Monday, 2 June 2014

(154) June 3: 2 Chronicles 7-9 & John 13:1-17

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the traits of Solomon’s kingdom.

To ponder:
After Solomon’s prayer fire from heaven consumed the offerings (as 1 Kgs 18v38-39). With the manifestation of God’s glory that may have remained in the temple throughout, God therefore signalled his approval by two means. The people rightly worshipped face-down, joining the musicians in thanking God for his goodness and love. Worship is always the most fitting response to a revelation of God’s glory and special presence, whether in Jesus, in the conviction of his word, or witnessing him act within the church.
            The king and people then offered 44,000 animals - a huge display of devotion and of the necessity of atonement if God is to dwell amongst his people. The implication is that this “dedicated” the temple to God, perhaps by reflecting the devotion with which it had been built, or by making atonement for its defilement by sin so the God could dwell there. The choir and orchestra continued their praise with instruments David had ensured were made just for this purpose. His grasp of the importance of praise moved him to ensure music ministry was properly resourced.
See notes on 1 Kings 8v62-9v28 for 1 Chronicles 7v7-8v18 which is almost identical. Having dedicate the temple, Solomon “consecrated” the courtyard. Again, this seemed to be by numerous sacrifices. This may have taken days during the two week festival. Some time after that God appeared to Solomon at night, presumably in a vision or dream, affirming his choice of the temple, but also warning Solomon (and by implication his descendents) that if he turned away, God would uproot Israel and reject his temple. Unique to the Chronicles account is God’s promise that if after suffering his judgement the people humbly pray and turn from their sin, he will forgive them and heal the land. This would remind the post-exilic readers of this need if they were to see the kingdom thrive again, and reminds Christians that with such repentance they will receive a healed creation. Although our own land is not promised us as Israel’s was and we are not under a covenant that promises fruitfulness for faithfulness, God does afflict the land of other nations because of sin (Lev 18v24-28) suggesting these principles may still apply where many within a nation display true repentance.
It seems the building of the temple and palace took twenty years. It is only having completed this work that Solomon rebuilt other parts of the kingdom and establishing its territories. There is a lesson here about prioritising the building of the church (see Haggai). We read too that the priests and Levites didn’t deviate from Solomon’s commands “in any matter,” a model for us before Christ. And Solomon’s concern for what was right was such that he would not even have his Egyptian wife live in David’s palace because it had been made holy by the ark’s presence, and so, in not being an Israelite, she would defile it.
2 Chronicles 9 is almost identical to 1 Kings 10 (see notes there). The Queen of Sheba is “overwhealmed” by Solomon’s wisdom and greatness, praising God for his love in giving Israel such a king. This is followed by an account of Solomon’s wealth and achievements with a note that he was “greater in riches and wisdom” than all other “kings of the earth,” and that they came to hear his wisdom. This helps us understand why his death is then recorded with no mention of his apostacy. The author knows his readers are aware of these details from other sources. Instead, his purpose is to portray the ways in which David and Solomon exemplified ideal kingship as a model of what Israel were to look for in the ultimate fulfilment of the Davidic covenant (1 Chr 17). The attraction of the world to Solomon’s wise and righteous rule and the splendour, security and prosperity of his kingdom centred on the worship of God and reliance upon his presence, all patterns the coming kingdom of Christ, whose rule we already experience.

Praying it home:
Praise God for the incomprehensible glory of the kingdom he is establishing in Jesus. Pray that he would grant you an ongoing spirit of praise and thanksgiving for his goodness and love in response.

Thinking further: The Temple
With all its detail that seems quite obsolete to the modern reader, 1 and 2 Chronicles affirm how critical the temple was for Israel. It was the place of God’s attentive presence on earth, where atonement was made so that his holy presence could remain within Israel without breaking out against the Israelites for their sin. It was therefore essential to God’s ongoing fulfilment of his promises, and a constant reminder to Israel of their need to worship God with praise and obedience, and of God’s readiness to act for them if only they would call upon him. Indeed, its furnishings were designed to bring home God’s holiness and majesty together with his goal of reversing the curse and establishing a new Eden for his people. The destruction of the temple by the Babylonians (and the second temple by the Romans) was therefore profoundly symbolic. It demonstrated that God had withdrawn his presence and so his protection and blessing, giving the appearance that his promises and eternal kingdom would never be fulfilled. How significant then, when the Word was said to have “tabernacle” amongst us (Jn 1v14) and Jesus taught that his body is now the temple (Jn 2v13-22). It meant he was the locus of God’s attentive presence in the world, the place of atonement, and the centre for worship to whom we should look in prayer. Moreover, he was the emobodiment of God’s holiness and majesty and the firstfruits of the new creation. The church is only described as the temple in the sense that it is united to him and so Christ’s spiritual body. It therefore fulfils all these roles not apart from Christ, but in the sense that it is filled with the Spirit of Christ and so looks people to Christ (Eph 1v22-23, 2v19-22). So the Bible ends with the New Jerusalem, which is the people of God, not having a temple because the LORD and the Lamb are its temple (Rev 21v22-27). In other words, there is no need of a building to house their presence and keep it separate from a sinful people because sin will be no more, and so God and Christ will be directly present, filling the entire city which is described with temple-like language. The point is that God will then dwell permanently with his people, ensuring their protection, blessing and the fulfilment of his promises in the Eden-like new creation.
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