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 210: The Power of the Weak

1 Chronicles 22-24; Acts 23

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 22:10
“[Solomon] shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”

Acts 23:1
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

Today we read the beginning of the end of 1 Chronicles. David has brought the ark to Jerusalem, subdued his enemies and purchased the land for a permanent temple. The rest of the book will now detail all of the preparations David made for the building of and worship within the new temple.

David’s devoted preparations for the temple are reminiscent of Moses preparing the people to enter the promised land. Neither David nor Moses would live to see the fulfillment of their work, and they were both commanded to raise up a younger leader to finish what they had began…For Moses, it was Joshua who led the people across the Jordan into the promised land. And here we read of David commissioning his son, Solomon, by reiterating the covenant promises of God (1 Chronicles 22:10).

The Davidic covenant would not be fulfilled in the expected way. Under Solomon’s reign, Israel would reach the heights of power, prosperity, and peace. Human wisdom would suggest that Solomon was the fulfillment of God’s promise to establish his kingdom on earth. But history tells us that Solomon’s sin brought dissension to Israel culminating in the destruction of the temple and the nation. God’s promise was fulfilled hundreds of years later through a Divine baby born in poverty. It is so often that we expect God to fulfill His will through pomp and power – yet he surprises us by working through the weak and lowly.

As I read Acts 23, again I marvel at God’s ways… From this point until the end of Acts, Paul would be a prisoner. Human logic would propose that God could accomplish more through a “free” Paul than an “imprisoned’ Paul…

Consider this… Solomon and Joshua would have never risen to be two of the most effective leaders in biblical history if Moses and David were still in the picture. Paul’s imprisonment gave room for other leaders to emerge. The spread of the gospel didn’t stop because Paul was imprisoned. Rather, God used Paul’s imprisonment to stir the passion of the early church – and God raised up others to multiply Paul’s work among the churches.

This is the fingerprint of God… His modus operandi… He breathes power into the weak and lowly to accomplish His Great work in the world. He turns the impossible into possible. And in so doing, He receives the glory!

Day 142: The needy

1 Kings 10-11; John 5:25-47

Key Verses

1 Kings 11:4-6
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.

John 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

At the end of his life, Solomon had disobeyed every command for kings listed in Deuteronomy 17:11:16-17. In Ch 11, what the author had been hinting at throughout the book of 1 Kings was finally stated clearly: “…his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (11:4).

In his old age, Solomon turned away from God to follow other gods. God was gracious and assured that the Davidic line would continue its rule – even if over just one tribe of a divided nation. God was preserving the family of David for the promised offspring… the true Forever King of Israel.

In John 5, we read of Jesus coming to the feast at Jerusalem and teaching the crowds of his authority from the Father. He rebuked the Jewish leaders for their blindness.

Only the needy come to Jesus. Solomon turned away because, from his earthly perspective, he had no need of God. The Jewish leaders refused Jesus because they depended on their rituals, traditions and outward obedience for justification. They had a formula; they didn’t need a Person.

A needy heart is a humble heart. A needy heart is someone who is desperate for help. Jesus offers life. Who will come? You have to recognize the depths of darkness in your own heart to seek out the light.

Day 141: The Temple of God

1 Kings 8-9; John 5:1-24

Key Verses

1 Kings 9:1-3
As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”

In 1 Kings we read of God coming down and filling Solomon’s temple with His glory (8:11)! God promised that his eyes and heart would be there for all time, but because of Israel’s sin, God’s Holy presence left the temple. Did God break his promise? No! For in John, we see God’s permanent temple…Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Jesus was the manifestation of God’s glory on earth. He became the temple of God. Jesus is the final fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel!

After Jesus ascended to the Father, and the Spirit came at Pentecost, God made a new temple. God chose to manifest His glory through His people, the church. It is there, among God’s people, that we experience God’s presence. We are also His temple…

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

I wonder what Solomon would think of God’s temple today?

Day 140: Glory Over All the Earth

1 Kings 5-7; John 4:31-54

Key Verses

1 Kings 5:5
“And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.'”

John 4:42
They said to the [Samaritan] woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The last time we read of Solomon in 1 Kings, he had been given incomparable wisdom, so much so that “people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34).

Solomon’s treaty with King Hiram of Tyre is another example of how Solomon’s wisdom affected the world. And the world would watch as Solomon used the finest material to build two houses… one for God and one for himself.

Solomon’s glorious temple may have made the people wonder… Is Solomon the promised King that will establish God’s Kingdom on the earth forever? It is true that the glory and power of Israel were at its highest under King Solomon’s rule, but Solomon was not to be the Forever King. Solomon’s heart was divided (1 Kings 7:1). And ultimately, his divided heart would bring about the division of Israel.

We know that it was the humble carpenter’s son that was destined to be the Forever King – not just of Israel – but of the world. Remember John 3:16? How God so loved the world? We see Jesus blessing the world in these last few chapters of John…

In John 3, we saw Jesus teach a Jewish leader how to be born again to gain eternal life. In the beginning of John 4, we saw Jesus teach a Samaritan woman how to “never thirst again” through the living water. He stayed two more days and many more Samaritans believed in Him. In the final verses of John 4, we see Jesus heal a Gentile centurion’s son.

Jesus started with the Jewish nation, and then reached out to the surrounding areas – and then finally stretched his blessing to all the earth.

Although Solomon’s temple was glorious, it was only temporary. Jesus is forever.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Day 126: Solomon’s Wisdom

Proverbs 1-3

Key Verses

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.

Yesterday’s reading from 1 Kings ended with an extraordinary description of Solomon’s wisdom…

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men…and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees…and also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34).

This is the context for the book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom literature penned by Solomon. In the first chapter, we find the mantra for the entire book… “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We will find as we read through Proverbs** that it is the unteachable heart that receives the most ire. The wise person is humble and teachable, i.e. “listens to instruction,” whereas the fool is “wise in his own eyes.”

The beauty of studying wisdom literature alongside the gospels is that we get to see Wisdom personified in Jesus. And when we are tempted to despair because of our many shortcomings concerning wisdom… the story of the cross helps us look away from our sin and toward the one who has paid our ransom.

**For the next two weeks, we will be reading through the book of Proverbs, (alongside the New Testament) and then we will come back to 1 Kings. I have re-ordered the Old Testament books in the Bible Reading Plan to give better context for certain books and also to break up the Wisdom and Prophecy genres. You can view the order of Old Testament books at this link.**

Day 125: The motivation for obedience

1 Kings 3-4; Luke 22:1-30

Key Verses

1 Kings 3:12-14
“Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Luke 22:25-27
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

Solomon loves the Lord, and the Lord gives him great wisdom, but Solomon falters in the nitty-gritty daily-ness of his faith. He doesn’t obey God in all areas of his life, and eventually, his missteps lead him further and further away from God and God’s blessings. Specifically, we read of Solomon acquiring many horses (4:26) and turning back to Egypt to find a wife (3:1). These actions are in direct opposition to the laws for Kings written in Deuteronomy:

Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you,‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

Solomon’s mistakes are a familiar road for many of us. Compromising obedience in daily life can slowly turn us completely away from our faith. Many times, apostasy is a slow burn and not a quick blaze.

In order to keep ourselves from falling away, we must cling to the hip of our Savior. His grace and help are our lifeline to an obedient life. The sacrament of communion (instituted in today’s passage from Luke) is a gift to us to help us remember the great Sacrifice of our Savior. His death is the evidence of His incomprehensible love for us! It is this love that should motivate us to obey…

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).

Day 124: David’s Dynasty

1 Kings 1-2; Luke 21:20-38

Key Verses

1 Kings 2:1-4
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2″I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'”

Luke 21:33
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Today we begin 1 Kings which is the story of the continuation of David’s dynasty. David’s oldest remaining son, Adonijah, plotted to make himself King apart from his father’s knowledge. But God, and therefore, David had chosen Solomon to succeed David as king. 1 Kings 1-2 is the story of David establishing his dynasty through Solomon.

David’s dynasty echoes the promise of Genesis 3 – that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. And then the rest of the Old Testament plays out as a mystery novel as we try to determine… out of which family line the Promised One would come.

The seed passed from Adam to Seth – on down to Noah and through Shem to Abraham – through Isaac, Jacob, and Judah – through Boaz, Jesse and then to David.

The Davidic covenant narrows the search for the promised seed. The covenant reveals that the Promised One would be descended from David, and He would establish David’s throne forever! But who would it be? Would Solomon be the promised King? Or would it be Solomon’s son, Rehoboam?

With each subsequent king, the author of 1 & 2 Kings builds the tension of waiting for the revelation of the Promised Eternal King. 2 Kings ends with the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of Judah. Was all hope for the King lost? Would the King ever come? Was God’s word just not true??

We know who the seed of the woman is. And we know who the promised King is. Jesus. And in today’s reading in Luke, we find him in Jerusalem – warning of its destruction – and promising that he will return.

Jesus’ words are permanent – the forever kind of permanent. When he says he will come again – there is 100% chance that he will come again. Even though the story seems hopeless at times – we must never stop waiting for His return. He tells us to be ready. When he comes, not if, but when he comes, will he find us faithful? Oh God, I hope so – but only by Your grace!