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Last week we looked at the first half of this chapter, which featured Solomon, the Israelites and their brand new temple.  Everyone praised the Lord and was increased in happiness.  The second half of the chapter, featured today, explores God’s message to Solomon, which followed the Feast of Tabernacles.

This chapter is not available in any lectionary.  You are unlikely to hear it preached on in any church.  Yet, it carries important messages for us, even today.  For this reason, it qualifies as a Forbidden Bible passage.  For past Forbidden Bible Verses, click here.

Today’s reading comes from the New International Reader’s Version.

2 Chronicles 7 11:22

The Lord Appears to Solomon

 11 Solomon finished the Lord’s temple and the royal palace. He had done everything he had planned to do in the Lord’s temple and his own palace.

 12 The Lord appeared to him at night. He said,

   “I have heard your prayer. I have chosen this place for myself. It is a temple where sacrifices will be offered.

 13 “Suppose I close up the sky and there isn’t any rain. Suppose I command locusts to eat up the crops. And I send a plague among my people. 14 But they make themselves low in my sight. They pray and look to me. And they turn from their evil ways. Then I will listen to them from heaven. I will forgive their sin. And I will heal their land. After all, they are my people.

 15 “Now my eyes will see them. My ears will pay attention to the prayers they offer in this place. 16 I have chosen this temple. I have set it apart for myself. My Name will be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

 17 “But you must walk with me, just as your father David did. Do everything I command you to do. Obey my rules and laws. 18 Then I will set up your royal throne. I made a covenant with your father David to do that. I said to him, ‘You will always have a son to rule over Israel.’

 19 “But suppose all of you turn away from me. You refuse to obey the rules and commands I have given you. And you go off to serve other gods and worship them. 20 Then I will remove Israel from my land. It is the land I gave them. I will turn my back on this temple. I will do it even though I have set it apart for my Name to be there. I will make all of the nations hate it. They will laugh and joke about it.

 21 “This temple is now so grand and beautiful. But the time is coming when all those who pass by it will be shocked. They will say, ‘Why has the Lord done a thing like this to this land and temple?’

 22 “People will answer, ‘Because they have deserted the Lord. He is the God of their people who lived long ago. He brought them out of Egypt. But they have been holding on to other gods. They’ve been worshiping them. They’ve been serving them. That’s why he has brought all of this horrible trouble on them.’ ”

——————————-

Verse 11 explains that Solomon was satisfied with his work on the new temple and palace.  The Lord appears to him in verse 12 telling him that He has enabled the smooth running of Solomon’s plans and reminds him that the temple is now His house, one of sacrifice and prayer. 

Referring to Solomon’s prayer (last week’s post), God intimates that whilst He has chosen the Israelites as His people, they, in turn, must acknowledge their responsibility to Him.  Suppose they sin.  God says He may then send a drought, or famine through swarms of crop-eating locusts or another type of plague (verse 13).  If the people then turn from their sins and sincerely return to the Lord, He will forgive them and call off His punishment (verse 14):  ‘After all, they are My people.’  He will also remember that the temple is His house in which He dwells (verse 15).

So, what must Solomon do as a good leader of his people to ensure they love the Lord?  God says to him, ‘If you love me, obey me and keep my commandments, the royal throne I promised through your father David is yours’ (verses 17, 18).

And, if Solomon breaks this covenant?  Such acts will force God’s hand.  He will take away the Promised Land from His people and leave them homeless and vulnerable (verse 19).  He will even forsake the temple built in His name.  Worse still, God warns that the people of Israel will become a laughingstock amongst friends and enemies alike (verse 20).  The respect they once had for Israel will vanish.  That landmark edifice — the temple — so beautiful and grand now, will become a rundown shadow of its former self should the Israelites sin (verse 21).  It would no longer be a sanctuary.  Onlookers would wonder why.  And, yet, they would know the answer (verse 22): because God’s Chosen have disobeyed Him.  God visibly shows that He will not let iniquity go unpunished.     

Think of the comparison we can make between this passage and the Western world today.  Our beautiful churches erected to give glory to God, once thrived. Increasingly, they are now restaurants, nightclubs or empty edifices.  God is no longer there.  He left a long time ago.  That is because we have turned to the false idols of sex, greed and ambition.  We no longer pray or worship Him together.  We prefer to worship our own pleasure and power.  We act as if we are God Himself.  When we leave God by disregarding His will, we ignore His house on earth — the Church.  And when we ignore Him, His commandments and His house, He punishes us.  He leaves us to wallow in our own sin.  Note the crime and insecurity in our world. Sins of the flesh: rape, paedophilia, fornication. Sins of greed: fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement. Sins which guarantee sadness: adultery, theft, murder.  Note how we place increasing trust in man’s government to relieve this misery: ‘There ought to be a law against it,’ we rail.  Yet, we are failed because we love the idols that result in these sins.  We become prisoners of those idols and, strangely, of the myriad new laws designed to prevent them.  

Yet, we can persuade God to call off this punishment individually and collectively.  It’s so simple.  If only we take time to look deep in our hearts and examine our consciences, we will see where we have deviated from His ways.  Let us then turn unto Him and pray for His infinite mercy and forgiveness.  Then, with true hearts and minds, let us turn unto Him in full repentance.  We can do so much individually which will make a difference to the survival of our society and our children’s national inheritance.   Please take some time this Advent to do this, privately and within your own families.

You can read more here.

Not available in any lectionary!  Read about the benefits of praising the Lord and the resultant happiness of His people.  For more Forbidden [yes, necessary, but seldom mentioned in church] Bible Verses, click here.  

Today’s reading comes from the New International Reader’s Version. 

2 Chronicles 7 1:10

Solomon Sets the Temple Apart to the Lord

 1 Solomon finished praying. Then fire came down from heaven. It burned up the burnt offering and the sacrifices. The glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests couldn’t enter the temple of the Lord. His glory filled it.

 3 All of the people of Israel saw the fire coming down. They saw the glory of the Lord above the temple. So they got down on their knees in the courtyard with their faces toward the ground. They worshiped the Lord. They gave thanks to him. They said,
   “He is good.
      His faithful love continues forever.”

4 Then the king and all of the people offered sacrifices to the Lord. 5 King Solomon sacrificed 22,000 head of cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. So the king and all of the people set the temple of God apart.

 6 The priests and Levites took their positions. The Levites played the Lord’s musical instruments. King David had made them for praising the Lord. They were used when he gave thanks to the Lord. He said, “His faithful love continues forever.”

   Across from where the Levites were, the priests blew their trumpets. All of the people of Israel were standing.

 7 Solomon set the middle area of the courtyard apart to the Lord. It was in front of the Lord’s temple. There Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings. He also sacrificed the fat of the friendship offerings there. He did it there because the bronze altar he had made couldn’t hold all of the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat parts.

 8 At that time Solomon celebrated the Feast of Booths for seven days. The whole community of Israel was with him. It was a huge crowd. People came from as far away as Lebo Hamath and the Wadi of Egypt. 9 On the eighth day they held a service. For seven days they had celebrated by setting the altar apart to honor God. The feast continued for seven more days.

 10 Then Solomon sent the people home. It was the 23rd day of the seventh month. The people were glad. Their hearts were full of joy. That’s because the Lord had done good things for David and Solomon and his people Israel.

In the previous chapter, 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon is in a new temple which his father David longed to build. The people of Israel are outside.  Through prayer, Solomon acknowledges before God that He had told David that his son would be the one to build it. Solomon spends time in the new temple praying.  Now, in 2 Chronicles 7, verse 1, Solomon ends his prayer to the Lord.  Immediately in response to his prayer, God appears to the people in the form of fire.  This is no destructive fire, but God manifesting Himself in glory, to the extent that the priests cannot even enter the temple.  The Israelites see the fire above the temple (verse 3).  Seeing it puts them in awe of God and, almost instinctively, they drop to their knees in prayer and thanksgiving. Fire — that destructive force that Man has recognised from the earliest days as well as a manifestation of the Almighty. Would it be a sign of approval or punishment? The fire could have consumed the temple, but it didn’t — only the sacrifices the people had brought before the Lord. 

Note in verses 4 and 5 that the fire compels Solomon, then his people, to offer even more sacrifices to the Lord, much of which must be set alight outside in the courtyard (verse 7).   As the leader goes, so shall his people.  Solomon sets a good example, which the Israelites follow.  They see that the Lord looks upon His people favourably and show their thanks through thanksgiving through prayer and sacrifice.  The priests and Levites take their places (verse 6) and praise the Lord through music and trumpet fanfare.   

Verses 8 and 9 explain that this event is part of the Feast of Booths, which runs for eight days.  It is also called the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, which Jews around the world continue to celebrate today as a harvest thanksgiving. (Click on the Sukkot link to see pictures of the booths.) It is a happy commemoration, one which is full of praise for God and His infinite goodness.

Afterward, Solomon sends the Israelites home (verse 10).  The people leave with glad hearts, full of praise for the Lord.

Similarly, we should remember that our good works and shining example reflect God’s goodness towards us. We should frequently glorify Him in prayer. This is particularly useful to recall now since we are in Advent, preparing for Christmas.  Soon, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus with joyous carols and prayers: Jesus — God’s Son — who will end His life on the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice, divinely ordained as the expiation for our sins. It is the ultimate act of sublime selflessness for us miserable sinners.   Let us also remember the fire that God sent to us, that of the Holy Spirit, which came at Pentecost, and which we Christians receive at Confirmation.  That fire should be burning in hearts daily, kindled by praise and thanksgiving to God.         

You can read more here.

Next week: The Lord’s cautionary message to Solomon

Bible ourhomewithgodcomHere is another forbidden Bible passage — the type you seldom hear in church anymore.  Not only is this one probably forbidden — it’s pretty forbidding, too.  Today’s reading comes from the King James Version.

Past forbidden passages have featured Psalm 12, Psalm 15, Romans 1:16-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-14.

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

 1Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa.

 2And the Philistines followed hard after Saul, and after his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.

 3And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded of the archers.

 4Then said Saul to his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.

 5And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on the sword, and died.

 6So Saul died, and his three sons, and all his house died together.

 7And when all the men of Israel that were in the valley saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, then they forsook their cities, and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

 8And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa.

 9And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people.

 10And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.

 11And when all Jabeshgilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul,

 12They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

 13So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it;

 14And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

 

When men are in a position of leadership, such as Saul, they have a responsibility to obey God’s laws and commands.  This story of Saul’s final moments is a cautionary tale. 

Leaders, like Saul, are not the only ones to suffer when they disobey God.  They also put at risk the lives of their people, as we see in verse 1.  It wasn’t that the Israelites were blameless in the run-up to this war, but God was particularly displeased with Saul.  And it was his sin that counted most.

Note in verses 2 and 3, that the Philistines are in the thick of battle against the Israelites.  They kill Saul’s sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua. Then Saul himself is wounded. 

In verse 4, Saul asks his armourbearer to kill him to avoid further injury by ‘these uncircumcised’ — non-Jews.  As his armourbearer is too frightened to obey his master’s command, Saul kills himself — ‘falls on his sword’. 

Verse 6 notes that Saul and his lineage are now finished.  His other family members are alive, although there would be no further descendants through the male line. 

In verse 7, the Israelites discover that Saul and his sons are dead.  They flee and the Philistines take over the land.  Rejoicing, the Philistines gather Saul’s armour and his head and show it to their people and their idols.  Meanwhile, a few brave Israelites quickly remove Saul’s body and those of his sons to bury reverently.  In accordance with Jewish law, they fast. 

Saul died because of his earlier rebellion against God, which also cost him his lineage. He did not obey God’s command sincerely or completely (stay tuned for next week’s post). Neither did he ask for His help reverently.  Therefore, through the war against Philistines, God saw fit to end Saul’s life through suicide.  And that is how the kingdom of David began.  

We, too, must remember to praise God, to worship Him, to give sincere thanks for the many blessings He bestows upon us.  We must never forget God in our daily lives, or we, too, may end up going the way of Saul.  To put it more positively, if we stay true to God and the commandments that He and Jesus established for us, we stand to inherit the eternal Kingdom. 

Find out more about Saul next Sunday and why God was angry.
To read more about this week’s passage, click here and here.

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