Thought for the Week - 3rd DecemberGraeme Rutherford
2 Chronicles 7: 1-2
When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the Lord because the glorious presence of the Lord filled it.
2 Chronicles 7: 11-16
So Solomon finished the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the Lord appeared to Solomon and said,
“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
The background to these verses is that David was commissioned by God, in one sense, to build a Temple as a habitation for the Ark of the Covenant.
David, Solomon’s Father, had been given the plans in great detail and the task of collecting the materials. When it came to building the Temple, God said to him that he was not to build it. Instead, Solomon was to build the Temple. The Bible shows us no reaction by David to this. There’s no indication of him saying to God “but I really want to do it – I’ve done all the work and I’ve gathered all the material” etc. Instead, he simply obeys God and hands it all over to Solomon. This is a tremendous death to self in my mind, because you’d think David would want to do it.
By these verses, the Temple is finished and the offerings and sacrifices have been brought in. God Himself comes down in fire and consumes them. We read:
In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were quite detailed in terms of the animals required or the sin involved. There was a lot given to God. In one sense, the sacrifices cost the people something to take to the Temple, for example money. When we reflect on this in terms of our lives today, that offering is our life, which we give to God. There’s a lesson we need to learn from this passage: that time and time again, wherever we are on our walk with God, we need to continually offer our lives on that altar to Him.
There are times where we feel we feel we’ve given our lives over to God to the best of our ability. However, there are also times where we pick it back up. We take it back into our own ownership, do our own things, make our own decisions on key part of our lives, go our own way etc. There has to be that place where we’re acutely aware that we’re offering our life over to go. We have to live daily in that place, and be very careful to do that. The sacrifices that we have in our life are probably the things that cost us. We have to remember, and lay these things on the altar of sacrifice.
We also read:
The people had given sacrificially to God. God’s answer was His presence, which was so awesome that the priest’s couldn’t enter the Temple. There is a parallel for our lives. If we are selfish and hold onto our lives and the things that God wants us to give to Him, it’s very unlikely that we will feel and sense the presence of God in our lives.
There are times where we have made such a sacrifice and offering to God that has been very difficult, but in a very short period of time we have been blessed in abundance by the presence of God. The presence of God was so strong in that Temple that the priests couldn’t even enter it! Have you ever felt that? Have you ever known it for your life? This presence we read of is something other – something which is special. Do we as Christians have this in our hearts? The presence of God so strong that we’re struck by it. Almost as if our lives are defined by it.
The whole nation of Israel had basically come to the dedication of this Temple. Probably hundreds of thousands were gathered there; some who didn’t care, some who were there because thought it was their duty, and others who would have been rich people who had given of their riches to build it and wanted recognition for being ‘good people’. Our churches are full of the same people today. Whatever their motive was, God saw it and cut through it – His presence came down so defining, that their lives were completely and utterly changed because of it. That is what we need to pray for, and is what we need.
Further in 2 Chronicles 7: 11-16 we read that Solomon finished the Temple. He dedicated himself to the practical things that have to be done. He was a practical worker – he organised this and made sure that the Temple of the Lord was a priority in his life. We have to think of these things too. Sometimes it has to be sacrificial. Solomon made sure he finished the Temple of the Lord. He completed everything he planned to do. We must keep that before us; especially at this time of year.
God says “At times I might shut up the heavens”. Earlier in this book, Solomon speaks about this in his prayer. On many occasions the Israelite nation committed sins and would walk away from God. God in one sense would punish them. As He punished them, they came back to Him in droves. Sometimes when we go through a difficult time in our lives, God is using it for us to get on our knees. Very probably we have stopped being on our knees; we’ve taken our lives back into own hands and doing our own things.
We also read “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves”. Humbling ourselves means to stop thinking we’re always right, particularly in the things of God. Sometimes, we need to take stock of what we’re doing and admit to God if we’ve done wrong. Sometimes we have to do this to get back into that place where we should be with God. We stop ourselves in our tracks and admit what we’ve done wrong.
We should pray, and ask for forgiveness, to get close to God. We read: pray and seek my face. They read as two separate things. Praying is asking for forgiveness. Seeking His face is not just going before Him and asking for forgiveness and asking Him to bless you, but it’s actually seeking God to worship Him, adore Him and praise Him. How often do we thank Him, praise Him or simply enjoy His presence? Seek His face.
We read to “turn from their wicked ways”. There is sin in our lives and we commit sin. That’s not what I’m referring to – the sin that sometimes trips us up, or the sin we bring to God and are working on with Him. I’m referring to deliberate sin. We can make a conscious decision to turn away from our wicked ways – resisting the temptation and consciously deciding not to do that thing. And if we make that decision, God will bless us in abundance. Whatever we have in our lives, we have to be deliberate in our actions and decisions, and turn from those wicked ways. God tells us if we do this “I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” The land is our lives and our churches. If we continue to meddle in our sin, if we don’t humble ourselves, and if we don’t pray or seek God’s face, we will not find this blessing.
This Holiness is what we need in our lives and need in our churches.
We need to pray. Our prayers don’t go nowhere – God will answer them. We read so many examples of Christ praying that we can learn so much from (Matthew 26:41, Matthew 26:38, Luke 3: 21, Luke 5: 16, Mark 6:46). Jesus shows us that with big decisions in His life, He prayed. He prayed before He was betrayed. He prayed before He picked the disciples. He prayed for individuals.
Me must pray and continue to pray, because that is where the power of God is.