Reading Through the Bible, May 2. 2 Chronicles 31-33

    God said that “a tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.  If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30-32).

    Who got the money?

    “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting” (Numbers 18:21).

    If the future is any indication (Malachi 3:8-10), God’s people had been negligent in tithing during the days of their straying from the Lord.  Hezekiah’s reforms led to changed lives, which was seen most prominently in Israel’s giving to God.  The giving was so great that the contributions lay in “heaps” on the ground and the recipients extended not just to the men performing temple service, but also to their wives and to their children.

    The emphasis however is not on the amount that the Levites received, but on the amount God’s people gave.  True spirituality cannot coexist in a stingy heart, and stinginess is best overcome by generosity.  The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

 

Reading Through the Bible, Sunday, May 1. 2 Chronicles 27-30

    Back and forth the story goes between faithfulness and unfaithfulness.  Joash is faithful until late in life.  His son Amaziah is unfaithful.  Amaziah’s son, Uzziah, is faithful until late in life.  His son, Hotham, is faithful.  Jotham’s son, Ahaz, is unfaithful, but his son, Uzziah, is faithful – at least until he is older.

    What surprises me is how rebellious sinful people can get when they know they are sinful, and know they are being punished for it.  Looks like they would learn a lesson – but they don’t.

    Ahaz “walked in the ways of Israel.”  There was a pagan altar on every street corner.  When God sent punishment through the invading armies of Edom and Philistia, Ahaz, rather than turn to the Lord, turned away from Him, and the result was even more trouble.  Even then, rather than repent, Ahaz simply boarded up the temple.

    There are those people who seem to believe if God doesn’t do as they expect, they, in their anger, will do all in their power to punish God.

    They never succeed.  God is not a human.  He is in His heaven.  He will have His way.  The hardest thing for us to do is submit, but submitting is in our best interest, and one way or another is also our final destiny.

Reading Through the Bible, Saturday, April 30. 2 Chronicles 23-26

    Can you remember the kings?

    Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat.

    Next came Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Joash, Amaziah and Uzziah.

    For all the good he did, Jehoshaphat made a major error: he arranged and approved the marriage of his son Jehoram to the daughter of Israel’s king Ahab – one of the wickedest of the northern kings.  She influenced her husband, Jehoram, and her son, Ahaziah, for evil and when both were killed, she determined to totally destroy the house of David – killing even her own grand-children.

    She was, however, unsuccessful.  Ahaziah’s son Joash was rescued by his aunt and kept safe within the temple precincts for six years.  When he ascended to the throne at age seven.  Joash’s aunt was married to a priest, and here we see the close connection between the monarchy and the priesthood again.  In fact, it is this close association that brought about the ultimate coronation of Joash and a spiritual renewal in Judah.  It is also that holy influence which guided  seven year king Joash to become, for a time, one of Judah’s better kings.  “Influence” is a key theme in this section.  The influence of the priests kept Joash headed in the right direction.  But when his mentor, Jehoiada, died, the king came under the influence of evil men who ultimately destroyed his monarchy.

    Two points are important just here.  First, everyone has influences.  Be sure you know what they are, and be sure they are holy.  Second, all of God’s people should mature to the point they are not so susceptible to bad influence.  It was this second, a lack of maturity, that was really Joash’s downfall.

Reading Through the Bible, Friday, April 29. 2 Chronicles 20-22

    It’s easy to say: “I just need to turn all my worries over to the Lord.”  It’s harder to do.

    And sometimes . . . it’s difficult to hear.  Sometimes it just sounds like one is abdicating responsibility to deal with a situation.

    The final story of Jehoshaphat however has the king saying and doing just that: giving it up to God.  Judah, oppressed by the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites, believes the situation is hopeless.  In fact, Jehoshaphat says as much when, before the Lord, he prays: “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

    The momentary silence, coupled with the desperate hearts of a helpless, must have been deafening as “all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.”

    Jehoshaphat’s father before him, faced with a similar situation, turned his hope toward his own plans without consulting the Lord, and endured failure.  Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, helpless as he was, witnessed a miraculous victory that left him and the armies of Judah mere spectators of the power of the Lord.

    As hard as it is to “give it up to God,” the most spectacular triumphs await those with the faith to do so.

Reading Through the Bible, Thursday, April 28. 2 Chronicles 17-19

    Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat.

    Four kings of Judah following Solomon whose combined reigns total eighty-six years.  Asa reigned the longest.  Abijah the shortest.  But Jehoshaphat gets more space – almost as much as the other three put together.

    Jehoshaphat was an ideal king.  Many years later, Josiah will attempt a tremendous spiritual revival among God’s people, but Jehoshaphat’s is more significant.

    Jehoshaphat is more significant because of his character.  He “walked in the ways of his father David,” and he “did not consult” idols.  Jehoshaphat “sought the God of his father and followed His commands” and his “heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord.”

    But Jehoshaphat is also significant because of the way in which he tried to effect spiritual renewal in Judah.  Rather than just oppose idolatry or issue calls to faithfulness and gathering at the temple, Jehoshaphat sent missionaries through the land.  These were not just prophets, but “officials” (princes) accompanied by Levites.  Thus spiritual development was not just taught, but modeled by leadership.

    Spiritual development takes place best when respected members of the community not only model that development, but also teach it to people in the pew, showing by their lives and their words that the way of the Lord is important.

Reading Through the Bible, Wednesday, April 27. 2 Chronicles 14-16

Asa, great-grandson of Solomon, ruled Judah for forty one years.  His grand-father, Rehoboam, had abandoned the Lord and led in the worship of idols.  Asa’s father, Abijah, had done nothing to stop that apostasy, though he had exhibited uncommon trust in God, enabling him to totally defeat the Northern Kingdom in battle.  Because of his trust in God, the Lord gave him victory despite the fact that he was surrounded by an army twice the size of his own.

Asa, however, acted positively to contain and eliminate idolatry in Judah and he exhibited the faith of his father when it came to battle.  God gave Asa a similar victory.

Asa’s later life would not be so faithful.  Even though he would go so far as to punish his own mother because of her idolatry, Asa in his later years will trust more in himself and less in God.  In time of political crisis, he will seek rescue by making an alliance with a pagan king, paying for protection with gold from the Lord’s temple.  He will go through personal crisis, but will not turn to God for help.

It’s a fact: often those most devoted to orthodoxy trust the Lord the least.  There’s nothing wrong with orthodoxy – adhering to the rules.  But nothing will replace a whole-hearted trust in God.  This is what He wants most of all.

 

Reading Through the Bible, Tuesday, April 26. 2 Chronicles 11-13

“He took everything.”

Those are likely the saddest words in this reading.

After Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, was established and strong as a monarch, he abandoned the law of the Lord.  And God said: “You’ve abandoned me.  Now I abandon you.”

After eight chapters emphasizing the greatness, majesty, glory, wealth and reputation of Solomon’s reign and God’s munificent blessings (remember that even the Queen of Sheba acknowledged Solomon’s glory was from the Lord), all was lost in one generation.

That’s all it takes.  Sometimes it happens faster than that.

God cares nothing for gold or silver.  He doesn’t care what people think.  He cares about His people, and He cares that they acknowledge and obey Him.  Those who don’t can lose it all.

In a heartbeat.

 

Reading Through the Bible, April 25. 2 Chronicles 8-10

The completion and dedication of the temple was a grand affair, one of those mountaintop experiences that are few and far between but which all people find encouraging.

But true spirituality cannot be sustained with “big events.”  There must be a regular, daily, remembrance of God, constantly nourishing the heart.  Chapter eight notes that Solomon “sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord, according to the daily requirement for offerings commanded by Moses . . . according to each day’s requirement” (vss.  13-14).

J.G. McConville has written: “Christian living and spirituality are only real if they can survive in the long quiet reaches of life. . . . It is the regular, unseen, perhaps solitary seeking of God that testifies to spiritual reality that builds Christian character.”

Prayer.  Daily Bible reading.  Personal reflection.  Tending to the needs of others.  These are sacrifices with which God is well pleased, and which must be a daily part of our lives

 

Reading Through the Bible, April 24. 2 Chronicles 4-7

The Chronicler condenses the description of the building of the temple to forty verses from Kings eighty-nine verses, and what comes through in the description is grandeur.  Gold is mentioned as often in Chronicles as Kings, but in only half the space.

Fine gold.  Gold from Parvaim.  Even the nails were gold (only mentioned in Chronicles).

This was a magnificent structure, and when Solomon dedicated it to the Lord, he prayed that God would hear the prayer of anyone – Israelite or alien – who would come there to pray.

When all was finished however, God made an appearance to Solomon, and emphasized what was important: “if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.’ But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them,  then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’ ” (2 Chronicles 7:17ff).

Trust, which of necessity requires allegiance and obedience, is what God has always wanted.  His blessings have always been dependent on it, and nothing has changed or displaced that very important point.

 

Reading Through the Bible, April 23. 1 Chronicles 29 – 2 Chronicles 3

Chronicles presents a much more orderly transfer of power from David to Solomon than does Kings, but that is to highlight the grandeur of David’s leadership.  The temple is not Solomon’s temple, for he is too young and inexperienced to do it on his own.  He will need help.  And David calls on all of Israel to be that help.

David sets the example in helping Solomon by giving not just huge gifts, but all his resources – including his personal treasures.  This emboldened the other leaders in Israel to be likewise generous, and their generosity caused the rest of Israel to give.

The work of the Kingdom of God takes the efforts and sacrifices of everyone – not just a handful, or the leaders, or the most faithful.  Everyone is called to participate and serve.  One writer has observed that people are closest to being like God when they are willing to give of themselves to Him.  And the more like Him they become, the more capable they are of rejoicing.

The passage before us teaches that a man’s relationship with God is, above all, seen in joy and wholehearted devotion that rejects selfishness and generously gives.  You will see this repeatedly as the temple is built and dedicated.  We should see it in our own lives today.