God wants you to remember where you came from.
Okay, brace yourself. We’re about to wade through nine—yes, that’s nine—chapters of genealogies at the beginning of 1 Chronicles. Mercy! Seems like a daunting task for a blogger. However, I think God had a very good reason for inspiring the writer of this book (Ezra, perhaps) to begin with this long genealogy, and it’s a lesson we can take to heart as well.
The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles span a period of history from Adam down through about 500 B.C. This later date was about the time Israel was returning to its homeland from captivity. After being gone for so long and having lived under heathen rule, it’s likely that the current generation wouldn’t have had much of a clue as to who they really were or where they really came from. They certainly wouldn’t have had much sense of the high calling God had placed on their nation.
So, God inspired someone to write a concise history of the Israelite nation in order to remind them where they had come from. He wants to do the very same thing for us. He wants you to remember where you came from so it can influence where you’re headed.
A while back, I heard a clever saying that went something like this: When Satan tries to remind you of your past, remind him of his future. In this chapter, I see the opposite concept at work: When Satan tries to influence your future, remind him where you came from.
And where did you come from?
You came from the hand of a Creator God who knit you together in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). You came from the King of the Universe, who has a very large Book of Life in heaven—and your name is in it (Rev 3:5). You came from the Great Sustainer, who has a huge family tree—and you are one of the branches on it (Jn 15:5).
Any time you are tempted to feel unloved or disconnected, God wants you to remember where you came from. So today, rest in the assurance that you are part of God’s family, and let that influence where you’re headed. Whenever you’re wondering what the future holds, remember that the One you came from is the same One you’re going to, and He’s so glad to have you as part of His family.
God makes beautiful things out of our mistakes.
Okay, ready for genealogy lesson number two? In this chapter, we revisit the genealogy of the twelve tribes of Israel. In it, we find the story of Er and Onan (the sons of Judah) and Tamar. Tamar was married to Er, but before they could have children, Er died. As Er’s brother, Onan was supposed to marry Tamar and continue the family line. He refused, and he died. Tamar appealed to Judah regarding her situation, but even he was unsympathetic.
Then, Tamar decided to dress up as a prostitute, and when Judah slept with her, she became pregnant. She bore two sons for Judah—Perez and Zerah. God chose Judah as the tribe through which He would eventually arrive on this planet. Incredible, considering they were a rather sordid bunch! But what I realized as I read this genealogy again was that Jesus’s line not only passed through the tribe of Judah, but it passed through Perez. It passed through one of these sons that was conceived in an illegitimate way.
But isn’t this just like God? He takes illegitimate sons and makes them legitimate. He takes outcasts and makes them insiders. When we have taken matters into our own hands and royally screwed things up, He makes beautiful things out of our mistakes. Instead of despising Perez, God gave him an honor only 70 people on the planet were given—to be an ancestor of Christ.
So, the next time you’re fretting over the mistakes you’ve made, remember that God makes beautiful things out of our mistakes. Just when it looks like things are hopelessly messed up, we discover that God has a way of weaving our screw-ups into His grand plan for our lives. You can trust Him—even with your mistakes.
God freely associates with sinners.
I am generally amused by one of the accusations leveled at Jesus: He is a friend of sinners. The Pharisees saw Jesus associating with people of “dubious” reputation (according to them), and they couldn’t stand it. They despised those people, so in their paradigm, their God should also despise those people.
But this—for me, at least—was an indication that the Pharisees had either not read or understood their Scriptures. God has always been a friend of sinners. He has always freely associated Himself with them. For instance, we see that in this chapter of 1 Chronicles. It begins with a list of the sons of David, including Amnon, Absalom, and Solomon.
As I read through this list, I didn’t see a lot to be impressed with. There was strife, corruption, and greed among the sons of David. Even Solomon, who started well, ended up not being as committed to the Lord as his father was. He certainly fell far short of the “man after God’s own heart” commendation.
Yet, what was one of the titles given to Jesus while He walked the earth? Son of David. Why, except for the rare occasion, He wasn’t even called the Son of God! Instead, He identified Himself with sinful humanity, and He added His name to the list of David’s disreputable sons.
God loves sinners. And He loves associating with sinners. He always has been, and He always will be, the Friend of Sinners!
God gives us all the right things.
Back in 2000, author Bruce Wilkinson made two verses of 1 Chronicles 4 famous with his book The Prayer of Jabez. Who knew that a genealogical chapter of the Bible could produce something so lucrative? I remember the book well. Though I never actually read it, I remember the firestorm it caused in the Christian church. Many people were excited about it—going to their weekly group study about Jabez to learn how to garner some extra wealth from God. And an equal number of people were extremely opposed to it, shocked that any Christian should ask God for more.
The whole thing is stated very simply in the Scriptures: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.” (vs 9-10)
I heard one pastor go so far as to say that God will always answer this prayer from His people. And while I agree that God will always hear our prayers and answer them—every single one of them—I’m not quite sure I would agree that God will always grant this prayer. Especially when God knows that it wouldn’t be in a person’s best interest.
Have you ever thought back over your life and considered all the things you’ve asked God to do for you? Do you remember all those things you thought you wanted or needed so badly that you were just dying to receive from God’s hand? How many of them do you now remember and think, I’m sure glad God said “no” to that request! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got quite a substantial list of things that I praise God for denying to me. I shudder to think of what my life would look like if God had said yes to everything I wanted.
Often, we are not careful about what we wish for, and I think we often ask for things from God that would be harmful to us in some way. But God knows just what to grant and just what to deny. In the case of Jabez, it seems it was perfectly appropriate for God to grant his request. But if I prayed the same prayer, God might see fit to give me a different answer. And it wouldn’t be because God hadn’t heard me or that He didn’t love me as much as Jabez.
We are so quick to judge things in this shallow way. If I see somebody receive a blessing from God that I want too, I assume that if God loved me as much, He would also give me the same thing. But any parent knows that you don’t raise any two children in the same way. Sometimes you can give your children the same things. Sometimes you can’t.
So I don’t look at the prayer of Jabez and see a model for getting wealth out of God. I look at the prayer of Jabez and see, once again, the evidence of a God who hears us and responds to us. He knows us well. He knows our hearts and our individual situations. And He will give us just what we need, exactly what is right for us, in just the right time.
God helps those who call on Him.
Well, after reading today’s blog, you may think, Duh! However, I’ve never been one to shy away from the obvious, especially since it’s the small, obvious things that we sometimes tend to overlook. So, from time to time, it’s good to stop for a moment and recognize the little things that sit in front of our noses all the time.
Today’s obvious lesson comes from our fifth chapter of genealogies: “[The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh] were helped in fighting [their enemies], and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.” (vs 20)
If you’re like me, it can be hard sometimes to remember that God listens to our prayers. So many times in my life, God has seemed so far away, and I have caught myself wondering if I’m just talking to the empty sky. However, it’s verses like this one that remind us—time and again—that God is not distant and far away. He’s near, even when we can’t perceive Him. And He’s listening, even when we think He’s not.
When we call out to God, He is right there to help us. Now, many of us confuse the idea of being helped by God with expecting Him to just give us what we’ve asked for. (See yesterday’s blog for commentary on that subject.) Certainly, God’s help may not come in the way we expect it, but He does hear us when we call on Him. And when we call on Him, He answers. He comes to the rescue.
This made me think of the opening to one of my favorite Psalms: “God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea, even if the oceans roar and foam, or the mountains shake at the raging sea.” (Ps 46:1-3)
Facing a scary situation? Remember that God stands ready and willing to help you. Facing an uncertain future? Remember that there is a God who hears you. He hears every word you say, and He even hears the groaning and sighing of your heart—when you’re so weary that you can’t even form words.
He is refuge. He is strength. And when you call on Him, He will help you.
God doesn't brainwash us.
And now to the genealogy of the Levites—by far, the most respected tribe in all of Israel. The high calling God had placed on the descendants of Levi and the immense privileges they were given in serving in the presence of God at the temple cemented their position as the most distinguished tribe in Israel.
And, as is so often the case, where God is doing great things, Satan is trying to mess it up. Is it any wonder that this particular tribe was riddled with corruption and greed? It seems that—throughout the entire Old Testament history of Israel—there was always a problem with the high priest or what the priests were allowing in the temple. Given the calling on their lives, they should have been some of the most upright, devout people in Israel. Instead, they were often the worst.
Here’s what I thought was interesting about this genealogy. It begins with the sons of Aaron (at least that’s where the priesthood began), who came out of bondage in Egypt. Aaron’s first two sons—Nadab and Abihu—weren’t very old before they died as a result of their disrespect in the temple. So, the job of high priest fell to Eleazar and his descendants. Eleazar had come out of bondage in Egypt. And, by the time we get to the end of the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6, we arrive at Jozadak—who entered into bondage in Babylon.
The Levites ended up right back where they started—in bondage. Of course, this was simply a physical outgrowth of the spiritual bondage they were in. And it’s still amazing to me that the Levites would find themselves in that position.
It’s really true that God doesn’t brainwash us. Even when He has called us to such high privilege, we’re still free to go our own way. We’re free to take the privileges and blessings He has given us and misuse and abuse them. Even when He has called us out of bondage into freedom, we are left free to head right back to bondage.
The one thing God will never take away from us is our freedom. He doesn’t brainwash us!
God is not a grandfather.
The more you read these genealogies, the closer you examine them, the more you will discover that there are certain, shall we say, discrepancies in them. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and neither is it necessarily surprising—considering that most all of these genealogies were passed down through oral tradition. Could you keep nearly four thousand years of genealogy straight without a computerized family tree?
So today, I thought we would take a closer peek at the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin and see if we can squeeze out a little object lesson about God:
In today’s chapter are listed three sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, and Jediael.
Numbers 26, however, has a different list of the three sons of Benjamin: Bela, Ashbel, and Ahiram.
In Genesis 46, the sons of Benjamin are listed as Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard.
And in tomorrow’s chapter (1 Chronicles 8), five sons are attributed to Benjamin: Bela, Ashbel, Aharah, Nohah, and Rapha. What is more interesting, however, is the list of Bela’s sons—which would be Benjamin’s grandsons: Addar, Gera, Abihud, Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Gera, Shephuphan and Huram.
At least three of those grandsons are attributed to Benjamin as sons in other places in the Bible. In many cases, then, grandsons are actually called sons, and both are often mixed up in the various genealogical tables.
And that made me think about God, because God is not a grandfather. He has no grandsons. I mean, technically, He has millions of grandsons and great-great-great-great-grandsons, and so forth. But in God’s family tree, there are only two tiers: God, the Creator, and us, the created. There is God the Father and us, His children. It doesn’t matter how many generations exist in the family tree. God only has children.
Depending on your perspective, you may think that’s either good or bad news. The “bad” news, for some, might be that nobody gets “grandfathered” into salvation. (Did you like my pun?) Your mother, father, or grandmother can’t make up your mind for you when it comes to salvation. Only you get to make the choice for you.
But the good—no, great!—news is that you are of no more or less importance to God than any other person. He wants to have a relationship with you. And He wants it to be as unique as you are. Every one of His children is different, and of equal value and importance, in His eyes. God has no grandchildren. No matter where you are on the family tree, you are His precious child.
God is the one who remembers.
After eight chapters, we are nearly done with the genealogies. (At least the ones at the beginning of this book. I’m sure we will encounter more as we go along.) In today’s chapter—as I’m sure you noticed if you read it—there wasn’t particularly much to take hold of. Just another long list of names, following a previous seven chapters of long lists of names.
And here’s what that made me think about: God is the one who remembers. By this time, can you imagine how many nations were on the earth? How many people? And just think about how many millions—perhaps billions—of people went down into the dust, with not even so much as their name memorialized. How many kings and rulers of the heathen nations are now buried in perpetual oblivion—while those who belonged to the Lord (even if they weren’t particularly faithful!) have been preserved forever in His Word!
Of course, God knows and remembers all the names of those who aren’t written in the Scriptures as well. But that’s because He is the one who remembers. I sometimes think about this as I walk through old cemeteries. There are rows and rows of old, crumbling headstones. (And by old, I’m really only talking about 150 years, at most.) You’re lucky if you can even read the names anymore. But even if you can, they have no significance, no meaning. But they have meaning to God.
Long after we have fallen asleep and gone down to the ground, God remembers our names. He remembers everything about us. He could write the genealogy of our family tree just as easily as He wrote the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin for posterity. Our ancestors may be all but forgotten by us within three or four generations. But God never forgets. He is the one who remembers.
God reigns above and beyond the kingdoms of this world.
This was one of those days when I didn’t get much beyond the first verse of the chapter (even though I kept reading until the end). “All Israel was listed in the genealogies recorded in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. They were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.” (vs 1)
I thought this was remarkable! The Israelites lived among a lot of dangerous people—heathen nations with large, strong armies. They were prone to frequent threats from all sides. Yet, it wasn’t the clash of kingdoms or the secret strategies of heathen kings that doomed the Israelites. It was simply their unfaithfulness. Had they remained faithful to God, it wouldn’t have mattered how many enemies they had. They never would have been taken captive to Babylon.
As Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) The answer is nobody! No third party, that is. The truth is, the only person who can come between you and God is . . . you. The only person who can come between me and God is . . . me. From Scripture, we know that God is always faithful. And as long as we are faithful, nobody can snatch us out of God’s hand.
As long as we are faithful, we can never be carried away into captivity. We may have all the enemies in the world, but we need not fear. God reigns above and beyond all the kingdoms of this world. There is no army too strong for Him. There is no secret strategy that can outwit Him. When He is for us (and He is), nobody and nothing else can be against us!
God lets go.
Well, we made it through the genealogies. Now on to something a bit easier—or so I thought. As someone who is educated in the principles of journalism, I have to say that I encountered a bit of a problem in chapter 10 regarding the death of Saul. There are two seemingly-different accounts of his death within a few paragraphs of each other!
First, the writer of Chronicles said this:
“Saul said to his armor-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and abuse me.’ But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died. So Saul and his three sons died, and all his house died together.” (vs 4-6)
Later, the writer of Chronicles said this:
“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, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (vs 13-14)
So, which account is accurate? Did Saul kill himself by falling on his sword? Or did the Lord put him to death for his unfaithfulness? Is there any way it could be both? Certainly from a journalistic standpoint, the answer would appear to be no. It would seem like the writer of 1 Chronicles would have to pick one—he couldn’t have it both ways.
Then again, it’s strangely reminiscent of what the writer of Exodus recorded about Pharaoh and his responses to the plagues in Egypt. In some places, he writes that Pharaoh’s rebellious response occurred because “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” In other places, he writes that Pharaoh rebelled because “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” And, as you can imagine, the latter explanation causes quite a few problems. If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, how could He hold Pharaoh responsible for his rebellion?
I think the same principle is at work in both the description of Saul’s death and Pharaoh’s rebellion. And that is that God is often given the credit for what happens to people when He gives them up to the choices they have made. Let’s take Saul’s death, for instance. At the end of 1 Chronicles 10, it says that Saul died because he wasn’t faithful to the Lord.
It’s certainly true that Saul didn’t remain faithful to God. And in taking the path that led him away from the Lord, Saul ended up doing some very foolish things, such as consulting a witch for advice. Consequently, he ended up in battle with the Philistines—a battle he was not prepared to win because he wasn’t listening to God for battle advice. Thus, when he ended up surrounded, he fell on his own sword and committed suicide.
But, in allowing Saul the freedom to go down his self-destructive path, the Lord knew where that would lead him. He knew it would lead to the death of Saul and his sons and to the opportunity to establish David’s family on the throne. He didn’t use supernatural means to keep Saul from making the wrong choices. Nor did He use supernatural means to keep Saul from experiencing the consequences of those choices.
At some point, God lets go. And I believe He does this regardless of whether we are making righteous choices or unrighteous choices. As it says in Revelation, God gives us over to the results of our free choices: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Rev 22:11)
To me, it’s incredible that God does this. He doesn’t have to let go. He could have created us in such a way that we would always do whatever He wanted, whenever He wanted. Instead, He wanted creatures who had the freedom to choose what they would do. And, as in the case of Saul, we see that when we have truly made up our minds and set our course, God lets go. He lets us be whatever we decide to be.
God rules with service.
What is, hires more. Have you ever heard that saying? Basically, it’s one way people comment on their bosses. Sometimes it’s a compliment. If you think you’re a brilliant person, you might say that your boss hired you because he is also brilliant. Or if you’re disappointed with the poor quality of your coworkers, you might say that only a lazy, stupid boss would hire lazy, stupid people. (Of course, you better be careful with that way of thinking if you work there too.)
What is, hires more.
The same is true for God. When He looks for leaders, He looks for people who are after His own heart. He looks for people who see things the way He does. This was especially true in the case of King David: “All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, ‘We are your own flesh and blood. 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.”‘” (vs 1-2)
Did you notice how the concepts of shepherd and ruler are married in this verse? This is how God works. He rules as a servant. In the paradigm of His kingdom and government, power and service are linked. The more you serve, the more powerful you become. If you want to be a ruler, you must be a servant.
That’s why God told David that he would be a shepherd to Israel—a nurturer and a servant. It was in doing so that he would “become their ruler.” There’s no other way. A person can be a dictator and rule by force, but to truly be a leader, a person must first be a servant. This is exactly what was revealed about God in the person of Jesus, so it’s no wonder that God goes about molding other leaders in the same way.
God is all-powerful, but that’s only because He is—first and foremost—a servant. He rules with service.
God's kingdom is made up of individuals.
In this chapter, we are given more details about David’s ascent to the throne and his inaugural celebration. Verses 23-37 provide a list of all the warriors from the twelve tribes of Israel who made their way to Hebron to show their support for David’s anointing and recognize him as their new king.
One of the interesting things to me was that this inaugural celebration finally took place about seven years after the death of Saul. That’s why verse 29 says “from Benjamin, Saul’s tribe—3,000, most of whom had remained loyal to Saul’s house until then.” This says a lot about David’s character. Even before Saul’s death, David himself had many opportunities to kill him and open the door for his ascension to the throne. But he didn’t do that.
Not only didn’t he do that, but even after Saul’s death, David didn’t just take over the kingdom. Instead, he waited for the agreement of his people. He didn’t force his reign on the Israelites, but waited until they were willing to make him king.
This made me think about community. Here was a “community” of people who came together to anoint David king. Yet, this was not the action of some collective organism, but tens of thousands of individuals who responded to what God was doing among them. I think this is a significant point, because it’s important to understand how God relates to individuals and community.
God believes in community. In fact, He exists in a community—a community of three individuals, that is. A lot of people talk about communities and individuals as if those things are in competition with each other, but the truth is, a true community is only made up of individuals. But they are individuals who have come together, united with a purpose—just as in the case of David’s inauguration.
The prefix com- is a Latin prefix that actually means with or together. And that is how the community of God’s kingdom works. It is individuals who come together in the unity of a common purpose or belief. And that sort of community can’t be brought about through force or coercion. At its strongest, it is developed on the foundation of the choices of individuals who agree.
That’s how God can be both into community and individual free will. As each individual heart responds to and embraces the Spirit, each will become one with all other hearts who have also responded to and embraced the Spirit—leading to an eternity of peace and harmony in God’s everlasting kingdom.
So, are you going to be one of the multitude who join together to enthrone God, just as the Israelites joined together to enthrone David? Nothing would please God more than to know that you—His precious, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable individual—are part of that great and glorious community!
God answers questions before we ask them.
King David wanted to do a very good thing. He wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant back from its exile. He realized that, during the reign of Saul, the Lord had basically been ignored, and he wanted to change that. Unfortunately, after accusing Saul of not “inquiring” of the Ark, David did the same exact thing.
For one, he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem—even though the temple of God was in Gibeon. Second, he decided to use the heathen method of moving the Ark—on an oxen cart. Of course, all of this acting without thinking led to the death of Uzzah, who made the mistake of reaching out to steady the Ark. I’m sure that when Uzzah fell dead, a new sense of respect for the presence of God washed over the people.
For David, this respect was mixed with anger and discouragement. As he (temporarily) abandoned his plan to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, David finally asked a question: “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” (vs 12) The interesting thing is, God had provided the answer to this very question decades before. In Exodus 25, He gave very specific instructions about how the Ark was to be transported. And on this occasion, things would have turned out very differently if David had inquired of the Lord beforehand.
God is always answering questions before we ask them. Often, the reason we run into trouble is because we never get around to asking the questions in the first place. So, when we encounter unexpected difficulties (as David did in his bid to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem), instead of getting angry and discouraged, maybe we should start asking questions. If we do, we’ll find that God is just waiting with the answers!
God wants us to be fearless.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18) This is so true. It was in distrusting God (who is perfect love) in the Garden of Eden that led to the first human beings feeling fear. And the more we come to know God and trust in Him again, the further we will be separated from fear. We see a premium example of that in this chapter of 1 Chronicles:
“When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went out to meet them . . . So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them.” (vs 8, 11)
At the time, the Philistines were the most-feared people in the land. They were giants, and ruthless giants at that. But David trusted the Lord. God had saved him many times from the hand of Saul, and David had come to know and understand that his life was in God’s hands. So, when he heard that the Philistines were coming for him, he didn’t run away. Instead, he ran to them.
This can also be our experience, and I think God would like for it to be our experience. We live in a world that can be very scary—and just to let you know, it’s only going to get worse. I think there are some pretty awful, chaotic times ahead for the inhabitants of Planet Earth. And that’s why God wants us to get to know Him now just as David did. He wants us to understand that our lives are in His hands, and that no matter what happens to us, nobody can ultimately snatch us away from Him.
The more we immerse ourselves in God’s perfect love for us, the less afraid we will be of the things that happen in this world. We may be assailed by enemies on all sides. We may be threatened. We may be tormented. But if we know the God of Love, and if we trust Him, we will run to our enemies, not away from them. We don’t have to be scared of them. Instead, we can be emboldened to stand up to them in the name of the Living God.
God knows what He’s doing, and His perfect love is holding you right now. Today, this moment, you can be fearless!
God cares about the process, not just the results.
After a few months, David went back to (once again) retrieve the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to Jerusalem. This time, however, he had a different method in mind: “Then David summoned . . . the priests . . . and the Levites. 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. 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.’ So the priests and Levites consecrated themselves in order to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the Lord.” (vs 11-15)
To me, this signaled that God cares about how we do things, not just that we do them. It wasn’t just a matter of bringing the Ark back from Philistine exile, but it was important to be done in the right way. God had given specific instructions about how the Ark was to be handled, in order to preserve the respect and awe of being in God’s presence. It was important that this process was followed—so the Israelites would be more inclined to take God seriously, especially after they had ignored Him for so many years!
Sometimes, the process is just as important to God as the results. He’s not just out to get to any end at any means. How things are done matter to Him. For that reason, just as David learned, they should matter to us, too!
God is strong.
Do you ever feel weak? Powerless? Insecure? Quite honestly, with the world we live in, I can’t imagine how people don’t feel this way. There seems to be little solid ground to stand on. What can we count on these days? It seems that everywhere you turn, you find unrest, violence, hard times, and despair. Jobs are hard to come by. Inflation is on the rise. We must pay more money for the same amount of goods. And is there an end in sight? What can we really count on?
David says it in 1 Chronicles 16. The only thing we can really count on is God: “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done.” (vs 10-12) Here, David tells us to look to the Lord and His strength. Only He is strong. He is the only stable ground to stand on in a world of quicksand. And, in verse 12, David reminds us of one of the great ways to seek God’s strength: remember what He has done in the past.
I think it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the crisis of the moment. When we lose a job, run out of money, get a bad diagnosis, or suddenly lose a loved one, we are left feeling helpless and powerless. It is in those times when we come face to face with the reality that we don’t have much control over the day-to-day things that happen to us. We like to think we do, but often, we are powerless to do the things we really wish we could do in crisis situations.
So, what’s the answer? As David says, to remember that God is the One who is strong. We are helpless, but He is not. We are powerless, but He is not. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can choose to look to the Lord and His strength. We can choose to remember what He has done in our past and let that bolster our faith and hope in Him for the future.
Frankly, there’s no other way to have peace. So, stop trying to work things out in your own strength. You have none! Instead, look to God and remember that His strength is made perfect in your weakness. He is stronger than unemployment, inflation, and unrest. And He’s strong enough to bring you through, safe and sound, to the other side. Let the hearts of those who seek Him rejoice!
God is the parent.
I think it means a lot of different things to say that we are created in the image of God. I believe that includes things like having freedom of choice, having the power to create little people in our own image, and being able to think intelligently. However, I also think it can point to other, more minor, characteristics or character traits, such as the example we find in this chapter.
As I contemplate giving birth to my first child, I am aware that being a parent must be part of what it means to be made in the image of God. For He is the ultimate Parent, and we—no matter how old we get—are now and will always be His children, His creation. I’ve heard it works the same way for human families. No matter how old your kids get, once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent.
And, of course, one of the hallmarks of being a parent is taking care of your children. Although it’s true that, as a result of sin, parents on this Earth get to the place where their children often have to take care of them, I don’t think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Whenever I go to lunch with my mom, for instance, she always wants to pay the bill. Sometimes she is gracious and allows me to take care of it, but I think it goes against her nature as a mom.
I saw a bit of that in God in this chapter: “After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the Lord is under a tent.’” (vs 1) David suddenly realizes that he has built a mighty fine place for himself, while God’s accommodations—according to his way of thinking—were, shall we say, less than adequate. So he decides that he’s going to build a fine house for the Lord.
But God had other things in mind. He sent the prophet Nathan with a message: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another’ . . . I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you.” (vs 4-5, 10)
God knew that David was the one who needed the house. And instead of having His children thinking they would provide something for Him, He let David know that He is the one who is the business of providing. That’s not to say that God never accepts the gifts we bring to Him. Of course He does—just like we make a big deal out of those little gifts our children bring to us. But we should never lose sight of the fact that God is the parent. He is in the business of taking care of us, not the other way around.
God gives us the victory.
Well, sometimes there is a very simple and easy lesson about God in the chapter for the day. Today was like that. As I read the chapter that recounted David’s military success, I noticed that one thought was repeated a couple of times: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” (vs 6, 13)
Do you think that God’s victories are restricted to the battlefield? I certainly don’t! God is in the business of giving victories in all areas of life—especially personal areas. Most of us won’t command an army on a battlefield, but we all wrestle with internal enemies—impatience, holding grudges, greediness, lust, laziness, unkindness, selfishness, etc. And God is ready and willing to give us the victory on these battlefields, just as He gave David victory wherever he went.
What I find interesting (and a bit sad) is that many of us go through life still trying to gain the victory on our own. Either we don’t trust that God can do His good work in us, or maybe we’re unhappy with the timeline. Maybe we think God’s not working fast enough! (You know, you’ve heard the prayer of the impatient person: Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!)
But, in 1 Chronicles 18, it’s clear that David—for all of his hard work and diligence in fighting his enemies—did not procure his own victories. It was the Lord who gave him the victory wherever he went. And the Lord who gave David the victory wherever he went is also able to give us the victory wherever we go. Ask Him for His help, and wait for His strength to arrive in the right time, and you will watch all your enemies disappear!
God is not exclusive.
When reading through the Old Testament, it’s very easy to jump to the conclusion that God is an elitist, exclusive kinda guy. After all, it seems He chose a nation (Israel) for Himself, called them out of slavery, and worked very hard to try to give them everything He could. On such a cursory reading, it could be easy to conclude that God loved and protected Israel to the exclusion of all other nations.
But not so fast. What about these Ammonites who caused so much trouble for Israel? Did you realize or remember that they were the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham? And, furthermore, that they were descendants by incest? Ewww. Definitely not the right way to go about making offspring! Yet, when God was instructing the Israelites on conquering the Promised Land, He told them to leave the Ammonites alone: “When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” (Deut 2:19)
Wow. These descendants were the “illegitimate” children of the family, the black sheep of Israel. They were a wild, heathen people. They certainly didn’t have ranks among the “chosen” people of Israel. Yet God showed abundant kindness to them because of their connection to Abraham. He included them in His covenant promise and told the Israelites to leave them alone.
It’s unfortunate, as evidenced by the events of this chapter, that the Ammonites seemed unable to accept the kindness offered through God and the Israelites. They spent a lot of time and energy looking to make trouble and pick a fight with their “legitimate” cousins. But God’s desire to protect and prosper them proves that God is definitely not exclusive. He wants to draw as many people as possible into His larger family—even those that we might consider “illegitimate” children.
Jesus was still spreading this message during His time on Earth: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (Jn 10:14, 16)
God doesn’t buy into the elitist, exclusionary mindset, and He doesn’t want us to either. So, whenever we are tempted to think of ourselves as better than others because of our upbringing or our theology, we should remember that God loves and wants the “illegitimate” children just as much as He loves and wants the “legitimate” children. His sheep are scattered all over the place. But no matter who they are or where they are, Jesus has made it clear that He knows His sheep, and they know Him. His fold is big enough for them. Is ours?
God has three Rs of His own.
In English (especially colloquial English), we have two sets of famous Rs. More specifically, the three Rs. There is one set of Rs to describe the main subjects in school: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic (math). Of course, these three words don’t all begin with the letter r, but all of them begin with the sound of the letter r. More recently, a second pair of three Rs has been coined and made famous by the environmental movement, as a reminder for what we should do to protect the Earth: reduce, reuse, recycle.
But, did you know that God has His own set of three Rs? His list—when it comes to dealing with His sinful creatures—is reclaim, redeem, restore. 1 Chronicles 20 gives us a glimpse into the restoration part of a story that unfolded in 2 Samuel 12. You might not have realized it, but an awful lot transpired between two of the sentences in the first verse of this chapter. “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.” (vs 1)
Where I marked the text with asterisks was that whole sordid affair with Bathsheba and Uriah that marred David’s career as king. Instead of being out on the battlefield with his army (as he should have been), David remained in Jerusalem . . . and got into a lot of trouble. It was only after the prophet Nathan confronted him and David repented that he returned to the battlefield as Joab attacked and defeated Rabbah.
David had made grievous errors in judgment as king. He had committed adultery and murder, totally straying from the mission God had laid out to him in his role as the shepherd of Israel. He had betrayed Israel’s trust and God’s trust. He had failed. Even after repenting and turning from his sin, should David still have been allowed to be king? Had his sins been too great for redemption?
Apparently not. In a beautiful twist, the very next verse says that the precious-stone-laden crown from the king of Rabbah was taken and put on David’s head. To me, it was as if God was once again anointing David as king. Even though you have screwed up, my child, I can use what was meant for evil and bring good from it. God wanted David to know that He hadn’t abandoned him as king.
When God encounters us in our sin, He reclaims us. He confronts us, relentlessly pursuing us, trying to persuade us to turn around and come back to Him. If we are willing to turn back to Him, He redeems us. No matter where we have been or what we have done, God is able to take all of our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful—even better than we can imagine.
And finally, He restores us. If you remember the story of the prodigal son, the father didn’t just accept his son back home. He immediately threw a robe around his shoulders and put the family ring on his hand (or, in other words, gave him the family checkbook). He restored him to his previous position. And that’s what God does with us. Though we have fallen so far, He doesn’t treat us like that. He makes it clear that He doesn’t even see us like that. Just as He wanted David to know that He still thought of him as king, He wants us to know that we are no less precious in His sight because of what we have done. He is just anxious to reclaim us, redeem us, and restore us.
God is the best choice.
Even after David repented of his sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, he was still struggling with the issue of being in control as king. Thus, though he knew he shouldn’t do it, he asked Joab to take a census of the army. Joab was disgusted by the request, but did it anyway. For some reason, David apparently wasn’t ready to place his full trust back in the Lord, and he wanted to make sure he could “walk softly and carry a big army” . . . just in case.
When it came time for God to discipline David for this error, He gave David some options: “Take your choice: 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.” (vs 11-12)
Which would you have chosen? It didn’t take very long for David to make up his mind: “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 human hands.” (vs 13)
You see, no matter what we’ve done, God is always the best choice. Being in His hands is the safest place in the universe to be—whether we are saved or lost. You will never find more mercy and compassion outside of God, and David knew that. He was well-versed in Israel’s history and Israel’s God, and he must have been very familiar with the famous self-description God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6-7)
There is no better place to be than in God’s hands—even when those hands contain discipline for our sinfulness. Nobody loves us more than God, and so nobody will ever treat us better than God. He is always the best choice!
God wants us to trust Him.
Just before Solomon ascended to the throne, his father made all the necessary preparations for the building of the temple. David had wanted to build the temple himself, but God had decided that Solomon would build it instead. This was because Solomon would not be a warring king, as his father had been. In fact, Solomon’s very name was related to the Hebrew word for peace. It seems that God wanted the idea of peace to be an integral part of His dwelling place on Earth.
And when David commissioned the Israelites to help Solomon build the temple, he said this: “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people. Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” (vs 18-19)
It’s interesting to realize that Solomon had every advantage when he became king. Israel was united under a single king, and every surrounding heathen nation had been subdued by David. God had finally brought peace to the Israelites, and it should have been the beginning of the golden age of Israel.
But it wasn’t. Oh, for quite some time, Solomon walked with the Lord and was a great ruler over Israel. However, it seems that he couldn’t trust God in every way. Over time, he began to marry women from heathen nations; many of these marriages were intended to be the means of forming a peace treaty. Thus, Solomon accumulated a plethora of heathen wives, who eventually led him away from the Lord and down the path of idolatry.
God wants us to trust Him with everything. God had given peace to Israel. He had provided rest for His people on all sides, and He could have easily continued to provide that peace—without the need for treaties between Solomon and the heads of other nations. But I think that Solomon’s actions are often like mine. Even though I know that God has provided a solution to my problems, it is so difficult for me to trust in that and continue to let Him provide the solution. I so often want to “take over” and do what I can to continue what God has started.
And inevitably I discover—yet again—that when I try to do God’s job for Him, I screw everything up. That’s because God’s ways are higher than our ways. And His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. When facing a problem, God’s solution is usually nothing we would think of. He has ways of solving problems that we can’t even begin to imagine. That’s why He wants us to trust Him with everything. He is standing ready to take care of all our needs!
God is to be praised.
Of everything written in this chapter of 1 Chronicles, this stuck out to me the most: “[The Levites] were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the Lord on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals.” (vs 30-31)
Hmmm . . . it sounds like the Levites were basically supposed to praise the Lord all the time. In the morning, in the evening, whenever sacrifices were presented (which was all the time), and during holy days. Was there any time when the Levites weren’t supposed to stand and praise the Lord?
I think this was very intentional. I think it was meant to be an example to the Israelites—and to us—about the most important thing for us to do in life: praise the Lord. Let’s face it. This isn’t always easy for us. We tend to relegate “praising” to a set time and place—namely, church. But God wanted the Levites to show us that our number one duty in life is to praise Him.
Why would that be, exactly? I believe it’s because praising the Lord is the only thing that can keep us grounded in a chaotic and evil world—especially when we are confronted by an unexpected crisis or some senseless evil. It is in these times, when praising God seems the least intuitive thing to do, that praising God is the most important thing to do.
It was my father who taught me this when he was dying from ALS. During his ordeal, he observed that choosing to praise God—even in the midst of suffering—affirms that there is a higher reality than we are sensing and feeling at the moment. That’s right. Most of the time, we really don’t live in reality—God’s reality, that is. We see things as we see them, but it is not generally how God sees them, because He can see the bigger picture. And when we choose to praise Him, we remind ourselves and affirm that He is in control, no matter if our life looks like it is crashing down around us.
As we examine the evidence of all God has done in the past (not only in the Biblical record, but in our own personal lives), we will find all the reason we need to praise Him, even when it doesn’t make sense. And the more we choose to stand like the Levites in praise and thanksgiving—morning, noon, and night—the more we will immerse ourselves in the reality God lives in. And in that reality, we will find joy, comfort, and peace, even in the midst of the storm.
God can be trusted with the details of our lives.
In this chapter, we encounter once again the Hebrew practice of casting lots. This time, it was used to create the divisions of priests who would work in the temple: “A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar.” (vs 4-5)
The practice of casting lots was a popular one in the Hebrew culture. To us, it would have seemed like the equivalent of throwing dice, but it held great spiritual significance to the Israelites. Casting lots was one of the ways they discerned the will of God. You’ll remember that they cast lots to root out Achan (Josh 7:10-26), and the practice was still being used in Peter’s day, when lots were cast to select the replacement for Judas (Acts 1:12-26).
Solomon shed further light on this practice with one of his wisdom sayings in the book of Proverbs: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Prov 16:33)
You see, I believe that in their saner moments, the Israelites knew enough about God to know that He could be trusted with the details of their lives—even the little details. And whenever they demonstrated the willingness to seek out His advice and follow it, He provided it.
God is also eager to be entrusted with the details of our lives. He is anxious to give us insight into the issues that perplex us—no matter how small they may be. And while we may not seek His will through casting lots, throwing dice, or laying out a fleece, if we demonstrate the willingness to seek out His advice and follow it, He will always provide it.
Sometimes it may be easy to conclude that God is too “big” to care about the “small” things in our lives. But let me assure you that God is a details kinda guy. He cares about everything—and most likely even more than you do! As Jesus once told His disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:29-31)
If God knows about every small bird that falls to the ground in this world, He is a details man. And if He knows exactly how many hairs you’ve got on your head at any given moment, He is a details man. And if He cares about even these kinds of details, how much more does He care about anything that troubles you! So, what are you waiting for? Cast your lot before the Lord, and let Him prove just how trustworthy He is with all the details of your life.
God speaks many languages.
How many ways does God have to communicate to us? The possibilities must be endless. He is not limited by time, space, language, or even the prior ability to talk (remember Balaam’s donkey?). I think this is something we would guess to be true about God, but it’s nice to see it in the Scriptures.
So, maybe it’s because I’m a musician, but this jumped out at me today: “The sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp to give thanks and to praise the Lord.” (vs 3) Is it just me, or is there something really cool about the idea of prophesying with a harp?
Prophecy and music aren’t usually two things we link together. We tend to think of prophecy as only something done by dusty people in Bible times who went around acting strangely and having visions. But from this chapter, it seems that even a musician can be a prophet. With God, even a harp can become the means for communicating a direct message from on high.
This is especially interesting to me since I spend a lot of time dealing with church worship. There are many people in the church (musicians included) who would like to stuff all of God’s communication into one little box and keep it there. Some say the Word of God only comes through the sermon. Others say it only comes through the music. Still others say that it only comes through reading Scripture. But 1 Chronicles 25 reminds us that God speaks many languages.
For those in our midst who don’t speak music, God communicates with them in another way. For others who can easily turn a deaf ear to a sermon, it may be a song that hits them in the heart.
God is still speaking. So watch out! You never know what tool He will give you to prophesy with. You may prophesy with a piano. You may prophesy with a pen. You may prophesy by speaking. You may prophesy by silence. We humans speak many different languages, and God is fluent in them all. He knows just how to communicate with you!
God is a treasure.
There are so many things in Scripture that I don’t believe are coincidences. So many things that have layers of meaning—literal to symbolic and everything in between. And I found one of these things in this chapter of Chronicles that further outlined which Levites were in charge : “Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David . . . Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the Lord. And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish . . . and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives.” (vs 26-28)
As I read this, it struck me that the temple was not only the place of worship for Israel, it was also the treasure house. When the nation collected valuable items through diplomacy or battle, they were dedicated to the temple. Is it any coincidence that the place where God dwelt with the Israelites was also where their national treasure was?
This reminded me of the famous saying of Jesus: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21) I believe that God wanted the place of His presence to be synonymous with the place where the Israelites stored their treasure. In so doing, I think He wanted them to come to the realization that wherever He is is the place where our true treasure is—because He is the treasure!
Of course, by the time Jesus came, it was quite clear that most of the Israelite leadership had totally missed the point. They had set things up at the temple to benefit themselves in a monetary way, and very little of their conduct had anything to do with God or His presence. They were missing out on the real treasure.
Hopefully we’re not. If we don’t realize that God is the only true treasure we’ll ever know, then nothing we have will ever be enough. We’ll always be obsessed with getting more. But when we embrace God as our treasure, we can say, along with the apostle Paul, that we have learned to be content in any circumstance—rich or poor, slave or free.
Every treasure we will ever need, and every treasure our hearts will ever want can only be found in God. In His character, we behold enough gems to outlast an eternity of discovery—and all of these He is willing to share with us. He is anxious for us to find the treasure of our hearts in His presence.
So, I guess it’s worth asking: What kind of treasure is in your temple?
God gives specific gifts to specific people.
To me, there is a troubling trend in modern Western society. I see it happening in schools with children, as well as in the general workplace with adults. I’m not sure what has caused this trend to appear in our culture. Perhaps it has its roots in the feminist movement or the civil rights movement. Regardless of where it came from, however, the trend has become that everybody must be seen and considered as equal in most every way.
In schools, there seems to be an effort to minimize discrepancies between children of a more gifted intellectual nature and those who, shall we say, struggle with their studies. High academic achievement may be downplayed and failure in studies may be overlooked. In the same way, there seem to be many who feel that any adult can be just as qualified to do a particular job as another. We seem to shy away from the idea that some people are inherently better at some tasks than others. Maybe we’re afraid to be labeled as “discriminatory.”
But the fact of the matter is that God gives specific gifts to specific people, and I don’t think we should be afraid to acknowledge that. King David realized it, and instead of balking at the idea, he utilized specific people for their specific gifts. Did you catch the examples of that in this chapter?
Here, we had a laundry list of all these different Israelites who were in charge of all the different interests of the nation. With the exception of at least two: “Obil the Ishmaelite was in charge of the camels . . . Jaziz the Hagrite was in charge of the flocks.” (vs 30-31)
David put an Ishmaelite, an Arab, in charge of the camels. Why would he do that? Because the camel is a creature of Arabia. The Ishmaelites would have had a lot more knowledge and experience in dealing with these animals. I guess David wasn’t looking for the family ties as much as he was looking for expertise. He wanted a herd of healthy, happy camels! And an Arab was just the person for the job.
In the same way, the Hagrites were shepherds by profession. They spent their lives tending sheep. So, who better to put in charge of the flocks of Israel than someone who had a great deal of experience and expertise with these animals? It seems like common sense, but these days I wonder if we worry more about gender, ethnicity, and hurt feelings than we do about helping people use their God-given gifts for their benefit and the blessing of others.
God gives specific gifts to specific people. One of the gifts He’s given to me is the gift of music. I don’t apologize for this talent, and I don’t feel bad for the people who don’t have it, either. God gave them gifts that He didn’t give to me.
God has also given you specific gifts, and He’s given them to you for a reason! So, if you have a tendency to compare yourself to other people and even to be jealous of the gifts of others, stop it! Embrace what God has given to you, have fun discovering how to cultivate it, and be amazed at how God is going to use it! He doesn’t need you to be like everyone else. He needs you to be you, and He’s given you a very special set of gifts for just that very purpose.
God understands you.
I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this (or maybe you’ll just think I’m ignorant, and that’s okay), but the more I get into this pregnancy, the more I believe that evolution is just wrong. From the heart that is fully functional and begins to beat by five weeks to the whole development process, it’s hard for me to understand how people (especially doctors who know the intricacies of pregnancy) can believe that there is no design involved in human development.
For me, one of the problems with believing in evolution is that it erases the idea of a personal God who knows you, who knew you even before you were born. Maybe some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of such a personal God; is it a more palatable idea to think that there is no purpose to our existence? That we’re just random accidents and that there’s no meaning behind where we came from or where we’re going?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that, and David certainly didn’t believe it either. In his final charge to Solomon, he challenged him to remember God: “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.” (vs 9)
Is that a comforting thought to you? It certainly is to me. God knows you. And it’s more than just knowing who you are or knowing your name or recognizing your face. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He understands the inner workings of your mind. He understands where your every desire comes from and hears every thought you have.
In addition to that—and probably best of all—He is gracious and merciful and sympathetic. You know, we’re all messed up. And the fact that He understands the intricate workings of your heart only makes Him more compassionate toward you. He doesn’t use this intimate knowledge as ammunition against you. On the contrary, because He understands you so completely, He is the one who is in a position to help you. And He wants to help you.
The only thing that surpasses God’s knowledge of you is His love for you. He knows every hair on your head, He hears every cry of your heart, and He loves every bit of you!
God exalts others.
1 Chronicles 29 recounts the story of David’s “passing the baton” to his son Solomon. In his final speech, he challenged Solomon and the people to remain true to the Lord, and then there was a large celebration with music, feasting, and joy. But tucked away into the description of the festivities was, I thought, a very important lesson about God.
After the feast was over, Solomon assumed the throne: “Then they acknowledged Solomon son of David as king a second time, anointing him before the Lord to be ruler and Zadok to be priest. So Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king in place of his father David. He prospered and all Israel obeyed him . . . The Lord highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendor such as no king over Israel ever had before.” (vs 22-23, 25)
God, King of the Universe, is not now (nor has He ever been) out to exalt Himself. Rather, He exalts His creation. Verse 23 says that Solomon sat on the throne . . . of the Lord. It wasn’t Solomon’s throne. It wasn’t Israel’s throne. It was the Lord’s throne. And He was letting someone else sit on it! Here we have God literally handing over control of a nation that is His to Solomon—investing him with honor, wealth, and responsibility.
And, if we had missed the implication there, verse 25 spelled it out clearly: The Lord highly exalted Solomon. This is exactly what God is like. He doesn’t hoard honor and glory for Himself. He doesn’t live to have His head puffed up with the glory of His position. Instead, He uses His position to exalt others. He lets His creation sit on His throne. He bestows honor and glory and power on us.
The Jesus who kneeled in the Upper Room to wash the feet of His disciples wasn’t practicing some newly-found humility. This has always been what God is like. From the very beginning, He has taken every available opportunity to lift us up, exalt us, and honor us. If, in turn, we exalt Him, we can be part of an unending cycle of humility and respect that will last for all eternity.