Heal Our Land

2 Chronicles 6-7 & Psalm 136

2 Chronicles 7 14 NIV sgl

Solomon addresses the people of Israel, reminding them of how they got to where they are in regards to the building of God’s temple.  Then he offers a prayer of dedication of the temple.

In his prayer, Solomon knows that as great as the temple is, it isn’t great enough for God.  Yet he asks God to hear what is brought before Him in this house.

40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

41 “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness.
42 Lord God, do not reject your anointed one.
Remember the great love promised to David your servant.”

 

God doesn’t have to hear us.  He doesn’t have to love us.  Yet he established a covenant with David that continued through the generations, that when it came to Jesus, was opened to everyone.  We should be so thankful to God for that!

God responded to Solomon’s prayer with fire and His glory filling the house.  And later, He appeared to Solomon.  One of my favorite verses is in this next section –

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I know this was directed to the people of Israel, but I’d like to think it can apply to us too.  Our land is so broken today.  I live in Minnesota.  These past few weeks we have been dealing with a huge mess of brokenness.  A police officer killed a man during an arrest.  Peaceful protests gave opportunists the chance to start violent riots with buildings being burned down, stores looted, people being sexually assaulted, kids going without food because the services that normally provide them with food are unable to operate amidst this, and much more.  And all I can think is how much our land needs to be healed.  And that is just in my little state.  I know there are problems all across our country, and our world.  If all of God’s people turned to Him and prayed, could our land be healed?

My comfort in this time is knowing that our land will be ultimately healed.  Jesus will return and the earth will be made new.  But until then, I do believe it is the job of God’s people to pray and to turn to Him and away from wickedness.

We’ll end today and this week with Psalm 136.

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, His love endures forever.

If I counted correctly, that phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times in this psalm.

Thanks Marcia for putting this reading plan together.  What a timely reminder.  Whatever is happening in the world today, God’s love endures forever.

Come lord Jesus come.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

 

Today’s beautiful and timely Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+6-7%2C+Psalm+136&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 134 and 146-150 as we continue seeking God, and growing our Christian faith while learning to love Him and others better and better on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.   Now is a great time to start following along. Print your own plan (red link above) and subscribe to the daily devotion emails at https://seekgrowlove.com/

 

Loyal to God

1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127

1 Chronicles 29 18 NIV sgl

Today we finish off the book of 1st Chronicles as King David is finishing his 40 year reign and is passing over the kingship of the nation of Israel and the plans for building God’s temple to his son Solomon.

I love the example we see of accepting God’s will and passing on the torch.  Even though David had wanted to build the temple himself, he accepted that this was not God’s plan for him, and he fully immersed himself in doing all he could (with God’s spirit to guide him) to see the project succeed for the next generation.  How well do we accept changes from what we had planned and desired “in our heart” (1 Chronicles 28:2)?  Do we devote ourselves to God’s will even when it wasn’t our personal “first-choice”?  Do we do all we can to see others succeed with what we wanted for ourselves?

I also love the picture we have of giving and sacrifice. In a Spirit-led manner, David gave of himself, his time, his talents and his possessions to prepare the work for the tabernacle.  He passed along to Solomon very detailed plans, “of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 28:12) including specifics such as the division of labor for the priests and the weights of each of the lamp stands and bowls and other items to be used in the temple.

David knew the plans were no good; unless, there was also the means to follow those plans.  It was going to take material goods to do the work of the Lord.  He opened Israel’s storehouses to provide the gold, silver, marble, bronze, fine stones and other materials that would be used to build this “palatial structure,” “not for man but for the LORD God” (1 Chronicles 29:1).  And then he dug deep and gave from his own treasuries and bank account.  And then he asked the people, “Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?”  How do you really set yourself apart and show your devotion to God – you give, just as David gave.  And Israel responded just as their king had set the example for them – and they gave willingly.

And they gave with humble, thankful hearts – knowing that everything they had belonged to God.  I really love that part!

David rejoiced and praised God when he saw the people respond with generous, giving hearts.  He prayed to God, “keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.  And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” (1 Chronicles 29:18).

This, too, can be our prayer for our own generation and the ones to follow.  We are now God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19) and we have been given so much.  May we not wish for what isn’t in God’s perfect plan for us, but work wholeheartedly where he wants us to be.  May we be leaders who inspire others to give back to God.  May we and our children and their children be consecrated to Him and show that in our generous giving with humble hearts.  God, please keep our hearts loyal to you.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+26-29%2C+Psalm+127&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 111-118 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God’s Presence and the Garden

Genesis 2 8

Text: Gen 2:4 – 3:24

 

Yesterday we began talking about the presence of God, starting with the creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3. We saw that God not only created the earth as a place for us to live, but also as a place for him to be present with us. The heavens and earth are God’s temple.

 

As we move on in Genesis, starting with 2:4 and going to the end of chapter 2, we find another creation account, and its focus is different than the first, paying special attention to humans and what seems to be agriculture. We are introduced to a garden, and people to cultivate and rule over it: Adam (which literally means man or mankind) and Eve (which literally means living or life). The garden also includes two special trees, the tree of life, and tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tree of knowledge could have easily been called the tree of certain death, because God promises they will die if they eat from it. But they can eat from anything else.

 

This garden is a special place. It seems to be a focal point, almost like a holy of holies for God’s cosmic temple. It is sacred space that he shares with his creation. God walks in the garden and is present there with Adam and Eve. Can you imagine just sharing space with God, doing some gardening, and God just walks by, like it was a normal thing? “Oh, hey God.”

 

That kind of closeness and intimacy with God in his presence was how it was for Adam and Eve, until something happened. There’s a talking serpent. This mischievous serpent character convinces Eve that she won’t in fact die if she eats from the tree of knowledge, she’ll just have knowledge like God. This is tricky because it has just enough truth in it. Maybe you would call it a white lie, but still a deception. Eve eats from the tree of knowledge, and Adam follows suit.

 

As Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they disobeyed God’s direct command and took matters into their own hands, going down a path to prematurely obtain the knowledge of good and evil. They likely had a childlike innocence about them before, and maybe God would have in time revealed this knowledge of good and evil to them in his way, in his time. Well, now things were going to be different for them. They suddenly realized they had no clothes and hid from God. They were ashamed. God finds out what they did (surely he already knew what they did) and kicks them out of his garden.

 

The consequences were very serious. God has cherubim (winged creatures sort of like a sphinx, not at all like a baby with wings) and a flaming sword guard the entrance so they can’t enter and eat from the tree of life. They are exiled from the garden, they are effectively sentenced to death by no longer having access to the tree of life and God’s presence. They will have to work much harder to grow food to survive, and some other fun consequences.

 

Reading an account like this makes you think a lot. What sorts of things are symbolized by the tree of life, and tree of knowledge? What is a serpent doing there? Are we really talking about fruit? I have no definitive answers to these questions. The beauty of this passage is that it forces you to think more every time you read it, and I believe that is why it is there.

 

The garden account is ripe with symbolism to interpret. While it is an account about real people, it is written in a way that makes it much bigger than that. Adam and Eve can be seen as archetypes for us, meaning the things that are said of them are also true of us. Adam is formed from dust (Gen 3:19), so are we (Ps 103:14). Eve is made from one of Adam’s sides, while we recognize that men and women are each other’s halves in a way. They face temptation and shame, so do we. They do things in defiance against God, and so do we (Rom 3:23), and as a result of that defiance, they exiled themselves from God’s garden, as we frequently exile ourselves from God’s presence when we sin, in a way. Their story is much like ours.

 

This isn’t the most encouraging chapter in the story of God’s presence. It’s one of the lower places we could go in scripture. The reality is that sin and the presence of God are not compatible things. Sin, separation from God, and death are all connected, if not three heads of the same monster. Of course, God knows this, and still wants to be present with us, so there has to be some kind of remedy for sin. Ultimately, we know that remedy to be Christ, but there was a progression to get there.

 

Tomorrow we’ll look at Exodus 40 – how God used a man named Moses to renew his presence among his people.

 

-Jay Laurent

 

God’s Presence at Creation

Hello Readers!  If you have been reading along with us everyday in 2019 – you have now read all of the gospel of Matthew.  Well done!   We will cover the other three gospels later in the year (John in April, Mark in August and Luke in December). This week we are going to take a little theme break and investigate the topic of the Presence of God.  Every day there will be a Bible passage to read, but they won’t be consecutive New Testament chapters.  Then, next week (starting Sunday, February 10) we will begin a chapter by chapter daily walk through the book of Acts.  Remember, stick with us all year and we will cover the whole New Testament – as well as lots of other golden nuggets as well.  And so we begin – – – The Presence of God at Creation!

Text: Gen 1:1 – 2:3

Isaiah 66 1 a

This week, I want to lead you in some thoughts, taking a tour through scripture to highlight some big moments in the story of God’s presence among us. Today we are going to start this journey in Genesis 1, with creation.

 

But why creation? I think that is an important question, if not the biggest question Genesis 1 aims to answer. Probably hundreds of times I came there preoccupied with questions about who, what, when, where, and how, but forgot to ask why. And the answer to the “why” question is intimately tied to God’s presence.

 

When we think about “why” questions, we’re starting to think about purpose. Teleological questions. We’re going places scientific inquiry doesn’t (and can’t) go. We’re starting to ask the questions God wants us to think about most.

 

The opening verses of Genesis paint a picture of a wasteland. God is hovering over the deep, or the waters (a recognized symbol of chaos). The earth is said to be without form and void. It has no purpose. God begins his work to shape it all into order.

 

But why? If you are God, do you need the heavens or an earth? Do you need plants, animals, and people? I’d guess that no, God doesn’t require any of those things. He’s God, right? It seems that if God doesn’t need anything, he was motivated by something to create.

 

The earth was set up as a space for us to live, and rule with God, or be stewards, over the rest of creation (this is at the core of what it means to be made in God’s image). The earth is a gift to us. The first six days of creation are the account of God separating, naming, and giving function and purpose to all the moving parts of his cosmos, really for our benefit.

 

God calls what he did “good” after each day, and then after he is finished, he calls the whole thing “very good.” In other words, all the parts come together and work like a well-oiled machine. Thank God the earth functions beautifully for us, but there is something more going on here, particularly when we talk about day seven.

 

Day seven is something we usually mention as an aside to creation. We say things like, “now God kicked back to relax, and he did it to admire his creation and be an example for us so that we remember to take a day off.” And we might be correct in saying something like that. But let’s be real, God doesn’t need rest. There is something more going on here.

 

First, “rest” in this context probably doesn’t mean God is tired and needs to recharge. It means he now has stability and order in his creation. You can see this idea of stability and security come up many times in scripture when it talks about God giving rest (see Exodus 33:14, 1Ch 22:9, 2Sa 7:11).

 

Second, it is understood among the Israelites and other ancient Near Eastern cultures that when deities rest, they rest in temples. And a temple isn’t finished until a deity rests in it. This is a strange idea to us, but it was understood in those cultures (we can see a similar thing happening in the ancient Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, for example). They would know right away from the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that it has a temple theme, and that God rests in it on day seven.

 

Third, the number seven carries with it a symbolic meaning of completion. We think of numbers strictly as representing quantities. Ancient Israelites aren’t as strict with their use of numbers, and use them in ways that qualitatively symbolize things. This is why you see numbers like 7, 12, and 40 all over the place in the Bible.

 

But where was the temple in the story, though? Did you miss it? So did I. Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It’s the best Indiana Jones movie, by the way. There is a part in that movie where they are in an old church that was converted to a library, and they’re trying to match Roman numerals from a stained glass window with locations in the building. They are stuck on finding the location of 10, until Indiana walks up a staircase to a balcony overlooking where they were standing. Lo and behold, there is a giant X across the whole floor. They didn’t see it, because they were standing on it the whole time.

 

If you are looking for the temple in Genesis 1, it’s been under your nose the whole time. In Isaiah 66:1, God declares, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” The whole cosmos is God’s temple. God spends the first six days of creation naming and giving purpose to the different parts of the heavens and the earth, to provide a place where we can thrive, but the dual purpose is that these parts are being inaugurated and paraded in as pieces of his temple.

 

But to just build a temple out of materials doesn’t make it a temple. A temple isn’t a temple until God rests in it, otherwise it’s just a structure. Day seven is when God rests in and inhabits his temple. It’s when he moves in with us. This is part of why it was important to the Jews to observe the sabbath, to celebrate his stability and presence in their lives.

 

Day seven isn’t the aftermath of creation, it is the completion, the crown, like the shiny star or angel on your Christmas tree. God could have made this beautiful place, put us in it, and moved on, never to have contact with us again, and it would still be amazing! But no, God didn’t just wind up the clock and step away, as some people mistakenly believe he did. He decided to be involved with his creation, especially us, in real and intimate ways. He decided that he would be present in his temple, living among us.

 

The why of creation, the purpose, is that God wanted to make his home with us.

 

Next, we’ll travel to the garden.

 

Just a quick note to give credit where it is due. The idea of creation being a temple isn’t mine. First of all, it is God’s idea. But if you are interested in reading more about it from scholars who can articulate and support it much better than I can, check out The Lost World Of Genesis One by John Walton, or The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale.

— Jay Laurent