2 Chronicles 6: Hear and Forgive

Still reading about Solomon’s dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. He prayed this massive public prayer (anyone notice that no one prays that long anymore?) and I thought what he asked for was interesting. This is the verse that first caught my attention:

May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive. ~2 Chr 6:21

It grabbed my attention because Solomon is asking for God to watch over the Temple and listen to his requests and the requests of the people of Israel. I expected him to ask God to grant the requests, but instead the first thing he asks is for God’s forgiveness.

This request sets the tone for the rest of the prayer. Solomon asks God to

  • Hear and judge (v23) – when someone claims innocence
  • Hear and forgive (v25) – when Israel is defeated because the nation has sinned
  • Hear and forgive (v 27) – when there is drought because the nation has sinned
  • Hear and forgive (v 30) – when there is famine, plague, locusts, or the nation is besieged
  • Hear and grant (v33) – foreigner’s requests
  • Hear and uphold (v34) – when there is war
  • Hear and uphold, forgive (v39) – when Israel is conquered and in exile

Solomon’s prayer is part prophetic because all of these things come to pass, and probably based on Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 where God delineates the punishments for disobedience.

It makes me think of how many of our prayers are “hear and grant” when they should really be “hear and forgive.”

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1 Kings 8: Massive animal slaughter

When I read accounts from the Old Testament about offerings it makes me cringe.

There before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count! ~1 Kings 8:5

The the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices to the LORD. Solomon offered to the LORD a peace offering of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. ~1 Kings 8:62

It seems like a waste that so many animals would be slaughtered. Today I went back to Leviticus 7 and read about peace offerings. I’m guessing these for the temple would fall under the heading of voluntary offerings.

If you bring an offering to fulfill a vow or as a voluntary offering, the meat must be eaten on the same day the sacrifice is offered, but whatever is left over may be eaten on the second day. And meat left over until the third day must be completely burned up. ~Leviticus 7:16-17

So really, the dedication of the Temple was a huge tailgate. Over the course of 14 days, all Israel gathered and had the biggest barbeque anyone could imagine in honor of the LORD. They ate some of the meat, parts of it went to the priests, the fat was burned up, the blood was spattered, and anything left over was completely burned.

A two-week national holiday where most of the food is supplied by the government sounds like the Super Bowl on steroids.

Isn’t it just like God to provide for us while we sacrifice to Him?

From now on when I read about animal sacrifices, I won’t see it as a senseless waste. Like tithing, these offerings were meant to support the priests (church) financially while also blessing the givers. A fiscal means to make God a priority in our lives. And like Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, a means to draw us closer to God.

 

1 Kings 7 – The Molten Sea

Happy Easter Monday! Last week was crazy. I clocked 30 hours Friday-Sunday because I work at a church. It was a fantastic weekend, but busy, busy. I’m happy to have today off to do things like read the Bible, do laundry, and write. 🙂

I don’t have anything insightful to say today. I read about the building and furnishing of Solomon’s temple, specifically about all the things that were cast from brass. I was specifically intrigued by The Sea, or The Molten Sea, as some call it. It was 7.5 feet tall, 15 feet across, and the cup portion was 3 inches thick. It could hold ~16,500 gallons of water. It rested on the back of 12 bronze oxen. The priests washed in it.

The thing that is puzzling me: how did the priests wash in a basin that was at least 7.5 feet tall? Did they stand on the backs of the oxen? Did they have a step stool? I’ve spent a few minutes looking at pictures but no one seems to have addressed this issue.

The other thing I found interesting was the size of some of these brass-cast pieces. In addition to the gargantuan Sea, the brass worker Huram also cast two ginormous pillars for the temple – 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference (that’s a diameter of ~6 ft if I did my math correctly). He also made the wash basins in one piece. I would have liked to have watched him do that.

Just for fun, here is a short video on the casting process if you’re interested.

 

2 Thessalonians: Subliminal Messages

 

There are a lot of notable things in Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonika, Greece. He writes about hardship and suffering. He writes about events prior to Christ’s return. He writes about how believers should live.

The things that kept grabbing my eye as I read the letter today were Paul’s many references to what “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” grant believers:

  • Grace and peace (1:2)
  • Justice (1:5, 6)
  • (Promise of) Rest (1:7)
  • Ability to live a worthy life (1:11)
  • Power to accomplish good things (1:11)
  • Grace (1:12)
  • Love, grace, eternal comfort, a wonderful hope (2:16)
  • Comfort, strength in every good thing (2:17)
  • Strength, protection from the evil one (3:3)
  • Full understanding/expression of the love of God, patient endurance (3:5)
  • Peace at all times and in every situation (3:16)
  • Grace (3:18)

Paul’s theology just oozes out of him when he writes. It’s like subliminal messaging. As he speaks about church issues, there’s this running reminder of all the things God is and does for us. And it didn’t escape my notice that grace made the list four separate times. 🙂

1 Samuel 28: Biblical Ghost Story

My first class at seminary was on how to study the Bible. Principles of Hermeneutics (or some such). Our very first assignment was to make 25 observations from a single verse (Acts 1:8). Let me tell you, that was difficult. But it wasn’t as hard as our second assignment: to make another 25 observations from the same verse!

The point was that careful observation is the first, and possibly most important step, in Bible study.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a writer. I’ve entered a national short story competition and made it to the second round. In the next two days, I have to write a ghost story. (Genre, topic, and character are assigned. My first story was a thriller).

I generally try not to dabble in horror, because of my profound belief that the supernatural exists and that the occult is dangerous. So for me, my ghost story will be a precautionary tale. 😉 For inspiration, I thought I’d go back to 1 Samuel where God has stopped speaking to Saul so he decides to go and find a medium to bring the prophet Samuel back from the dead. (And he wondered why God was silent?)

So, for fun, here are 25+ observations from the text. Feel free to comment below with your own observations. Our prof told us that there were over 600 observations that could be made from Acts 1:8! O.o

  1. Saul had banned all mediums and those who consulted with spirits of the dead from Israel. – suggests Saul knew God prohibition.
  2. People besides mediums consult spirits of the dead.
  3. Saul was afraid of the Philistine army.
  4. Sacred lots, dreams, and the prophets were ways that God chose to answer people in the past.
  5. Saul asked God what he should do, but God refused to answer.
  6. Saul requested to speak with a woman who was a medium. (Were all mediums female? Were there male mediums?)
  7. Saul’s advisers knew where a medium was located.
  8. Saul disguised himself and went at night to see the medium.
  9. Saul told the medium he wanted to consult with the spirit of someone who had died.
  10. The woman was suspicious of him.
  11. The woman knew that consulting spirits was against the law.
  12. The woman accused Saul of setting a trap.
  13. Saul took an oath in God’s name, “As surely as the LORD lives, nothing bad will happen to you for doing this.” (Huge irony here. Witches, mediums, consulting with spirits was all prohibited by God.)
  14. Saul wanted to talk to Samuel.
  15. The woman was able to summon Samuel even though she did not know who he was or what he looked like.
  16. Samuel’s appearance made the medium afraid.
  17. When the woman called up Samuel, she realized her customer was Saul.
  18. When he arrived, she did not know who Saul was.
  19. Saul could not see Samuel.
  20. The woman described Samuel as “a god coming up out of the earth.”
  21. Samuel appeared as an old man wearing a robe.
  22. The medium’s description of Samuel’s clothing somehow convinced Saul it was Samuel.
  23. Saul knelt before Samuel.
  24. Saul asked Samuel what to do.
  25. Samuel did not tell Saul what to do.
  26. Samuel explained what Saul did wrong.
  27. Samuel predicted Saul’s death – told Saul he and his sons would “join him” the next day.
  28. Samuel predicted the entire army of Israel would be defeated.
  29. It is possible to contact dead spirits.
  30. Samuel knew what was going to happen in the future. Suggests that Samuel was still in communication with God.
  31. God had become Saul’s enemy.
  32. Saul was being punished for disobedience.
  33. The medium was compassionate to Saul.

I like these points from my study Bible:

Samuel’s appearance revealed to the medium that she was dealing with a power far greater than any she had seen in the past.

She did not call Samuel up using her normal means. Instead, God allowed Samuel to return to give Saul a message.

“…do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12

Here’s what I’m hoping to convey in my short story: that the occult is real, and that it is dangerous. Once it’s finished, I’ll be posting it at my main blog. 🙂

Blessings.

Psalm 101: Blameless Living in 7 steps

Here we have a list of items to live a blameless life:

  1. Live with integrity at home
  2. Refuse to look at anything vile/vulgar
  3. Have nothing to do with liars and cheats
  4. Stay away from anything evil, including evil ideas
  5. Refuse to tolerate slander, conceit, or pride
  6. Only have godly friends
  7. Only do business with people of integrity

My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip. v8

Are you ready to go out and exact judgment on everyone you know after reading this psalm? If so, STOP.

King David wrote this psalm, possibly at the beginning of his reign as an idea list of how to live and run his kingdom. On the surface, it looks like a great list. And many Christians try to live up to this ideal. They only have church friends. They are righteous to a fault. They are quick to condemn the faults they see in others. What this looks like to outsiders is that Christians are completely intolerant and very often hypocritical. Because, let’s face it, none of us are perfect. There are times I should free the city of the LORD from me!

So here we find some tension between the OT and NT. After all, Jesus hung out with a bunch of sinners. He failed to condemn the woman caught in adultery. He hung out with tax collectors. He dined at the house of liars and cheats. Can you see where the Pharisees had a problem with him? To their eyes, he wasn’t living up to Psalm 101. And the Messiah, the King, should do kingly things, right?

The difference is grace. We heard a sermon recently from a visiting pastor about “messy grace.” His point is that you can be right in what you believe but wrong in how you express it. Our biblical beliefs should never allow us to demean or devalue others. Why? Because we are not the king! David was responsible for shepherding the entire nation of Israel. He had the daily task of ridding his kingdom of evil. We do not. Our task is to love God more than anything else, and love others like we love ourselves.

Minisermon over.

Kindness prevents justice from becoming too harsh; justice saves kindness from becoming flabby. – H. C. Leupold

1 Kings 2: Solomon cleans house

One of the commentaries I read on this section compares David’s deathbed instructions for Solomon to a scene from The Godfather. David charged Solomon,

“Do with him [Joab] what you think best, but don’t let him grow old and go to his grave in peace” (v6).

It wouldn’t take much to imagine those words in Marlon Brando’s voice. And in the end, Joab “slept with the fishes.”

That begs the question: Why didn’t David exact justice on his own? Why wait for Solomon to do it?

There’s no clear answer. Apparently, David’s delayed judgment was a form of mercy. Joab and Shimei deserved to die for their crimes, but were allowed to live through the end of David’s life. Perhaps David wanted Solomon to enact judgment to secure his own throne for himself. Part of becoming an adult is to do things on your own, especially the hard things.

But I think the delay was a result of David having a heart like God’s. David loved people deeply and, like God, delayed judgment. Perhaps he was hoping they would repent.

Whatever his reason, there comes a time when God will judge. It will be when his Son returns to rule and mete out the justice people deserve. Just like Solomon dealt with his (God’s) enemies in this chapter, so Jesus will deal with the world. We can be on the bad side like Joab, Shimei, and Abiathar, or we can be on the good side like Barzillai’s sons.