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!

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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 209: The Substitute

1 Chronicles 20-22

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 21:17
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 21:26-27
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 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. Then God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.

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??!! 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.” 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 – 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. 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 genuinely 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

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 17:11-14
“‘When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.'”

God’s house and an Eternal dynasty… The Davidic Covenant (found in today’s Key Verses) 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 haven’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 of 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

Key Verses

Acts 19:8-10
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

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 exorcizing 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 199: God’s Glory Descends

Ezekiel 43-44; Acts 17:1-15

Key Verses

Ezekiel 43:1-5
Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

Ezekiel’s first temple vision – before Solomon’s temple was destroyed – ended with God’s glory leaving the temple through the East gate (Ezekiel 11:22-23). In Ezekiel’s second temple vision, we read of God’s glory returning to a rebuilt temple through the East gate (Ezekiel 43:1-5).

No matter to what interpretation you ascribe, whether you believe this future temple will be rebuilt physically or whether this temple is symbolic of God’s relationship with His people in some future age… The return of God’s glory to dwell among His people is the most important aspect of Ezekiel’s vision!!

Yes, Ezekiel goes into great detail to describe the sacrifices and duties of the priests. It all harkens back to the giving of the Mosaic law in Exodus and Leviticus. These are all important reminders of God’s holiness and our need for a sacrificial Savior… But the returning of the Glory of God is the climax!

In the Old Testament, the temple was the dwelling place of God’s glory. We see this in Exodus as God’s glory descended upon the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35) – and in 1 Kings as God’s glory descended upon Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). But in the New Testament, God’s presence dwells among his people in the context of the church.

As Paul and his companions were traveling through Macedonia, they weren’t just creating individuals who believed in Jesus… No, they were creating communities, congregations… they were planting churches. In Acts 17, Paul visited Thessalonica and Berea, but when he left those places, he left behind groups of people who would meet together to worship Jesus as God. He left behind churches.

Paul makes it clear that because of Jesus’s final sacrifice, the temple has been replaced by the church as the worship center for the believer.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

The “you” in these verses is plural. Paul is talking to a collective “you.” He is talking to the church. 

In the past, God’s glory descended upon the Holy of Holies in the innermost chamber of his temple. In the future new Jerusalem, there will be no need for a temple, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). But right now, in this present age… the temple is us, the church. And God’s glory has descended, and God’s glory dwells among us! That, friends, is something to celebrate!

Day 198: A Little Goes a Long Way

Ezekiel 41-42; Acts 16:16-40

Key Verses

Acts 16:30-33
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Ezekiel 41-42 continues the detailed description of the rebuilt, restored temple of Ezekiel’s vision. (For interpretations of these chapters, see yesterday’s post).

If you watched the 3D visualization of Ezekiel 40, the makers of that video have two additional videos that depict Ezekiel 41-43. Again, they are very helpful, but not authoritative in their interpretation.

For Ezekiel 41, click here.
For Ezekiel 42-43, click here.

Yesterday in Acts, we read of Lydia, the first convert of the Philippian church. Today, we read of another convert… the jailer. He and his entire household were saved.

What is so fascinating about this entire chapter – is how obvious it is that God is the one at work. Paul, Silas, and Luke are faithful to preach the gospel, but they cannot open hearts to understand the truth or replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. God is the one who does that… in both Lydia and the jailer.

This little Philippian church is a miraculous work of the Spirit. And don’t think that because they were small in number, that they had little impact on the world. On the contrary, Paul later testifies to the generosity of this church to the Corinthians…

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

We can infer from this passage that after Paul left Philippi, the church suffered through affliction and poverty. Yet, they had “abundance of joy” and it “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

They stand as an example to us today. Whatever our circumstances, we are called to care for the poor and needy around us. As a Christian, we are to pattern our lives after Christ – which means we are to live life sacrificially. This is impossible apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives!

God, help me take my eyes off of my own suffering and open my eyes to see how I might enter into someone else’s world. Help me live a life of sacrifice… wholly devoted to you. Amen.

Day 197: Two Visions

Ezekiel 40; Acts 16:1-15

Key Verses

Ezekiel 40:4
And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”

Acts 16:9-10
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

I just read in one of my commentaries… “Interpreters do agree on one point… Ezekiel 40-48 is one of the most difficult passages in the entire Bible.” Great.

I know why it is difficult. These prophecies have not been fulfilled, and therefore, theologians have different interpretations of its meaning.

Ezekiel 40-48 is the 2nd “temple vision” in Ezekiel. The first vision in chapters 8-11 showed the abominations of idolatrous people before the destruction of the temple. This second vision occurs 14 years (to the day) after the fall of the city and the destruction of the temple. Through visions, God shows Ezekiel a vision of a future, a rebuilt and restored temple.

Here’s the controversy… Some scholars believe this vision is a literal temple that will be built one day in the future. Others believe this rebuilt temple is symbolic of God’s presence with his people during our current church age – and still, others believe this vision is symbolic of perfect worship in the New Earth.

Not that it matters much… but I lean toward a symbolic interpretation of this vision – especially since Ezekiel was a priest (in his life in Judea) and would have been extremely familiar with the old temple. Temple life would have been deeply valuable to Ezekiel, so it makes sense that God would wrap the restoration of Israel in the context of a symbolically “perfect” temple.

But let’s look at the text… This video is especially helpful in picturing the temple as Ezekiel describes it in Chapter 40. Just a word of caution… this is one person’s visual interpretation. It is helpful, but not authoritative :)

Moving on to Acts 16, we read of the beginning of Paul’s 2nd missionary journey where the text describes another vision! In this case, God used the vision to direct Paul to preach the gospel in far-away Europe. So Paul obeyed, traveling north into the Roman colony of Philippi. Philippi was so far removed from Jewish culture that there wasn’t even a Jewish temple! Undeterred, Paul and his companions approached a group of women who were praying by a riverside.

From a human perspective, this makes no sense. Why go north to Philippi instead of south to more familiar territory? Why approach women instead of the influential men of the city? But God’s ways are not our ways.

God planned for the first convert in Europe to be an ordinary woman named Lydia. The church in Philippi started in her house and grew to be a major influence in the region. The influence of the church in Philippi ripples to this day as we are instructed by the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian church.

God used Paul’s obedience in the face of ambiguity to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth! Has God ever asked something of you that didn’t make earthly sense?? I have found that obedience in the face of ambiguity brings about the richest blessings. May we have the faith to follow Jesus… wherever He may lead!

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 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.