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Archive for the ‘1 & 2 Chronicles’ Category

At the last ‘First Priority’ prayer meeting James Wainaina (iServe Africa staff member and apprentice 2009-2011) preached 2 Chronicles 17 to us. A very powerful message on the focus and means of true revival. Here’s what he shared:

Introduction:

Perhaps you and I have heard of the so-much publicised meetings with the tags; “Gospel revival meetings” “Come and expect your miracle” “Your better life now” among others. The big question is: What is the centre of these calls to revival? One of the preachers has said, “If I publicize my meetings with the tag, ‘Come expecting a miracle’, many people will come, but wait until I publicise the meeting with the tag, ‘Come and hear from Jesus’, and the number dwindles.” It leaves us to ask ourselves, what is revival? What does it entail? Is it just a meeting that is branded “a revival meeting?”

2 Chronicles 17 can help us answer these questions. So, let’s go into the narrative, but before that, we can look at some information that might help us understand the chapter. Jehoshaphat is a king of Judah after the split of the kingdom in the line of David. He sits on the throne to fulfil God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 where God promises to establish a kingdom in the house of David forever – a forever kingdom and a forever king.  The main message of the book is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That’s what you see in 2 Chronicles 17 – the king (the Davidic king) leading the nation in humility and God fulfilling his promise to heal the land. 

Big Idea:

Through Jehoshaphat’s humble obedience, God brings a renewed Israel that could almost measure to that of David’s or Solomon’s Israel. 

The Narrative:

v1-2: What a King will do when he is a King – establish the kingdom.

v3: God’s presence is with Jehoshaphat.

v3b-4: What does God’s presence produce?

  • Walking – in the ways of David and the ways of God
  • Not walking – according to the practices of Israel
  • Seeking – the God of his father
  • Not seeking – the Baals – the popular choice

v5: “In this way the Lord established him and the kingdom in his hand. All Judah brought tribute to him and he had riches and honour in abundance.”  Through Jehoshaphat’s humble obedience the Lord establishes the kingdom in a way that hadn’t been seen since the days of Solomon.  

v6:In case we haven’t got the message, the author does not leave us in any doubt how the kingdom was established and the blessing grew – it was a matter of the heart – Jehoshaphat’s heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord (Joshua 1:6).  He did not fumble or stumble even when Baal worship was all around. He removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah unlike Asa who left them after. This was a greater king with a greater heart bringing a greater revival than his father.

v7-9: A team of officials from Jehoshaphat’s kingdom, princes, Levites, and priests are sent out among the people. This time, not to collect tax, forcefully take the sons of Israelites to the army or to forced labour and not to have their daughters as slaves or wives to Jehoshaphat the King, but to teach them the book of the law of the Lord. Jehoshaphat is courageous enough to send the princes, Levites and priests to bring back the book of the law to Israel and remind them of the covenant way of life.

v10-11: Results of teaching God’s word among the people:

  • The fear of the Lord gripped the surrounding nations. It doesn’t say the reason why the fear gripped them but it is fulfilment of the promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3), a reminder of the days of Joshua (Joshua 2:11; 5:1) and a hint of God’s intention to turn the world upside down with the preaching of his Word.
  • There was no war between Judah and her neighbours. Peace reigned and the total rest promised by God of a land and His presence (2 Sam. 7:11) being with the Israelites is fulfilled when God’s word is faithfully preached amongst the people.
  • Enemies submit to the King of Israel and they bring gifts to Jehoshaphat. Philistines and Arabs bring gifts to Jehoshaphat. The kingdom of God extends to the neighbouring community and there is peace in the region.   (This takes us back to Solomon and even further back to Egypt during the Exodus where the Egyptians gave silver and gold items to Israelites after they witness the great revelation of God before their eyes).

v12-19: Jehoshaphat’s kingdom is established and a great multitude of fighting men, brave warriors serve the King and the established Kingdom. This is like David with his ‘mighty men’ (1 Chronicles 11:10-12:40; 27:1-15) but now they are in their hundreds of thousands.

The kingdom is established when the king realizes that the secret lies not in a new way of doing this, but in the neglected, assumed and forgotten ways of the Lord. Upon assumption to kingship, he goes back to this historical truth and God’s word becomes alive in this kingdom leading to massive transformation not only in his kingdom but also among his neighbouring enemies.

A call to us as Christians: Revival in our churches is not based on a new trick in the way we preach or a new gospel we have discovered or preaching miracles, signs and wonders, not really, revival is based on re-discovery of the historical, biblical God of promise who is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. It is not in feel good, act good sermons but on a call to humility that makes us look at the old neglected Word of God as the only way our hearts will be revived. When we clearly know that when the word of God is taught faithfully, it brings revival in the hearts of men, then we can seek a genuine revival that is focussed on God.

Part 2

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At our monthly ‘First Priority’ prayer meetings we’re going through the second half of 2 Chronicles, chapter by chapter (Spirit-led!). God’s already been teaching us some important things:

  • 2 Chron. 15:1-15 – Revival is a move of the Spirit of God through the Word of God bringing wholehearted seeking of God
  • 2 Chron. 15:16-16:14 – Pragmatism puts the brakes on revival

But Chronicles is not very familiar territory for any of us. If you look on the great Gospel Coalition site you’ll find precisely zero sermons on 2 Chronicles!  So let’s belatedly try to get our bearings…

First, a lightening overview:

  • 1 Chron. 1-9 – Genealogies
  • 1 Chron. 10-29 – David – esp. his preparations for the Temple
  • 2 Chron. 1-9 – Solomon – esp. his establishment of the Temple
  • 2 Chron. 10-35 – the kings of Judah, esp. the good ones & their revivals
  • 2 Chron. 36 – exile and return

So what’s it on about?  At least three interconnecting themes:

  1. Adam – That’s how 1 Chronicles starts. Adam was the blessed one meant to be a blessing to the whole world.  He was the great king and priest – king of the world and high priest of the garden-Temple.  His privilege was to rule and to worship.  Of course he was also the one who broke faith with God bringing the curse and expulsion from Eden.  We’re all born in Adam, descendents of Adam.  The question is whether we are also descendents of Abraham, in God’s people (Psalm 87; Ezra 2:59)? And more than that: How are we to be freed of the curse and regain the blessing and glories of Adam and Eden?  We need a new Adam.  Zabez (of Prayer of Jabez fame/infamy) looks like a candidate (1 Chron. 4:9-10) with the mention of the pain of childbirth, blessing, enlargement, removal of evil and pain (cf. Gen. 1:28; 3:8, 16) but David and his kingly line are our real hope – the ones who dominate the Chronicles. Sometimes they’re good… but then they lose it (e.g. Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26 – like Adam he’s a gardener, marvellously helped, spreading dominion, and then he becomes proud, is cursed and excluded from God’s presence). Sometimes the kings are very good indeed… but still they’re not The One.
  2. Judah – Unlike the book(s) of Kings, the camera is focussed tightly on the Southern kingdom, David’s tribe, and it’s all a bit more of a positive story than the downward spiral of Kings.  Like Adam they have broken faith with the Lord and been exiled (1 Chron. 9:1) but now the land has enjoyed Sabbath rest and they have returned to re-enter that rest (2 Chron. 36:21-23 cf. Heb. 3-4). This is a book for people going home.  Just like us they are experiencing a now-and-not-yet tension. The exile has ended but it doesn’t look a lot like Eden.  As they resettle in the land amid devastation and anti-climax (Ezra 3:12-13) the author of Chronicles is encouraging them with stories of the power and grace of a God of revivals – foretastes of a perfectly restored Eden, joyful worship under the better Adam, a land without curse.  
  3. TempleThe author of Kings was interested in the Temple but you could say that the author of Chronicles is obsessed! Chapter after chapter on the ark, the musicians, the gatekeepers, the priests, the construction, the repeated restorations.  The famous prayer of 2 Chronicles 7:14 is found in the context of the inauguration of this Temple. It’s an answer to Solomon’s prayer of 2 Chronicles 6 that if the people sin, even rebel to the extent of exile, if they then turn and pray toward this house – this place of God’s name, and his Word and his glory and his sacrifice – then He would hear from heaven and forgive and restore.  Throughout 2 Chronicles you see this 7:14 pattern – even Manasseh, the worst king of all, fulfils it and is a pattern for the exiles (2 Chron. 33:10-13). But it is not the humbling and seeking and turning which buy God’s forgiveness.  The humbling and seeking and turning are simply a turning to face the Temple, a stretching out of empty hands (2 Chron. 6:29) toward the place of atonement to receive God’s grace –healing of sin and healing of the land which had vomited out its people, access to Eden restored through the blood of the lamb.

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That’s what we find in 2 Chronicles 16.

First, a dissection of pragmatism:

  • Costly – ‘Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD… and sent them to Ben-Hadad king of Syria/Aram’ (v2).  He’s banking on a good return – the lifting of an economic blockade (v1) – but pragmatism does cost.  Whether its dodgy politics or slick marketing or backhanders in business or kitu kidogo for the policeman, there are no free lunches.  The world works by “You get what you pay for” – so it’s costly.
  • Conservative – ‘”Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father”‘ (v3a).  Pragmatism always has a precedent.  “That’s how my father did it and his father did it.”  It’s traditional, conservative – it’s just how we do things.
  • Covenant-breaking – “See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel” (v3b).  Pragmatism values money and results over keeping a word.  Asa is working on the basis that if he can give enough cash then the treaty signed between Israel and Aram will be worthless.  That’s how our world works – I say that I will come to this meeting or this event at this time on this date but then I get a better offer and I break my word.
  • Competent – “Ben-Hadad listened… Baasha stopped… Asa built…” (v4-6).  Pragmatism actually works. Very often it does get results. Let’s not be super-spiritual about this. The Bible is very realistic that pragmatism works, that often ungodly people with ungodly motives and ungodly methods do achieve their ungodly goals.
  • Condemned – It’s all looking fine for Asa and Judah but then God spoils it all by sending his verdict through his prophet: “You’ve been foolish and now you will have war” (v7-9).  But what exactly is it that Asa has done wrong?

A definition of pragmatism:

“You relied on the king of Aram/Syria and not on the Lord your God” (v7a).  That is pragmatism.  Asa relied on World not the Lord.  And not only that – he’s missed the opportunity to overcome the World – “…the army of the king of Aram/Syria escaped” (v7b).  Asa has stopped viewing God’s enemies as those who need to be brought to submission under Yahweh and he’s started viewing them as his salvation.  To translate it into New Testament terms – he has stopped viewing the World as Lost, stopped viewing them as a mission field, and started looking to them for answers and help and strength.   The Apostle Paul had to write to the church in Corinth and say, ‘What are you doing dragging church politics into the civil courts? What are you doing going yoking yourself to unbelievers? What are you doing going into business with the world?’ (1 Cor. 6; 2 Cor. 6).  Yes we can sometimes learn from the world – Jesus said that sometimes the children of the world are shrewder than the children of light.  But God forbid that we forget that the world is lost and look to it as our saviour – as the place to get strategies for church growth or models of leadership, as the place to get help to fight our internal church politics battles, as the place of financial salvation.

 But why did Asa go pragmatic?  Why do we?  A diagnosis of pragmatism:

  1. Forgetting the past – “Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.” (v9). Earlier in his reign Asa had faced an army of a million men charging out of Africa, he cried to the Lord and the Lord fought for them (2 Chron. 14:9-12) but he’s forgotten those days.  We become pragmatic when we forget that all the great revivals of the past were not built on pragmatism – slick marketing campaigns or cleverness or money – but built on prayer and the word of the Cross.  And what was the great past battle?   The Cross.  Was the cross pragmatic?  Would an executive strategist dreamt up the Cross?  Never.  Weakness, blood, humiliation, wrath, love, covenant-keeping, free grace.
  2. Forgetting the character of God – “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen”(v9a).  God is not some distant dictator.  It’s not even that he’s a grudging giver.  He’s actively going up and down seeking out people to help and strengthen and lift up.  We become pragmatic when we forget God is an ever-present help, a generous Father, a God of overflowing grace and we think we’ll just have to get on with it ourselves our own way.
  3. Forgetting our first love – “…those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (v9b).  It’s a heart issue. At the end of 1 Kings 15 Asa’s heart prized the Lord God above everything. One demonstration of that was his putting his treasure into the Temple (“where your treasure is there your heart is…”).  What happens in 16:2? He takes it all out again!  He moves his treasure from the Temple to Damascus.  His heart is going from the Lord to Ben-Hadad.  The Temple is not just any old religious building, it’s not a church – it’s where you find the Word of God (the great Ark of the Covenant), it’s where you find forgiveness (through sacrifice), it’s where you find God himself.  13 chapters of the book of Chronicles are devoted to the setting up of the Temple.  It’s a BIG deal.  We get to the New Testament and we find the Temple is Jesus (John  2:19-21).  What’s the point – what is at the core of Asa’s problem – what is at the core of revival-stopping pragmatism?  It’s deserting Jesus. It’s losing that first love for Jesus. It’s forgetting that we are nothing without him. As a nation, Judah’s whole identity and strength was in the Lord. With him they were the most exalted nation on earth. Without him they were absolutely nothing.  What Asa does here is he forgets that and he starts operating like every other king of every other king: he sees an economic and political problem and he solves it by economics and politics. 

God forbid that as a Church we should forget that Christ is our everything and without him we are nothing. God forbid that as iServe Africa or any Christian organisations we should start thinking of ourselves just as any other civil society organisation.  God forbid that personally we should forget that Christ is our life, that the life we live in the flesh is only by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.  Let’s pray for a revival of a heart love and prizing and complete dependence on Christ – his Word, his Sacrifice, his presence – that sends us out into the world not as our saviour but as the mission field, not to find solutions but to preach the gospel of The Saviour.

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