God pays a visit to Solomon!
2 Chronicles 7v11-22
You may remember, from a month ago, we looked at David's final recorded public prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. We saw that David's God oozed greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty from all aspects of His very being! All of which are essential attributes of who He is: unchangeable and permanent. We discovered that this God is a God who gives and gives abundantly! The temple was yet to be built but the gifts from the King and the people had come in! People were waiting to start! Not only to build it but to serve within it! We came to the conclusion that we should pray not just for what God can give to us but also what we can give and do for our God! Giving not just money and goods, but our talents and imagination! Because from that, the community we live, work and worship within could be transformed to God's glory!
But now the Chronicler has moved on in his story! The remnant of Israel you may remember has returned from exile and the Chronicler is giving them an abridged version of history! The great king David has died, and his son, Solomon, is now on the throne. Solomon has had his first encounter with God and received the gift of wisdom! In Chapter 6, Solomon has prayed a great prayer to His God! Here, in our first reading, from the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we hear the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament, when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!
In the passage before us tonight, v11 to v22, the temple is now complete. Solomon is now probably sleeping in his palace. It has been 13 years since he prayed that prayer in chapter 6! No doubt, during those 13 years, many times has Solomon wrestled in his mind over what he prayed... Then, one night God Himself turns up. Here the Chronicler reveals what God said to Solomon.
The original readers/hearers are a remnant of the great nation of Israel, just returned to their land after being in exile! Probably wondering what happened, because under Solomon, the nation of Israel reached its pinnacle! Asking themselves questions like: Who is our God? Who are we, Israel, as a nation? Why are we in the situation we find ourselves in?
The Chronicler is putting across his own theology as he writes this book of Chronicles! His theology, however, is consistent with the writings of the rest of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament! So what does the Chronicler wish to convey to the remnant about this God from this encounter with Solomon?
1. A God of all History
The first thing I see, from this passage, is that their God is a God of history! All human history is covered beneath his throne - the past, present and future!
a. God of the past!
He is the God of Israel's past! God throughout history had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and here, God reminds Solomon of the Covenant that He made with Solomon's father, David! This covenant promised 3 things!
That there would be:
- A land forever
- A dynasty without end
- A perpetual kingdom
b. God of the present
But not only is He a God of the past, He is also a God of the present! He has heard the prayers and accepted the temple as a place of worship - v12 "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices." He is the God of the present because He is speaking to Solomon in Solomon's present! Visiting Solomon, probably while Solomon is snoring his head off!
c. God of the Future
So God is a God of the past and the present, but also a God of the future! And because God is the God of the future, all things are under His control! Even v13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people", shows the God of the past, present and future being in control.
The Lord God says in this speech to Solomon, "I will..." several times! "I will hear!" "I will forgive!" "I will heal the land!" "I will open my eyes!" "I will establish your throne!" But not only of these humanly beneficial things but also Gods says in v20 "I will uproot you from here and send you into exile!" All in the future tense!
And in v16 "I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there." Their God, who is the God of all human history - past, present and future - is from everlasting to everlasting!
Nothing in the future is set rigidly! God may know what is going to happen but He also knows all that may happen as well! We see this through the tension of "If you do this, I will do this!" God is all-knowing, far beyond our human capacity and capability!
2. A God Who Lives!
So a God over all human history - past, present and future. So what else is there here about this God? This God is also a God who lives and lives dynamically! This God is not like the gods of Israel's neighbours - a mere inert block of wood, bone or stone to be lumped about, put on a pedestal, have many copies made, bowed to impersonally and chanted manically at. No! This God of Israel is a God who lives! This God lives and wants to live with His people! God is a God who exhibits His life in at least 3 ways from this encounter with Solomon!
a. A God who is Personal!
This God is personal! Fourteen times, the Chronicler uses for God the personal pronoun "I" and fourteen times, he uses "me" or "myself." Twelve times, he uses the word "you" - on a single individual basis as well as a collective "you" on the basis of the nation itself. This God is personal to the individual Solomon, the King of Israel, but also personal to the nation of Israel. The Chronicler is intimating that no other nation had enjoyed a dynamic, robust and intimate relationship with their God, like Israel does! Our God is personal the Chronicler cries out! Because He is personal, it cries out that He lives! This God wants to be intimately involved with the people and nation He has chosen for Himself.
Read through with me as I share some of these with you and hear how intimate and personal this God is!
Listen for the ‘I'
"I have heard your prayer; I shut; I will forgive; I will heal; I have chosen; I will establish; I have covenanted; I have given; I will uproot; I will reject; I will make
This is a personal God! Listen for the ‘my'
chosen this place for myself; among my people, called by my name; seek my face; my eyes will be open; my ears attentive; my Name may be there forever; my heart will always be there; an object of ridicule for my Name,
Now listen for the ‘you', ‘their', themselves' and ‘they'
you walk before me faithfully; humble themselves and pray; You do; Your father David; You observe; Your royal throne; their wicked ways ; if you turn away and forsake; you and go off to serve other gods; they have forsaken the LORD and they embraced other gods
This is a personal, living and dynamic God wanting a personal and dynamic relationship with His people! Not some mere impersonal piece of wood, metal or stone like the gods of the surrounding nations to whom people babble!
b. A God who is Responsive!
This personal God is also responsive! This God, the Chronicler writes, has responded to the worship of the people when at the beginning of this chapter, His glory filled the temple to overflowing! Their worship was pleasing to Him and He acknowledged this with fire! WOW - v1 "the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple!" That must have been an awe-inspiring moment when their living God did that! So awe inspiring that they continued in worship by singing and offering sacrifices! This God responds to His gathered people!
But this God also responds and appears to the individual, in this case, their King and leader, Solomon and with a personal answer to Solomon's own prayer we read in chapter 6! Here in v17-18, God confirms Solomon's anointing as King and leader of Israel! He reminds Solomon of the importance of the Temple in the life of Israel and as a symbol of commitment to the Covenant of David. This is a direct response to Solomon's prayer we read in 6v16-17. God is personally committed to the line of David.
Now that's all very well when things are going swimmingly and Israel is being obedient, following the commands and ordinances of their personal God! But what happens if they choose not to obey or serve him rightly? God administers judgement, but v14 offers a way back - of humble repentance. However, if they continue to sin and are not repentant, well that leads us to another part of God being responsive - God judges! And not unjustly or recklessly but with justice!
c. A God who Judges and Restores!
In v13 we see that disasters can be sent by God! Droughts and plagues can be used by God to bring people ultimately back to repentance.
In v19-23, we see what happens if Israel abandons their God and continues in their sinful ways (v19)! God abandons them because they first abandoned Him and went away to embrace other gods - gods of non-personality! Then God uproots them from the land that He had given them and rejects this very same Temple which He chose Himself to be a place of prayer and sacrifice. That's the reason Israel was to go into exile, away from the land of promise.
But if God is the God who judges and does these things, He is also the God who enables restoration! When evil befalls Israel, natural, social or political, it is because of their disobedience and God must judge it or He would be a pretty impotent, capricious, spiteful and fickle God if He didn't! So while God maybe the author of disasters, He is also the agent of restoration!
3. A God Who Expects!
This is a personal God of all human history who lives! This God judges disobedience but offers a way back through repentance. Part of His being personal is that this is a God who expects!
a. God Expects His People to be Holy!
How is this? Why does He judge? Because God is holy! He is of utter moral excellence and perfection. There is and can be no stain of sin and He must be totally separated from sin. Holy is what God is!! This holiness of God is seen in righteousness, which is holiness in action. God's actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the absence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with deal with it He will and must!
If God were not Holy, He could not and would not be God! If He were to cast aside his Holiness even for the briefest of times, he would cease to be God!
b. God expects obedience!
Not only is God holy, writes the Chronicler, but His people must also be holy and be seen to live rightly! God expects obedience! Israel was to be a nation of light reflecting their great and living God to the surrounding nations! They alone had the law of the Lord and they were to live rightly and obediently before God and the surrounding nations! They were to worship this living God and Him alone! In v17, we see the request to walk with God alone and follow His decrees and commands - the law of Moses! In v19-20, as we saw earlier, there was the penalty for idolatry and abandoning this living God!
c. God expects prayers of repentance
Now you may be saying, yeah right, Dave... If God is just, and of grace, He will provide a way out of these judgments! But you know what! He does! The people can be restored! How can this be? Verse 14 is the key! This is a key of grace: "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
How does He restore? Through the humility and repentance of the disobedient! Even when this great Living God is angry! Prayers by the disobedient, consisting of humility and repentance are necessary, in order to enable God to forgive and heal the destruction of sin and disobedience. In 6v32-33, we can see that anyone who acknowledges God's name and authority may pray with utter confidence that God would hear their petitions. Seeking God's face with humility is the key.
What is repentance? It is a voluntary change in mind, in which the person and nation turn from a life of disobedience to living a life of obedience to God. It is done firstly in the Mind or the Intellect, where it is recognition of disobedience and guilt before God. Then, there is also at an Emotional level, exhibiting genuine sorrow for disobedience, a bit more difficult for us men! Finally it's also an act of the Will - a decision to turn back to God from disobedience, self-pleasure and self-centredness.
And what is humility? Humility is where total trust is placed in God alone, and He has priority in all aspects of life. Humility is a lack of pride and of total commitment to God.
This is a living and holy God, who expects His people to be holy, reflecting His holiness and being prepared to make themselves nothing in order to be restored and for their disobedience to be forgiven.
What an awesome and great God this is! This is the God who is the God over all human history - past, present and future! This is a God who is personal and responsive! This is a God who is holy, commands obedience and yet accepts humble repentance! What a great and Almighty God! Not only those things but He is a God of grace! How do we see that?
This chapter from Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7v11-22, could well be a summary of all 1 & 2 Chronicles, if not the Old Testament and indeed all of Scripture! Some say that grace is missing from the book, just as some say that grace is missing from the Old Testament itself! But as we have hopefully seen, one aspect of God that shines through this passage is that He is a God of grace, with a message of grace as exemplified in v14! "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
But so what? What are we to do with and for this God?
We are to be personally and collectively obedient to Him. Following closely to the leading of the Spirit and following our leaders, the pastors, elders and deacons as they seek to follow this great God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said "You can only learn what obedience is, by obeying."
Lets be an obedient people. How do we do that? By loving God! How do we show we love God? By loving others, for as Jesus said, this sums up the whole Law!. The community out there, which we are a part of, is looking at us. We have this fantastic new building, and I can guarantee you, that there will be some people out there, just waiting for this adventure of ours with God to fail. Let us not allow that to happen.
One of the key areas of obedience concerns idolatry! Now we may not go off to other gods and worship them, as Solomon and ancient Israel did. But we can set up false idols of our own, both as individuals and collectively. Calvin wrote that "What is idolatry? It is to worship the gifts instead of the great Giver?" This is a beautiful building! But let us not worship it and consider it so sanctified even for a moment, that it becomes our idol of worship. Let us be thankful to God for the gift and allow Him to use it for the benefit of the whole community and not just for our own sake. Let each of us ensure that God takes first place over everything in our individual and collective lives. Let us worship alone our great living God who gives abundantly, rather than commit disobedient idolatry by worshipping the gifts of the Giver.
Then finally, let us hold our leaders up in prayer that they will be, collectively and individually, obedient to God! As Adam shared this morning, old hairy legs satan likes to stick his nose in and try to get leaders like Adam off track. Many churches have built new buildings, only for them to lie wasted shortly after, due to personal disobedience of the leadership. Lets not be one of those.
The church I attended in Australia before coming to the UK, 21 years ago this coming Saturday, was very much like PBC is now! Growing, vibrant and they had just finished building a new church building! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the future! I am not going to say specifically what happened, but within 2 years that church was practically empty. In fact it is still going but it hasn't recovered to the way that it was. The leadership were found to have committed both personal and corporate disobedience and when it became public; it decimated the church and made it a public mockery. Those people who were in leadership are now restored back into a right relationship with God, but they had to find humility the hard way.
Somebody asked me during the week, "If Solomon was the wisest man on earth, how come he fell into idolatry?" The answer I gave was not because he had so many wives and girlfriends. Nor was it, as suggested by a certain member of this congregation here tonight, the number of mother in laws. I think it was because he became proud, forgot not just who he was in God's eyes but he also forgot who God was! That led him to forsake the God of His youth and commit idolatrous acts.
Let's go from here, willing to be obedient to this great God, remembering who we are and who our God is. This great God we love and serve who is the God of all human history - past, present and future. This Almighty God, who is living, dynamic, personal, and responsive: who both judges and restores. This is a God who is holy and expects His followers to be holy, living obedient lives and being quick to seek repentance after disobedience. Let's go out into our community this week, being His voice and light, confident that our living God is within us, as we engage actively and passively with those who don't know this great God!
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