2 Chronicles 5 says “all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished”. Solomon has finished the task at hand. He has done what David was never able to complete – a permanent home for God. So Solomon now moves forward to dedicate things the way David had intended. His father had collected silver and gold and vessels which are now moved into the treasury in the house of God. So things have gone well but it is time to get all the people together to dedicate things.
“Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant”. The one big thing that was missing was the Ark, and now Solomon has people bringing that to the Temple. But what stands out here is that it wasn’t a small group that was part of this process. He has:
- “All the men of Israel
- All the elders
- All the congregation”
Notice anything telling here? The word ‘all’ is used over and over. This wasn’t just a celebration – it was for all people!
It was a big party. Scripture tells us they were “sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered”. There was quite a celebration going on. We are also told there wasn’t much in the Ark. “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there”. At an earlier point in Israel’s history there were three items in the Ark of the Covenant. Earlier, inside the ark were the golden pot that had the manna (Exodus 16:33), Aaron’s rod that budded (Numbers 17:6-11), and the tablets of the covenant (Exodus 25:16). We don’t know what happened to the golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod, but they were not in the ark when Solomon set it in the most holy place.
But what was the biggest thing that happened as they celebrated? God showed up. “The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God”. It is hard to define the glory of God; we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence. Here it is manifested in a cloud. God pours out His glory when His people praise Him. The glory of God had filled the house, and the priests were set aside. Where God is, man is forgotten.
2 Chronicles 2 has Solomon beginning the work of building. “Solomon purposed to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself”. He doesn’t just take on the assignment God gave him through his father David to build the Temple. He also decides to build a palace for himself. Either would be a huge task, but doing both is really large. Solomon assigns a number of men to the crew:
- 70,000 to carry things
- 80,000 to cut rock in the quarry
- 3600 to be supervisors
That’s a significant work force, but it won’t be all before things are done.
Solomon “sent word to Hiram the king of Tyre” to let him know of the building process and to ask for cedar to use in the construction just as David had done previously. Solomon asks for a working relationship with Hiram and explains in his message that he is building a temple for the Lord. He also asks for a “man skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to be with the skilled workers who are with me”. Solomon asks for the best. He wasn’t going to be content with the best in his own land. He wants to bring in a superstar craftsman to oversee and direct his local workers. Nothing short of the absolute best will be good enough for him. So he asks for the best.
He also requests much lumber and offers to send money to hire local woodsmen to work alongside the men he will send there. Hiram received the request and answered in a letter. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself”. It’s a favorable response, and Hiram also agrees to send Huram-abi over as a master craftsman to oversee those working on the Temple and palace construction. They trade food and other items for the lumber and wages, and the work begins. Hiram is providing lumber to Solomon just like he did for David years earlier. It’s a positive relationship .
But how do you move timber in those days. No trucks or tractors or any other equipment like that. And they were moving a lot of timber since 70,000 men were assigned to that part of the project. Hiram has a plan to “cut whatever timber you need from Lebanon and bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, so that you may take it up to Jerusalem”. It is still obviously a whole lot of work, but the water will make the transportation a bit simpler and more feasible. Solomon is taking action to do what his father David had asked of him. He’s putting the workforce in place and making treaties with those who can supply the materials. So far he’s doing the right things as the new king. Solomon counted all the resident aliens in the land, and there were 153,600. That divides nicely to the 70K, 80K and 3600 that were assigned to the hard labor. The building is about to begin!
2 Chronicles 24 has more detail on Joash as king of Israel. You may recall from our study in Kings that Jehoiada had kept him as a baby until the age of seven when he put him on the throne and remove Athaliah who had killed all the rest of the royal family. Jehoiada “got for him two wives” – so this priest really made sure Joash was set up to succeed. And Joash had kids and was leading the land. Joash was also on a mission to correct the issues of the past. He was following the Lord through Jehoiada’s guidance.
“Joash decided to restore the house of the Lord”. He instructed the priests to go gather money to repair the house of the Lord. And he told them to “see that you act quickly”. They didn’t quite understand that last part of the instruction, as they didn’t take action. So Joash decided to take it on himself and put a box at the door for people to drop their tax into. Check out what scripture says happened: “all the princes and all the people rejoiced and brought their tax and dropped it into the chest until they had finished….and collected money in abundance”. That’s something you don’t see often – people rejoicing when paying tax. He obviously set it up well with the people.
Jehoiada dies at age 130 after living a life pleasing to God. Scripture says “he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house”. But unfortunately his influence doesn’t last and “after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols”. Joash is swayed away from God and that means big problems for the people of Israel.
God is not humored by this turn of events. “Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you”? How quickly things can change. Joash has been walking in God’s ways under the influence of Jehoiada the priest and as soon as he dies and others influence him, he quickly moves away from God. Who we have in our patch certainly does make a difference. God kept His word and sends the enemy to attack. “Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord”. Joash goes from walking with God and His blessing to turning from God and receiving His wrath. That decision cost the people dearly. How we live matters, not only to ourselves, but to those around us!
2 Corinthians 13 ends Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth. He is coming to see them for the third time, and reading between the lines is not exactly happy with their progress and growth. “I warned those who sinned…..I will not spare them”. Paul says enough is enough. You can’t be a Christ Follower and continue to sin. You can’t just live for self and ignore God’s standards. You just can’t do your own thing. So he is coming and will deliver a strong message – to get right with God and live as He desires. Jesus didn’t deal with folks without holding them accountable. “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you”. We serve a Savior who went to the Cross to bury our sin and set us free. He didn’t die there so we could just live as we choose. He died that we might be transformed and changed!
So how do we know? Paul gives us a simple set of instructions: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith….Test yourselves….. do what is right”. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and see how we are doing in our faith walk. Have you done that? What does it look like when you examine yourself? Are you satisfied? Is God? Actually His is the only vote that really counts. So how to we know if we measure up? We read His measuring stick – the Bible. It is our guide to how we are to live. He sets the standards there. Are you in that Book daily? Are you able to truly measure how you are doing by comparing your life with His expectations? Paul goes further and tells us to test ourselves. Testing is checking the boundaries and knowing when to turn around. Testing is when we push the limit but know what the limit is. But the bottom line is that we are to do what is right. How we live matters. God has expectations. He really does want us to get our act together and live for Him.
Paul ends the letter with a few comments on authority which he says “the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down”. We often get this wrong. We think authority is just a stick to beat people with to get them to do what we want. That is not the way it works. Authority comes with leadership which means we need to have followers. That is what leaders do – they lead followers. So the authority we have means we need to lead people in the way they should live – to build them up and encourage them to walk with God. Paul gives us five key ways to live:
– “Aim for restoration
– comfort one another
– agree with one another
– live in peace
– Greet one another with a holy kiss”
So how are you doing? Really? Do these five things describe your life as a Christ Follower? Are you restoring relationships, investing in others, living live together and showing some fellowship and love? The Corinthian church has some issues and Paul lets them know that how they live matters. The same is true for you and me. We are not just putting in our time. What we choose to do as we live today will impact our eternity. Life matters!
2 Corinthians 12 has Paul continuing on the discussion of not boasting about himself or what he has done. And he explains that there is a struggle that keeps him focused on that fact: “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated”. Paul has a thorn. Scripture never tells us what that is – but it bothered him and kept him from becoming overly consumed with himself. Why would God allow this to happen to a man who is arguably one of the greatest ministers of the gospel of all time? Because it kept Paul and others focused on the reality that God alone is sufficient. God alone is in control.
Paul didn’t like it. In fact, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me”. He wanted this thorn gone. Ever been there? Had something you wish would just go away because it hinders what you are up to? That is what Paul felt like. He just wanted freedom from this thorn. So what did God say? “But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. God’s grace is sufficient no matter what the thorn is. And that is how we must live – totally dependent on His grace rather than our own steam. That was the message God gave to Paul. Keep you eyes focused on my grace – not on what you are able to do. I am the source – not your own strength.
Paul understood the reason for the thorn: “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”. It was there to cause glory to come to the Father. It was there so there was no way he could take the credit for what God was doing. Paul had a couple possible responses. He could have continued to fight against the thorn as something he didn’t deserve and focus on trying to rid himself of it. But rather he takes this approach: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. Did you catch what he does? He embraces the thorn as a way to show God strong in his life. He doesn’t necessarily like it, but he chooses to see the good in it so God can be glorified through him.
Paul does note that “we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding”. He is clear with the church that they have been ministering to make a life change in the people. But Paul hedges and says that when he visits he is afraid there will be “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder…..impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality”. How frustrating for him to have poured life into these people and fear that they didn’t get it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not about head knowledge but rather heart change. It is designed to bring us into right relationship with God – to change how we live. Have you let Jesus change your life? Is He Savior and Lord? If so, nothing on this list should be part of us any longer. How about your life? Has it been changed?
2 Corinthians 11 has Paul in the face of the Corinth church. They seem to be a bit off track in their thinking. Paul is concerned that “your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ”. It seems that the church is at risk to going into the weeds – that they are not mature and discerning of what or who they listen to. So Paul warns them of these three ways that they could be deceived:
– “Proclaims another Jesus
– Receive a different spirit
– Accept a different gospel”
Paul goes on to warn of “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ….even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light”. The church has to be alert and paying attention. How will we know if there is deception in our territory? First we need to remember that there is a very real serpent prowling and cunning all around us. And it is his mission to deceive us. Secondly we need to know the real thing. That is how you identify the counterfeit – you are intimately acquainted with what is truth.
Paul goes on to deal with a recurring theme with the Corinthian church. They appear to be cheapskates. He has made it clear over and over that he and his team took care of all their own expenses – allowing folks from other churches to support them – while they ministered to this church. “I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way”. Paul is very sensitive to the perception of the church, but this one seems to be a freeloader. They want it all free of charge. It seems to have little value to them. Why is it that we believe we can do church that way? Why is it that the most important thing in our eternity should be free? Sure the gospel is free – but the ministry certainly is not. If there is one place we should feel good about giving our money – it should be to the local ministry of the church. It should be spreading the message of the gospel that saves people for eternity. What has more value than that? Are we any different today? Or do we hang on to the dollars in our pocket rather than give them cheerfully and freely to God’s work through the church?
Paul reminds us of the long list of things he endured as a minister of the gospel. Can you top this list?
– “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
– Three times I was beaten with rods
– Once I was stoned
– Three times I was shipwrecked
– danger from rivers
– danger from robbers
– danger from my own people
– danger from Gentiles
– danger in the city
– danger in the wilderness
– danger at sea
– danger from false brothers
– toil and hardship
– many a sleepless night
– hunger and thirst
– often without food
– cold and exposure
– daily pressure”
Sometimes we think that we have a rough life. It never hurts to put it in perspective. Paul endured much for the sake of the gospel. He sacrificed it all to deliver the message of Christ crucified. And while he was one of the greatest that has ever lived and served – he did it with humility and total reliance on God. I love what he says as he closes this chapter: “I will boast of the things that show my weakness”. This is not the Paul show. This is God at work in a humble and dedicated servant who is single-minded in sharing the love of Jesus with everyone he touches. Paul left it all on the mat. He gave all he had to touch people. Are you living all out for Jesus? What does your list look like?
2 Corinthians 10 describes the battle we are in. Paul gets personal with the church and gets in their face. He is making some strong statements to help them realize just how important this battle really is. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh”. We are in a very real battle. There is an enemy – a legion of enemies – poised to destroy us as Christ Followers. His mission is defined – he is out to kill, steal and destroy – and the results are eternal. But we are not defeated just because of a strong enemy. In fact, Paul reminds us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”. This battle is not ours alone. God is with us and will equip us to win. We have the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God to help us defeat the enemy.
Of course having a weapon we don’t use isn’t of much value. That is one of our struggles today as we do battle in our personal lives – we don’t know God’s Word which is our key offensive weapon. We need to read it, hear it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it day and night. But instead our Bibles collect dust on the shelf or are stuck away in the drawer. We might pull them out on Sunday morning if we remember, but overall we are not learning and using God’s Word to win. Paul reminds us that “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”. Part of the battle is taking control of our minds – to focusing on truth rather htan the lies of the enemy. We need to take captive every thought and focus on God’s truth!
Paul goes on to chastise folks for the way they compare themselves with each other. Isn’t that how we live as human beings? We want to be better than others so we compare. Check out the folly of that process: “when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding”. It isn’t what matters. Being measured and compared with another is of no value. Our comparison should be to compare ourselves with God’s plan for our lives. Are we hitting the mark He has set? Are we living up to the potential based on what He has entrusted to us? As Paul tells the folks then “as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged”. Does the teaching we hear and the truth we take in change our life – has the impact increased and the influence enlarged? We need to measure ourselves against ourselves. Have we grown as God desires, or are we still newborn babes that are not reaching our potential. Here is the reality as Paul describes it: “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends”. It is only the Lord’s commendation that truly matters. We may exceed every other person we want to measure ourselves against – but that does not give us true approval – that only comes from the Lord. We need to seek His approval and be measuring ourselves with His yardstick. That alone is our measure of success!