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:
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 362: Mourning turned to Dancing!

Zechariah 7-8Revelation 19

The events of Zechariah 7 took place two years after the visions in the preceding chapters (Zech. 1:1; 7:1) but two years before the completion of the temple (Zech. 7:1; Ezra 6:14-15). As the chapter opens, men came from Bethel to ask whether they should continue their mourning rituals. For approximately 70 years, the people had fasted during specific times to commemorate the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Since the temple was being rebuilt, the people wondered, “Should we continue to fast?” Listen to God’s answer!

And the word of the Lord of hosts came to [Zechariah], saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace (Zechariah 8:18).

God was changing their mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11)! He promised them the blessing of His presence and favor!! But their joy and gladness was just a foretaste of the joy and gladness His people will experience at the Bridal Supper of the Lamb recorded in Revelation 19!

In this one chapter of Revelation we see the stark contrast of those who are judged and those who are redeemed in Christ. The Great Babylon is destroyed. And then Christ comes to earth. He does not come as a meek lamb – but on a white war-horse brandishing a sword. The battle is swift, and the kings of the earth are killed while the beast and the false prophet are captured!

And the mourning is turned to dancing! Christ has the victor’s crown. He is the King! This is our future – sure as rain. We will gather with all the redeemed and cry out…

Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory (Revelation 19:6-7).

Do you believe it? “These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9). May our hope be sure in Christ!!

Disclaimer: I humbly and cautiously offer an interpretation of the book of Revelation based on my Reformed understanding of Scripture, an Amillennialist eschatology, and a heavy reliance on the book, Revelation, The Compassion and Protection of Christ by Dr. Paul Gardner.

Day 318: A dim reflection

Psalms 71-73; Hebrews 9

Everything God has done from the beginning of time until now has been done with precision and purpose to prepare the hearts of men to receive his Son.

Consider Psalm 72…It was a royal Psalm, a prayer for the king of Israel – but it pointed forward to a day when the king would enjoy world-wide rule and bring about peace and social justice. It looked forward to a day when Jesus will rule the earth in peace and justice!

Hebrews 9 connects the symbols in the Old Covenant to their true heavenly counterparts. The temple…a temporal copy of God’s true home in heaven points to Jesus. The priesthood, instituted by God but fulfilled by imperfect men, points to Jesus. The sacrifices, offered day after day after day – were copies of the true sacrifice – offered once and for all, by Jesus!

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:13-14).

First, God established the law, the tabernacle and the priesthood – to point forward to Christ’s saving work on the cross. But there was more to be revealed!

Just as the temple and priesthood were copies of their true heavenly counterparts…I wonder how much of our world is also a dim reflection of what’s to come…

We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth – where the bride of Christ will be united with her husband. We look forward to the wedding feast of the lamb. Every wedding, celebration and feast is just a dim reflection of what’s to come. Every tree, stream and creature is just a dim reflection of God’s creation in the New Earth!

We live in the now and not yet, the time between Jesus’s two comings. We are the church age, and we look forward to the end of the age when all things will find their fulfillment in Christ!

Day 262: Our eternal home

Ezra 5-6; Haggai 1-2; 2 Corinthians 5

The book of Haggai serves as a rich commentary to these chapters in Ezra. Haggai (along with Zechariah – which we’ll read through in December) was the local prophet who encouraged the people to restart building the temple. Evidently, all the earlier opposition pushed the people into complacency. They were content to live in their own houses while the house of the Lord lay in ruins. God had something to say about this!

He had sent drought and hail in the hopes that the people would turn to him for help, but they continued in their self-sufficiency. In spite of this, God was merciful and intervened through the prophet Haggai.

There are so many rich layers woven throughout these passages.

First, we see that the Jews’ responded to Haggai’s message in obedience – so that the temple was completed! The temple represented God’s continued presence with his people and his faithfulness to keep his promises.

But glaringly obvious to everyone was the fact that the temple did not compare to Solomon’s former temple. God addressed this in Haggai:

Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, [and] work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not (Haggai 2:3-5).

God asserted that the temple’s outward grandeur was of secondary importance to His presence. This second temple served as a stepping stone to the day when the temple would no longer be a physical building – but rather God would manifest His presence within His people.

Paul touches on these themes in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. He teaches that we are not at “home” in our physical bodies – rather we long for “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Paul says that while we are on earth, we “groan” for our heavenly tent – for “mortality to be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

So, in many ways, this second temple’s lack of grandeur is a physical picture of our life on earth. We long for more… We long for our eternal home.

Lastly, we see a hint of the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the last verse of Haggai. The hint isn’t obvious, but it’s there!

On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:23).

Zerubbabel was the current governor of Judah, but he was also a descendant of the last king of Judah, Jehoiachin (1 Chron. 3:16–19, where Jehoiachin is called Jeconiah). And if Zerubbabel was descended from the last king of Judah, that meant he was also descended from King David. And who was prophesied to come from the line of David to establish his Kingdom on earth? Yes. Jesus.

“On that day” (Haggai 2:23), looks forward to the end of the age, when the temple is replaced by the Lord himself!

…for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb … and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it (Rev. 21:22, 24).

Yes, one day, this man, who knew no sin – but became sin, so that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)…this man will take his place as the final temple. And then, and only then, will we be home.

The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:9).

Day 214: God dwells among praise

2 Chronicles 4-7

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 210: The power of the weak

1 Chronicles 22-24; Acts 23

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, “[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” (1 Chronicles 22:10).

The Davidic covenant would not be fulfilled in the expected way. If I would have lived in the age of peace and prosperity during Solomon’s reign, I would have thought that no earthly power could destroy what God had promised would last forever!!! But we know the history, and who would have ever predicted that a descendent of David, born in a stable hundreds of years after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s great temple, would be the King through which the prophecy would be fulfilled?! 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 209: The Substitute

1 Chronicles 20-22

1 Chronicles 20 continues from the previous two chapters to show how David’s military victories prepared the way for Solomon’s peace and prosperity.

Chapter 21 recounts events from 2 Samuel 24… It’s a powerful story of sin, repentance and redemption. David sinned by demanding a census and God sent a great plague on Israel as punishment for David’s sin. And then God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem!

Now let’s think about this… Didn’t God just promise David that his son would build Him a house and He would establish his rule forever??!! And now God is about to destroy the “City of David.” It seems as if God’s covenant promise is in jeopardy because of David’s pride. 

God gave David the ability to see the angel “standing between heaven and earth and in his hand a sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” And David realized that his sin had put all the promises of God at risk. He fell to his face and cried out to God…

Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people (1 Chronicles 21:17).

God did relent and spare Jerusalem…But – there had to be a substitute – something to receive the punishment intended for Jerusalem.

This story harkens back to Abraham lifting the knife over the body of Isaac – and just in time, God provided a ram.

In this case, God commanded David to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a specific place. The sacrifice would be the substitute.

And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (1 Chronicles 21:26-27).

David’s repentance led to God’s relentance (yes, I just made up that word :)

But consider this detail in the text… In order to build that altar, David had to buy the land on which to build it. And this piece of land would be the site of Solomon’s temple. Because of David’s repentance, God orchestrated the circumstances by which David bought the plot of land on which the future temple would be built.

Somehow, God redeemed a genuine repentant heart and brought about a greater and more powerful good.

This story not only points back to Abraham and Isaac but points forward to God’s only Son. There must be a substitute. Our sin demands it. But thankfully… God’s goodness overrules our sinfulness!

Day 208: A Far-reaching Gospel

1 Chronicles 17-19; Acts 22

God’s house and an Eternal dynasty… The Davidic Covenant (found in 1 Chronicles 17) is God’s promise to David that his son would build God a house and that God would establish David’s throne forever…

These two promises – of a House and a forever King – became Israel’s hope and identity. To the (kingless) people in the post-exilic Jerusalem, the Davidic covenant pointed to their future hope for a Messiah.

For us, we can look to the kingdom under Solomon’s reign as a precursor of God’s eternal Kingdom on earth. The prosperity and peace of Israel hasn’t been matched since the days of Solomon!

The Davidic Covenant joins the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants in describing God’s relationship with His people. The Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants promised to make a Great Nation. The Mosaic Covenant laid the foundation for how to live and worship in this nation.

The Mosaic law was a conditional covenant… if the people obeyed, they would be blessed. If they disobeyed, they would be cursed. But the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants were based on God’s loving kindness; they were not conditional on the obedience of the people.

Of all three Covenants, the promises made to Abraham give the broadest picture of God’s relationship with His people… God promised to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham and his family. David’s Covenant refines this promise to reveal how the nations would be blessed – through the Eternal King that would come from the line of David.

Somehow, the Jews of Paul’s day missed these points in the Great Promises.

Remember the context for today’s reading from Acts? Paul had just been arrested by the Roman tribune to save him from the rioting crowd in Jerusalem. As Paul was being led to the barracks, he asked permission to speak to the crowds. Acts 22 records his testimony to the Jewish people.

The people listened as Paul spoke in the Hebrew language and defended his Jewish heritage. The people listened further as Paul described his encounter with Jesus – his “Damascus Road” experience – but they stopped listening when Paul reported that this Jesus had commanded him to go to the Gentiles. At this, the people became enraged, “shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air!”

The people had lost sight of the Abrahamic Covenant – the promise by which all the peoples of the earth would be blessed… And they had forgotten that David’s seed was the conduit for the blessing!

The pride that came from adhering to the strict moral demands of the Mosaic Law blinded the people to God’s love for all the nations. They misunderstood when Jesus spent time with “sinners” and died a criminal’s death. And they rioted against Paul at the mere mention of those wretched, lawless Gentiles.

We are tempted by the same pride. We can’t let the trap of moral superiority prevent us from taking the gospel to all people! There are no prerequisites for the gospel. It crosses every line – race, gender, nation and tongue. Jesus came to bless all the peoples of the earth – even wretched, lawless people like us.

Day 202: Genealogy and Exorcisms (seriously)

1 Chronicles 1-3; Acts 19:1-20

We are going back to the historical books! 1 Chronicles was written after the exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, the city and their lives. The writer of 1 Chronicles wanted to remind the Jewish remnant (who had returned from exile) of their history and renew hope in the covenant promises of God.

The writer was a priest and placed considerable value on the building of Solomon’s temple and practices of the priests. He also idealized the reigns of David and Solomon – maybe to renew the hope of a Messianic ruler that would come from the line of David.

He begins his writings with a long genealogy – beginning with Adam and continuing all the way to the post-exilic period. His purpose was to rebuild the people’s identity – to give them context and purpose in their rebuilt Jerusalem.

Transitioning to Acts 19, we read of Paul’s extended ministry in Ephesus. When reading, we must remember the heavy pagan influence on the culture. In this culture, healings and authority over evil spirits gave credibility to the gospel. In our culture, the gospel gains credibility differently (probably more through kindness and great personal sacrifice rather than exorcising evil spirits ;) But it’s the same gospel and the same Spirit at work!

Luke makes this point at the end of our reading…

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily (Acts 19:20).

Was it Paul that prevailed mightily? Did the gospel go forth because Paul had a special skill or knowledge? No, it was the word of the Lord that increased and prevailed! Paul was a willing and obedient servant, so God used him mightily as a vehicle for His Word to prevail. So it is with us. We do not prevail because of all our special programs and ministries. It is the word of the Lord at work in us that prevails in our culture and in our world. We must be willing, but God does the work!

Day 201: The Lord is Here

Ezekiel 47-48; Acts 18

Today, we come to the end of Ezekiel’s vision of a rebuilt and restored temple – and also to the end of the book!

We read of waters that trickle from the inner sanctuary and flow out of the temple forming a river with extraordinary life-giving properties. The vision continues with an idealized allotting of land to the 12 tribes – including land for the Prince, Levites and common ground for food to be harvested for the workers of the city.

The vision ends with the gates of the city described… One gate for each son of Jacob. It points forward to the imagery used to describe the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21:12-14.

In a most striking ending, Ezekiel reveals the name of this city – located just south of the rebuilt temple… Its name is “The Lord is There.” This name summarizes the entire emphasis of Ezekiel… The first half of the book described Judah’s gross sin which led to God leaving the temple and his people. The second half is filled with promises of restoration culminating in this final temple vision describing how God’s glory will return to the rebuilt temple.

This is all wonderful, but it hasn’t happened yet! We know and trust that God will dwell with His people forever in the new Jerusalem. But what about now? Where is God now?

Well… we see evidence of His sovereignty and Presence in today’s reading from Acts…

From leading Paul to stay in Corinth – to multiplying Paul’s ministry into Priscilla and Aquila – who then teach and train the effective minister, Apollos… God’s Spirit is at work. God is at work leading and building, equipping and empowering. The Corinthian and Ephesian churches experienced the power of His presence. His Spirit lived in them, and His Spirit lives in us.

Where is He now? The Lord is here!