II Chronicles 7

Vs. 1, “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.”  The fire that came down was a seal of God’s approval (vs. 1-3).  This would give assurances to the people present to testify that God was there with them.  They could confidently worship at the new temple knowing this was the proper place.  It is reminiscent of God’s audible approval when Jesus was baptized and then revealed His glory on the mountain of Transfiguration.  The sheer volume of sacrifices and the unification of God’s people would have been an encouragement to the exiles now returning to the land (vs. 4-10).  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 11-22), we have the LORD’s affirming respond to Solomon’s prayer from our previous chapter.

Regarding application…Warning!  Vs. 19, “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them.”  God hears our prayers and desires to bless us, but there are consequences if we fail to seek Him.  Just our roads have warning signs to protect; God brings warning signs in our own lives.  Disobedience will undoubtedly bring discipline in our lives.  But don’t be too discouraged, for this came with incredible blessings!  In our Sunday message yesterday, Jesus warned the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22) to check his life and let go of the possessions he so loved.  Unfortunately, he did not heed Jesus’ warning and request to follow Him.  Take time today to consider how you can heed God’s warning with a soft heart!

I Chronicles 24

Vs. 1, “These were the divisions of the sons of Aaron: The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.”  We continue our temple preparations details as we focus on the temple duties.  The chronicler gives us more information on how the temple divisions were organized in a systematic way.  The emphasis on rehashing the descendants of Aaron is to remind the present day exiles of their heritage and roles.  Drawing lots would prove the impartiality of the roles that would be assigned.  The importance of delegation and details in the temple duty reminds us that being organized has its purpose.

Regarding application…Determining God’s Will.  Vs. 31, “They also cast lots, just as their brothers the descendants of Aaron did…”  In our example today, they drew lots to determine the roles of each person.  There are examples from both the Old Testament (drawing lots for land) and New Testament (drawing lots to determine the next apostle).  There are differing opinions on the use of drawing lots today.  For the big decisions in choosing leadership, it seems drawing lots for a pastoral candidate would be unwise.  For small things, drawing lots could be a fun and enjoyable way to determine which restaurant we will eat at (flipping a coin).  However, when it comes to determining God’s will, He has given us His full revelation (Bible) and His church to help us make the big decisions of doing His will.  As we continue to journey with the Lord, let us be wise in understanding His will for our lives.

I Chronicles 23

Vs. 6, “David divided the Levites into groups corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.”  King David now assembles the Levites and priests to ensure all the ministry and work is delegated: overseers of the temple, officials and judges, gatekeepers, and musicians.  The reasoning of the numbering of Levites is legitimate to ensure the proper rotation of workers.  The age discrepancies between 30 year olds and 20 year olds can be understood based on the needs at that time to have more serving.  Since many of the duties of the Levites no longer exist now that there is a permanent dwelling, the LORD adapts their purpose.  Remember that the Levites were the tribe set apart by God to help serve the priests.  All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests.

Regarding application…Accepting Who You Are.  Vs. 4-5, “David said, “Of these, twenty-four thousand are to supervise the work of the temple of the LORD and six thousand are to be officials and judges.  Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.” Notice how it was important that each of these positions be delegated.  This is a relevant reminder for us today!  It’s important to accept who we are.  Not all of us can be musicians or gatekeepers.  Not all of us can be on praise teams, pastor’s, welcoming team, etc.  I’m reminded of Paul’s analogy of the body (I Corinthians 12) and how not all of us can be the same metaphorical body part..  It’s difficult to do in a world where we want to compare ourselves to others.  I pray that we would embrace the gifts that God has given us.

I Chronicles 9

Vs. 1, “All Israel was listed in the genealogies recorded in the book of the kings of Israel...”  After an extensive portion devoted to the genealogies, the chronicler now spend this chapter connecting the current post-Babylonian exiles now resettled.  This would ensure the legitimate claim of God’s covenant and His people.  There is also a bit of a “shout out” to the lesser known Levites (gatekeepers, temple security, singers) who did not necessarily share in the limelight of the Levitical priests (vs. 14-34).  The end of our chapter is a rehash from the previous chapter concerning the line of Saul (vs. 35-44).

Regarding application…Finding Hope.  Vs. 2, “Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.”  The fact that God would give His people such grace to return home was evidence that He had not forsaken them.  God is working to draw His people back to Him.  There are times in our present lives where we may feel displaced.  When I left Oregon to come to California, it was very difficult time in my life.  Yet, God was helping me to restore my hope.  Nearly six years have passed and I now see evidence of why God brought me to So. Cal.  There is always a reason for despair, but finding hope is something we have so precious because of the Lord!

Joshua 21

Vs. 3, “So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.”  We now come to the allotment of the Levites.  Question: Who were the Levites?  They were set apart by God from the tribe of Levi to help administer to the sacrificial offerings.  The tribe of Levi was the only tribe that stood up with Moses when he saw the idolatrous golden calf (Exodus 32:25-29).  The Levites were broken up into three groups plus one: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (sons of Levi) and then the line of Aaron (they would serve in the priestly mode).  It was now their turn to claim the promises of God.  Though they would not possess any specific land, the LORD would spread them out to administer to His people in all the tribes.  The Levites and Priesthood played a role much like Pastors, Missionaries, etc. of today.

Regarding application…Faithful Father.  Vs. 45, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”  Question: Is there something in your life that you are worried about?  I was thinking about our consumerist society and being bombarded by all these companies that their products are the best.  Most companies and retail stores want to give us peace of mind by offering “money-back” guarantees.  If the product fails in its promise, we can return it hassle-free.  Unlike worldly products, when the Lord offers His products of love and promises, there is no caveat “money-back” return policy.  Question: Why?  Because God never makes a faulty product!  I know when we put our faith in God, there will be times of questioning and doubt.  That is why we must root ourselves in His word to constantly remind us of our faithful Father.  Take time today to let go of a specific worry in your life.

Numbers 35

Vs. 2, “Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns.”  You may recall, the Levites tribe was not to inherit any land (Numbers 18).  But, they still needed somewhere to live so the Lord solved this by assigning forty-eight towns equally distributed among the rest of the tribes as locations for them to live (vs. 1-5).  I love how God provides for the Levites and also ensures that they will in turn be able to provide for the others!  We then see quite an interesting provision the Lord institutes with the cities of refuge.  These cities of refuge would serve as safe houses or sanctuaries for the accused.  Question: Why?  The cities of refuge were to provide a place of safety for those who had killed another.  Upon investigation and trial, intentional murder (first-degree murder) would not keep the accused safe from retribution.  However, unintentional murder (man-slaughter) would keep the accused safe as long as they stayed in the city of refuge.  How interesting that only after the death of the current high priest could an unintentional person be safe to leave the cities of refuge.  Only the death of the high priest would cover over this type of sin.  Certainly, we think of Jesus the great high priest whose blood was shed for all (Hebrews 4).

Regarding application…Capital Punishment.  Vs. 16, “If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.”  Question: Is capital punishment right or wrong?  This is certainly a polarizing topic to many.  Even within the Christian community, we have our differing scriptural understandings.  I stand on believing that capital punishment is just.  God is love, yet we cannot divorce the fact that God is wrathful too.  In His mercy and justice, God has instituted the right for people to receive consequences.  Previously, we were told not to seek revenge (Leviticus 19:18), but this was on a personal perspective.  Here in our chapter today, it is from a community’s perspective.  God does not contradict Himself.  It is not our right to dispense justice, but the laws in our society/community should ensure consequences.  If a man kills my family, I do not have the individual right to kill him.  But, through a trial and jury, he can be sentenced to death.  This is justice.  If the law allows a loophole through parole, and this man kills again; where is the justice?  In the end, whether a person is served capital punishment that is not the end all be all of their existence.  Remember the man on the cross next to Jesus who would be with him in paradise (Luke 23:42-43).  He was served capital punishment but was going to be with Jesus.

Numbers 18

Vs. 5, “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.”  After God revealed Aaron’s budding staff to all of Israel in our previous chapter, this was a sign to every tribe including the Levites/Priests that God has chosen them alone to administer to the sanctuary and altar.  Any non-Levite who violates God’s standard will not bring wrath upon the whole nation, but upon themselves and the Levites (vs. 1-7).  God in His wisdom knowing the possible low morale of the Levites and priests, reminds them of how He will provide for them (vs. 8-32).  Their (Levites & Priests) work and dedication would not allow them to farm and provide.  The tithes of the rest of the tribe were to be given to the Levites and then they were to additionally give their ten percent tithe to the Priesthood.

Regarding application…Tithing Today.  Vs. 26, “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.”  Question: Should we tithe today?  You may recall, tithing first came into the biblical scene when Abraham gave ten percent to Melchizedek (Genesis 14).   The Apostle Paul affirms the church today that those who serve it have a right to receive support from the church (I Corinthians 9:13-14).  Jesus also exhorted the disciples when he sent out the seventy to receive support (Luke 10).  Certainly, most of us are not farmers so we don’t present our literal firstfruits, but we do make wages.  We are simply stewards of the possessions we have.  Let us be wise and seek how we may continue to support the church and ultimately bring glory to God!

Numbers 17

Vs. 8, “The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.”  God’s people were grumbling.  God in His wisdom administers another test, thankfully a peaceful test.  This test would entail all the tribes to bring forth a staff and leader representing their respective tribe (vs. 1-5).  They were to bring their staff in front of Tent of Testimony (law of tablets in the ark).  An appropriate test for the word “staff” also has this understanding of “tribe.”  The full budding of Aaron’s staff leaves no doubt divine intervention (vs. 8-11).  Question: Why almonds?  Almonds signified a sense of watchfulness (Jeremiah 1:11-12) and it was important to use Aaron’s staff as a watchful reminder of His people to not rebel.

Regarding application…Grumbling.  Vs. 10, “The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.”  Aaron’s rod was a response to grumbling.  But this wasn’t just a complaint here and there.  This was an outright protest with tempers flaring (maybe nostrils too) in our previous chapter.  This grumbling showed their lack of faith and trust not only in Moses & Aaron, but also the LORD.  I think we as churches today could use our own Aaron’s almond rod to remind people to stop their complaining and grumbling.  Ultimately, it is a sign of God’s grace.  The cross in our churches is that all inclusive reminder.  For the United Methodist and other denominations, today is Ash Wednesday.  Ashes is our sign of repentance and beginning the reminder of the cross and the joyful resurrection during the Lenten season.  I pray we have the right perspective as we too journey with the Lord.

Numbers 10

Vs. 2, “Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out.”  Question: Why Trumpets?  Earlier (Numbers 9), we read that the cloud would signify when the Israelites were to leave camp (vs. 1-10).  With two million plus, there were people bound to be in their tents, so the trumpets played a practical role.  Depending on the type of trumpet blast, would determine which tribes would head out.  It was a pretty exciting time for the people for they had been at Mount Sinai for nearly a year (vs. 11-28)!  They were on their way to claim the promises of God.  Question: What will happen?  We have a intriguing story ahead of us, so stay tuned in to God’s word.  In the latter section of our chapter, we read of Moses asking Hobab (Father-in-law, or brother-in-law) to help assist them on their journey.

Regarding application…God Uses Us!  Vs. 31, “But Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes.”  Question: If God was their guide, why would Moses ask Hobab to help them?  Was Moses not trusting the Lord?  Brothers and sisters, we are reminded throughout the Scriptures that God chooses to use us.  Certainly, God can do everything on His own.  Consider God being the ultimate delegator in a sense.  Hobab had certain skills he had learned over the years that would benefit God’s people.  Question: How is God using you?  How can you be used more by God?  Notice that Hobab, like many of us, declined to help (vs. 30).  Just because we have said no in the past doesn’t dictate our future potential.

Numbers 9

Vs. 1, “The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt.”  Chronologically, this chapter should go before the military census in chapter one.  In this chapter, we see an interesting relation with the observance of Passover (vs. 1-5) and then the cloud and fire (vs. 15-23); both of which were a part of the Exodus out of Egypt.  Question: Why observe Passover each year?  Some scholars point out that the Israelites were ungrateful.  Whatever the reason, it was a way to please God and remind them of His faithfulness.  Remember that Passover celebrates God’s deliverance by the lamb’s blood.  I love God’s attention to the details given for those who became unclean due to a death (vs. 6-14).  God cares even about some of the smallest details!  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 15-23), we see God giving clear direction of His purpose and presence through the cloud.

Regarding application…Living by the Cloud.  Vs. 17, “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.”  How interesting that we use this terminology when it comes to the way we live our life on the internet.  The internet guides many people’s lives as it the source for information, studying, living and entertaining.  Yet, just as the Israelites lives were dictated by the cloud (God), our lives must be obedient to God’s direction too.  I’ve often thought what a privilege the Israelites had to have the physical manifestation of God.  Yet, we have something far more special through the promised Holy Spirit in our lives!