exuberant joy in his words as he describes the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life to both save and sanctify.

Let me tell a story that illustrates the beautiful principles in Romans 8…

My daughter, Anne, was injured in a horrible automobile accident when she was 5 years old. She almost died, but God in his mercy, preserved her life. She now lives with a serious traumatic brain injury.

She continues to make great strides in her recovery, but in the first year after the accident, if you corrected her… “Anne, please don’t touch that,” there was something in her brain that made her touch “that.” She couldn’t stop herself. She would touch it over and over and then start to cry because she knew she shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was heartbreaking.

In a way, her struggle was an allegory of Romans 7-8…. In her heart, she loved the “law” and wanted to obey, but her flesh was broken and she had no power to fix it (7:22-23). Her desire to do what was right caused her to grieve the brokenness in her flesh. She needed help from outside of herself. She needed to be rescued…

Since then, Anne has experienced much physical healing so that she can now overcome her impulse to disobey a command. But she doesn’t take that for granted! She knows that obedience with a pure heart is only possible with the help of God’s Spirit in her. And the Spirit is so evident in her life! She has a miraculous ability to understand deep spiritual concepts and Biblical truth. And she looks to God for help and trusts him with a precious child-like faith. The Spirit inside her is evidence that she is a child of God. Romans 8 is Anne’s testimony!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17, The Message)

These verses also describe the restored people of Israel. Christ is their hope, and Christ is their salvation!

Day 224: The battle within

2 Chronicles 33-34; Romans 7

We all have a mix of king Manasseh (evil) and king Josiah (faithful) in us. Romans 7 describes the tension between our new, regenerate nature and our old, sinful nature. It is the tension between the now (that we have been saved from the power of sin) and the not yet (that we still live in a sinful body) that causes Paul to cry out at the end of the chapter, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

But hear this… Manasseh, the most evil king that ever ruled Judah, the king who placed idols in the temple and sacrificed his children in the fire… when this evil king humbled himself before God and asked for help, God rescued him from his distress.

Manasseh’s apostasy still carried great consequences – as it was his evil influence that led the people so far away from God’s law that God promised to judge them with destruction and exile (2 Kings 21:11-15). The people’s sin was so heinous that not even the faithful King Josiah could turn away God’s judgment. But. The judgment was delayed – first because Manasseh repented, and second, because of Josiah’s faithfulness.

We all struggle with sin. Even Paul struggled with sin! But consider the common thread that runs throughout the Old and New Testaments… If we humble ourselves – that is… if we repent – God is faithful to forgive and restore. (If he restored the evil king Manasseh, then he can forgive anybody!)

But God not only forgives, he works his righteousness into our hearts – like a potter molding his clay. In other words, he sanctifies us. But I’m jumping ahead! Paul teaches about the work of the Spirit in sanctification in Chapter 8, and we’ll get to that… tomorrow :)

Day 223: Hezekiah

2 Chronicles 29-32

The Chronicler devotes more words to Hezekiah than to any other post-Solomonic king. Unlike the parallel account in 2 Kings which focuses mainly on Hezekiah’s conflict with Sennacherib, the Chronicler chooses to highlight Hezekiah’s religious reforms and his celebration of the Passover.

The Chronicler was writing to the post-exilic community in the hopes that they would learn valuable lessons from the good and the bad of their history. Therefore, Hezekiah is presented as a “second Solomon” who enjoyed great wealth and favor with God because of his religious faithfulness.

But there is so much more to Hezekiah’s story. He was a faithful man – but he was also flawed. Before the conflict with Sennacherib, in the height of his glorious reign, Hezekiah became prideful. So God orchestrated the circumstances in Hezekiah’s life to bring about repentance. Hezekiah was struck with an illness, and the prophet, Isaiah, brought a message from God saying that Hezekiah would die.

This was God’s grace. This was Hezekiah’s chance to repent.

Consider David. He was not perfect, but he repented for the wrongs he committed and God pardoned him by His grace.

How many kings started off well and then become prideful during their reigns? Too many! In each instance, God gave them the opportunity to repent, and most of them chose to walk away from Him in pride.

Humility is not for the faint of heart. Repentance is not an easy pill to swallow. But it is the way that leads to life.

Hezekiah chose repentance. His life was extended 15 years and he was given the opportunity to lead his nation in one of the greatest shows of faith recorded in the pages of the Bible. His faith in God against the sure destruction by the Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib, was glorious.

Hezekiah struggled with his sin nature just like the rest of us, but when God offered grace, he seized it. He grabbed it and held on as if his life depended on it. …Because his life did depend on it! And so does ours. Let us not let go of the grace that is our salvation!! We must walk in the way of the humble… we must walk in repentance and faith.

Day 222: No longer under the law…

2 Chronicles 26-28; Romans 6

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14).

I think this is one of the clearest statements distinguishing the Old Covenant from the New.

The three kings from today’s reading are perfect illustrations of the burden of living under the law…

Uzziah (chapter 26) began in good fashion… “He set himself to seek God […] and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). Uzziah enjoyed the blessings of God in military strength and victory. But Uzziah became prideful and presumed upon the law of the Lord by trying to do the duty of a priest. God gave him the opportunity to repent by sending the priest to warn him, but Uzziah became angry. “When he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord” (26:19).

Jotham (chapter 27) was portrayed as upright throughout his reign, and he enjoyed God’s favor. Whereas, Ahaz (chapter 28) was idolatrous and suffered under God’s judgment.

This is the Old Covenant. Living under the law was burdensome. Sin was inevitable. But God, in his grace, would relent if His people repented. Otherwise, they faced judgment.

In contrast, the New Covenant is founded on Grace and offers freedom from the burden of the law. Listen to how Paul begins Chapter 6 of Romans…

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

Paul answers, “By no means!” But the reason for his answer is complicated, and it is the key to the difference between the Old and the New Covenants. Paul’s answer involves the difficult concept of union with Christ…

Christ’s death and resurrection have defeated the power of sin in the believer’s life! As believers in Christ, we are united with him in his death and life, so that we have His power to overcome the sin in our hearts. When we turn to Christ in repentance and faith, a powerful spiritual transaction occurs. Our hard hearts are given life…they are transformed from stone to flesh through the indwelling of Holy Spirit.

  • The Old Covenant exposed sin through the lens of the law, but provided no power to overcome sin.
  • The New Covenant defeats the power of sin through the death and life of Christ.

Living under the new Covenant of Grace does not remove our responsibility…we are still able to sin and we are still accountable for our actions! But. We have the power of Christ to help us obey!

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14).

Day 221: The power of Grace

2 Chronicles 23-25; Romans 5

Grace. Romans 5 outlines two men and two systems. As children of Adam, we have inherited a sin nature and just condemnation. However, through Jesus Christ, we have the free gift of life.

Paul makes the point that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” It is Christ’s death that opens the door to life for “the ungodly.” And then he goes on to reason that Christ’s gift of life is far more powerful than Adam’s sin. Condemnation for all came through the one sin of Adam. Whereas life through Christ’s sacrifice is able to overcome the millions of sins that have been committed since Adam!

Sometimes it’s hard to spot God’s grace at work in the Old Testament – but only because it’s wrapped in the package of the Old Covenant. Consider how God’s grace presents itself in today’s passage from 2 Chronicles…

We read about two kings, Joash and Amaziah… both described as doing what was “right in the eyes of the Lord,” but each with qualifiers… Joash only did was right during “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). And Amaziah is described as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, “but not with a whole heart” (25:2).

The life of Joash
After all of the good Joash did to repair the temple, when Jehoiada the priest died, Joash, together with his unworthy comrades, “abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (24:18). As you can imagine, this infuriated God – but a closer look reveals God’s grace. Don’t miss it…

Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention (2 Chronicles 24:19).

Joash had sinned, and he deserved God’s just punishment. But before the punishment came, Joash was given the opportunity to repent. If Joash would have repented and turned back to the Lord, there would have been forgiveness. Why?? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Joash did not repent. Instead he turned further away from God and killed the son of Jehoiada. He rejected the grace of God, and suffered under God’s judgment as he was defeated by a small army and murdered by his “comrades.” If only he had heeded the word of the prophet…

The life of Amaziah
Joash’s son, Amaziah, didn’t fare much better. He also began his reign well, initially obeying the word of the Lord and enjoying victory in battle. But then he turned away from God to worship idols. See if you can find God’s grace in the text…

Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel” (2 Chronicles 25:15-16).

God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah – so that hopefully he would repent. But Amaziah refused to listen to the word of the Lord, and in-so-doing, rejected the grace of God.

The Grace
God’s grace can always overpower sin… “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). But. We have to receive it through repentance and faith for it to defeat the sin in our lives…

If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Romans 5:17, The Message)

Day 220: A strange exchange

2 Chronicles 21-22; Romans 4

And [Jehoram] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever (2 Chronicles 6-7).

After faithful Jehoshaphat died, his first-born son, Jehoram, became king of Judah who then killed all of his brothers so that no one would challenge his throne. The royal line of David was dangerously thin – and lay in the hands of a murdering madman who rebuilt the high places and led the people into idol worship. Great.

But it gets worse.

All of Jehoram’s sons were killed in battle except for Ahaziah – who took the throne upon Jehoram’s death. Ahaziah made an alliance with the evil son of Ahab and was killed by the same man who was ordained to destroy all of Ahab’s family. Ahaziah and all of his brothers were killed and there was no one to rule Judah!! So Ahaziah’s evil mother, the daughter of Ahab, took control of Judah and killed everyone in the royal family.

What??!!... The entire royal line of David was destroyed because of their alliance with Ahab’s evil family??  What about the promise that a Royal Branch of David would rule in peace forever??

Ah! We have to keep reading… The narrative continues like a Shakespearean play as we discover that Ahaziah’s sister (who was married to the faithful priest, Jehoiada) hid Ahaziah’s infant son from the royal mother’s massacre. There is one from the line of David who lives! And in tomorrow’s reading, he will take the throne in dramatic fashion!

Goodness gracious!! This is the tragic history of Israel. Paul argues in Romans 4:15 that “the Jews, who had the written law, had even greater responsibility for their sin and as great a need to be saved from God’s wrath and justified by faith*.” The tragic events detailed in today’s reading definitely make it clear that all of Israel had a great need to be saved!

Paul teaches in Romans 4 that all people need to be saved by faith – that the Jews couldn’t trust in their possession of the law – or in their sign of circumcision – to save them. But that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised and before the giving of the Mosaic law (Romans 4:11).

Paul’s argument is clear. Heritage and Circumcision do not make you righteous. That is evident from the horror of today’s Old Testament passage! Rather, it was Abraham’s faith that was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul says that we, also, can be counted as righteous when we “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Romans 4:24).

We are given credit for being righteous – only because of our faith – not because of our actions. It is a strange exchange. It’s an exchange based on grace!

*quoted from note on Romans 4:15 from the ESV Study Bible, Crossway

Day 219: Jehoshaphat’s prayer

2 Chronicles 20; Romans 2-3

The Jews had become accustomed to God’s favor. After thousands of years of being God’s chosen race, they wrongly assumed that possession of the Mosaic law gave them favor before God – which was true – but only as a means to reveal their sin and need for repentance – the law was NOT to be used as a means to judge other nations.

The Jews erred by placing emphasis on the external signs of the covenant – like possession of the law and circumcision. But Paul forces their eyes inward to reveal that true Judaism has always been about the internal state of the heart…

…no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28).

In essence, Paul had to reframe all of Jewish history in the context of grace. The Jewish nation did not earn God’s favor by observing the law…No! They only brought the wrath of God on themselves because they could not observe the law perfectly (Romans 3:10-18). When did the people receive God’s favor and blessing? When they repented and turned to God in humble reliance!!!!

Consider today’s story from 2 Chronicles 20. What was Jehoshaphat’s response when confronted with a great enemy? He gathered the people (with their wives and children) to the house of God and prayed. He humbled himself and called out to God for help! And what was God’s response?? Grace. God showed up in a mighty way and delivered His people from the hand of the enemy. But. God did have one requirement… faith. He told the people to “go down against them” but “you will not have to fight this battle.” In other words, the people had to confront their enemy with faith that God would keep His word. God’s deliverance came through repentance and faith!

This is the gospel at work. This is grace at work.

Paul goes on to teach at the end of Chapter 3 that the Jews were never justified by works – only by faith (3:21-24). He even argues that God endured the sin of the Jewish nation only by looking forward to Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf (3:25).

We must not fall into the old sins of the Jewish nation. We must never think that our good words earn us favor before God! Rather, we must cling to the truth that God’s kindness toward us is undeserved – and has one purpose – one extremely important purpose…

…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Let Jehoshaphat’s prayer be our example… Let us humble ourselves in absolute reliance on our God. And may His kindness produce in us… repentance and faith!