585.) Jonah 3

July 29, 2011

The Finger Raised -- Henri Lindegaard, 2003

Jonah 3   (New Living Translation)

Preach, Jonah, Preach!

1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

"Play it again, Sam" is a misquotation from the 1942 movie Casablanca.

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

A SECOND TIME

Jonah didn’t like the assignment God gave him.  God directed him to leave his homeland and go to the enemy city of Nineveh, a hostile and evil center of idol worship.  There Jonah was to warn the people of God’s impending judgment and urge them to repent.  The Hebrews hated the people of Nineveh, so the rebellious prophet fled in the opposite direction, hoping for a different word from God that was more to his liking.  Instead, God was determined that his word to Jonah would be obeyed.  He spoke to Jonah again.  His second message was the same as the first.  However, during the interval, Jonah had been buffeted by storms and had traveled in the stomach of a fish for three days.  This time, he was prepared to hear God again and do his bidding.

God also spoke to the prophet Jeremiah two times (Jer. 33:1-3).  But Jeremiah accepted God’s word to him the first time.  The second time God spoke to him was to give him a fuller revelation of what He had first told him.

What God says to us next will depend on how we responded to His previous word to us.  If, like Jonah, we disobeyed His earlier instructions, God will give them a second time.  If we obeyed His first directive, as Jeremiah did, He will give us a fresh and deeper expression of His will (Matt. 25:23).  Do not let the Lord have to wait for your obedience.

_________________________

3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.

Ancient historians say that Nineveh was the largest city in the world at that time.

4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:

“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps God will have pity on us even yet, and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”

“He who would have others pity him must pity others.”

~Yiddish proverb

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Music:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
miserere nobis.

have mercy upon us.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
miserere nobis.

have mercy upon us.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
dona nobis pacem.

grant us peace.

“Agnus Dei” by Samuel Barber and the Choir of New College, Oxford.  In view of Jonah’s reluctant and begrudging obedience, can you take 8 minutes out of your day to contemplate with thanksgiving  God’s great love  and mercy for you, and to pray for the salvation of all the world —

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10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he had mercy on them concerning the destruction he had threatened to bring upon them.  And he did not do it.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Lindegaard.     http://www.artbible.net/1T/-Jon-01,01_Events_Portraits_Evenements/3%20Obedience_Obeissance/20%20LINDEGAARD%20JONAS%20BB%20LE%20DOIGT%20LEVE.jpg
“Play it again.”    http://thejarboes.com/play%20it%20again%20sam.jpg
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584.) Jonah 2

July 28, 2011

Jonah in the whale -- Frank Wesley

Jonah 2   (New Living Translation)

(To subscribers who have trouble getting the links to work, here is a suggestion.  When you open your new email of DWELLING, click on the top line, which is the number and text of the day’s posting — today’s is  584.) Jonah 2.  Or hit the URL link at the far right just above the opening picture.  Either one will take you to the DWELLING site.  You will find the page looks better, all the links work, and you can make and read comments!)

Pray, Jonah, Pray!

1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.

God could have rescued Jonah in any number of ways. He chose this specific way because of the effect it would have on Jonah’s heart.  The book of Jonah shows us important principles about the sovereignty of God. What happens when God wants a person to do something, but the person doesn’t want to do it? Jonah shows us that God has a way of bringing us to the place where we want what He wants.

–David Guzik

Dear Lord, Please let me never be so disobedient to you that you have to put me in the belly of a great fish before I will obey you!

2He said,

“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!

Jonah knew the Word of God by heart!  He quotes from the Psalms:

Psalm 18:6 (New International Version)

In my distress I called to the LORD;
   I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
   my cry came before him, into his ears.

3 You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
4 Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’

Open my eyes, Lord, to see you beside me in every circumstance.

5 “I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.

Psalm 42:7 (New International Version)

All your waves and breakers
   have swept over me.

Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!

Thank you, Lord, for all the times you have saved me from my own poor choices!

7 As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
in your holy Temple.

Psalm 31:22 (New International Version)

In my alarm I said,
   “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
   when I called to you for help.

8 Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”

Yes, Lord!  Forever and ever and ever I will say, Yes, Lord!

10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

Jonah -- Philip Ratner (Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum, Bethesda, MD)

_________________________

In the stomach of the fish -- Henri Lindegaard, 2003.

from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner

WHALE

If it was actually a whale that swallowed Jonah on his voyage to Tarshish, it couldn’t have been the kind of Right Whale you find in these waters because their gullets aren’t big enough.  Maybe it was a sperm whale because they can handle something the size of a prophet without batting an eye.  Or maybe, since the Hebrew word means only “great fish,” it wasn’t a whale at all but a man-eating shark, some of whom attain lengths as great as thirty feet.  But whatever it was, this much is certain.

No matter how deep it dove and no matter how dark the inside of its belly, no depth or darkness was enough to drown out the sound of Jonah’s prayer.  “I am cast out from thy presence.  How shall I again look upon thy holy temple?”  the intractable and water-logged old man called out from sixty fathoms, and Yahweh heard him, and answered him, and Jonah’s great relief at being delivered from the whale can hardly have been any greater than the whale’s at being delivered from Jonah.

_________________________

Music:

“Love Lifted Me.”  Randy Travis and Mac Powell.

  1. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
    Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
    But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
    From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
    Refrain:

    Love lifted me!
      Love lifted me!
    When nothing else could help,
    Love lifted me!
  2. All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling,
    In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
    Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
    Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Wesley.    http://www.lib.virginia.edu/area-studies/SouthAsia/Misc/Wesley/jonah5.gif
Ratner.    http://www.ratnermuseum.com/includes/images/photos/heroes/hero_13.jpg
Lindegaard.     http://www.artbible.net/1T/-Jon-01,01_Events_Portraits_Evenements/2%20Delivered_Delivrance/20%20LINDEGAARD%20JONAS%2014%20DANS%20LE%20VENTRE%20DU%20POISSON.jpg

583.) Jonah 1

July 27, 2011

"Jonah and the Whale" by He Qi

Jonah 1   (New Living Translation)

Run, Jonah, Run!

Jonah was from the village of Gath Hepher which was located on a small hill about three miles northeast of Nazareth.  He was a Galilean prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Prior to the ministry of Jonah, Israel was in a weakened condition.  Its borders were shrinking as it lost its outlying territories to powerful enemies.  The nation was forced to pay high tribute to the king of Assyria. In 2 Kings 14:26 it is said of this time, “Everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering.”

Since we have just been reading about the Assyrian interaction with the southern kingdom of Judah, I thought we would slip in this wonderful story of God and his love for all the world, even for the people, like the Ninevites, who look like enemies.

1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

Only 500 miles to the east of Jonah was Ninevah, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  The gate above is a reconstruction of one of the 15 gates of the ancient city — now in Mosul, Iraq.

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3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

Psalm 139:7-10 (New International Version)

Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.

_________________________

Some 2000 miles west of Israel and Judah, Tarshish was famed as the westernmost port of the Mediterranean.  It was about as far away as one could get!  The city was also known for its mines of gold and silver.

_________________________

Why didn’t Jonah want to go to Nineveh and do what the Lord told him to do?

 It may have been because he was given a difficult job to do. Nahum 3:1-4 gives us a good idea of how wicked the people of Nineveh were. Jonah had every reason to expect that at the very best, he would be mocked and treated as a fool. He might be attacked and killed if he did what the Lord told him to do.

 It was also because Jonah didn’t want the Assyrians in Nineveh to escape God’s judgment. Imagine a Jewish man in New York during World War II hearing God say, ‘I’m going to bring terrible judgment on Germany. I want you to go to Berlin and tell Nazi Germany to repent.’ Instead of doing it, the man heads for San Francisco and then hops on a boat for Hong Kong.

–David Guzik

4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.

But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe your god will have pity on us and spare our lives.”

“Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.”

~William Blake (1757-1827)

7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”  Then he told them he was running away from the Lord.

10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”

12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”

13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea,

Overboard -- by Henri Lindegaard, 2003

and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

_________________________

Music:

“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” is also known as “The Navy Hymn.”

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Oh, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces of the sky.
Be with them traversing the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer
For those in peril in the air.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
He Qi.    http://www.heqigallery.com/gallery/gallery4/images/Jonah-&-the-Whale.jpg
Ninevah.    http://cache2.allpostersimages.com/p/LRG/27/2796/4S7OD00Z/posters/sweeney-jane-walls-and-gates-of-the-ancient-city-of-nineveh-now-mosul-al-mawsil-al-mawsil-ninawa-iraq.jpg
map showing Tarshish.    http://www.bible-history.com/geography/bibleplaces/Tarshish-map-thumb.jpg
Lindegaard.     http://www.artbible.net/1T/-Jon-01,01_Events_Portraits_Evenements/1_Refusal_Refus/20%20LINDEGAARD%20L%20JONAS%2012%20PAR%20DESSUS%20BORD.jpg

582.) 2 Chronicles 32

July 26, 2011

“The Downfall of Sennacherib” by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

2 Chronicles 32   (New Living Translation)

Assyria Invades Judah

1 After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. 2 When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military advisers, and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. 4They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?”

(Read more about this water project below.)

5 Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields. 6 He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate. Then Hezekiah encouraged them by saying: 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! 8 He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people.

Sennacherib Threatens Jerusalem

King Sennacherib of Assyria

9While King Sennacherib of Assyria was still besieging the town of Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah and all the people in the city:

10 “This is what King Sennacherib of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? 11 Hezekiah has said, ‘The Lord our God will rescue us from the king of Assyria.’ Surely Hezekiah is misleading you, sentencing you to death by famine and thirst! 12 Don’t you realize that Hezekiah is the very person who destroyed all the Lord’s shrines and altars? He commanded Judah and Jerusalem to worship only at the altar at the Temple and to offer sacrifices on it alone.
13 “Surely you must realize what I and the other kings of Assyria before me have done to all the people of the earth! Were any of the gods of those nations able to rescue their people from my power? 14 Which of their gods was able to rescue its people from the destructive power of my predecessors? What makes you think your God can rescue you from me? 15 Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you! Don’t let him fool you like this! I say it again—no god of any nation or kingdom has ever yet been able to rescue his people from me or my ancestors. How much less will your God rescue you from my power!”

Galatians 6:7-8 (English Standard Version)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

_________________________

Music:

We know what King Sennacherib did not — that God our God is almighty, eternal, gracious, just, and able to rescue us to the uttermost!  Don Moen sings “There Is None Like You.”

_________________________

16 And Sennacherib’s officers further mocked the Lord God and his servant Hezekiah, heaping insult upon insult. 17 The king also sent letters scorning the Lord, the God of Israel. He wrote, “Just as the gods of all the other nations failed to rescue their people from my power, so the God of Hezekiah will also fail.” 18 The Assyrian officials who brought the letters shouted this in Hebrew to the people gathered on the walls of the city, trying to terrify them so it would be easier to capture the city. 19 These officers talked about the God of Jerusalem as though he were one of the pagan gods, made by human hands.

20 Then King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to God in heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army with all its commanders and officers.

Psalm 34:7 (English Standard Version)

The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

So Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace to his own land. And when he entered the temple of his god, some of his own sons killed him there with a sword.

An old Jewish legend – and nothing more than a legend – says how it was that Sennacherib’s sons came to kill him. Sennacherib was troubled at how God seemed to bless the Jews so much, and tried to find out why. Someone told him it was because Abraham had loved God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son unto the Lord. Sennacherib thought he would be even more favored by God, and decided to kill two of his sons in sacrifice to the Lord, becoming even more blessed than Abraham and his descendants. But his two sons learned of the plan, and killed him before he could kill them, thus fulfilling the word of the Lord.

–David Guzik

22 That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land. 23 From then on King Hezekiah became highly respected among all the surrounding nations, and many gifts for the Lord arrived at Jerusalem, with valuable presents for King Hezekiah, too.

Right: the angel killing the Assyrians, centre: Sennacherib departs for the city of Nineveh, left: the death of Sennacherib. From an Italian Bible, c. 1300, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

“The Destruction of Sennacherib”

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still.

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride:
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpets unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

— George Gordon Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

24 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the Lord, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem. 26Then Hezekiah humbled himself and repented of his pride, as did the people of Jerusalem. So the Lord’s anger did not fall on them during Hezekiah’s lifetime.

27 Hezekiah was very wealthy and highly honored. He built special treasury buildings for his silver, gold, precious stones, and spices, and for his shields and other valuable items. 28 He also constructed many storehouses for his grain, new wine, and olive oil; and he made many stalls for his cattle and pens for his flocks of sheep and goats. 29 He built many towns and acquired vast flocks and herds, for God had given him great wealth. 30 He blocked up the upper spring of Gihon and brought the water down through a tunnel to the west side of the City of David. And so he succeeded in everything he did.

This intrepid tourist has waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem.  One of the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period, the tunnel is 1750 feet long and brings water from one side of the city to the other.  The tunnel was discovered in modern times in 1838 by Edward Robinson (if you have been to Jerusalem:  the same Robinson as Robinson’s Arch, Temple Mount).

_________________________

31 However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.

Summary of Hezekiah’s Reign

32 The rest of the events in Hezekiah’s reign and his acts of devotion are recorded in The Vision of the Prophet Isaiah Son of Amoz, which is included in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 33 When Hezekiah died, he was buried in the upper area of the royal cemetery, and all Judah and Jerusalem honored him at his death. And his son Manasseh became the next king.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Rubens.    http://ingoodfaith.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/downfallsennacheribrubens.jpg?w=300&h=237
King Sennacherib.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3319/3619742068_d67fcf2886.jpg
Italian Bible picture.    http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=112308&handle=li
Hezekiah’s Tunnel.    http://www.greatcommission.com/israel/HezekiahTunnelByCandleLightWithoutGuide.jpg

581.) 2 Chronicles 31

July 25, 2011

King Hezekiah re-establishes regular worship on a proper footing, and provides for the regular income of the priests and the Levites, all according to the law of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 31   (New Living Translation)

Hezekiah’s Religious Reforms

1When the festival ended, the Israelites who attended went to all the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and they smashed all the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and removed the pagan shrines and altars. After this, the Israelites returned to their own towns and homes.

What Hezekiah had started is now carried out by the people — and not only the people of Judah, but the people of the Northern Kingdom as well!  Can you sense that the euphoria of the double Passover celebration continues as places of idolatrous worship are destroyed.

2 Hezekiah then organized the priests and Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to worship and give thanks and praise to the Lord at the gates of the Temple. 3 The king also made a personal contribution of animals for the daily morning and evening burnt offerings, the weekly Sabbath festivals, the monthly new moon festivals, and the annual festivals as prescribed in the Law of the Lord. 4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord.

5 The people of Israel responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced.

King Hezekiah did not present this as an option for the people of Judah. They were commanded to fulfill their obligations under the Law of Moses to support the priesthood through their tithes (Numbers 18:21-24).

As God said in Numbers 18:21, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel. God commanded the tithes (a giving of ten percent of one’s income) be given to the Levites for their support. This establishes the principle that the tithes belong to God (He said I have given, so they are His to give), but He gave them to the Levites.  When an Israelite failed to give their tithe, they were not robbing the Levite. They were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10), because God received the tithe from the giver, and He gave it to the Levite.

Some today think the tithe, since it went to support the Levites (who were, in a sense, government workers in ancient Israel), is covered by government taxes of today, and that free-will giving mentioned in the Old Testament answers to the New Testament emphasis on giving. We can say that the New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light, if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42).

It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic Law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the Law of Moses.

What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9).

Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest); but since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark — and starting place! For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith.

If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” — our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).

–David Guzik

_________________________

6 The people who had moved to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them up in great heaps. 7 They began piling them up in late spring, and the heaps continued to grow until early autumn. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw these huge piles, they thanked the Lord and his people Israel!

9 “Where did all this come from?” Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites.

10 And Azariah the high priest, from the family of Zadok, replied, “Since the people began bringing their gifts to the Lord’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare. The Lord has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”

11 Hezekiah ordered that storerooms be prepared in the Temple of the Lord.

Hezekiah knew he had to deal responsibly with the gifts that were coming in.  He implements procedures and plans so that everything can be done decently and in order, thereby honoring both God and the generous givers.

When this was done, 12 the people faithfully brought all the tithes and gifts to the Temple. Conaniah the Levite was put in charge, assisted by his brother Shimei. 13 The supervisors under them were Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath, and Benaiah. These appointments were made by King Hezekiah and Azariah, the chief official in the Temple of God.

14 Kore son of Imnah the Levite, who was the gatekeeper at the East Gate, was put in charge of distributing the voluntary offerings given to God, the gifts, and the things that had been dedicated to the Lord. 15 His faithful assistants were Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah. They distributed the gifts among the families of priests in their towns by their divisions, dividing the gifts fairly among old and young alike. 16 They distributed the gifts to all males three years old or older, regardless of their place in the genealogical records. The distribution went to all who would come to the Lord’s Temple to perform their daily duties according to their divisions. 17 They distributed gifts to the priests who were listed by their families in the genealogical records, and to the Levites twenty years old or older who were listed according to their jobs and their divisions. 18 Food allotments were also given to the families of all those listed in the genealogical records, including their little babies, wives, sons, and daughters. For they had all been faithful in purifying themselves.

19 As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who were living in the open villages around the towns, men were appointed by name to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to all the Levites listed in the genealogical records.

20 In this way, King Hezekiah handled the distribution throughout all Judah, doing what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God. 21 In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

Matthew 6:33   (King James Version)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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Music:

In his song, “I Refuse,” Josh Wilson encourages us to step up to the plate and do what God wants done, as Hezekiah did in this chapter.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
appreciation.   http://www.tnbaptist.org/userimages/admin_images/pastor_staff_apprec01.jpg
10%.    http://www.lcnn1.com/10-percent.jpg
the kingdom of God.    http://godlovelife.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/kingdomofgod.jpg

580.) 2 Chronicles 30

July 22, 2011

The Passover, or Seder, plate of today usually includes a hard-boiled egg (then going clockwise), lettuce, a roasted lamb shank,  charoset (a mixture of apples, wine, nuts, and spices), bitter herbs (often horseradish), and parsley (to dip in salt water).

2 Chronicles 30   (New Living Translation)

Preparations for Passover

1 King Hezekiah now sent word to all Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters of invitation to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. He asked everyone to come to the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel.

The Passover is significant from the Chronicler’s point of view for two reason.  First, commemorating as it does Israel’s escape from Egypt in her earliest days as a nation (Exodus 12f.), it comes to symbolize release from the bondage of an overlord in more general ways.  As he moves towards the story of the fateful Babylonian captivity, he lays stress on the fact that this need not be the end of the nation.  In the Chronicler’s day, the story would have sown hope of a still future resurgence of Israel from under the yoke of Persia.

The second major point which the Chronicler makes out of Hezekiah’s Passover concerns the nature of Israel.  Notice that the king’s appeal is not to Judah alone, but to “all Israel and Judah.”  The point is stressed by the reference to letters written to Ephraim and Manasseh.  As it was under David and Solomon, the people are invited to be united.  Many of the Northern Kingdom had been taken as captives to other parts of the Assyrian Empire; for the Israelites who remained, the only possible link with their historical traditions was via Jerusalem.

–J. G. McConville

2 The king, his officials, and all the community of Jerusalem decided to celebrate Passover a month later than usual. 3They were unable to celebrate it at the prescribed time because not enough priests could be purified by then, and the people had not yet assembled at Jerusalem.

4 This plan for keeping the Passover seemed right to the king and all the people. 5 So they sent a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north, inviting everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The people had not been celebrating it in great numbers as required in the Law.

6 At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah.  They carried letters that said:

“O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings. 7 Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. 8 Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you.
9 “For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.”

Celebration of Passover

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Music:

As Hezekiah and his people celebrate a renewal of the Old Covenant, we can rejoice that Jesus has established a New Covenant.  And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is still true that “the Lord your God is gracious and merciful.”   Here is a beautiful Passover song — “New Covenant”  by the artist Shira.  She is a grandmother from Texas.

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10 The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. 11However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.

12 At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord. 13 So a huge crowd assembled at Jerusalem in midspring to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 14 They set to work and removed the pagan altars from Jerusalem. They took away all the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.

15 On the fourteenth day of the second month, one month later than usual, the people slaughtered the Passover lamb.

This shamed the priests and Levites, so they purified themselves and brought burnt offerings to the Temple of the Lord. 16 Then they took their places at the Temple as prescribed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. The Levites brought the sacrificial blood to the priests, who then sprinkled it on the altar.

17 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. 18 Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those 19 who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.

21 So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem joyously celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments. 22 Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites regarding the skill they displayed as they served the Lord. The celebration continued for seven days. Peace offerings were sacrificed, and the people gave thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

23 The entire assembly then decided to continue the festival another seven days, so they celebrated joyfully for another week. 24 King Hezekiah gave the people 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats for offerings, and the officials donated 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. Meanwhile, many more priests purified themselves.

Psalm 50:23   (NIV)

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

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25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son. 27 Then the priests and Levites stood and blessed the people, and God heard their prayer from his holy dwelling in heaven.

These are the words God gave the first High Priest Aaron to use when blessing the people.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Passover seder plate.    http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/kM/passover-sader-plate-fd-lg.jpg
lamb.    http://secondpassover.org/lamb1.jpg
offering plate.    http://ugospel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/church-offering-plate-300×199.jpg
“May the Lord bless you  . . . ”   calligraphy by Timothy Botts.    http://www.prestoimages.net/graphics07/1098_pd320419_1.jpg

579.) 2 Chronicles 29

July 21, 2011

"A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness." --Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

2 Chronicles 29   (New Living Translation)

Hezekiah Rules in Judah

Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah,

“May you live in interesting times,” the old Chinese curse (fortune?) goes.  Certainly Hezekiah lived in interesting times!  Three years after he came to the throne, the Assyrians set siege to Samaria, the capitol of the Northern Kingdom.  Three years later, Israel fell.  What a clear lesson to the young king!  See what happens when God’s people dismiss God’s Word and worship idols!

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and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.

Hurray!  Another good king!

2 Kings 18:5   (New International Version)

Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

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Hezekiah Reopens the Temple

3 In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. 5 He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. 6 Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. 7They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

8 “That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. 10 But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”

12 Then these Levites got right to work:

From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah.
From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel.
From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah.
13 From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel.
From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah.
14 From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei.
From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel.

15 These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the Lord, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the Lord’s instructions in their work. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.

17 They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year, and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days.

Eight days just to carry out all the rubbish and trash and stuff.  Reminds me of “Hoarders” on television . . .

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The Temple Rededication

18 Then the Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: “We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils. 19We have also recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz when he was unfaithful and closed the Temple. They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use.”

20 Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went to the Temple of the Lord. 21 They brought seven bulls, seven rams, and seven male lambs as a burnt offering, together with seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the Temple, and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, who were descendants of Aaron, to sacrifice the animals on the altar of the Lord.

22 So they killed the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. Next they killed the rams and sprinkled their blood on the altar. And finally, they did the same with the male lambs. 23 The male goats for the sin offering were then brought before the king and the assembly of people, who laid their hands on them. 24 The priests then killed the goats as a sin offering and sprinkled their blood on the altar to make atonement for the sins of all Israel. The king had specifically commanded that this burnt offering and sin offering should be made for all Israel.

Look at how carefully King Hezekiah works!  He gets up early to take care of things.  He orders the work to be done according to the instructions of God.  He includes more than the required sacrifice, and he does not forget praise and worship . . .

25 King Hezekiah then stationed the Levites at the Temple of the Lord with cymbals, lyres, and harps. He obeyed all the commands that the Lord had given to King David through Gad, the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. 26 The Levites then took their positions around the Temple with the instruments of David, and the priests took their positions with the trumpets.

27 Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be placed on the altar. As the burnt offering was presented, songs of praise to the Lord were begun, accompanied by the trumpets and other instruments of David, the former king of Israel.

Psalm 43:4   (New International Version)

Then I will go to the altar of God,
   to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
   O God, my God.

28 The entire assembly worshiped the Lord as the singers sang and the trumpets blew, until all the burnt offerings were finished. 29 Then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship.

To WORSHIP is to:

  • quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
  • feed the mind with the truth of God,
  • purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
  • open the heart to the love of God, and
  • devote the will to the purpose of God.

–William Temple

30 King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the psalms written by David and by Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.

31 Then Hezekiah declared, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, bring your sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings to the Temple of the Lord.”

Hebrews 13:15-16   (New International Version)

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

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So the people brought their sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings, too. 32 The people brought to the Lord 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 male lambs for burnt offerings. 33 They also brought 600 cattle and 3,000 sheep and goats as sacred offerings.

34 But there were too few priests to prepare all the burnt offerings. So their relatives the Levites helped them until the work was finished and more priests had been purified, for the Levites had been more conscientious about purifying themselves than the priests had been. 35 There was an abundance of burnt offerings, along with the usual liquid offerings, and a great deal of fat from the many peace offerings.

So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.

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Music:

“Come, now is the time to worship”  was written by Brian Doerksen in 1998.  He is a Canadian Christian singer-songwriter and pastor.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
worship.    http://blogatsouthpointe.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/worship.gif
interesting times.    http://www.expandingtrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/InterestingTimes.png
king.    http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/4700/4782/king_16_lg.gif
junk truck.    http://images04.olx.com/ui/1/31/82/12452982_1.jpg
Halle;ujah music.   http://storage.cloversites.com/lifespringchurchsbc/site_images/sub_page185_picture0.jpg