Category Archives: 1 & 2 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 29:1-20: Work and wealth

“How’s work?” we ask each other. And the answer is often something like, “So busy! And it’s only Tuesday! I can’t wait until the weekend! The boss is a slave-driver! I’m hanging out for a holiday!” We almost say these things without thinking.

We often COMPLAIN about work. And yet, God MADE us to work. And work has lots of benefits. Including EARNING MONEY. And MONEY can be used to DO GOOD. It pays for food, clothing and housing for us and our families. But it can also help the people AROUND us.

That’s our topic today. Work and wealth. And how can we generously USE our wealth.

  1. God works (Gen 2:2), and made us, in his image, to work.

First thing to say is that God built WORK into the fabric of creation. To begin with, GOD works. At the start of Genesis 2, we read

2 By the seventh day God had FINISHED THE WORK he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his WORK. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

God’s ACT OF CREATING is work. And when he creates PEOPLE in his image. He gives THEM work to do, TOO. Genesis 1:27, God creates people, male and female. And

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and SUBDUE it. RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature”

And then God declares everything VERY GOOD. God’s good design is people WORKING to fill, rule and subdue the earth.

And in chapter 2 God puts Adam in the Garden of Eden, v15, to WORK it and TAKE CARE of it. The word for WORK has the idea of CULTIVATING. Of working so that MORE WILL BE PRODUCED. Being CREATIVE, like God HIMSELF.

And the word for TAKE CARE has the idea of STEWARDSHIP, or KEEPING WATCH OVER. To MAKE THE MOST of what we’ve been given. We’ve got a responsibility to KEEP the world, so it CONTINUES to thrive and produce.

But as well as a RESPONSIBILITY, God also gives PARADISE. The Garden of Eden. Full of wonderful things to enjoy. Beautiful things to look at. Delicious things to EAT. Everything in balance. With enough for everyone. Fullness and abundance from a GENEROUS God.

  1. Good stewards of God’s generosity

And even though everything changes after the Fall. And work becomes DIFFICULT. God’s world is still GOOD, and his command to be GOOD STEWARDS in our work CONTINUES. And the people we see in the Bible who do that BEST are those who understand God’s GENEROSITY.

For example, King David and the construction of the Temple. David wanted to build the temple. But God told him that it would be his son, Solomon, who’d build it instead. So David decides to spend the last few years of his life getting everything ready.

1 Chronicles 22, he stores up stone and logs and iron for the nails, and so much bronze it couldn’t be weighed. He organises the work men. Then in chapter 28, he summons all the leaders of Israel together, and makes sure they’re on side. And he gives Solomon the pep talk, and hands over the plans, right down to the designs for the lampstands and bowls.

And that’s a great example for US. He didn’t just donate his wealth. He gave his time and energy and wisdom to do all the ORGANISING, as well. And, often, that’s the GREATER cost. For most of us, it’s easy to give money. But sometimes what’s needed is our ATTENTION, our TIME, our SKILLS, our ENERGY. Perhaps a charity or ministry needs your professional advice, or to be on THEIR BOARD, or to BE A VOLUNTEER. Sometimes that’s the best way to MULTIPLY your influence. How willing are you to give up THOSE things for God’s kingdom?

Back to King David, though. In ch 29, he continues his speech, talking about MONEY. V2.

2 With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God-gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron etc… 3 Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my PERSONAL treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple:

Giving not only the wealth of ISRAEL. But his PERSONAL wealth TOO. Which sounds a lot like BOASTING. Except for what he says NEXT. V5. Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the LORD?”

In other words, what are YOU LOT willing to contribute? He describes all HE gave as an encouragement for OTHERS to give. And look at what happened.

6 Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. 7 They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze etc….

The leaders of Israel follow the example of their king, and give GENEROUSLY. And, v9, that made EVERYONE rejoice. Including DAVID. (From v10)

10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to YOU, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,

But look at what David praises God FOR.

for EVERYTHING IN HEAVEN AND EARTH IS YOURS. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 WEALTH AND HONOR COME FROM YOU; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But WHO AM I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? EVERYTHING COMES FROM YOU, AND WE HAVE GIVEN YOU ONLY WHAT COMES FROM YOUR HAND.

David’s not PROUD. He doesn’t expect to be praised for his donations. It’s GOD who deserves the praise. Everything comes from his generous hand ANYWAY.

So, in a way, it’s not even DONATING when you give wealth away. It’s hardly even yours to BEGIN with. It’s more like PASSING IT FORWARD. Passing on what God’s generously given YOU.

And Jesus understood that view of God and his world. Flip over to Luke 12. In v22, he teaches, “DON’T WORRY about your life – what you’ll eat or what you’ll wear. Why? V24. Because if God feeds the ravens, then he’ll feed YOU, who are more valuable than ravens. And, v27, if he clothes the grass of the field, then he’ll clothe YOU, who are more valuable that grass. O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH.

In other words, God is generously providing for all his creatures. And to worry, or to fear, is to DOUBT GOD. It doubts his goodness, and his generosity.

It’s like you’ve been invited to an extravagant party at someone’s mansion. There’s food and drink for everyone. It’s piled up on tables. The drink fridges are FULL. The waiters keep coming around with trays of food. And they swap your drink for a full one before you’ve even finished.

But SOME people aren’t convinced. And so, they grab trays of food for themselves. And crates of drinks. And they head off to a corner of the house. And jealously guard what they’ve got. And worry about whether they have enough. That’s what we all do in this world.

But Jesus says, take a look around at the party. Look at what the host has provided. It doesn’t make SENSE to stockpile and accumulate. It’s an insult to the HOST.

Jesus says to CONSIDER the ravens. And CONSIDER how the lilies grow. MEDITATE on God’s world. And see God’s generous fingerprints all over it.

And as you DO that, v31, Jesus says, “Seek God’s kingdom– make GOD your top priority- and he’ll GIVE YOU ALL THESE THINGS. Because he’s GENEROUS. And he’s made his world ABUNDANT and FULL. That’s the way to TRUST him. And not to worry or fear.

And when you seek God’s kingdom. And DON’T seek EARTHLY things, you’ll give them away.V33. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When you understand God’s generosity, it overflows in generosity to OTHERS. When you make GOD your treasure, then your HEART will be set on him. Your life, your priorities, your purpose, your identity. They’re all about God and his kingdom, rather than clothes or food or money. Or influence or pleasure or reputation or control.

Of course, the GREATEST gift God’s given us is JESUS HIMSELF. John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he GAVE his only Son. Romans 8:32

He who did not spare his own son, but GAVE him up for us all – how will he not also, along with HIM, graciously give us ALL things?

And it’s THE GIFT OF JESUS that motivates US to be generous. He’s the GREATEST gift of all, so CHRISTIANS have the greatest MOTIVATION to be generous.

That’s the logic Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 8-9. He’s encouraging the Corinthian church to give to help the Jewish Christians suffering famine in Jerusalem. He could COMMAND them to give, but instead he reminds them of God’s grace to THEM. 2 Corinthians 8 v8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

(He’s just told them how the Macedonians have been generous, even though they’re POOR). 9 For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

That’s why we’re to be generous, because God was generous to US. He goes on to give practical instructions about HOW to give. But he finishes Ch 9 with these words, reminding them, once again, of God’s generosity to them.

13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of THE SURPASSING GRACE GOD HAS GIVEN YOU. 15 Thanks be to GOD for HIS indescribable gift!

And we find lots of Biblical examples of people who’ve DONE this. People who trusted their generous God, and then generously gave to see his kingdom GROW. Whose OBEDIENCE in GIVING accompanied their confession. Like in Luke 8:1-3. The Twelve are following Jesus around as he proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God.

2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

In the book of Acts, we read about the first Christians, (2:44) 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Or at the end of ch 4, we read (v34) 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

In fact, Luke HIMSELF, who wrote Luke and Acts, was almost certainly financially supported by a patron, Theophilus. Both books begin with a dedication to him, Luke 1:3:

since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Luke’s in Rome, waiting for Paul’s trial. Theophilus is probably a Roman Christian who pays Luke to write the history of how the gospel of Jesus got to Rome. And what an amazing investment in the kingdom Theophilus made! How many MILLIONS of people have come into the kingdom through Luke’s writing?!

Or there’s PAUL himself. In Romans 16, he introduces Phoebe, who’s probably the courier for the letter. 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been A GREAT HELP to many people, including ME.

That word for help is the word for PATRON. She’s been a great PATRON. Not just helping the church in Corinth as a DEACON, but even helping PAUL.

I could talk about plenty more gospel patrons down through history. People who GENEROUSLY supported gospel ministry. People who saw the world the way Jesus did. Generously provided by a good God. And who took Jesus’ command seriously. But I want to finish by looking at ONE IN PARTICULAR. Colonel John Hay Goodlet. Around the end of the 19th century, he was one of Australia’s wealthiest men, and shrewdest businessmen. And he was a member of this church for nearly 30 years. His contributions helped build this building in 1886. And the manse as well. He did the same in 1910 when the hall next door was built – named the Goodlet Sunday School and Institute after he died. Much like King David, he encouraged OTHERS to donate by matching, pound for pound, donations from the congregation. It’s estimated that between 1883 and 1910 he contributed at least 8000 pounds out of a total cost of 14500 pounds for the three buildings. And that’s in addition to his normal Sunday giving.

And ALSO like King David, he didn’t just give his MONEY. He gave his TIME and ENERGY. Robert McGowan, the minister here at the time of his death, said this about him, “The most outstanding feature of his life was the fact he gave himself to Christian work. There are men who subscribe money, but Colonel Goodlet gave his best subscription when he GAVE HIMSELF.”

He became an elder at Ashfield in 1878 and was faithful in attendance and performing his duties until his death in 1914. He was an assembly elder from 1870 until his death – 44 years. And was on lots of its committee, giving valuable business and financial advice.

But it wasn’t just impressive and important affairs. He taught Sunday School and was Sunday School Superintendent from 1876 to 1891. And, although they were childless, in 1876 they unofficially adopted the four children of the Copelands, missionaries in New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) after Elizabeth, their mother died of tuberculosis.

And there are too many other charities to mention that Goodlet, together with his wife Ann, donated to, or were involved in organising. A consumptive home for poor tuberculosis sufferers. Homes for pregnant abandoned single women, Ragged schools that aimed to reform, educate and improve the lot of destitute children. The Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institution, YMCA, Sydney City Mission, Bush Missionary Society, and many more.

The Goodlets were well-known and widely-appreciated by people in Sydney. But that wasn’t what motivated them. Paul Cooper, his biographer, suggests that his generosity flowed from his genuine sympathy and tenderness towards others. And that these were “enhanced, guided and nurtured by his consistent faith. His Christian faith was earnest, humble-minded and consistent for ‘he was as much a Christian in business as in the church and philanthropic work’” (p259)

Here’s what John Goodlet himself said in a speech to a group of Presbyterians. It explains a lot about what motivated his extraordinary life.

“Let them (fellow Christians) never be unmindful that they could only succeed as God blessed their labours. Let one and all have A SINGLE EYE TO HIS GLORY, and then their Lord would honour their Church by using it to ADD LIVING STONES TO HIS TEMPLE. God forbid that they should ever be satisfied with MERE OUTWARD PROSPERITY.” (p260)

He recognised God’s generous hand in the world. And, like Jesus said, he considered the ravens and the grass of the field – how God fed and clothed them. And he PRAISED him for it, like King David. And he was HUMBLED by it.

And, like Jesus said, it led him to seek God’s kingdom, rather than building earthly treasures. And his passion was to see God’s kingdom grow.

And so he gave generously to those who needed it. And, for all his EARTHLY wealth, he built for himself a far more valuable treasure in heaven, where no thief can steal and no moth can destroy. And he’d encourage us to DO THE SAME.

 

 

2 Chronicles 29-36: When is war good?

When is war good? That’s a question the advertising agency for the Australian Army must have asked. “When is war good? How do you make such a violent job sound attractive?”

You’ve probably heard the old line “Join the Navy. See the world. Meet interesting people. And KILL THEM.”

You can imagine the ad agency meetings. “When is war GOOD? When is WAR good?” Round and round went the question. And my guess is they couldn’t believe their luck when EAST TIMOR came along. Because the army finally had something GOOD to do. You’ve seen the ads.

“My name’s Fred Spencer. And I’m an electrician in the Australian Army. When we went to East Timor, we were able to HELP the people. We rebuilt their hospitals, and got the electricity working again. And now the country’s back on track. All because of the Australian Army. Why don’t YOU join the Army, so you can help people too!”

And without doubt, the Army WERE a great help in East Timor. But it just seems a bit strange that that’s the ONLY part of the job they talk about.

“When is war good?” Whatever you’re opinion about Iraq, the Americans and John Howard would have us believe that the battle for Iraq is a GOOD war. Because we’re liberating a country. Removing a ist sympathizer. A dictator. That’s how the argument goes.

And I believe there are times when war IS necessary. When the evil you’re up against is SO bad, war is the only option. And as events are unfolding, it seems like this might be one of those times.

1. Wickedness, Warning and War

“When is war good?” The question gets asked again/ here in the last part of Chronicles. These chapters are about WICKEDNESS, WARNING AND WAR.

Judah is WICKED. And God is bringing WAR on them. But it’s WAR which is a WARNING. A warning to turn back to him. And that makes it a HOLY war. A GOOD war.

Judah is like a car that’s just about out of petrol. At the end of Ch 35 King Josiah dies. And he’s the last drop of petrol in the tank. The last whiff of anything good in Judah. And the car splutters, coughs, dies. And rolls to a stop.

And God knows that drastic action is needed. So he calls for the demolition squad. The wrecking ball is about to fall.

And the wrecking ball part 1 is Egypt. They’re on the rise. The biggest kid on the block. And it’s Josiah’s son Jeho-ahaz who feels the brunt of Egypt’s might. He’s the next king. That’s in 609 BC. And Ch 36 v3 tells us he only reigned 3 months. And for the whole time, Jerusalem is under siege from Egypt.

In fact, NONE of these last four kings experience any peace. It’s 23 YEARS OF WAR until the final destruction of Jerusalem in 587!

So poor old Jeho-ahaz only lasts three months. That’s all it takes for Egypt to finally overcome Judah. And they strip the land of riches. And impose a heavy war tax. And Jehoahaz himself gets taken off to Egypt.

His brother Jehoi-akim gets put on the throne instead. A puppet ruler for Egypt. And he lasts for 11 years. 11 years of WAR. But now Babylon’s starting to grow strong. And Egypt and Babylon are the two bullies beating each other up. And Judah’s caught in the middle.

And when Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin takes over. But HE only lasts three months. Three months and ten days to be precise. That’s v9 of Ch 36.

Because Babylon finally wins the arm wrestle. And they’re WRECKING BALL NUMBER TWO. And their eyes turn to little Judah. And it doesn’t take much to bring her into line as well. Not that there’s much left to take. It’s already up on bricks. Someone’s pinched the wheels and the stereo. But Babylon still manages to smash in a few doors. And strip the motor.

More of the temple treasures head off to BABYLON. And Nebuchadnezzar decides to take Jehoiachin there as well.

And he puts SOMEONE ELSE on the throne. Jehoiachin’s UNCLE Zedekiah. The LAST KING of Judah. And he lasts 11 years. But it’s 11 years under the thumb of Babylon. The threat of war constantly there. Cowering in a corner. Sending off payment every few months to keep the bully at bay. More and more gear getting stripped off the car.

But despite all the warnings/ nothing is bad enough for Zedekiah to turn to God. Look at v12.

(2 Chr 36:12 NIV)  He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD.

Not that anyone else is any better. Look at v14

(2 Chr 36:14 NIV)  Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

2. Postponing War – God’s patience (36:15) – 2 Peter 3:8-9

And through all of this. God remains patient. They might think times are tough. But this is only the WARNING WAR. The war before the real thing. The entrée before the main course. God is actually POSTPONING WAR because he’s patient. Look at Ch 36.15

(2 Chr 36:15 NIV)  The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.

Repent. Turn back to me. For the sake of David. For the sake of the temple. For the sake of my name. That’s the message of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

3. Holy War – God’s judgment

But it makes no difference. The people refuse to listen. The WARNING war has no effect. V16.

(2 Chr 36:16 NIV)  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets UNTIL THE WRATH OF THE LORD WAS AROUSED AGAINST HIS PEOPLE/ and THERE WAS NO REMEDY.

Finally in 587 BC. The end comes. God’s PATIENCE runs out. Now it’s time for God’s JUDGMENT. V17.

(2 Chr 36:17-19 NIV)  He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword IN THE SANCTUARY, and spared neither young man NOR young woman, old man OR aged. God handed ALL OF THEM over to Nebuchadnezzar. {18} He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. {19} They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

Almost total slaughter. Men AND women. Young AND old. Soldiers AND civilians.

And they destroyed EVERYTHING. Houses, public buildings. Palaces. The city walls knocked to the ground. Even the TEMPLE was completely destroyed.

And we might shake our heads at the cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar. But this WASN’T/ Nebuchadnezzar’s doing. It was God’s. The JUSTICE of God. He was the one behind it all. He BROUGHT UP Nebuchadnezzar. He HANDED Judah over. All because of Judah’s rebellion.

Yes, Nebuchadnezzar did the . But it was for God’s PURPOSES. This was a HOLY war. A JUST war. Dare we say it – a GOOD war.

4. When is war good?

A GOOD war? But when is war good?

Despite the terrible picture that’s painted. There IS good. A silver lining to the cloud. Because as God so often does, there’s GRACE in the midst of JUDGMENT.

It’s not COMPLETE destruction. Some are spared. V20.

(2 Chr 36:20 NIV)  Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

And we get a clue that this is part of God’s MERCY from the word that’s used. Remnant. “SHERRIYT”.

Throughout the Bible it’s a term used for the FAITHFUL ones who God PROTECTS. And preserves. While the wicked are destroyed.

And so what’s good about THIS war. Is that God SAVED a REMNANT. They were his TRUE people of God. The TRUE Israel.

And the Babylon which had been THE DESTROYER. Becomes Babylon the PROTECTOR.

And it’s not just the PEOPLE who are protected. It’s the LAND ITSELF. Look at v21.

(2 Chr 36:21 NIV)  The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

What’s good about this war. Is that the land gets a chance to rest. And be renewed. So that when the NEW God’s people come back to the Promised Land, they’re coming back to a brand new land. A complete fresh start. Ready to start from scratch.

That’s what’s GOOD about war!

And God still works the same way today. The New Testament teaches us that God chose SOME before the creation of the world. A REMNANT who he’d give his Spirit to. Open their eyes to see who Jesus was. And to understand what he demanded of them.

EVERYONE deserves , yet to SOME God gives life. Purely by grace. Nothing to do with worth. Have you responded to his offer of life in Jesus?

5. Hoping for a worthy king and an obedient people (36:22-23)

And then the last two verses of Chronicles jump forward seventy years. To the time when Babylon has fallen to Persia. And the Jews are still stuck in Babylon. But it’s time for God’s people to go home. V22.

(2 Chr 36:22-23 NIV)  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {23} “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you–may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'”

And with that invitation, the connection between past and present is complete. Between God’s people of OLD, and the people at the time of the writer.

Remember who’s listening to this? The first hearers are THAT EXACT FAITHFUL REMNANT who’ve just been described. Who’ve ALREADY come back. Who’ve BEGUN rebuilding. And who’ve taken up Cyrus’ invitation.

(“That’s us!” They say to themselves as they hear these last words)

And they had wonderful prophecies to keep them going/ like that in Isaiah 11.

(Isa 11:1-13 NIV)  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. {2} The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, …{3} and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. …{5} Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. {6} The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. …{9} They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. {10} In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. {11} In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, …. {12} He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;

And the final message of the Chronicler/ is this. “This is what you’ve got the chance to claim. God’s given you a fresh start. A new chance to rebuild Israel. Even the land is refreshed and excited. It’s just waiting to become the Garden of Eden all over again.

It’s the chance to learn from the mistakes of the past. And to re-commit to God, and the temple. To recommit to serving under a faithful king. And godly priests. Who’ll lead you into a new glorious age.” It’s a wonderfully upbeat note to finish on.

And no doubt, the people continued to work hard for a while. And to hope for the dawning of a new age. Hoping for a worthy king, and a faithful people.

But the golden age never came. And the people quickly fell back into their old habits. Judah was always under the thumb of some foreign power After Persia it was Greece. And then after Greece it was Rome. And there was never any strong option to be king.

And so the people continued to hope for a WORTHY king, and an OBEDIENT people. But they never came. They continued to look to God to be faithful to his promises. But he didn’t deliver.

Not for another 500 years. When Jesus was born. A Son of David. From the shoot of Jesse. Just like Isaiah said he would.

And God’s Spirit was on him like no other person. And through his and resurrection, he won a victory like no other king. And initiated a kingdom like no other. And he called a people to follow him who were unique from any other nation.

A worthy king. And an obedient people. Judah’s hope was well-founded. God delivered. It just took a little longer than they thought. And it happened in a different way.

Flip over to the last book of the Bible. Revelation. Ch 5. (page 869). It shows us this worthy King Jesus from a DIFFERENT point of view. From the standpoint of heaven. From the position of the END OF TIME, rather than the MIDDLE.

The chapter starts with John still looking at a vision of God. And he’s holding a scroll. It represents God’s plans and purposes for human history. His Palm Pilot. But there’s no-one worthy to open it. No one who can carry out God’s plans.

And so John weeps. Will God’s plans be short-circuited? Isn’t there ANYONE who can see God’s plans through?

But wait! There IS someone. V5.

(Rev 5:5 NIV)  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

A mighty King. A lion! Just like Isaiah’s prophecy. A WORTHY king! A triumphant warrior! Powerful in battle! It’s Jesus!

But he’s not what we’d expect. Look at the next verse.

(Rev 5:6 NIV)  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,

What sort of a triumphant lion is a slain lamb? Surely they’ve got the wrong person! How can HE be worthy?

But he IS. Perhaps the LION bit’s able to make up for the puny lamb bit. In v7. He takes the scroll. And yet it’s the very opposite of what we thought. Because those in the heavenly court sing a new song. V9

(Rev 5:9 NIV)  And they sang a new song: “You are WORTHY to take the scroll and to open its seals, BECAUSE YOU WERE SLAIN, and WITH YOUR YOU PURCHASED MEN FOR GOD from every tribe and language and people and nation.

King Jesus is WORTHY because he was SLAIN. It’s as the LAMB, that he can achieve God’s purposes. His purposes to make a NEW PEOPLE. A people from every language on earth. Just like Isaiah 11.

And look at what that new people will be like. V10.

(Rev 5:10 NIV)  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

An obedient people. A victorious people. Who will reign. Just like Chronicles was hoping for. Priests. Who serve God faithfully. And represent him before men.

Jesus the WORTHY KING. Brings in a FAITHFUL people. A kingdom and priests. That’s what WE are. We are EVERYTHING Chronicles was hoping Judah would become.

And it’s all because of our WORTHY King Jesus. This Easter, let’s rejoice with the victory Christ won on the cross. And let’s WORSHIP Jesus. Joining with the whole crowd in heaven.

(Rev 5:11-14 NIV)  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. {12} In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” {13} Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” {14} The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Introduction to 1 and 2 Chronicles: The King, The People and The Temple

Chronicles is unusual because it describes many events which are also described in Samuel and Kings. In some places the writer (called the Chronicler) ADDED details which WEREN’T found in other parts of the Bible, and in other places he LEFT OUT parts of the story. He had a theological purpose behind these choices.

The Chronicler relied on many written sources. About half his work is taken from Samuel and Kings, with other sources including Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah. He also refers to other non-biblical books.

It seems likely that the book was written for the Jewish community who had returned from Babylon. God had exiled them there from 605 BC. David’s kingly line was lost, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. In 538 BC Cyrus allowed them to return. They are in the land, yet have no Davidic king and are under the rule of Persia.

Is God still interested in them? Are God’s promises to David still valid? Are they still God’s people? Where do the people go from here? These are the questions the writer of Chronicles seeks to answer for the returned Israelites. His big theme is that the way to restore God’s blessings for Israel is to restore the people, the king, and the temple to the way God intended them to be. He achieves his purpose by emphasising several themes;

1. The king: The reign of King David was the high point in Israel’s history. He was a man after God’s own heart. The Chronicler highlights the positive aspects of David’s reign, holding him up as the ideal that Israel can again aspire to. Returning a king from David’s line to the throne is a key step for the Chronicler in the restoration of God’s blessing to Israel.

2. The Law and the Prophets: This is a major focus of Israel’s covenant life under the leadership of the house of David. It was Israel’s obedience to the law, rather than simply the existence of Davidic kings or the temple which assured Israel of God’s blessing. A primary feature of the FAITHFUL king was his attempt to bring the people back to the law, and to heed God’s prophetic word.

3. The temple: The rebuilt temple and its service are God’s greatest gifts to his people. His account of the reign of David focuses on David’s preparation and instructions for the temple. The description of Solomon emphasises his building of the temple.

4. All Israel: Despite God’s people splitting into Judah (southern tribes) and Israel (northern tribes) during the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chron 10), Chronicles still emphasises “all Israel” – listing the genealogies and lands for all twelve tribes, and specifically noting when ALL Israel assembled during the reigns of David and Solomon. The narrative makes frequent mention of movements of godly people from the north to Judah for specific religious reasons. This also serves to give the readers hope for the day when God will restore more than simply the remnant to the land – but all Israel.

The book can be divided into the following sections;

a) 1 Chron 1-9: History of the kingdom

b) 1 Chron 10-2 Chron 9: The united kingdom

c) 2 Chron 10-28: The divided kingdom

d) 2 Chron 29-36: The united kingdom

5. God’s election: God has chosen the tribe of Levi to serve in the temple. He has chosen David as king, and Solomon to build the temple. He has chosen Jerusalem to be his city, and the temple to be the place where His name would dwell. These acts of God assure postexilic Israel that they are still God’s people whose election hasn’t been cancelled.

6. The Promised Messiah: Chronicles sustains Israel’s hope for the promised Messiah by recalling the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7 in 1 Chron 17, and then regularly referring back to it. The idealised depictions of the faithful kings (David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah) show the Messianic ideal. They served as types, foreshadowing the David to come of whom the prophets had spoken, encouraging hope in Israel in the face of discouragement.

1 Chronicles 1-9: Who are God’s People?

I want you to imagine you’re a Jew living in Jerusalem about 450 BC.  Your grandad had lived through the invasion by Babylon in around 600 BC. That’s when the first prisoners were taken away.

He was only a boy, but he remembered it well. They’d been terrible days. Jerusalem besieged. Famine. Desperation.

Finally, in 576, the Babylonian soldiers broke through the walls and destroyed everything. Jerusalem’s intimidating fortress was destroyed. Solomon’s majestic temple – smashed to the ground. And all the temple treasures taken off to Babylon. And that’s when Grandad, and just about everyone else, was carried off to Babylon, too.

And there they’d waited for seventy years.

And that’s where YOU were born. Babylonian by law. But Jewish by birth. Your passport said “Babylon”, but your line said “Jew”. And you grew up knowing nothing but the ways of Babylon. Its language. Its buildings. Its food. Its plants and animals. Its roads and rivers and mountains.

And then in 539, just when you’d given up hope that anything would change, there was a change of government. Persia, and King Cyrus, captured Babylon.

And just a few months later, in 538, there was a miracle. King Cyrus said you could go home! Home to re-build the temple! What a celebration there’d been! Finally! A chance to go home! Back to Jerusalem!

And that’s how you’d ended up back here. In a city you’d only ever heard about. But never seen.

But it didn’t look anything like you’d imagined it. Like grandad described it. No thick walls. No public buildings. No bustling market-place.

It was more like a poor, dusty village. Not much left of the glorious centrepiece of Solomon’s empire. The home of the temple of the Living God.

And you were in a strange land you’d never seen before. Dusty roads that wandered out into unfamiliar country. Strange birds and trees and plants. Unusual noises and smells. Like nothing you’d ever known. It might have been your HOME LAND, but it didn’t FEEL like home.

And you started to wonder whether this really WAS your land. After all, there was no Jewish king. No Son of David on the throne. Persia was the one making all the important decisions.

And there was no palace. No city walls. And no temple. No altar. No sacrifices. Perhaps this WASN’T God’s land, after all.

Perhaps you weren’t even one of his PEOPLE anymore. Perhaps he didn’t recognise your Babylonian accent. Or perhaps you’d sinned just once too often. And so God had finally turned his back.

Not that you’d ever actually FELT like a Jew. You’d never seen the altar. Never smelt the roasting meat from the sacrifices. Or even been in the temple courts . In fact, you could hardly call yourself a Jew at all! What DID you have in common with your ancestors? Quite understandable really if God have given up on the lot of you.

That’s YOU. And YOU’RE JUST THE PERSON CHRONICLES WAS WRITTEN FOR.

NOW I want you to imagine you’re sitting there in Jerusalem one Sabbath, 450 BC. You’re busy re-building the city. And today’s your day off. And you, and all the other Jews, are settling down to listen to Chronicles being read. Today it’s the first nine chapters.

The reader stands up. And opens the scroll. Clears his throat. And begins. Ch 1. “Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan.” And as he keeps reading, you’re mind wanders back to the stories you know so well. How God made Adam in his image. To look after the land. How Adam had sinned and been turned out into the garden. And it was all downhill from there.

And then in v4, you catch the names of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth. And your mind wanders again. The only family out of all mankind that God saved. Everyone else destroyed by a flood.

And as the names continue, you shake your head in amazement that God could only find one family worth protecting. Imagine how wicked everyone must have been! But you’re glad he saved ONE. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here today.

And you hear about all the other nations that sprung up after Noah. Verse 13. The Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and so on.

And SO on.

And then your ears up again. Verse 27. Abram. Or Abraham. The one who’s name was changed. That’s right. And you remember WHY God changed his name. Because he’d promised to make Abraham the FATHER of a great nation. With more kids than the stars in the sky!

Imagine how hard it must have been for Abraham to believe that!? It’s hard enough for YOU to believe it, and there’s a few more of you than in Abraham’s day!

And the names continue. Verse 34. Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel.

Israel? Oh, that’s right! He used to be Jacob! But God changed HIS name too! That night he wrestled with God. And wouldn’t let him go! Until God had BLESSED him. And so God blessed Jacob. And called him “He who wrestles with God”

And that’s the nation that YOU’RE part of. The nation who wrestles with God! – struggles to get the blessing God promised! If that’s true, then it feels like he’s got you down for the count at the moment. Not much blessing around.

But it certainly didn’t seem like that for Jacob. Because God DID bless him. Twelve sons. And each one became the father of a tribe.

And just as you’re thinking about that, the voice from the front booms out. Ch 2 v1

(1 Chr 2:1-2 NIV)  These were the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, {2} Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.

And then for some reason, he starts listing the descendants of JUDAH. The FOURTH oldest son. Verse 3.

(1 Chr 2:3 NIV)  The sons of Judah: Er, Onan and Shelah.

And as the reader continues, you wonder why he’s started with Judah. Until he gets down to v12.

(1 Chr 2:12-15 NIV)  Boaz the father of Obed and Obed the father of Jesse. {13} Jesse was the father of Eliab his firstborn; the second son was Abinadab, the third Shimea, {14} the fourth Nethanel, the fifth Raddai, {15} the sixth Ozem and the seventh David.

David! Of course! King David was from the tribe of Judah! No wonder he started with Judah! And within a of minutes, he’s got through to David’s sons. Ch 3 v 1.

(1 Chr 3:1-2 NIV)  These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron: The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel; {2} the third, Absalom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

“What a sorry bunch they were!” you think to yourself. “Poor old David must have despaired!” Just as well someone better came along. And then you hear v4.

(1 Chr 3:4-5 NIV)  These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months. David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, {5} and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and …Solomon.

Ah, Solomon! Now there was someone who REALLY measured up to David’s high standard. He followed after God’s heart too! And he was the one who built the temple! And the whole world marvelled at his wisdom. And his wealth.

Obeying God. That’s the way to make sure you receive God’s blessings! Love him with all your heart and mind and strength!

And as you reminisce about the good old days. Some OTHER names catch your attention. The kings who came after Solomon. And it was down hill after him! Some were terrible. Some  – not so bad. And some kings pretty good, really! Verse 10.

(1 Chr 3:10-16 NIV)  Solomon’s son was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, {11} Jehoram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son,

And so on. All the way down to Zedekiah. V16. That was the end of the line. The last king. The king in Grandad’s time. The one Nebuchadnezzar dragged off to Babylon.

But the list kept going. Because kids were born in Babylon. Just like you. In fact, some of these names were even sitting right next to you! Verse 17.

(1 Chr 3:17-19 NIV)  The descendants of Jehoiachin the captive: Shealtiel his son, {18} Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. {19} The sons of Pedaiah: Zerub l and Shimei. The sons of Zerub l: Meshullam and Hananiah. Shelomith was their sister.

These were people YOU KNEW. People you’d worked with. Eaten with. And they were at the end of that great long line of God’s people!

And then you realise. They’re JUST AS MUCH God’s people as ANY OTHER PERSON along that whole line! God’s plans just keep marching down through history. He keeps drawing a people for himself. To serve him, and love him. He keeps doing it. Whether or not it LOOKS like that’s what’s happening!

And as you keep thinking about that, the reader keeps working through his lists of names. The rest of Judah. And then all the other tribes of Israel. Back up to the oldest son. Simeon. And then Reuben. Gad. Manasseh.

And then in Ch 6, he gets to Levi. And it’s not long before Moses and Aaron get a mention. Verse 3.

And straight away you think of the temple. Because it was Aaron who first got the job of looking after the altar. The sacrifices that went with the Tabernacle. That was the tent that showed that God was WITH his people. All through the desert, God travelled with them. Pitched his tent right next to his people! What a privilege to to have God living right among you? Weren’t they lucky?

And when he gets through all Aaron’s relatives finishes that, he keeps going with the OTHER tribes of Israel. Next in line after Levi. Ch 7. Assachar. Then Benjamin. Then Naphthali. Then Joseph’s two sons – Manasseh and Ephraim. And finally Asher.

And then he gets to ch 8. And for some reason, he starts back on with Benjamin. “Hang on a minute!” you think “Didn’t he just DO Benjamin?” And as you’re thinking about whether you’re going crazy, he gets down to verse 33. And everything becomes clear.

(1 Chr 8:33 NIV)  Ner was the father of Kish, Kish the father of SAUL, and Saul the father of JONATHAN…

Saul! That’s why he’s so interested in the tribe of Benjamin! Saul was the FIRST king. And not much of a king either! The trial run. Version 1.1. The one you try before you get the REAL king.

And then finally the speaker gets to the end of the list. The whole nation up until the exile. And he pauses. Wipes his brow. Has a drink of water. “What’s next,” you think to yourself, “I’m glad all those lists are over!”

And then he starts again. Ch 9 v1.

(1 Chr 9:1-2 NIV)  All Israel was listed in the genealogies recorded in the book of the kings of Israel. (That’s BEFORE the exile) The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. {2} Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.

And there it was. In the space of three sentences. This guy had jumped from Israel under the kings. Right across the exile. And now he was describing the people who came BACK to the land.

And then you realise it. It’s the same line. You’re just one part of the great line of God’s people. You’re NOT cut off. Isolated. Forgotten by God. You’re just as much a part of God’s people as all the others on that great long list. You are brother and sister with anyone on that list who obeys God.

And whether you’re a Jew in 450 BC, or an Aussie in 2003. The message is the same. However far we’ve come down through history. However far away we are from the Promised Land. Whatever our nationality. God continues to call out a people for himself. And if you’re a Christian, you stand at the end of that great, long line. If you have responded to what God has done by sending Jesus, you are PART of GOD’s PEOPLE.

Because since Jesus came, the membership policy has been thrown out the window. It USED to be the rule that to be one of God’s people, you needed to find your family name somewhere in that great long list we’ve just looked at. You needed a foot in one of those twelve tribes of Israel. (Except perhaps for a few exceptions.)

But then Jesus came along. And died for the sins of people from EVERY NATION. And he says, “Trust me. Follow me. Obey me. That’s how to be one of God’s children!”

And THAT’s the new membership policy. Nothing to do with LINES. And EVERYTHING to do with OBEDIENCE. Have YOU been obedient? Are YOU following Jesus?

And the funny thing is that’s ALWAYS been the membership policy. Nothing to do with LINES. And everything to do with OBEDIENCE.

We read that this morning in Romans 9 (p801). Paul’s trying to work out how come most of his fellow Jews had rejected Jesus. And been cut off from God’s people. When God had promised that he would ALWAYS be their God.

Perhaps God couldn’t be trusted? Perhaps he’d promised ONE THING. And then changed his mind? Found a BETTER option?

“But that’s not it at all,” says Paul. It’s there in Rom 9 v6

(Rom 9:6-8 NIV)  It is NOT as though God’s word had failed. FOR NOT ALL WHO ARE DESCENDED FROM ISRAEL ARE ISRAEL.

(In other words, not everyone who’s BORN a Jew is truly one of God’s people. And he goes on) V7.

{7} NOR BECAUSE THEY ARE HIS DESCENDANTS ARE THEY ALL ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN.

Abraham was the great man of FAITH. But Paul’s saying, Abraham being your ancestor is no guarantee that you’ll have faith in God too. You can’t just wave your birth certificate at God. It’s been said that “God has no grandchildren!”

Instead, Paul goes on to say, it depends on who God CHOOSES. He chooses some and he doesn’t choose others. That’s what he did in Isaac and Esau’s time. And that’s what he did in Pharaoh’s time.

And that’s what he’s STILL doing today. Still choosing some and not choosing others. Think about all the different people you meet in a week. God has chosen SOME of them and NOT chosen others.

But how can you tell who God chooses? The answer’s over in Ch 10 (p 802). When God chooses someone, he opens their eyes to see the truth of who Jesus is. And they respond by believing in Jesus. Look at v9 – the test for who God’s chosen.

(Rom 10:9-10 NIV)  That if you confess with your MOUTH, “Jesus is Lord,” and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the , you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Do YOU believe that Jesus is Lord? That he is the boss of life And ? That he’s the boss of YOU? If you can say “YES!” to that. And if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the . Then this verse says, YOU WILL BE SAVED.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Australian, Irish, or American. Look at v12.

(Rom 10:12-13 NIV)  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you trust Jesus, then you stand at the end of that great long line of names we read this morning. Whatever your nationality.

Right from Adam’s time, God has chosen a people to be his own. And whether it was the tiny band of Jews plugging away in Jerusalem in 450 BC. Or a tiny band of Christians plugging away in Doonside in 2003. We are STILL his people.

As long as we keep walking in OBEDIENCE. Confessing that Jesus is Lord. Showing people who Jesus is, so that when God switches on the lights, they can respond.

As long as we keep living like that as God’s faithful people, then he will KEEP calling a people to himself. Growing his people. Bringing them on. And the family tree will continue to grow far beyond US. And that’s the message of 1 Chron Ch 1 to 9.

1 Chronicles 10-12: David and the Nation

A while ago I preached at a little country church. And one of the things I prayed for during the service/ was that God would bring PEACE in the world. That he would work in the politicians and diplomats and leaders to bring about a PEACEFUL end to the various conflicts around the world.

A fairly standard, non-contentious type of prayer. Or so I thought. Two old guys came up to me after the service. Gruff-looking. “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” one of them said. “I didn’t agree with what you prayed.”

He went on to say he didn’t think I should pray for PEACE because God was a God of WAR. God wanted to destroy evil. And that the church was to be involved in that BATTLE.

I asked him how he knew which side was the EVIL one, and which one God was fighting for. How did THE CHURCH know which side to choose? What about the Christian churches in each of those countries? Israel? Palestine? Afghanistan? America? Iraq? Zimbabwe? Northern Ireland? East Timor?

I spent the next 20 minutes or so talking to him. It’s probably more accurate to say ‘being talked AT by him’. And I never really got to the bottom of what he was getting at. Or why he held those views.

But he DID talk about some sort of global conspiracy. He said he’d been researching it for 20 years. I don’t know what he’d been reading. But I don’t think it was his Bible.

As funny as it was at the time. It was also sad. Because there are LOTS of people around today like this guy. Who misunderstand their Bibles, and try to make them say things they were never meant to say. This guy would read Old Testament passages like this one from 1 Chronicles. About how King David and all his mighty men killed hundreds of wicked Philistines. And he’d drop himself, more or less, straight into the picture.

“God’s people THEN/ went to war against the wicked. We should do the same.”

But it’s not as simple as that. What DO we do with these sorts of passages? Yes, there is a continuity between the New and the Old. Some things are the SAME.

But lots of things are VERY DIFFERENT. We AREN’T Jews. God’s people-NOW/ aren’t just from ONE NATION. We DON’T live in the Promised Land. And God DOESN’T generally punish the wicked by wiping them out in battle. And so we need to tread carefully.

And that’s the approach we need to take in today’s reading. It’s a picture of God’s kingdom at its best. The all-conquering King David – so much better than Saul. Surrounded by his band of mighty men. In the best city in the world. Beautiful Jerusalem. And the whole people are behind them. 100%. It doesn’t get any better than this.

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the question WE need to keep in mind as we look at it/ is what does it have to do with US?

And the first question to ask – the one that willhelp us/ is “what did it have to do with the FIRST AUDIENCE?” What was God’s message to the ORIGINAL HEARERS?

Sometimes we can’t really work out who that might be. But for Chronicles, we’ve got a fairly good idea.

  1. What was God saying to Jews in Judah around 450 BC?
  2. What’s God saying to us today?

1. The People’s King:

The king, the city, and the people. That’s the picture. And the first part of the picture is to do with THE PEOPLE’S KING. And it starts in Ch 10.

Now, you mightn’t think that Ch 10’s about King David at all. After all, it’s describing what SAUL did. But it IS about David. And you can see that/ from the particular BITS of Saul’s reign that are described. And from the lesson at the end of that Chapter.

We know from other parts of the Bible/ that Saul wasn’t the BEST king in the world. But he didn’t do EVERYTHING wrong. He did have SOME victories. But here in Ch 10. It’s only the LAST MISERABLE FAILURE that’s described. That’s all we’re told about Saul. How he was KILLED. Nothing about his coronation. His reign. His victories. His relationship to David. Just how he DIED.

It’s funny how it’s always your most embarrassing moment that people remember. They quickly forget your victories. But they never forget your failures. And that’s what’s happening here.

Saul’s being painted as black as possible/ to show up David. It’s like trying to paint with white paint on white paper. You can’t do it. You need a dark background to show up the white. And Saul is the David’s DARK BACKGROUND.

And you can also see it from the moral at the end of the chapter. Why Saul was a failure. Look at it there in v 13 of Ch 10.

(1 Chr 10:13-14 NIV)  Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, {14} and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

There it is. Black/ and white. Good/ and bad. Saul and David.

Saul was UNFAITHFUL to the LORD. He DIDN’T KEEP GOD’S WORD. And he asked A CLAIRVOYANT for advice, rather than God. And the result? .

And what’s the implication? What’s the comparison? DAVID (on the other hand) was FAITHFUL to the Lord. He DID keep God’s word. And he DID ask God’s advice.

What was so good about David? Was it his military victories? His great wealth? His perfect moral character? No! He was a man who followed after God. A man after God’s heart.

And the message to Israel in 450 BC? It’s the same as the message to us. Whether there’s a king around or not/ the way to live under God’s blessings is to BE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW AFTER GOD’S HEART.

Firstly, are other attractions seducing you? Money, influence, approval? BE FAITHFUL to God. No idols.

Second. God gives you a command. But you’re not sure obeying it will make you happy? You think you know better? KEEP GOD’s WORD. That’s the only way to live the rich and full life God’s designed for you.

Third. Not sure who’s ADVICE to listen to? The latest book, or guru, or financial planner? Ask GOD’S advice. Pray about it. Listen to what God says through his Word, the Bible. You’ll never go wrong.

David followed after God’s heart. Saul didn’t. Make sure you do. That’s the message.

And the people in David’s time could see the difference between the two men. And they knew who they preferred. No question! Look at Ch 11 v1.

(1 Chr 11:1-3 NIV)  All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and . {2} In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'” {3} When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the LORD had promised through Samuel.

And you can see the sort of leadership that God had in mind. He didn’t want a king to protect the people. Lead them into battle. Because no MAN could be the Saviour of Israel. That was God’s job. And whenever kings tried to do it on their own, they only got into trouble.

What sort of leader was God after? (See it there in v2?) A SHEPHERD. To show the sheep where to find water, and grass, and protection and comfort. To point the people towards God.

And all the way through Chronicles/ that’s the measuring stick of a good king. Did he point people TOWARDS God, or AWAY from God? Did he SHEPHERD the people?

In fact, if you go back and read 1 Sam, God didn’t want to give Israel a king AT ALL. They wanted a KING like the NATIONS. He wanted to give them a LEADER instead. That’s the word He uses. It’s a word that might also be translated ruler, or prince, or vice-regent, or second-in-command. But NOT king. The king’s REPRESENTATIVE in other words.

Because it’s only GOD who’s the TRUE king. And the LEADER’S job was just to carry out the KING’s wishes.

And it’s the same word here in Chronicles. At the end of v2. “You will shepherd my people Israel/ and you will become their RULER.”

So the godly leader shepherds the people towards God so HE can supply their needs. And he also REPRESENTS GOD before the people. Carrying out GOD’S Wishes. Following GOD’S agenda. Building GOD’S kingdom, rather than his own. And those were exactly what DAVID did. He wasn’t perfect. But he SHEPHERDED God’s people. And he built GOD’S kingdom.

And it’s STILL those two qualities that make a good leader of God’s people.

2. The king’s people

Next, our attention turns to the king’s PEOPLE. And that’s in THE REST of Ch’s 11 and 12. But in a strange way/ THESE CHAPTERS are ALSO about David.

Because they’re such a NOBLE band. So LOYAL and BRAVE and DEVOTED. That it just casts David in an EVEN MORE flattering light. “King David was such a great leader – just look at the sorts of people who followed him. And look what they were prepared to do for him”

Let’s look at some of these individuals. First up there’s Joab. David was looking for a commander-in-chief. And the job application was Jerusalem. The impenetrable city. It was held by the Jebusites. And his whole life, David had looked at it from the outside. He grew up in Bethlehem – just around the corner.

And now he was king. And that was the city he wanted. So he said to his soldiers. Ch 11 v6. “Anyone who leads the attack will be the new commander-in-chief”. Joab did it. Won the city. And got the job.

Next up, some of those under Joab. Mighty men, with great stories of victory against incredible odds.

In v15 for example, there’s the story of a time David was out in the desert. Feeling pretty thirsty. And he’s not far from his home town of Bethlehem. But the problem was/ it was filled with Philistines. And David makes some off-hand comment about how much he’d love a drink from his favourite watering-hole. Wishful thinking really. V17.

(1 Chr 11:17 NIV)  David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

And three of his men take him seriously. They’re SO loyal, and SO brave, they break INTO Bethlehem, get the water for David. And then break OUT again to bring it back to David.

But David is so humbled by their action, he won’t even drink the water. “Who am I to deserve such loyalty?” Instead he offers it to God. He’s thankful to God for the group of men he’s got around him.

And the chapter continues. More stories of mighty men. Individuals, with names, and ancestors, and backgrounds. Special skills. Like Ch 12 v2

(1 Chr 12:2 NIV)  they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed;

And they were a scary bunch. Look down at v8.

(1 Chr 12:8 NIV)  Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the desert. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains.

And if it’s INDIVIDUALS who are emphasised. It’s their UNITY that’s the key point. Because as different and special as each of the mighty warriors was/ it was their UNITY behind David that’s important. Diversity within unity. Go back to the start of Ch 11.

(1 Chr 11:1 NIV)  ALL Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and .

And down to V3.

(1 Chr 11:3 NIV)  When ALL THE ELDERS of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD etc

And v 4.

(1 Chr 11:4 NIV)  David and ALL the Israelites marched to Jerusalem

And the idea’s taken up again at the end of Ch 12. Each of the 12 tribes are listed. Not so many individual names. Just the total numbers. ALL ISRAEL behind David.

And look down at v38. The summary of these chapters.

(1 Chr 12:38-40 NIV)  All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over ALL ISRAEL. ALL THE REST of the Israelites were also of ONE MIND to make David king. {39} The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. {40} Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.

Individual people united under a godly king. That’s the picture. And the message to the Jews in 450 BC is this. “Forget that Israel is divided. Forget that there’s only a of tribes at the moment. You can get back to this by following David’s example. Follow after God’s heart.

And follow the example of the people – be loyal, and united under God’s king. And if there’s no king, keep praying for one. And keep looking for God to come good on his promise. Because he DID promise that there’d always be a king from David’s line on the throne.

But for the Jews in 450 BC, he never came. At least not the sort of king THEY were looking for.

3. Another king

But God DIDN’T forget his promise. He DID send his king. Jesus. ANOTHER king. Descended from David’s line. Born in David’s town, Bethlehem. And it was into David’s city – Jerusalem – that he rode on a donkey. And as he did, everyone praised God, and shouted, “Hosanna to THE SON OF DAVID. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”

And that brings US into the picture. Because Jesus is the king WE serve. The PERFECT SHEPHERD. The perfect LEADER of God’s kingdom. And we are HIS people.

But what does OUR service LOOK LIKE? And that gets back to the question the old guy from Gulgong had. Do we storm through Doonside shops blazing away with a gun, because that’s what DAVID’S followers did? Of course not.

And part of the answer is in the passage from Hebrews that we read. Ch 11 is the great list of FAITH soldiers. People who did various things because of their TRUST in GOD. And some of those things are to do with battles and warfare. But most aren’t. Listen to these verses from the end of Ch 11 (p 852 if you want to look it up) V32.

(Heb 11:32-34 NIV)  And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, {33} who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, {34} quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.

That’s all pretty violent, isn’t it? My mate at Gulgong would love that bit. But listen to how it changes. V35. (People who were just as much God’s soldiers).

(Heb 11:35-38 NIV)  Women received back their , raised to life again. Others were d and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. {36} Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. {37} They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– {38} the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

What sort of battles are these? Answered prayer, persecution, poverty. Exactly the sorts of battles WE might face. This week.

And who is the enemy they’re fighting? Not the Philistines. V35 says it’s . V38 says THIS WORLD wasn’t worthy of them. That’s the world of SIN. The world where SATAN is having a field-day. That’s the enemy WE’RE up against.

And our warfare is to do with PRAYER, and standing up for Jesus, and being persecuted. And counter-cultural poverty. Because we’ve got DIFFERENT PRIORITIES. Just like THOSE Old Testament warriors.

And even though some things are the SAME. Hebrews goes on to describe one of the DIFFERENCES. The major difference between us, and the people who followed David. Look at v39.

(Heb 11:39-40 NIV)  These were all commended for their faith, yet NONE OF THEM RECEIVED WHAT HAD BEEN PROMISED. {40} God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As faithful, and brave, and loyal, as David’s soldiers were. And as wonderful as David’s reign was. It didn’t last. And it WASN’T what God had promised. A HUMAN king in an PHYSICAL land/ was only a taste. Enough to give the Jews in 450 BC a longing for SOMETHING BETTER. Something that would LAST.

And that’s exactly what God had in mind. Something better. For US. And it was a plan that would include THEM as well. That’s what v40 says. God’s people BEFORE and AFTER. United by God’s plan. His plan of salvation in Jesus.

And what does that mean for us? Back to the old Gulgong question. Look at Ch 12 v1

(Heb 12:1 NIV)  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Look at those Old Testament faith-warriors. Follow THEIR example. Get rid of sin. Anything that can weigh you down, or trip you up, or distract you. Or make you less effective.

David’s mighty men followed THEIR king with bravery and loyalty and determination. Let’s follow King Jesus with the SAME bravery and loyalty and determination.

But we don’t just look BACK at those Old Testament examples. We look forward. Look at v 2.

(Heb 12:2-3 NIV)  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus is the AUTHOR of faith. Every warrior in Ch 11 with faith, had it as a gift from God because of Jesus.

And he’s the EXAMPLE of faith. The faithful, loyal, sacrificial servant. And we’re to CONSIDER HIM. When things get tough/ look to Jesus, so you don’t grow weary and lose heart.

That’s the war that we’re involved in. To keep following Jesus. And living for him. And not giving up when it’s easier to. And standing our ground, when it’s easier to fall back.

And that’s the message I’d like to give to those two old guys in that little country church!

1 Chronicles 13, 15-16: Parking the Ark

Did you hear about the vision of Mary at Coogee beach a few years back? It got everyone excited. If you stood behind the beach, and looked up on the headland, you could see a white paling fence. And at a certain time of day. And in a certain light. It looked like the Virgin Mary, with a shawl over her head. Or so some people thought.

And Coogee Beach became a shrine to Mary. And people came from far and wide. To look for the vision. And to pray. Because they thought it was a miracle. And that God would somehow answer their prayers if they’re prayed at that particular spot.  Most of us would probably see it all as superstition. And yet people are convinced that it’s good for their faith.

What IS the relationship between visible objects like this/ and the invisible God? Are there some physical things which are valuable to use to help us worship God? Things that remind us of what God’s like. Or represent who he is.

Or is it somehow idolatry? Is there a fine line between worshipping the OBJECT / and worshipping GOD?

And it’s just these sorts of questions that these chapters from Chronicles are addressing. They’re talking about THE ARK OF THE COVENANT.

What we’ll see / is that the Ark REPRESENTS God. It has certain characteristics that REFLECT what God is like. And that as we learn more about the ARK, it shows us something of what God is like.

But at the same time, it never REPLACES God. It is never to be worshipped as God. Or used as a lucky charm. As if there is something powerful about the object itself.

Let me give you a crash course on the Ark. It’s the box God told Moses to make/ when Israel was out in the desert. It was only about a metre long. 75 cm high and 75 cm wide. It had two cherubim on the lid. One at each end, facing in.)

And God promised that that’s where he’d meet with his people. It would REPRESENT his throne. Number 7:89 tells us that Moses would hear God’s voice speaking from between the two cherubim.

And it was called the Ark of THE COVENANT because God wanted it to REMIND people of the covenant. Or the AGREEMENT He’d made with Israel.

And God told Moses to put the Ten Commandments into the box. The two stone tablets. That was to remind Israel of THEIR SIDE of the agreement. How they could please God.

And as Israel moved through the desert, the Ark would lead the way. Because it REPRESENTED God. Represented that God was leading them.

But somehow, over the years, its meaning changed. And people saw it more as a good-luck charm. It didn’t REPRESENT God anymore. They thought it had power on its own.

And so in Samuel’s time, the people had taken the Ark with them into battle against the Philistines. But they didn’t bother asking God what HE thought. And because they made the mistake of thinking that it was THE ARK ITSELF which guaranteed God’s presence, they got beaten. The Philistines won. And captured the Ark.

And that’s where it stayed for a while. Until things started to go wrong for the Philistines. Their idols fell over and broke. The people developed tumours. Many died. There was a plague of rats. All curses that GOD was bringing because they had the Ark.

People were PETRIFIED. And so they sent the Ark back to Israel. They loaded it onto a cart, and two cows pulled it back into Israel.

And just over the border, they stopped. And the Israelites there couldn’t believe their eyes. So they took the Ark off the cart. And put it on a rock. And sacrificed the cows to God as a burnt offering.

But curiosity got the better of some of them. And they looked inside the Ark. And 1 Sam 6:19 tells us that God put 70 of them to .

And that was enough for them to pass the hot potato along to someone else. It was a nice idea at the time. But more trouble than it was worth. And so it wound up at Kiriath Jearim. Maybe 10 kms down the road. At Abinadab’s house. And it stayed there for at least 40 years – the whole reign of Saul in fact. 40 years out in the sticks. Out of circulation.

And that, more or less, brings us to the start of today’s story. 1 Chron 13. David gets everyone together, and they all agree that it’s a great idea to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. Because the Ark represents God. And He deserves to be back at the centre of Israel’s life. And that’s in Jerusalem.

And David says “It’s about time we do this. We didn’t inquire of the Lord before the Ark during the entire reign of Saul. What do you reckon?”

And v4 says they all agree.

But all this should set warning bells ringing. Because what has David just done? He’s asked EVERYONE ELSE’S’ opinion/ except the most important person. God.

And he even KNOWS that that’s what he should do. He recognised SAUL’S mistake. But for some reason, he’s forgotten to do it himself.

And so they all head off to Kiriath Jearim. Maybe 15 kms away to the east. Towards Philistine country. And when they get there, Abinadab sends his sons to help out. They load the Ark onto a cart. After all that’s what they Philistines did!

Why do people follow the example of the very WORST people? Follow a bad example, and things are bound to go wrong.

David follows Saul’s example. And the people at Kiriath Jearim follow the Philistine’s example. And you can be sure things aren’t going to turn out well.

Although they do START well. There’s cheering and music and dancing and singing. This is a great occasion. They’ve got the full big band. And v8 tells us they were celebrating with ALL THEIR MIGHT.

And all of this tells us that the ark is VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT. In fact, there’s nothing MORE valuable and important. Because the Ark REPRESENTS God. And there’s nothing more valuable and important to Israel than God himself.

But look at v9. When things start to go pear-shaped.

(1 Chr 13:9-10 NIV)  When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. {10} The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

One minute everyone’s cheering because the important and valuable ark is coming home. And the next, there’s stunned silence. Because God has acted. Executed the punishment. Because the Ark represents God. And it shows us his wrath. His anger.

And David can’t work it out. He thought God was on his side. That he’d got everything figured out. And so he’s angry at God.

But it doesn’t take him long to realise that ANGER won’t get him too far with God. And so his anger turns to FEAR. Verse 12.

(1 Chr 13:12 NIV)  David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?”

David’s emotions have changed from EXCITED JOY to AWESOME FEAR. All in a few moments. Perhaps he was TOO friendly with God. And approached too easily.

And now he realises that he needs to approach God more cautiously. With more reverence. On God’s terms.

(Is that something WE need to be careful of. That we don’t approach God too flippantly? Too casually? Too confident in our own abilities? Or thinking we’ve got God all figured out?)

And so David wonders how he can EVER bring the Ark to Jerusalem. And he puts it in the “too-hard basket”. He leaves the Ark at the house of a guy called Obed-Edom. Imagine the scene. Obed-Edom answers a knock on his door. He recognises King David. All these nervous-looking servants looking over his shoulder. “Oh, Your majesty what can I do for you?”

“Well, I’ve got this Ark here. And God’s just killed someone who touched it. I’m not sure what to do with it. So I’d like to leave it with you for awhile. That’s okay, isn’t it?”

Obed-Edom probably wasn’t too keen to take him up on the offer. But here’s the funny thing. The Ark was a means of BLESSING as well as cursing. Because Obed-Edom was BLESSED for the three months he had the Ark.

We don’t know why. We don’t know HOW he was different from anyone else. But that’s the thing about God. He is the wrathful, holy, jealous God who punishes SOME. But he is also the God who BLESSES those who obey him.

And for some reason – that included Obed-Edom.

Meanwhile, David goes back to Jerusalem. And does some homework. And this time he learns his lesson. Flip over to Ch 15 v1

(1 Chr 15:1-2 NIV)  After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and PITCHED A TENT FOR IT. {2} Then David said, “No one but THE LEVITES may carry the ark of God, BECAUSE THE LORD CHOSE THEM to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister before him forever.”

He’s actually decided to ask GOD what he thinks about the plans. And look down to v12. David’s instructions to the priests.

(1 Chr 15:12-13 NIV)  He said to them, “You are the heads of the Levitical families; you and your fellow Levites are to CONSECRATE yourselves and bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place I have prepared for it. {13} It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the LORD our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”

And this time David gets it right. The Ark is holy. Because God is holy. And so the priests need to prepare themselves. Purify themselves.

And THIS TIME, things go without a hitch. Which is a big relief for everyone. And once again, there’s a wonderful celebration. Full band. Dancing. Singing.

In fact, David even writes a special song for the occasion. It’s there from v8 of Ch 16. And it tells us what David’s learned about God from this episode. And it’s exactly the lessons that the Ark was MEANT to teach. To point people toward WHO GOD IS. And WHAT HE’S DONE FOR HIS PEOPLE.

Let’s skip through some of the ideas. WHO GOD IS. And WHAT HE’S DONE FOR HIS PEOPLE. Verse 8. “Give thanks to the Lord. Praise him” David says. Why? V9. Because of HIS WONDERFUL ACTS.

V12. “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced”

And in particular/ the things he’s done FOR HIS PEOPLE. Look at v15.

(1 Chr 16:15-18 NIV)  He remembers HIS COVENANT forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, {16} the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. {17} He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: {18} “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”

But he’s not just confined to Israel. He’s bigger than that. He’s the God of the WHOLE EARTH. He MADE IT. It’s a mistake to think There’s no way that he’s ACTUALLY SITTING on the Ark. Don’t make THAT mistake. That’s what David says from v23.

(1 Chr 16:23-28 NIV)  Sing to the LORD, ALL THE EARTH; proclaim his salvation day after day. {24} Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among ALL PEOPLES. {25} For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above ALL GODS. {26} For all the gods of the nations are idols, BUT THE LORD MADE THE HEAVENS. {27} Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy IN HIS DWELLING PLACE. {28} Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,

And v30. “Tremble before him all the earth” David learned THAT lesson first-hand.

And it’s all these things that WE can learn from the Ark, too. Because the Ark REPRESENTED God. And TAUGHT us, and REMINDED us about him.

But we should never make the mistake of confusing visible objects (like the Ark) with the invisible God. Objects or places have no power in themselves. Special things or locations might be HELPFUL and USEFUL. But they’re not COMPULSORY. Or ESSENTIAL. We can’t guarantee God’s approval simply because we use a certain object, or pray in a certain place.

And that’s a mistake that people make today. Objects and places might be HELPFUL and USEFUL. But they’re not COMPULSORY. Or ESSENTIAL.

We’ve had people come HERE, and say that we’re not a REAL church because we don’t meet in a real church building. “But our God made THE HEAVENS” says David. “How could a BUILDING contain him?”

Some people think it’s not real unless the minister wears certain clothes. Or uses certain words. But God isn’t a genie in a bottle. Who you can control and manage. As long as you use the right words, or objects, in the right places. He’s the God of the whole universe. He made it all. And he doesn’t give in to OUR every demand. Just because we have certain objects. Or use certain words.

But that doesn’t mean we can approach God ANY way WE LIKE. David learned THAT lesson. We must come to God on HIS TERMS.

But it’s not with objects, or words, or in particular places. There’s no ritual, or magic words, or special constume or building. And King David worked THAT out for himself, too. Listen to what he said in Psalm 51. V16. What REALLY gets God’s attention.

(Psa 51:16-17 NIV)  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. {17} The sacrifices of God are A BROKEN SPIRIT; A BROKEN AND CONTRITE HEART, O God, you will not despise.

What’s he saying? What makes God sit up and take notice? Is it objects, or places, or words. No! None of those EXTERNAL things. God wants A HUMBLE HEART.

Jesus says unless you become like a little CHILD you cannot see the Kingdom of God. That means recognising the world doesn’t revolve around us. We can’t CONTROL anything that happens. We don’t DESERVE anything from God. We’re nothing more than trumped-up rebels. Rebels who’ve turned our backs on God. But who NEED Him. Who need his forgiveness. And his help. And his love.

THAT’S the way God wants us to approach him. Forget any of the religious trappings we find around. None of those will cut the mustard. None, by themselves, will get us any closer to God.

But that gets us back to a question I asked at the start. Does that mean there’s NOTHING we can use to help our relationship with God? To understand and remember him better? Is there anything TODAY that does the same job as the Ark of the Covenant?

I think there is. But it’s not something someone ELSE has made up. It’s something Jesus himself has given us.

At the last meal he had with his disciples. The night before he was killed. He took a loaf of bread, and a glass of wine. And he said this about the bread

(Mat 26:26-28 NIV)  …”Take and eat; THIS IS MY BODY.” {27} Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. {28} THIS IS MY /  of THE COVENANT, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

The ARK of the covenant/ reminded Israel of who God was, and what he’d done for them. The WINE of the covenant reminds US of who JESUS is, and what he’s done for US.

Let’s make sure we VALUE and USE what Jesus has given us. To strengthen our faith. And make us more grateful to Jesus. To remind ourselves of our sinfulness and need for him. And that we are all united in that need.

Let’s make sure we learn the lesson of David. 1 Chron 16 v23.

(1 Chr 16:23-30 NIV)  Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. {24} Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. {25} For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. {26} For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. {27} Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. {28} Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, {29} ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. {30} Tremble before him, all the earth!

1 Chronicles 17, 22-29: Building a House

At the end of last year, we stopped Night Church. And it was a bit heart-wrenching when we stopped it. Admittedly, part of the problem was a “pride” thing. Night church was going fine when I arrived. And now I’d managed to kill it off in 2 years.

But lots of OTHER things changed as well. Lots of people from that service had moved on to other churches. And it had dwindled down to about 6 regulars. And it was wearing them out. We’d struggled along for most of last year. Tried a few different things. And none of them had really made much difference.

I guess another part of my problem was that Night Church is a good thing to do. It’s a GREAT IDEA to meet with God’s people – to sing and pray and learn and be encouraged. Just what God would WANT us to be doing on a Sunday night. Noone was going to argue that it WASN’T a good thing to do.

But I came to realise that sometimes it’s a case of “Great idea! Bad timing!” At this stage of our church life, with the people we’ve got, it seemed that there were WISER ways of using our time and our resources. At least for the moment, let’s concentrate on doing THEM better.

Perhaps, a of years down the track, things will change. And we’ll be able to start up Night church again. We might even decide that a better option is to start another MORNING service at Parklea, or Acacia Gardens, or Quakers Hill. 9 am. A brand new congregation! That’s one idea I’m thinking about! Let me know what you think!

And it’s just this sort of thing that happened to King David. Great idea! Bad timing! And his great idea/ was to build a temple for God. Look at Ch 17 v1.

(1 Chr 17:1 NIV)  After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.”

David looks around at his wonderful palace. And he thinks “How ridiculous that I’M living in a mansion, but God’s living in a tent?!” God deserves something MUCH BETTER.

Who can argue with that! Certainly not Nathan. V2. He says

(1 Chr 17:2 NIV)  … “Whatever you have in mind, do it, for God is with you.”

But God has DIFFERENT ideas. “Great idea, bad timing!” is what he says. I’ve got someone ELSE in line for THAT job.

And then he tells David was HIS job is. Look at v7 – halfway through.

(1 Chr 17:7-9 NIV)  “… I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be RULER over my people Israel. {8} I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I HAVE CUT OFF ALL YOUR ENEMIES FROM BEFORE YOU. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. {9} And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore…

David’s job was to rule, and to bring peace and stability. And that’s what David does best. Better than anyone. And the job did’t include building projects.

And then God turns the tables. Because rather than David building GOD a house. God’s got something ELSE in mind. HE’S going to build DAVID a house. A dynasty. A family line. Look at v10. The end of the verse.

(1 Chr 17:10-12 NIV)  …”‘I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: {11} When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. {12} HE is the one who will build a house for me,”

And as it turns out, it’s SOLOMON who God’s got in mind. Solomon’s the start of the David family dynasty. And he’s the one who’ll build the temple.

But it’s NOT ONLY Solomon who God’s thinking about. He’s also got someone else in mind. But we’ll come back to that.

And when David gets the message, You’d think he might sulk a little bit – “Well I was only trying to do something NICE. No need for God to be so ungrateful!” That’s what WE might do.

But not David. What’s HIS attitude! Complete and utter GRATEFULNESS. The ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE. He can’t believe it! Who is HE that God should build HIM a house. He thought he was on a good thing with what he’s got SO FAR. But God’s giving him EVEN MORE. Look down to v16.

(1 Chr 17:16-17 NIV)  Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: “Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me THIS FAR? {17} And as if THIS WERE NOT ENOUGH in your sight, O God, you have spoken about THE FUTURE of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O LORD God.

Getting things ready

And so how does David respond to this goodness and grace of God? God might have said No to him BUILDING the temple. But he didn’t say anything about GETTING EVERYTHING READY. And so that’s what David does. He doesn’t exactly BUILD the temple. He just does EVERYTHING, BUT.

We seem to play tag-team a lot in our house. I get home just as Caron’s about to go out. Or Caron gets home, just as I need to go out again.

And sometimes Caron gets dinner READY for me to cook. She doesn’t actually cook dinner. But she does everything BUT. She’ll cut up the chicken, wash and peel the veges. Put the rice in the rice cooker.

And as I walk in the door, Caron will pick up her car keys, and say on her way out the door, “Chicken’s cut up in the fridge, veges are in the microwave – they need three more minutes. Turn the rice cooker on in about 30 minutes. Stir-fry. Kids can have ice cream for dessert. … And don’t leave the kitchen a mess when you finish”

And it makes it a lot EASIER for me to organise dinner, apart from the tidying-up,. Caron hasn’t actually cooked dinner because the timing’s not right. But she’s done EVERYTHING BUT.

And it’s the same with David and the temple. Even though God’s said No. David’s so committed to the idea that he goes ahead and organises EVERYTHING. He does everything BUT build the temple. And all his son Solomon has to do/ is walk in at the last moment, and throw everything into the pot. And out comes the temple. (Well, not quite. But you get the idea!)

Let’s scan through some of these chapters. And look at David’s preparations.

Most importantly, he knows Solomon’s the key. Everything hinges on HIM. If Solomon can’t see it through, then it won’t happen. So he needs to make sure Solomon’s up for it. Flip over to Ch 22 v5.

(1 Chr 22:5-11 NIV)  David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his . {6} Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. {7} David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. {8} But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much on the earth in my sight. {9} But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. {10} He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ {11} “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would.

And then, at the start of Ch 23 David does something that’s unheard of. Something no other king would have DREAMED of doing. He actually lets Solomon become king BEFORE HE DIES.

He’s SO concerned that the temple gets built, he’s even prepared to step out of the limelight. He wants to make sure Solomon gets things right. And so he’s going to be looking over his shoulder for as long as he can. That’s how much building the temple means to David.

And he organises the labour force. Ch 22 v2 says he rounds up all the aliens living in Israel. (That’s non-Israelites, not Extra-terrestrials. Think “Snowy River hydroelectricity scheme”, rather than “Men in Black”)

And he orders all the building materials. Ch 22 v3 describes the nails and the fittings. More bronze than could be weighed. And more cedar logs than could be counted.

And not just your every-day materials either. Look down to v14. David’s talking to Solomon.

(1 Chr 22:14 NIV)  “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the LORD a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them.

And he gets together all the Levites. That’s Ch 23. 38,000 SUPERVISORS. There must have been a HUGE workforce if there were that many supervisors.

Now, flip over to Ch 28 v11. David hands over the plans. You see, David’s not just the Clerk of Works – organising all the materials. Or the Human Resources manager – hiring all the staff. But he’s also the Architect. Look at v11.

(1 Chr 28:11-12 NIV)  Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. {12} He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.

And if you look down to v14. He’s also the INTERIOR DESIGNER. Because he specifies the weight and design of every single utensil and bowl and lamp and lampstand and table.

But it was more than just a JOB to David. He was prepared to sacrifice EVERYTHING to see the temple built. Look down to Ch 29 v3. David even chips in with his PERSONAL fortune.

(1 Chr 29:3-4 NIV)  Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my PERSONAL TREASURES of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: {4} three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings,

And he gives the challenge to the people. How much does the temple mean to YOU? Will you match me? And they do. From v6 we see they nearly DOUBLE David’s efforts.

And so everything’s set for Solomon to start work. And we’ll see next week how he builds it.

3. Building a House

But remember back in Ch 17? God promises David a son who’ll BUILD A HOUSE for God. And although we assume he’s talking just Solomon, he’s got to be talking about SOMEONE ELSE as well. Listen to what he says about this person. V11

(1 Chr 17:11 NIV)  When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.

That’s fine so far. Solomon fits the bill.

(1 Chr 17:12-13 NIV)  He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne … FOREVER. {13} 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.

Well, that COULD be Solomon. Although that FOREVER’s a bit of a worry. (Let’s keep going)

(1 Chr 17:14 NIV)  I will set him over my house and my kingdom FOREVER; his throne will be established FOREVER.'”

There’s that pesky “forever’ word again. The problem with it/ is that one day Solomon DID die. And although his sons succeeded him for a while. Eventually the Jews were defeated. And the throne was empty. And it’s been empty ever since. Hardly a throne that was established FOREVER.

And the Jews are still looking for someone to be crowned king. To sit on the throne that God’s established forever. But they missed it. It’s already happened. Listen to Lk Ch1 v31. (p723) It’s the angel talking to Mary.

(Luke 1:31-33 NIV)  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. {32} 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, {33} and he will reign over the house of Jacob FOREVER; his kingdom will never end.”

JESUS is the One God was telling David about. One of his sons. A King who’ll reign FOREVER.

But what about the house for God? That’s part of the promise too.

Yes, Solomon built the EARTHLY house for God – the temple. But Jesus built a much GREATER house for God. Flick over to Eph Ch2 v19. (p828) And Paul’s talking to THE CHURCH. He’s talking to YOU.

(Eph 2:19-22 NIV)  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s HOUSEHOLD, {20} (A house that’s) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF AS THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE. {21} IN HIM THE WHOLE BUILDING IS JOINED TOGETHER and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} AND IN HIM YOU TOO ARE BEING BUILT TOGETHER to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

What’s the temple he’s talking about? Us! The Church! And who’s built the church? It’s Jesus. He’s the cornerstone. It’s joined together and rises because of Jesus.

But it’s got nothing to do with stone and wood and gold and silver. Jesus has built the church through his and resurrection. He’s paid the ransom, and been crowned king. And whenever someone recognises who Jesus is. And bows the knee to serve him. That’s another brick built onto the church.

And while God lived in Solomon’s temple. Represented by the Ark of the Covenant. V22 tells us that God lives in US, his holy temple, through his Holy Spirit. How much better is that?!

So what can we learn from David? David was so amazed at what God had done for him/ that he HAD to make sure the temple was built. God deserved everything he had. Every possession. Every scrap of energy he could muster. His heart and soul and mind and strength. God deserved it all.

And God still deserves everything WE can offer him. Because his grace to us is JUST as wonderful. Just as special. We mightn’t be kings. But God LIVES in US. He calls us his children. And promises us an inheritance.

And so we can build his house. His temple. His CHURCH. And may we have HALF the enthusiasm of David. Flip over to Ch 4 of Ephesians v11 (p828)

King Jesus, the builder of God’s house, the church, calls us to join with him in building the church. Using the gifts he’s given us. Look at v11.

(Eph 4:11-16 NIV)  It was Jesus who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, SO THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST MAY BE BUILT UP

That’s the work of building the temple. What’s YOUR gift? Teaching? Evangelising? Pastoring? How are you using it? Do you have the enthusiasm of David? The undivided 100% commitment to the task? Or have you slipped off the pace lately?

Who are you ENCOURAGING?

Who are you TEACHING?

Who are you SHARING Jesus with?

Who are you PREPARING for service?

Are you PRAYING that God would build his church?

May we do it all because we share David’s motivation. Sheer amazement that God would be interested in choosing us. And using us to build his temple. And giving us an inheritance.

(1 Chr 17:16-22 NIV)  …”Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? {17} And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O LORD God. …{20} “There is no one like you, O LORD, and there is no God but you, …

1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1: The Sin of Counting

Shane Warne. He’s just been suspended for a year for taking a diuretic. A tablet that removes fluid from your system. And it can be used to help people who are retaining fluid – swollen feet for example. And it can also be used to mask the presence of steroids.

And perhaps its LEAST important use is for cosmetic reasons. To make you LOOK BETTER. So body-builders, or s, might use it to look less puffy or bloated.

And then there’s Shane Warne. The night before his return to cricket after a dislocated shoulder, he took a diuretic tablet so he would LOOK his best.

And he’s just admitted to Ray Martin he’s taken ANOTHER tablet. This time the morning after he’d had a big night. And he wanted to LOOK good.

Puffy eyes? Take a tablet! Double chin? Take a tablet! Nothing to do with PERFORMANCE, at least if you believe Shane. Just VANITY and PRIDE. Too many years of living in the glare of public adoration. Too used to people overlooking his indiscretions because he played cricket.

It’s always a problem when people in the public eye start believing their own publicity. And that’s EXACTLY what King David seems to have done in this chapter today.

He’s a mighty warrior. And his army has gone from one success to another. Every nation around/ is running in fear. And David knows it’s all because GOD has been fighting for him. At least he STARTS OFF knowing that. Have a look back to chapter 14. v2.

(1 Chr 14:2 NIV)  And David KNEW/ that THE LORD had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.

And whenever David goes into battle, he always asks God what he should do. And God gives him victory. Like v10 of Ch 14.

(1 Chr 14:10 NIV)  so David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will YOU hand them over to me?” The LORD answered him, “Go, I will hand them over to you.”

And because David knows it’s all God’s doing, he gives God the credit. Flip over to Ch 18. More victories. And plenty of loot that went with it. Gold and silver and bronze. First, second and third place to David. But look at what David does. V11.

(1 Chr 18:11 NIV)  King David dedicated these articles TO THE LORD, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken from all these nations: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek.

And just in case we haven’t got the message yet. The last part of v13. “The LORD gave David victory everywhere he went”

But in Ch 19 things start to change. Instead of David doing the fighting, he sends Joab – his commander–in-chief. And it’s JOAB who remembers the Lord. Look at v12 of Ch 19.

(1 Chr 19:12-14 NIV)  Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to rescue me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will rescue you. {13} Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. THE LORD WILL DO WHAT IS GOOD IN HIS SIGHT.” {14} Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him.

And God helps Joab, and he wins. And even though by the end of the chapter David gets the glory, it’s really Joab who’s the one who’s remembered the Lord.

And we get another hint of things going wrong in Ch 20. Once again, Joab doing the dirty work. And David getting the glory. Look at v1.

(1 Chr 20:1-2 NIV)  In the spring, at the time when KINGS go off to war, JOAB led out the armed forces. He laid waste the land of the Ammonites and went to Rabbah and besieged it, BUT DAVID REMAINED IN JERUSALEM. Joab attacked Rabbah and left it in ruins. {2} David took the crown from the head of their king –its weight was found to be a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones–and it was placed on David’s head.

Last time he gave the loot to God. Put it in the temple. But what does he do here? He puts the whopping great crown/ on HIS OWN head.

Perhaps David’s starting to believe his own publicity. Doing a “Warney”! Perhaps he’s thinking that HE deserves the credit. That HE’s the one who’s brought the victory. But he wasn’t even on the battle field. He stayed at home. Living it up in the palace.

And so we get to Ch 21. That’s what (Gordon/ Pam) read for us earlier. And if we’re feeling a bit nervous, then v1 doesn’t exactly help. Because Satan comes onto the scene, and he stirs up David to take a census.

Now we might think. Well, what’s so bad about a census? What’s wrong with counting the people? It’s hardly the worst sin in the world. You’d think Satan could have come up with something better than that!

Surely it’s just good governance to keep an accurate record of things. Make sure you provide enough for everyone. That’s what we have the census for in Australia. To help the government plan.

In fact, in Israel’s time / even God’s not against a census. In fact, the Book of Numbers begins with a command from God for Moses to take a census of the whole Israelite community.

So what’s so wrong about counting? There’s enough hints here/ to let us know there’s more going on than meets the eye. Because David gets JOAB to do it. His army chief. You see, David’s counting his ARMY. He’s checking out his muscles. Doing a Warney. Believing his own publicity.

And Joab sees the problem. V3.

(1 Chr 21:3 NIV)  “…Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

It’s Joab/ who hasn’t forgotten who’s REALLY behind Israel’s victories. It’s all God’s doing. But David’s forgotten it.

And so Joab does the job. But under protest. And he comes back with the figure. 1.1 million. An AWESOME army. One to be proud of. To glory in. But he doesn’t feel too happy about it. And neither does God. Look at 6.

(1 Chr 21:6-7 NIV)  But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. {7} This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

God wants David to trust HIM ALONE. Not to put his trust in soldiers, or horses, or numbers. Because with God none of that matters. And David of ALL people should know that.

And somehow David realises his mistake. He realises his sin. And he confesses of his sin and his foolishness. And asks God to take away his guilt. That’s in v8.

And God agrees. His guilt WILL be taken away. But God can’t just OVERLOOK guilt. Pretend it’s not there. A penalty must be paid. Punishment must be executed. And he does something very unusual. He gives David a choice. Three options. Look at v11

(1 Chr 21:11-12 NIV)  So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Take your choice: {12} three YEARS of famine, three MONTHS of being swept away before YOUR ENEMIES, with THEIR swords overtaking you, or three DAYS of the sword of THE LORD–days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

What a choice! Three years at the mercy of the ELEMENTS. Three MONTHS at the mercy of MEN. Or three DAYS at the mercy of the LORD. Which would YOU choose?

For David, there’s no question. Look at v13.

(1 Chr 21:13 NIV)  David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”

God is mighty. And God is holy. But he’s also MERCIFUL. And perhaps he will hold back his hand. Even just slightly. Not give the FULL weight of the punishment. That’s David’s hope.

And it’s exactly the same hope that those of us who are Christians have. We throw ourselves on the mercy of God. He is holy. And we’re sinful. We deserve punishment. Eternal separation from God. And yet he holds back his hand. He chooses to make us his children. Not because we deserve it. But because of his mercy. Because the of his Son has paid our penalty.

“Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great!”

And God is true to his word. 70, 000 men die by a plague. That’s justice. ThaT’s wrath. And as God’s angel is working his way through Jerusalem, his sword cuts a path through the people.

Then suddenly, for some reason, God notices it. Notices his people. Remembers his covenant.

And something happens. God’s white-hot justice, and honour for his name, are quenched. Hosed-down. Extinguished in the cool pool of his mercy. Look at v15.

(1 Chr 21:15 NIV)  And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”

David’s confidence in God’s mercy has paid off. And v16 tells us that David looks out over Jerusalem. And sees the angel hovering there. Drawn sword raised over Jerusalem. Waiting for God’s command. A symbol of God’s JUSTICE. But also his MERCY because the sword has been stopped.

And David goes down to where the angel is waiting. And he buys the block of land from the guy who owns it. And he offers sacrifices to God there. He FINALLY remembers the Lord.

He recognises that God is the one who’s BROUGHT the punishment. God is the one who’s STOPPED the punishment. And God is the one who DESERVES his worship and gratitude.

And we can do the same. Recognise that God’s justice demands that punishment be BROUGHT. And the wonder of the gospel is that he’s brought that punishment on HIS SON, rather than US.

He’s BROUGHT the punishment. (That’s his justice). But he’s also STOPPED the punishment. He DOESN’T treat us as our sins deserve. That was JESUS’ fate. That’s God’s MERCY. And that’s why he DESERVES our worship and gratitude.

And the final point in the story is in Ch 22 v1. This was the exact sight that David decided to build the temple on. Because it was there that God had stopped the hand of the angel.

Well, what’s all that got to do with us? What can we learn from David? David’s mistake was letting pride get in the way. It was PRIDE IN HIS ARMY that caused him to forget God.

And we’re just as guilty today of counting our army. Of trusting in our EARTHLY resources, rather than in God who can do his stuff WHATEVER our circumstances

At the most basic level, every day, each of us has dozens of decisions to make. A situation arises. And we choose how to respond. And MOSTLY we try to fix things ourselves.

We drive a little faster. Or argue a little harder. Or worry a little more. Our first port of call is always ourselves. (“How can I fix it?) Rather than taking it to God. (“What do YOU want me to do? How should I handle it?”)

Stop counting your army. Give it up to God.

You might think you DON’T count your army. But how many of you don’t feel that little bit more secure when you read the local paper. And notice how much the houses in your street are selling for? How many of you quickly do some sums. And work out what you’re worth?

Stop counting your army. Give it up to God.

Or we worry about the future. So we put a little bit more away in superannuation. Or buy that extra bundle of shares. Or have that extra medical procedure done.

It’s not that any of these things are necessarily WRONG. It’s putting your trust in them, rather than in God which is wrong. We might still do them, trusting that God will look after us THROUGH them.

Stop counting your army. Give it up to God.

And I think we do it/ when we compare ourselves to other people. Good old Sharon. She means well. But she’s just not as good as me at … teaching… welcoming … raising kids … budgetting … housework. Whatever it might be.

And we feel that little bit more smug and self-satisfied when we compare favourably to others. Don’t do it. Stop counting your army. Give it up to God.

And the flip side of that is when we take stock of our resources, and decide that we CAN’T do a particular job. “I know it’s really important to go door-knocking … or leading youth group … or talking to that new person. But it’s just not my gift. I never know what to say. I feel out of my depth. I’m sure God can use someone else.”

And he probably will. But it means YOU miss out on the chance of working with God. Because you’re too busy taking stock of your own feeble resources, and forgetting that God can help you to do ANYTHING.

It’s the mistake that those spiritual gifts questionaires make. A stack of questions to help you find out what your spiritual gifts are. So you’ll know how you can serve the church.

But I reckon it’s the wrong way of looking at things. In 1 Corinthians, Ch 12 lists a whole stack of gifts. And then Ch 14 focusses on tongues and prophecy. But what’s right in the middle of all that teaching about gifts? What’s CHAPTER 13 about? LOVE. “Now I will show you the most excellent way.”

Do you LOVE your brothers and sisters? Do they have a need? Try to meet that need! That’s what love does. It doesn’t count its army first. Decide it doesn’t have that particular gift. And wait back for someone ELSE to help. Love jumps right in. Gives it a go. And prays that God will do the equipping. Because God can do ANYTHING.

Stop counting your army. Give it up to God. RECOGNISE him, ASK him for help, GIVE him the glory.

And it was a lesson the Apostle Paul knew well. He knew his own weakness. He knew that it was ONLY by recognising his own inability that God could actually use him. Listen to 1 Corinthians 2:3.

(1 Cor 2:3-5 NIV)  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. {4} My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, {5} so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul recognised the foolishness of counting his armies. And the wisdom of trusting in God. The God who can do ANYTHING.

Let me finish with these words of Paul from Eph 3. There printed there in your news sheet. And may it be our prayer for each other. Eph 3:16

(Eph 3:16-21 NIV)  I pray that out of HIS GLORIOUS RICHES he may STRENGTHEN you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, {17} so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, {18} may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, {19} and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

{20} Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to HIS POWER THAT IS AT WORK WITHIN US, {21} to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

2 Chronicles 1-9: Solomon and the Temple

What things do you have CONFIDENCE in?  I’m reasonably confident with most handyman jobs around the house. Building. Carpentry. Painting. Gyprocking. Hanging pictures. Building shelves and furniture.

But my confidence finishes at the driveway. Anything under the bonnet of a car is a mystery to me. I’ve got no confidence at all. I guess a lot of that comes from my Dad. He did most of those handyman jobs as well. But he had no idea about cars. So I never worked on them.

But at least part of my lack of confidence / comes from the time I tried to change the oil in my first car. A 1972 Mitsubishi Galant. I unscrewed the plug at the bottom of what I THOUGHT was the sump. Drained the oil. And then poured the new oil in at the top. “That was pretty easy!” I thought to myself.

Although I did wonder at the time why I didn’t have to replace much oil. Until I was halfway down the motorway from Gosford to Sydney. And the gearbox seized up.

I’d drained the gearbox instead of the engine!

And I’ve never had much confidence in cars since then.

What things do YOU have confidence in?

Or what about when it comes to God? What gives you the confidence to approach God? To pray?. On what basis do you think he’d be mildly interested in what you’ve got to say?

Is it confidence that’s got something to do with YOU? Or confidence in WHO GOD IS?

And before answer too quickly, think about this. How many of you are reluctant to pray. When you’ve just yelled at the driver who cut in on you? Or you’ve had a fight with your husband or wife? Or you’ve fallen into that sin you’ve been trying to get on top of for ages? And you think “I won’t pray at the moment. I’ll just wait a few hours, or until tomorrow.”

If that’s ever happened to you. Then at least some of your confidence in standing before God comes from YOURSELF. Rather than God. In who he is. And what he’s promised.

And ultimately that’s a pretty shaky reason to be confident. Like trusting ME to be able to fix your car.

What if you were King Solomon? How would you feel if you were him? And you were about to start building the temple? Where would your confidence lie?

Your father, King David had spent the last part of his life setting it all up for you. Stockpiling materials. Organising labourers. Going over the plans with you. Making sure you understood everything.

You’ve got the riches. The connections. The education. The family. The political stability. The approval of everyone around you. Plenty of reasons to feel pretty confident about things.

In fact, Solomon probably had more reasons to feel confident, from a human perspective, than any other person in history. And yet he doesn’t trust in ANY of it. He knows that it’s always going to be God’s decision whether he succeeds. Everything he does is based on WHO GOD IS. And WHAT HE’S PROMISED Solomon.

And if you think about those first readers of Chronicles. Back in 450 BC. Sitting among the ruins of Jerusalem. Not much chance of trusting in riches. Or temples. Or kings. Or sacrifices. Because they didn’t HAVE any of that. And so all they COULD do/ was to cling to God, and the things he’d promised. It was God who was the reason they could confidently pray. And it was only because of him/ that they could see ANY hope for the future.

And the message to us is the same. As magnificent as the temple was. As spectacularly wealthy and wise as Solomon was. As popular and well-liked as he was. None of those things can give US any confidence before God.

And that’s a lesson the world out THERE needs to hear. Because it’s exactly those sorts of things that THEY’RE putting THEIR trust in.

It’s only God’s faithfulness to his promises. Seen in the and resurrection, and ascension of his Son, Jesus. That gives us the confidence to PRAY. Or to believe that our sins are forgiven. Or to hope that there’s anything BEYOND this life.

As we read these chapters in 2 Chron, what we’ll see is that Solomon gets excited by GOD’s wisdom and glory and righteousness and approval and riches. Rather than anything that this world can offer him.

1. God’s wisdom– not man’s

And we see that right at the start of Ch 1. He’s got everything organised. It’s all ready for him to start. The PEOPLE are behind him. The MATERIALS are there. The WORKERS are waiting for his orders.

But despite it all. Solomon doesn’t PRESUME. In v6, he checks with God. He wants to make sure this is what God wants.

And then, v7, God says, “I’m with you. Ask for ANYTHING. And I’ll give it to you!”

Imagine that! It’s the genie in the bottle question. There’s a new Tim Tam ad on tele. Have you seen it? Three Aussie s wander into a middle eastern market. Looking for lamps. They finally find one with a genie. And when he asks them what they want. “A never-ending pack of Tim Tams”. And as they wander off munching their Tim Tams, the genie says to the shopkeeper “Strange Aussies!”

What would WE say if someone said to US “Ask for anything, and I’ll give it to you”? There are probably lots of things we’d be tempted to ask for. But look at what Solomon says. V10

(2 Chr 1:10 NIV)  Give me WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

As smart as Solomon was/ he knew that by himself he wasn’t up to the task. Above anything else, Solomon knows he’s going to need GOD’S wisdom.

And God agrees. And then throws in riches as well. V11

(2 Chr 1:11-12 NIV)  God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, {12} therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”

Seek God’s priorities first. And he will look after you. That’s a lesson that Solomon’s greatest descendant ALSO knew. Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount. Mt 6:33.

(Mat 6:31-34 NIV)  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ {32} For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. {33} But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. {34} Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As I was thinking about Solomon this week. It’s amazing how many parallels there are between the lessons HE Learned. And the lessons Jesus taught 900 years later. And we’ll look at a few more.

Lesson one. Trust God’s wisdom. Not your own. Look for God’s way of doing things. Not what YOU reckon.

2. God’s glory– not the temple’s

And so Solomon gets to work. And even though the temple’s going to be magnificent. And even though he’s totally committed to the task. He still keeps some perspective. Look at what he says about the temple. It’s in Ch 2 v5.

(2 Chr 2:5-6 NIV)  “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. {6} But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?

You see, even though the temple’s going to be great. Solomon doesn’t put his confidence in THAT. And even though Solomon himself is the greatest man alive, he doesn’t put his confidence in that either.

It’s the glory of GOD. Not the glory of the temple. THAT’S what’s important. God’s too huge. And too important. And too powerful to actually live in a temple. No matter HOW special it is. THAT’S THE GOD Solomon’s serving.

So what’s the point of the temple? It’s magnificent because God’s magnificent. But it’s not the TEMPLE ITSELF that Solomon puts his trust in. The temple’s just a convenient place to offer sacrifices. Convenient for PEOPLE. To help them focus on the one who’s more important than the glorious temple.

And Chapters 3 and 4 describe what the temple’s like. And it IS magnificent. There’s gold everywhere. Beautiful material for the curtains. Finely decorated pillars and walls and doors and beams. There’s a bronze altar that’s 9 m long and 9 m wide. That’s room for a pretty big BBQ! And a huge circular pool for the priests to wash in. It was about 4½ m in diameter.

And then there was the equipment. There were basins for washing, and lamp-stands, and tables, and gold sprinkling bowls, and pots and shovels, and meat forks, and dishes and wick trimmers, and censers.

And then to top it all off, Solomon brought in all the treasure King David had collected in his battles. And brought all THAT in. And put it in the temple treasury. That’s Ch 5 v1.

That’s a pretty glorious temple. … But that’s NOTHING compared to the glory that’s about to come.

In Ch 5, Solomon and all the people bring the Ark of the Covenant into the temple. And finally, after all these years. The Ark is where it belongs. Not in a tent. Not in someone’s house. Not passed from one person to the next like a hot potato. But in the centre of the temple. In the centre of Jerusalem. In the centre of Israel. Because that’s where GOD deserves to be.

And what does everyone think about that? Look at Ch 5 v13. They sing and play their instruments. They PRAISE GOD.

And as GLORIOUS as the singing might be. And as GLORIOUS as the temple is. None of it was could hold a CANDLE to what happened next. The end of v13.

(2 Chr 5:13-14 NIV) … Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, {14} and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for THE GLORY OF THE LORD filled the temple of God. 6:1 Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;

And even though the highest heavens couldn’t contain God. God came to dwell in his temple. Well, at least HIS GLORY CLOUD did. It was the cloud that REPRESENTED him. It was a sign that God would be taking a special interest in the temple. The sign that the God who made the Universe was focusing his attention on this tiny part of it. This would be the one place where people could do business with God.

And that’s far more glorious than the temple EVER was. And Solomon recognises it.Ch 6 v2.

(2 Chr 6:2 NIV)  I have built a magnificent temple (yes. Very nice. But here’s the important bit) It’s FOR YOU, A PLACE FOR YOU TO DWELL FOREVER.”

So what is Solomon confident in? God’s wisdom, not man’s. And God’s glory, not the temple’s.

3. God’s righteousness– not man’s

And thirdly, he recognises that it’s God’s righteousness, not man’s / that’s worth putting your trust in. And you can see that from what he does in v12.

(2 Chr 6:12-13 NIV)  Then Solomon STOOD before the altar of the LORD IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE ASSEMBLY OF ISRAEL and OUT HIS HANDS. {13} Now he had made A BRONZE PLATFORM, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court.

You’d think that if anyone has a reason to hold his head high. It would be Solomon. The project of a lifetime just finished. His adoring people watching and cheering his every move. God’s put the icing on the cake by coming in his glory cloud. And filling the temple. It’s enough to make Solomon stop for a moment and soak up the adulation. But does he do that? No. Because he knows there’s nothing about him that’s worth being proud about.

He’s up on the stage. Arms out. Everyone can see him. The exalted place for the exalted king at the exalted moment. And what does he do? V13. He

(2 Chr 6:13 NIV)  …knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and out his hands toward heaven.

He knelt down and prayed! How extraordinary! And he’s sending a message. Even before he starts praying. “This is where mankind DESERVES to be. Even me. On my knees before the mighty God of the Universe. He’s the One who’s righteous. Not us.”

And you can see that from his prayer. He prays that God might pay attention to people when they pray at the temple. And one of his big themes is that God would FORGIVE. Because that’s what people need the most.

v21 …Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, FORGIVE.

v25 then hear from heaven and FORGIVE the sin of your people Israel

v27 then hear from heaven and FORGIVE the sin of your servants,

v30 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does,

v39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And FORGIVE your people, who have sinned against you.

Forgiveness is what people need most. Because no-one DESERVES God’s attention. Solomon knows that. V36 says

(2 Chr 6:36 NIV)  “When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin”

And it’s what the whole temple system was designed to reinforce. How far away people are from God. The sacrifices. The need for ceremonial cleansing. The barriers. And the doors. God is a holy God. And no-one can be confident before him based on their own goodness.

Solomon knows it. And that’s why he trust God’s righteousness. Not his own. And, again, it’s the same lesson Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. This time Mt 5:20.

(Mat 5:20 NIV)  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Only 100% is the pass mark!)

4. God’s approval – not man’s

And in Ch 7 we see the NEXT part of Solomon’s confidence. He looks for GOD’S approval. Not MAN’S. God sends fire from heaven. His endorsement of Solomon’s prayer. Not because Solomon is perfect. But because he recognises where his confidence SHOULD lie. In the righteousness and approval of God.

And if we flip over to Ch 9, we can see the sort of temptation Solomon’s up against. The temptation to look for the approval of OTHERS rather than God.

Because the Queen of Sheba comes visiting. Gorgeous. Exotic. Rich. And she’s INTERESTED in Solomon. Asking questions. And she FLATTERS him. Ch 9 v5 “I’d heard you were wise and rich. But that was nothing on what I’ve seen. You’re even BETTER than that! How happy people who work for you must be!”

Now it would be easy for that sort of attention to go to your head, wouldn’t it? But look at what the Queen says next. She hits the nail on the head. V8.

(2 Chr 9:8 NIV)  Praise be to the LORD your God, WHO HAS DELIGHTED IN YOU and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.”

Solomon seeks the things of God, rather than people. Because none of that stuff lasts. God’s approval. Not men’s. That’s what’s important.

And once again, Jesus teaches that lesson, too. Mt 6:5.

(Mat 6:5-6 NIV)  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners TO BE SEEN BY MEN. I tell you the truth, THEY HAVE RECEIVED THEIR REWARD IN FULL. {6} But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. THEN YOUR FATHER, WHO SEES WHAT IS DONE IN SECRET, WILL REWARD YOU.

5. God’s riches– not man’s

And now the story of Solomon’s winding to a close. We see his staggering wealth. His gold shield collection. Every utensil made from gold. Ivory. Even apes and baboons. V22

(2 Chr 9:22 NIV)  King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.

And down to v27

(2 Chr 9:27-28 NIV)  The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. {28} Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from all other countries.

But if we’ve been paying attention, that should sound familiar. We already know all that. Right back at the start of Solomon’s story. Ch 1 v15

(2 Chr 1:15 NIV)  The king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.

So why mention it again? I think the writer’s making a point. Because look at what comes next. Ch 9 v 27

(2 Chr 9:27 NIV)  The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.

Then ch 9 v30.

(2 Chr 9:30-31 NIV)  Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. {31} Then he rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.

All that wealth. And he still died. And he handed his throne over to Rehoboam. Who was wicked and stupid. And who ruined it all. But that’s just life (and ). Why trust in Man’s riches, when God’s riches are the only ones that last.

And once again, Jesus got it right when he said in Mt 6:19

(Mat 6:19-21 NIV)  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is YOUR treasure? Where are YOUR riches? It’s foolishness to put your confidence in riches that RUST. How much better to put your confidence in riches in heaven. Trust God’s riches, not men’s.

Friends with God, through the of his Son, Jesus, on our behalf. That’s the way to riches with God. The only riches worth putting your confidence in. And that’s a lesson Solomon knew.

2 Chronicles 10-13: Whose fault?

The Jews have probably been the most persecuted people in history.  We automatically think of the prison camps and the gas chambers of and the s. But most of us don’t know about the Russian pogroms, or riots, which killed thousands of Jews from 1880 to 1917.

And in almost every society since Christ, they’ve been discriminated against, or persecuted, or killed. Governments have taken away their property, and refused their rights.

But what’s the most terrible thing that ever happened to Israel? It MAY be some of those things. But it seems to me that the worst thing that Israel ever went through/ happened in 930 BC. Shortly after the of the great King Solomon.

The division of the nation of Israel into two kingdoms. The North and the South. Israel and Judah. (Show o/h)

After everything they’d been through. Twelve tribes rescued out of Egypt. Surviving 40 yrs in the desert. Conquering the land. Holding out the invasions of other nations with the help of judges.

Then Samuel guiding them. Installing Saul as king. More battles. More victories. Finally King David makes it to the throne. And the nation of Israel becomes a world power. All 12 tribes. Undefeated on the battle field. No-one could stand before them.

And then Solomon builds on his father’s work. Builds the WEALTH of the nation. The wonderful temple is the jewel in the crown. Israel is the envy of everyone around. And God is pleased. One nation. United. Rich. Successful. Obedient.

And then Rehoboam becomes king. And the whole thing falls apart within a few weeks. What a tragedy! 10 tribes decide to rebel. And they split from the OTHER two. And those 10 tribes are from the NORTH. And they become known as ISRAEL.

And the OTHER two tribes are Judah and Benjamin. And they’re from the south. And they become known as Judah. That’s where the name “Jews” comes from.

And by the time of Jesus, the Jews the people from the north. They’re looked down on. Second-class citizens.

Samaritans were originally people from the Kingdom of Israel. Samaria was smack-bang in the middle of Israel. In fact, it was the nation’s capital until the Assyrians conquered it in 722.

And so when Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the JEWS, it was because they D the Samaritans. And it was almost impossible for them to imagine that SAMARITANS could be their neighbour!

And the two kingdoms NEVER got back together. And the Jewish people TODAY are those from the SOUTHERN kingdom. (Even though it’s called Israel – that’s a bit confusing). And the northern kingdom is split between three countries. Israel near the coast, Palestine in the middle which is disputed territory. That’s where all the fighting is (The West Bank. And the Golan Heights). And Jordan on the east side of the Jordan River.

And so God’s people were together in God’s land/ under God’s king/ for less than 100 years. That’s all there was to the glory days. Such a fleeting glimpse of success. A tease.

But who’s fault was it? Who was the cause of the terrible split? The chapters we’re looking at today. Give us the answer.

1. Rehoboam was proud

Whose fault was it? First up, Ch 10 tells us that it’s Rehoboam’s fault. It opens with Rehoboam becoming king. And the people come to him, and say, “Solomon pushed us pretty hard – what with the temple, and his palace. And all the palaces for his foreign wives. How about copping us a bit of a break? Go easy on us for a while!”

And Rehoboam says he’ll think about it. He asks the OLD advisers. The ones who’ve hung around Solomon. You hope they’ve picked up a few pointers. Well, they reckon it’s a GOOD idea. That’s V7

But Rehoboam doesn’t like the sound of that. So he asks his buddies. The guys he grew up with. And they’ve got a different opinion. V10.

(2 Chr 10:10-11 NIV)  … “Tell the people ‘My LITTLE FINGER is thicker than my father’s WAIST. {11} My father laid on you a HEAVY yoke; I will make it EVEN HEAVIER. My father scourged you with WHIPS; I will scourge you with SCORPIONS.'”

We don’t know how old these guys were. But they sound just like agers. Full of bravado and pride. Think they’re indestructible and unbeatable. They’re eager to make their mark.

And Rehoboam lets his PRIDE get in the way. And he LISTENS to them. And when the people return, he repeats their speech almost word for word. Almost like he doesn’t have an original thought of his own.

“My father scourged you with WHIPS, but I’ll scourge you with …. (PSSST What am I going to scourge them with? … Oh, yeah, that’s right!) … but I’ll scourge you with SCORPIONS!”

And so he doesn’t listen to the people. And by doing that. He shows that, rather than being a BIGGER man than his father, he’s actually a LESSER man. Because he’s PROUD and STUPID. And he’s not SHEPHERDING the PEOPLE like God wanted.

And so the people decide to go home. And abandon Rehoboam as their king.

Who’s fault is the split? It’s Rehoboam’s fault. Because of his pride and stupidity.

2. The people were rebels

But it’s also the fault of THE PEOPLE. Because they chose to turn their back on the king. Look there in v16.

(2 Chr 10:16 NIV)  When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “WHAT SHARE DO WE HAVE IN DAVID, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!” So all the Israelites went home.

You see, by turning their back on Rehoboam – The king GOD APPOINTED – The Son of David who would shepherd the people/ under God – The people were as good as turning their back on GOD.

“We’re not interested in doing things GOD’S way. It’s what WE decide, or nothing. My way, or the highway.”

And that’s the point Abijah makes over in Ch 13. It’s eigh years later. And Abijah is Rehoboam’s son. The next king of Judah. And this is HIS TAKE on things. He’s speaking to Israel, and their king Jeroboam. Ch13 v4

(2 Chr 13:4-7 NIV)  …”Jeroboam and all Israel, listen to me! {5} Don’t you know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? {6} Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, REBELLED against his master. {7} SOME WORTHLESS SCOUNDRELS gathered around HIM and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them.

The way Abijah sees it. It’s all JEROBOAM’S fault. They TRICKED Rehoboam into making a bad decision. Caught him when he was young and inexperienced. He could hardly be blamed for the split!

It was Israel’s fault. They were REBELS. Rebels against the Son of David. The true king.

But not just against the king. Against God as well. That’s the next point he makes. Down in v8.

(2 Chr 13:8-9 NIV)  “…You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. {9} But didn’t you drive out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.

They didn’t just set up another KING to replace Rehoboam. But they set up IDOLS to replace God.

And instead of God’s PRIESTS, they came up with some cheap imitations. No-name brands. Anyone with a bull and seven sheep qualified. Like getting your University degree out of a Cornflakes pack!

And so while Judah was the genuine Arnott’s Tim Tam, Israel was the Home Brand chocolate-flavoured rectangular biscuit. A poor imitation. And that’s what they chose. Because they were rebels.

Whose fault was the split? Jeroboam, and the people. Because they were rebels.

3. God brings down proud rebels (10:15; 11:4)

But these chapters throw up a third option. Whose fault was the split? It was God’s. God was behind the whole thing. It was all part of his plan. Look back in Ch 11 v4. The two sides are about to fight. But God says;

(2 Chr 11:4 NIV)  Do not go up to fight against your brothers. Go home, every one of you, FOR THIS IS MY DOING.'”

And a bit further back at Ch 10 v15. The reason why the king was so stubborn.

(2 Chr 10:15 NIV)  So the king did not listen to the people, FOR THIS TURN OF EVENTS WAS FROM GOD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat.

God was engineering things to bring about his purposes. And if we go back to 1 Kings 11, we can see how it happened (p247). It was in Solomon’s time. And Jeroboam was one of his officials.

And God is plotting a coup. Look at v29.

(1 Ki 11:29-39 NIV)  About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were ALONE OUT IN THE COUNTRY, {30} and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. {31} Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.

You see, it’s God who sets up the whole plan. He puts the idea in Jeroboam’s mind. He’s the one whose stirring the pot.

And why does he do it? Look at v33.

{33} I will do this because THEY HAVE FORSAKEN ME AND WORSHIPED … other gods… and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws / as David, Solomon’s father, did.

Why does God work in this way? To break up the nation? Because of Solomon’s sin. He worshipped other idols. He led the people astray. And THEY sinned. And so God punishes them.

Although because he loved DAVID so much, he actually says the punishment won’t happen until Rehoboam’s time. Rehoboam is the one who’ll cop the brunt of the punishment. And that brings us back to 2 Chronicles 10.

Does that make God unfair? Is Rehoboam getting something he doesn’t deserve? No. Of course not. We’ve already seen that he’s proud and foolish. And, back in 2 Chron, Ch 12 v14 sums up Rehoboam.

(2 Chr 12:14 NIV)  He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.

Rehoboam fully deserved the punishment he receives from God. And so God’s judgment on Israel/ is that it’s split into two.

So let’s ask the question again. Whose fault is it? It’s God’s fault. Because he punishes proud rebels. But it’s also Rehoboam’s fault. Because he’s proud. And it’s also the people’s fault. Because they’re rebels.

The story puts up all three options as true. But God is never controlling unwilling people. And they’re never just puppets with no ability to choose.

And God’s hands are never tied behind his back. Like he KNOWS what’s going to happen, but is powerless to change it.

We somehow have to put together/ that God is completely in control of everything that happens. And, at the same time, people are completely free to make decisions.

4. So what?

Well, what’s the lesson for us today?

We still have the choice to reject King David’s Son, or to follow him. You see, our King is Jesus. And sometimes we are tempted to turn our back on him. Because obedience is hard. (Just like obedience to Rehoboam was hard for Israel)

Perhaps his call for no compromise is too tough. We want to keep that lust, or that desire for power. Or success. Or approval. Or possessions. And King Jesus says

(Mat 6:19-21 NIV)  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. {20} But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Perhaps concern for the future has got its claws in us. And we’re ready – not to DUMP Jesus – but just to drop him down our priorities a peg or two. At least until we get ourselves ESTABLISHED. But King Jesus says;

(Mat 6:31-33 NIV)  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ {32} For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. {33} But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

And when people have the choice. The choice to accept God’s King, or reject him. There’s always a split. Look at what happens with Rehoboam. The rebels LEAVE. But all the FAITHFUL people actually come to Judah. Ch 11 v13.

(2 Chr 11:13-14 NIV)  The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him (that’s Rehoboam). {14} The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD.

And it wasn’t just the priests either. V16.

(2 Chr 11:16-17 NIV)  Those from every tribe of Israel who SET THEIR HEARTS ON SEEKING THE LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers. {17} They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time.

The choice to reject or follow. Acts like a SIEVE. A filter. A means of PURIFYING the people. It separated the good from the bad. Showed people’s true colours.

And God still works the same way. Within any group/ there are two sorts of people. Those whose hearts are set on following God. On serving King Jesus. And those who AREN’T.

Even among people who SAY they’re Christians. TWO GROUPS. Those who truly ARE Christians. And those who’re just going through the motions. Whose hearts are set on something ELSE, rather than God.

Sometimes they’re even pretty good at hiding it. They know the right things to say. And do. They’ve got everyone fooled. Sometimes even themselves. They might THINK they ARE Christians.

But they can’t fool God. And one day, there’s going to be the final split. The judgment. When God separates the sheep form the goats. And all the words, and tricks, will be useless. Because God will see things as they really are.

Is that you? Are you just FOOLING PEOPLE? Are you trying to fool God?

Who or what/ has your heart? Are you committed to pleasing God? Or has something ELSE got your heart?

Perhaps you’re not sure? You THINK God is number one. And your main desire is to serve Jesus as Lord. But feelings are so tricky, it’s hard to be sure. And some days, if you’re honest with yourself, he probably ISN’T NUMBER ONE.

Then 1 John is written for you. It’s the letter for people who are DOUBTING if they’re Christians. Who lack assurance. (And there’s a few verses you can look up there in the outline).

But it’s message/ is that if you’re not sure if Jesus is Number One, then ask this question – Are you DOING the things that PLEASE him? Are you WALKING AS HE DID? Is their FRUIT?

If you’re lacking assurance of salvation. Become a fruit inspector. That’s the message of 1 John.

And it was FRUIT that distinguished Judah from Israel. Back in Ch 13 of 2 Chron. Israel and Judah about to fight. And King Abijah calls on everyone listening to be fruit inspectors.

V8. What’s ISRAEL’s fruit? Making golden calves. Kicking out the priests and the Levites. Because they’ve rejected the Son of David.

But what about Judah? What’s THEIR fruit? V10. They haven’t given up on God. Every morning and evening the priests present the burnt offerings. And set the bread. And light the lamps. Day after day – doing what God requires.

And so Abijah’s confident God will give THEM victory. V12.

(2 Chr 13:12 NIV)  God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”

Abijah’s confidence is in God. But Jeroboam’s is in his craftiness and strategy. He sends half his troops around the back of Judah. And he has them surrounded.

And when Judah realise, they cry out to the Lord. And God answers them. Verse 15.

(2 Chr 13:15-16 NIV)  …At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. {16} The Israelites fled before Judah, and GOD DELIVERED THEM into their hands.

And in v18 is the lesson.

{18} the men of Judah were victorious BECAUSE THEY RELIED ON THE LORD, the God of their fathers.

Judah’s heart was set on God. And the fruit of that was seen in her reliance on God. And notice the two occasions that happened? In the EVERYDAY/ AS WELL AS/ the BATTLES.

When things were going WELL, Judah kept doing the everyday things. Kept praying. Kept listening to God’s Word. Kept confessing sin. Kept meeting with God’s people.

(Is that fruit that YOU’RE showing?)

And then when the BATTLES came. The TOUGH TIMES. Their commitment was still there. A depth of trust in God.

And it’s the same with us, isn’t it. It’s easy for most of us to turn to God during the BATTLES. The tricky situations. Unemployment. Or sickness. Or danger.

But do we still do it during the good times? Is the fruit of a heart for God still there from week to week? The weeks when there’s no real DRAMAS. No real VICTORIES. Just more of the same.

When you’re tempted to think that you can do just fine WITHOUT God. That you get by because of your intelligence, or money, or physical prowess.

That’s often when it’s easy to lose our heart for God. And to drift away. To start trusting OTHER things, rather than God. And what he’s done for us in Jesus.

Let’s make sure we don’t do that. And let’s keep encouraging each other/ to keep producing the fruit of hearts that are set on God.