2 Chronicles 10

As soon as Solomon is gone, Israel, the northern  kingdom, rebels against the south, the house of David, and remained so until the book was written… they speculate it was one of the last chronologically in the old testament.  Only 2 tribes, Judah and Benjamin stay loyal to David’s house.

They are rebelling against greed. The old rich-get-richer thing, it seems trickle down didn’t happen in the ancient world either. Solomon’s son doubled down on the labour camps that kept all the splendour rolling at the capital, even though the temple and the palace were done, and the people got gyp.

Similar to the same story in Kings they make it a case of him listening to young advisers, not elders.  The privileged youth have been raised in wealth, and have no empathy for the common people.

That’s it, I’m over greed. It’s decided, God!

 

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2 Chronicles 9

Behold! The Queen of Sheba.

The visit of this exotic personage, from a far flung and wealthy kingdom… (they think it was in present day Yemen, pretty much the edge of the known world to them) …lends massive credence to the honour and fame they have achieved.

This nation of former slaves, transformed by God’s blessing so that all the world acknowledges his greatness.

More descriptions of Solomon’s stunning opulence follow. It goes on for 40 years, Israel’s high period, and then Solomon dies. The Queen sums it up:

“Praise be to God who has delighted in you”

It’s what God wants for us. The garden of Eden is described in similar abundant terms, as is the new earth and heaven described in revelation.

The history of Israel is a huge lesson that people’s hearts don’t become loving if you pour out massive blessing on them.

Look at the wealthiest, most blessed nation on earth today. The US are desperate to become “great” again. Yesterday I read they slapped trade tariffs on Turkey because the world trade system is ‘so unfair’.

Great wealth has begotten more greed and bullying of nations poorer than themselves. Their policy of ‘America first’ belies the fact that they already are first. It’s actually America further first.

And Australia is not better, look at how we treat refugees while shrinking or foreign aid. If the West is in decline is because our rich diet is so bad for us.

2 Chronicles 8

Moving on from building the temple, this is a summary of king Solomon’s reign. It gives you some sense of the character of it.

He’s a builder, not just the temple or his palace ( which took twice as long…) But villages, towns.

He is a bold, creative entrepreneur, gets on well with neighbours. When they mention a maritime venture that nets lots of money, it’s so uncharacteristic of Israel, never a seafaring nation.

And the seeds of his downfall are sewn, with an Egyptian wife. He knows there is a conflict with their religion, she doesn’t convert to their beliefs. He makes a palace for her because the ark has been at the site of his, and he says that makes it holy.

The ark is like the physical embodiment of monotheism.

Solomon is aware his marriage is unacceptable to God.

He is wise, but in this case worldly wise. The marriage probably makes a lot of political and economic sense, but it’s compromising his holiness.

I’m feeling I could use a bit a worldly smarts this week, we are living being our means. I’m guilty of wanting it all I suppose, I like working for the Salvos, but I should be living a more humble lifestyle.

2 Chronicles 7

Continuing with the dedication of the temple. After Solomon prays, God acts, sending cloud and fire to burn the sacrifice.

The celebrations go for 3 weeks, involved crazy number of animals being sacrificed. Foreign leaders were there. After it all everyone goes home happy.

Then God speaks to Solomon and accepts the temple. He says his name, his heart and his ears will be there forever, and he will hear prayers offered there.

He offers two ways it can go from here, 2 ways to live if you will. Following other Gods, or him.

Spoiler alert, pay attention to the option where they don’t stick to it and the temple ends up rubble.

This all seems very remote from me today. Of course I can still worship other Gods. If I am now the temple of God, I suppose he’s saying I have the choice to have it rejected by God and his presence withdrawn.

I’m praying for family as ever, for financial self discipline and responsibility.

2 Chronicles 6

Ok I’ve been a bit cynical about the temple as a second best effort, a stage towards God’s full revelation of himself as a god who lives in our hearts, not in buildings.

But Solomon’s dedication prayer here is very impressive. He really gets it.

God is still out there, in the highest heavens, but the cloud of his presence shows that his name is also at the temple.

It’s a place for contact, for asking for forgiveness and mercy. Solomon has built the greatest house for God he can, but he knows it can’t contain him, he’s proud of the building no doubt, but knows it’s a place to be humble before God.

And he’s generous. I criticised him a few chapters ago for using a foreign slave labour force to build it. But he invites all people, all nations to share in God’s blessing, not at all exclusive.

If the Jews ever wanted to keep God to themselves, i think it would be now. They’ve been saved from slavery, given a land, nationhood, a holy city, they are top of the economic heap, wildly prosperous, and now they have a temple for the one true God.

But no, he sees it as a blessing to all nations, God is God of the whole earth.

The theology is very tied to earthly rewards. It’s easy to think that way when you are rich and healthy.

He imagines various scenarios, like famine, war, falling into captivity, sickness. He says that will happen because of sin, and tells them to direct their prayers to the temple, and if God hears he will fix it.

Well as things develop, for the rest of the old testament, this doesn’t work, and the poets, philosophers and prophets are left to develop and write a down an understanding of God that is less neat, that includes delayed reward and God sanctioned hardship.

It’s also deeper, more wonderful, bigger than this.

But Solomon really gets repentance. He gets that it all goes back to the need to acknowledge the evil and rebellion in our own hearts, that everyone is in the same boat before God on that score.

It’s a beautiful dedication prayer. It’s Monday and I’m pumped for the week.

How many more chapters before we start to slide downhill outside the comfort zone, where everything they have believed is challenged and lost?

2 Chronicles 5

The dedication of the temple in Jerusalem.

The ark and the other bits and pieces dedicated by king David, who never got to build the temple, are bought in.

The contents of the ark seem a bit vague. Here its the stone tablets given to Moses, with the law carved in them by God hand.

But elsewhere it’s said also to have a jar of mana, the food God caused to appear on the exodus trip, and the staff of Aaron, which showed God’s power to the Pharaoh so he would let the Israelites go.

Anyway, I suppose no one dared look inside to check, it had a habit of killing those who mistreated it.

All the priests are present for the dedication of the temple, they usually served in shifts.

Music, sacrifices, and then at the height of the proceedings a cloud of God appears. He has made the temple his home, he is present.

The cloud is so rich they have to stop and leave. The glory of God filled the house of God.

This account is written for later generations of Jews who were rebuilding the temple after Jerusalem was gutted and it was destroyed. It wasn’t as grand. I should check whether the cloud appeared a second time. ( Ezra 6… No)

It’s struck me as more remote for God than we are used to. We are used to him speaking conversationally with Moses, and directly to David, or to him though prophets.

But this is a big public miracle, a sign for the people. It’s how he appeared in the days of the exodus, the pillar of cloud led them though the wilderness.

God has come home. It’s not all of him, the last thing Solomon said was that he could not be contained in a temple. But he is present.

2 Chronicles 4

Details the lavish interior materials and decoration of the temple.

I was struck by some of the new testament echos, like when Revelation spoke of christ walking among the golden lamps, which are metaphors for the churches, it would have evoked to Jews the lamps that lined the interior.

The contrast between the finery and the grisly purpose of the temple, with 1000s of animals marching to their death, also intrigued me.  The hygiene work must have been extreme.  I think it had no windows. What must have been like inside! Everything gleaming with gold filigree. Was there a stench?

It is God giving the people what they understand, an animal sacrifice religion, as religion was widely understood in their area at that time. And for starters, they got grandest version of it ever, fitting for the God above all Gods.

‘God is love’ includes god only ever blows our minds so far. God loves faith, a positive response to him. He meets faith at a place we are capable of expressing it.

I did the church warden thing of reminding people to keep up the giving the other Sunday. One of our members who is steeped in faith, but less mentally able than most, gave me her copy of the Sunday paper in response.  I didn’t say “don’t you realise I was talking about money, not newspapers. This is useless to us”. Of course not. How much more our heavenly father…

2 Chronicles 3

Desciptions of the temple, emphasising its stupendous size, opulence and decoration.

I was touched again by the location of it, so featured in chronicles, on the site of David’s repentance for his error of pride in taking a census of the people.

The two great pillars at the entry are called Jakin and Boaz, names that mean “he establishes” and “in him is strength”.

I read the ultimate sequel to that moment just recently at the end of Jeremiah. It was dispassionately listing the plunder of Jerusalem by Babylon, the destruction of the temple, but got poignant when these two massive bronze pillars were melted down. Gone never to return.

Born of repentance, this glorious edifice existed to witness prophesy replacing monarchy, to point from mans glory to God’s glory, his king, his temple his splendor.

2 Chronicles 2

Building the temple, finally they get to scratch that itch after all the preparations David put in.

Solomon writes to the king of Tyre for materials, and you get his description. He says it’s to be the best temple because God is the best God.

But then he says he can’t possibly build a house for God, who even the heavens cannot contain, so really it’s just a sacrifice place.

It the right thing to say, but the tangible reality of the temple makes our brains struggle to remember that we are the temple.

Our creativity for God is so easy to fall in love with. Our buildings are done for God, but they help us fall in love with earth. With monuments.

They imply eternity, but they distract from eternity.

He conscripts foreigners in Israel to work on it in slave camps. That’s a warning red light I think, it’s not the picture of their society we got from Deuteronomy.

Eg ch 10: God “…loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Solomon is treating them as the Egyptians did, enslaving them to make his monuments.

I’ve read this story before, essentially Kings 2. These high notes before the sad decline have these flaws already.

I do love our sandstone church on glebe point road, but it’s built on land that there is still no treaty for, it stands for and against God.

2 Chronicles 1

Solomon asks for wisdom. He is promised it, and also unprecedented wealth and success.

They start to describe it.. gold and silver everywhere, the expensive horses and chariots.

I was struck by the things God listed that could have been the hearts desire of the new king… Wealth, possessions, honour, death to his enemies, a long life. God praised Solomon for not asking for these.

It’s pretty much the lyrics of “God save The Queen”. God knows us, and through the millennia we stay very predictable.

I’ve felt on the brink of something new of late. Makes me wonder if I am, or if it’s just a feeling. Is it my wisdom request, a la Solomon, or my request for a long life, a la any king.

All of our lives are battles for kingship, us vs God.

I suppose the test is ‘does it tend to make me live a life more for others or more for me?’