Binding Agent

Today’s Reading:  1 Corinthians 13

Our scripture for today is 1 Corinthians 13 where the apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthian church about love.  If you’ve been to very many weddings in your life, you are very familiar with this passage.  May I share with you a few new perspectives I gained this week through my study?

 

Love is a binding agent – (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

About two years ago, B.J. came home from work one day and unexpectedly found dinner waiting for him on the table.  He gave me a puzzled look and said, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife”?

 

After 22 years of marriage, I had decided to start cooking.  It’s not that I was completely incapable before, but I never really wanted to spend my time on meal planning/preparation.  It was also common for me to substitute for ingredients that I didn’t have on hand, so very few things I fixed ever tasted like they were supposed to.  (And we usually spent our dinnertime trying to figure out what I’d messed up and/or why it didn’t work).  Turkey sandwiches, salads and cereal had to be my go-to meals because you can’t really mess those things up!

One of the things I’ve learned on my cooking journey is the need for a binding agent.  Have you ever forgotten the eggs in a batch of cookies?  They turn into a runny mess.  You must have something to hold all the ingredients together.  While you can’t really taste the binder, the recipe simply doesn’t work without it.

Take a look at the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 13, do you notice that before he “defines” love Paul describes it as a binding agent?  Spiritual gifts and good works are useless without love.  It holds everything together, nothing works without it.

Love is selfless – (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

True love is completely selfless.  It is directed at others, not ourselves, all the time.  This is hard to wrap our brains around because true love is so rare in our society.  Because of sin, humans are inherently selfish beings.  In fact, it is impossible for us to be completely selfless and truly love others without God’s help to put others ahead of ourselves.

Love is 100% effective – (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

In my job, I regularly provide my staff feedback on their written and verbal communication because effective communications are most often how we gain buy-in from our leaders and business partners.  What we say has to be said/written in a way our audience can easily understand and it has to be completely accurate.  One of my guiding principles is to avoid using the words ever, never, any and always.  Why?  Because very few things in business are 100%, there is almost always an exception to the rule.  (Do you remember I’ve spent a lot of my professional career in Audit?).

Do you notice how Paul describes love in verses 7 and 8?  The New International Version translates it as always, always, always, always and never.  When it comes to genuine love, my guiding principle isn’t correct.  One-hundred percent of the time, true love protects, trust, hopes and perseveres.  It never fails.

Love is the greatest of all human qualities – (1 Corinthians 13:13)

In verse 13, Paul says three things will endure – faith, hope, and love.  He then says love is the greatest of the three.  Why?  Back to the concept of a binding agent, without love nothing else holds together.  My Life Application Study Bible describes it this way – Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action.

Think about this – you can know everything there is to know about what it takes to run a marathon.  You can have all the right equipment, have followed a training plan perfectly, and have perfect conditions (which look like a completely flat course, cool temperatures and no wind in my mind).  BUT, if you don’t take action and actually show up and run the race, it is all for nothing.  The same is true with love.  We can know everything there is to know about God’s word and have perfect conditions to follow it, but until we put it into action and start loving others, it is all for nothing.

Love is a game changer.  1 John tells us God is love.  Not God has love or God loves, but God IS love.  It is his very nature.  People should be able to tell we are Christfollowers because they see us genuinely loving others.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:7, 11-12).

Hope

Today’s reading:  John 20

What information source do you rely on to get your world news?  I am a Wall Street Journal reader.  Every day I have three different WSJ emails pushed to my inbox.  They give me give me a couple paragraphs about the top 2-3 stories, then 2-3 sentences about 15 or so other topics.  It is perfect.  I scan the page and quickly know what’s going on.  If I want more information about any topic, I can just click on a link that will take me to the full article.  Truth is, I don’t click out to most of the articles.  A couple of sentences about an event is usually about all I need to know.

 

On Saturdays, I get an email called Grapevine: colorful stories and diversions from WSJ.  My approach to this email is the same even though it comes on the weekend – scan the page and see if there is anything that intrigues me enough to read more.  At the end of beginning of May, Grapevine published a story about Patricio Galvez, a Swedish citizen whose daughter had converted to Islam and moved her family to Syria a few years ago.  This one caught my interest.  I clicked the link, read the entire article, and was left wanting more.

In early 2019 Galvez’ daughter and her husband were killed in an airstrike, leaving behind 7 children ages 1-8 somewhere in Syria.  The article was about Galvez’ travel to Syria “on mission” to find his grandchildren.  Eventually he located his youngest grandchild in a hospital and the other six in a northeast Syrian camp.  After much petitioning Galvez was admitted to the camp and reunited with 7 emaciated, feverish children.  While he was able to meet them, give them clothes, toys and food, he was unable to take them from the camp until the Swedish government officially claimed them.  Galvez was forced to leave the camp alone, without any of his grandchildren.  It was heartbreaking.

 

Three weeks later on May 20, the WSJ published an update to the story.  Swedish officials had claimed the children and they had been reunited with their grandfather in northern Syria.  A few weeks later, after some fundraising assistance, they all boarded a plane back to Sweden.  It was anything but an easy trip (they almost missed the shuttle because one child had barfed, another had come down with measles, and the grandfather and his two helpers had forgotten diapers for the baby).  The article ended when the family arrived back in Sweden and Swedish social services had gotten involved to help figure out a long-term plan to care for the children.

It is going to be a long, rocky road to integrate these 7 children into Swedish society and fully raise them to adulthood.  But…in their home country with a grandfather that loves them, they have something they didn’t have alone in Syria.  They have hope.

Do you ever feel hopeless?  If so, our scripture for today is just what you need.  This is the greatest hope story of all time.  It is better than a grandfather traveling all over Syria to rescue his grandchildren.  John 20 tells of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Only by dying and rising again could Jesus ultimately conquer sin and death. He is our only hope of abundant life eternally.  What would make you put your faith in anyone or anything else?

His Daughter Died for ISIS.  Can He Save Her Children? The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2019.
New Start for Family Rescued from Syria, The Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2019.

Faith in Action

Today’s reading:  Mark 11

The setting for today’s scripture is Jerusalem and surrounding towns (Bethphage and Bethany) about five days before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  Mark 11 begins with the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  According to verse 11 Jesus entered the city to the praises of many people, then made his way to the temple courts and took notice of what was going on.  Since it was late, he continued on about 1.5 miles to the east to stay in Bethany with his disciples for the night.

 

Do you ever get home from a long day at work to find a mess that needs to be cleaned up, misbehaving children that need to be set straight, or an issue that needs to be resolved?  Do you ever think to yourself, “I can’t handle this right now, I’m going to bed and will deal with it in the morning”?  I sure have.  I find that things seldom look as hopeless in the light of the morning as they look in the dark of night.  And, I almost always have more patience to deal with them in the morning than I do at night when I’m tired.

I think that might be what happened here.  Because Jesus was fully human and fully God, the Bible tells us he experienced all the same emotions we do.  Knowing the horror he was going to experience at the hands of the same people who were praising him as he entered the city may have disgusted him.  The betrayal of a close friend, much less the anticipation of the physical pain and agony that awaited him, were also probably weighing heavy on his heart and mind.  Rather than busting into the temple and driving out the money-changers right away, he may have decided to just to head to Bethany for the night and deal with the situation in the morning.

The next morning as Jesus was headed from Bethany back to the temple, do you notice how he sneaks in a little object lesson for his disciples?  Mark 11:12 tells us Jesus was hungry and went to see if the nearby fig tree had any fruit he could eat.  Fig trees normally produce fruit two times per year, one in the early spring when the leaves fill out and the other in the fall.  It was springtime and the tree looked promising because it was full of leaves, but when Jesus took a closer look he realized it had no fruit.  He said to it, “may no one eat fruit from you ever again” (Mark 11:14).  I don’t think Jesus cursed the tree because he was hangry (slang for being irritable as a result of hunger) like I would have done.  He did this to teach the disciples a lesson.  Until I studied this passage more closely this week, I always thought the story about the fig tree was a little was random.  I never connected the dots between it and Jesus cleansing the temple.  Now I know.  Not only are these stories linked, but the fig tree encounter only happened so Jesus’ disciples could better understand Jesus’ disdain for the commerce taking in place in God’s house.

 

After leaving the fig tree, Jesus and his disciples went to the temple to deal with the mess they had walked away from the night before.  What they found was religious leaders who had found a way to make money off those who were upholding Mosaic Law by selling them the animals they needed for making sacrifices in the temple.  In fact many scholars believe the religious leaders’ practices were so egregious they could have been considered extortion.  Like the fig tree, the temple looked promising because it was full of “religious” people acting in way that appeared to be holy.  Unfortunately, their hearts were far from God and their actions were completely void of reverence for anyone but themselves.  Jesus cursed the practices of the merchants and drove them out of the temple.

When Jesus and his disciples left the temple and headed back to Bethany, they came upon the fig tree that had withered away in the short time they were gone.  Jesus’ message to his disciples was clear – the Kingdom of Heaven has no use for “religion” without substance.  Anyone who claims to have faith without putting it to work in their life is like the fruitless fig tree and religious leaders in this story – dead, useless to God.

 

Do you know anyone who wants to be useless?  I don’t.  Most everyone I know desires to live each day with some kind of purpose and meaning.  Genuine faith in God gives our lives potential for great purpose and meaning if we put our faith to work for the kingdom of God.

Two Worlds

Today’s Reading:  Luke 16

Do you spend much time thinking about Judgment Day? When we (the Bible Journal community) studied Revelation back in mid-2016, I remember concluding Revelation 20:14-15 had the potential to be the scariest verses in the entire Bible.  They describe Judgment Day – the day each of us will find out if our name is written in the Book of Life and we get to spend eternity with God, or if it is not and we are condemned to spend eternity in torment, away from God.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15).

The parable of the rich man and the beggar in Luke 16, our scripture for today, takes us back to this setting.  The story isn’t about Judgment Day itself, but gives the perspective of someone (the rich man) who had been living in Hell for a while.  Jesus uses this story to teach his audience (and us) some very sobering lessons about Judgment Day.  Let’s look at a couple –

  • We must declare Jesus as Savior and Lord while we are still living.  Salvation is the free gift of God, but it isn’t automatic.  We must choose to put our faith in Jesus.  Like the rich man who had the opportunity to help Lazarus every day, we have more than one opportunity to choose Jesus during our lives on earth.  We don’t get to change our minds after we die.

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’ (Luke 16:25-26).

  • God’s word has already given us all the evidence we need to come to faith in Jesus.  Our sin and need for a Savior is evident throughout the Bible.  If we are unwilling to accept this reality and reject God’s word, no miracle will change our hearts.

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’(Luke 16:31).

Here is the good news – for those of us who have already put our faith in Jesus Christ, Revelation 20:14-15 aren’t scary verses at all.  We know our names are written in the Book of Life and look forward to spending eternity with God in Heaven.

If you are reading this post today and haven’t already put your faith in Jesus, it isn’t too late.  Today can be your day.  Will you say this prayer with me?

God, I confess I am a sinner and deserve the consequences of my sin.  I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead.  Today, I ask for your forgiveness.  I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I accept you as Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Good News

Today’s reading:  Luke 1

Today we launch into a six-week study of the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the first four books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These four books are referred to as The Gospels, or good news.  What is the good news?  From my perspective, it can be summed up in one short verse.

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

As we study over the next six weeks, how can we continually keep this truth on our hearts and in our minds?  Will our study be more meaningful if, with each passage, we take time to remember every single one of them is intended to point us to Jesus Christ our Savior?  Let’s try it.

Our text for today is Luke 1 – the birth of John the Baptist foretold, the birth of Jesus foretold, Mary visiting Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist and Zechariah’s prophecy.  These stories are familiar to many of us.  Rather than focus on the storyline, I’d like to begin our study in Luke 1 by focusing on verses 1-4.  What these verses tell us about the author and his commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is significant.

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4).

A few interesting facts I learned this week that emphasize Jesus Christ is good news wrapped in a person:

  • Luke is the only one of the gospels that was written by a gentile (Matthew, Mark and John were all Jews). Why is this significant?  The saving grace of Jesus Christ is available to anyone who puts their faith in him.  Knowing part of the Bible, the inspired word of God, was written by an author outside of the Jewish community helps gentiles (or non-jews like most of us) see themselves as part of the good news story.
  • Luke was not one of Jesus’s apostles.  He did not personally walk with Jesus during his earthly ministry.  According to verse 2, he interviewed many eyewitnesses and completely investigated everything.  The evidence he found to support Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah must have been overwhelming.  He couldn’t keep it to himself, but had to share the good news.
  • Luke was a physician.  He captured more detail than the other gospels, as the book of Luke is the most complete record of Jesus birth and childhood.  Rather than just focusing on the storyline, Luke emphasized Jesus’ tenderness, care and kindness toward people throughout his writing.  A Savior who humbled himself and became a servant to all is a leader I want to follow.  That is good news.
  • Luke addressed this letter to Theophilus (verse 4), or “Lover of God”.  While many interpreters consider this to be a specific person, it could also have generically meant any Christfollower.  According to verse 2, Luke’s objective was not to provide Theophilus with an historical justification of the Christian faith (did it happen), but to encourage faith by connecting the dots on what happened and what the good news really meant.

The good news of Jesus Christ impacted the life of Luke so significantly he was compelled to pass it on by writing this letter.  As we study together over the next six weeks, I dare you to ask God to speak to you through his word.  God used Luke to write part of the New Testament.  Who knows what he has in store for you.

Encouraging Words

Today’s reading:  Zechariah 8

Do you ever find yourself in need of encouraging words?  Do you always know when you need them?  Yesterday, I had coffee with a leader I’d worked with in the past.  I saw her in the hallway last week and scheduled time to connect just because I hadn’t seen her in a few months.  For about 30 minutes, she caught me up on her kids, her studies, and her job.  It was so good to talk with her.  Shortly after I returned to my office, she sent the following message –

“Thank you for the conversation.  I feel better just talking.  Your spirit is contagious!”

I didn’t realize my friend was in need of such encouragement until after we were together.  These are tough times.  I am convinced that day after day God continues to put me in the path of people who need encouragement.  I am not a prophet or a trained therapist, and I don’t have answers to most people’s problems, but somehow God puts encouraging words for others on my heart.  The result over the past couple of months has been a steady stream of visitors with whom I get to share messages of hope.

Our text for today, Zechariah 8, is about encouraging words.  This chapter was written in about 520 B.C.  God’s people had returned from captivity in Babylon and were supposed to be rebuilding the temple and re-establishing their nation.  Their work, however, had stalled because of the opposition they faced from hostile neighbors and complacency (which Shelly talked about yesterday).  Like the prophet Haggai, God’s prophet Zechariah’s job was to encourage the people to persist.  Zechariah’s approach was to motivate God’s people by giving them a vision of the future when the long-awaited Messiah would come to rescue his people and reign forever.  The messages he shared are still relevant and should be sources of encouragement for us today.  Let’s take a look at a few:

  • God will protect his people from their enemies.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west.  I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God” (Zechariah 8:7-8).

  • God will provide for his people.

For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you.  The grapevines will be heavy with fruit.  The earth will produce its crops, and the sky will release the dew.  Once more I will make the remnant in Judah and Israel the heirs of the blessings (Zechariah 8:12).

  • God keeps his promises.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid (Zechariah 8:14-15).

God’s promises come with expectations for his people – to tell the truth, exercise justice, and live peacefully.  In reality, if we consistently met these expectations, I expect we would need far less encouragement than we often do.

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord (Zechariah 8:16-17).

Tears

Today’s reading:  Lamentation 3

Do you cry often?  I find that very few things actually bring me to tears.  It isn’t that I have a heart of stone or am completely uncaring, it is just that crying is honestly not a usual behavior for me.  I think it’s how I’m wired.  There are a few things, however, that evoke an unusual emotion from me.  In response to these topics, my threshold for tears is often pretty short.

 

  • My family – reflecting on how God has been faithful to provide for my grandparents/parents/BJ and I over the years, sharing the struggles of my teenage children, or doing my best to turn the other cheek when someone has wronged the ones I love will bring me to tears almost every time.
  • Perpetual frustration – when someone or something frustrates me time, after time, after time, I will sometimes hit a point where I’ve just had enough.  One small, relatively benign, encounter might push me over the edge and leave me in tears.
  • The saving grace of Jesus Christ – listening to testimonies of people who’ve reached the end of their rope, have finally laid their burdens at the cross of Jesus Christ, and accepted him as Savior and Lord also stirs my heart.  It isn’t uncommon for me to get choked up on baptism Sunday.

 

Our text today has us in the book of Lamentations, often called the book of tears.  Jeremiah wrote this dirge to mourn the fallen city of Jerusalem.   God warned his people that he would bring destruction if they abandoned him.  It wasn’t until after the Babylonians had destroyed the temple, overthrown the king, and sent them into exile, did God’s people realize their situation and confess their sin.  Jeremiah was moved to tears because of his love for God and his people.

 

Fortunately, our assigned reading for today is Lamentations chapter 3.  Midway through the chapter, the song turns from suffering and sorrow to hope.  Although God temporarily turned away from his people because of their sin, he was still their hope for restoration.

 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:21-24).

 

So I ask you again, what makes you cry?  Like Jeremiah, is your hope truly in the Lord?  I don’t know about you, but it seems like I’m reminded of my inadequacies almost daily.   Thankfully, I have a new opportunity to put my trust and hope in the Lord EVERY SINGLE DAY.  God does not give up on me.  He is still my only hope for restoration.

 

Thank you Lord for being faithful, for loving me, and for giving me new mercies every day.

Hezekiah’s Festival

Today’s reading:  2 Chronicles 29 and 30

Our text today picks up with Hezekiah sitting on the throne in Judah.  Unlike his father, King Ahaz, Hezekiah was committed to following God’s law.  During the first year of his reign, he cleansed/repaired the temple, restored the priesthood and re-instituted temple worship (see 2 Chronicles 29).  2 Chronicles 30 is the story of how Hezekiah resumed the tradition of inviting the scattered tribes of Israel to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover festival together.

A few key lessons we can learn from Hezekiah in this passage:

Do the right thing for the right reason, even in the face of challenges.

      • Cleansing and restoring the temple after many years of neglect was no small task.  Hezekiah persisted.
      • To reinstitute temple worship, it took more sacrifices than the priests could handle (70 bulls, 100 rams, 200 lambs, 600 bulls, 3,000 sheep in the first week; then 1,000 bulls, 7,000 sheep, 1,000 bulls, 10,000 sheep in the second week).  Hezekiah persisted.
      • Men of Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun mocked the King’s messengers who urged them to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Hezekiah persisted.

God’s grace will cover our imperfections if our hearts are right.

      • Many of the people who did come to Jerusalem hadn’t consecrated themselves, as required by the law.  The Levites sacrificed the Passover lamb for everyone who was unclean.
      • The majority of people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not cleansed themselves, but ate the Passover meal anyway.  Hezekiah prayed that the Lord would pardon those who set their hearts on seeking God, even though they had not kept the Law.  The Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (2 Chronicles 20).

Serving the Lord will lead to joy.

      • After restoring the temple, Hezekiah commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord.  They sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped (2 Chronicles 29:30).
      • After the sacrifices were made and the service of the house of the Lord restored, Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided (2 Chronicles 29:36).
      • After celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days, the whole assembly agreed to keep it going for another seven days with gladness (2 Chronicles 30:23).
      • There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:26).

This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.  In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly.  And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

As the great (to the 16th power) grandfather of Jesus, Hezekiah is an example worth following.

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah (Matthew 1:10,16).

 

A Time for Everything

Today’s reading:  Ecclesiastes 3

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book of practical wisdom written by King Solomon late in his life.  Do you remember in 2 Chronicles 1 when Solomon asked God for wisdom?  Even though God granted his desire, Solomon often failed to act upon his own advice and made many unwise and sinful choices.  By the time he wrote Ecclesiastes, however, Solomon had gotten to a point where he was able to reflect over his life’s journey with a sense of humility and repentance.

 

If I had to sum up the main point of Ecclesiastes in one sentence it would be – apart from God, EVERYTHING in life is empty, hollow, and meaningless.  Do you believe this?  I “believe” it because the Bible says it is true, however, I’m not sure my actions always support my stated belief.  As I studied Ecclesiastes 3 this week, God put a few lessons I needed to hear on my heart.  Will you review a few of them with me?

 

  • God established order.  From the moment we were born until the moment we pass from this earth, God is accomplishing his divine purpose in our lives.  There is a time for everything, a season for ever activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
  • Time matters to God.  Time is often called the currency of life.  Once it has passed, it can never be regained again.  Thus, we should spend our time on things that matter, things that glorify God.  He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11a).
  • We can never be completely satisfied with earthly pleasures or pursuits.  Because we are created in the image of God, he is the only who can bring us complete satisfaction.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11b).

 

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there are many things are outside our control.  Even so, we can choose our own conduct, form our own character and decided whether we will follow Jesus Christ or not.  Everything matters to God.  Choose wisely.

 

I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

God’s House

Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 17

Our text for today in 1 Chronicles 17 opens with King David sitting on the throne.  David had conquered the city of Jerusalem (with God’s help), and was setting it up as a home for God’s people.  After moving into a newly constructed palace, David turned his mind toward building a permanent house (temple) for God.  Even though God hadn’t asked for a temple, why did this seem like something David should do?  Let’s go back to Shelly’s post from 2 Samuel 6 yesterday.  At this point in history, God’s dwelling place was still the Ark of the Covenant.  Yesterday Shelly told us about the tumultuous journey David endured as he led his army in bringing back the Ark from the Philistines.  Even though it was back with God’s people, keep in mind that the Ark, the holy presence of God, was still dwelling in a tent (2 Samuel 6:17).  David knew God deserved better than a tent.  His motive for wanting to build the temple was God-honoring.

However, through the prophet Nathan God let David know he did not approve of his construction plan.  While God certainly intended to have a temple built, he was clear that David was NOT going to be the one to build it.  (See 1 Chronicles 28:3 for why.)  Instead, his son Solomon would be appointed King when David died and would be in charge of building God’s temple.

When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

Many years earlier God called David, a lowly shepherd boy, to be King of Israel.  He made him a great warrior and delivered David and his army to countless victories over his enemies.  Until now, David had been the man, God’s chosen one for everything.  When God thwarted his plan for the temple, do you think it stung a little bit?  Do you think it caused David to doubt his leadership abilities or his favor with God?  Was he confronted with his own mortality in a way he had never been before?  Do you think he was envious that a “forever” King would be established after he died?  How would you have responded in that situation?

The second half of 1 Chronicles 17 (verses 16 – 27) outlines David’s response.  It had no shred of envy or self-doubt.  David humbly praised God, thanked him for the years of blessings he bestowed upon David and his family, and affirmed his commitment to what God said to do.  As always, God followed through on his commitment – David’s son Solomon had the honor of building God’s temple.  Twenty-seven generations later, Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, was born into David’s lineage.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).

The kingdom of Jesus Christ is never ending.  He lives in the hearts of those who call him Savior and Lord. Praise his name!