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The Only

Click here to read 2 Chronicles 32 on BibleGateway.com

“They spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples” – 2 Chronicles 32:19

First off, little disclaimer for today:  this is more of a “what if” question than a hardline stance.  So, consider the idea like a burger from a new restaurant, and if you don’t like it, feel free to spit it out like a sandwich from Arby’s.  So off we go.

In 2 chronicles 32, the Assyrian army, presenting such fun activities as piling enemies heads outside city gates and dragging people around by fishooks in their mouths,  is on its way to Jerusalem.  Hezekiah, the king of Judah, is trying to rally his citizens in face of the well-known cruelty of the Assyrians, and he tells his people “do not be afraid…there is a greater power with us than with them.”

The Assyrians on the other hand, send PR announcements to the people, telling them to just give up and surrender, and to save themselves from the horror of a siege and the eventual sacking of the city.  Kind of like “if you just let us in, we promise to take it easy on you, but if you resist we’ll make you pay for wasting our time.”  After all, did any of the other cities Assyria attacked manage to do any better?

WHERE DO YOU BEGIN?

And now here’s the key:  Hezekiah reminds the people of Jerusalem that God is there as well – a power greater than anything any army anywhere can muster.  The Assyrians group Yahweh in with all the other gods they have faced; he’s nothing compared to their military might.  In other words, “they spoke about the God of Jerusalem as they did about the gods of the other peoples.”  Obviously in the case of Hezekiah, God did a miracle and the Israelites were supernaturally saved.

But (and this is the part to mull over today) do we do the same thing today?  Do we treat God the same as “the other gods”?  When we share about God’s love, do we speak of the same love in the way as other religions?  Do we start to compare “our” god’s attributes with theirs?  Do we want to evaluate their sacred texts and the Bible?

CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED

I wonder today if this is maybe a mistake.  The Assyrians came in, and compared their gods and the gods of their other enemies with the one True God.  Maybe this is a conversation the people of Israel shouldn’t be having.  Maybe they shouldn’t even consider the option of other gods, because there is no other option.  Only one God exists.  Only one God is the source of all existence.  Why meet someone on “equal” terms? Do we consider all options when someone says 2+2=5?

For us, maybe our apologetics are focused too much on defending God, and not enough on trusting God and His power and His truth.  Maybe we’re allowing ourselves to treat God like we would any other god. Maybe we’re getting too distracted by trying to be fair or show how balanced we are.

Remember this, my friends.  Our interpretation of God is not simply “our way” of getting to know the divine.  It is not our cultural way of viewing God.  It is not our unique path to God among many other paths.  God is not merely another god among many.  He’s not even the best God among many.  He is the Only.  He is the Beginning and the End.  There is no rival, there is no comparison, there is no debate, there is no decision, there is no evaluating.  It is not a matter of if God is more powerful than other gods or more righteous or more loving or more just.

He Is God.

And there is no other.

Can we build it? Yes we can. But Why?

Click here to read I Kings 6 on BibleGateway.com

I’ll be the first to admit that construction in any form is not my forte.  Most of my projects end up looking they were completed by a blind gibbon who used his favorite pages from four different sets of instructions rather than rely on the “suggested” directions of any one project.

So it probably comes as no surprise that sometimes when the Bible starts to talk about the specifics of constructing the tabernacle, or temple, or the exact dimensions of the gates of Jerusalem, my mind tends to wander a little.  However, if you are like me and prefer all your construction to be of the lego variety, all hope is not lost.  These chapters actually have some interesting points to make; we just have to look at them little harder.

SHHH…

So, in I Kings 6, we get some of the details of the construction of Solomon’s temple.  Notice first of all that it says in verse 7 that none of the shaping of stone was done at the building site itself.  All the stones were cut and dressed at the quarry, so that when they were actually brought to the building site, there was no sound of chipping the stone, or any of the mess.  There are obviously a lot of different proposed reasons for that, but it’s possible that this was done so that there was nothing to distract people from the worship of God.

Also, if you read the dimensions of the rooms in verse 6, you will notice that each floor is slightly larger than the one below it.  Again, there are some various guesses as to why, but most scholars believe this is so that the beams for each floor would not have to be cut into the wall.  They just rested on the ceiling of the floor below them, so there would again not be any noise of drilling, or damage done to the temple wall.

If we look at these two sections (and others) we can see that there was a sense of making the temple special not only in its use, but also its construction.  From Day One, people wanted to ensure that the worship of God was separate from every day living.  Special care was taken in every aspect of worship, so that they would never take it for granted. This is the same argument for the construction of beautiful cathedrals in the Middle Ages, or for caring for churches today.

NOT ONE STONE

Of course, being people that we are, we get things turned around.  The Israelites began to care more about the Temple itself than the God it was built for; they made elaborate rituals and rules that God never intended, and they began to trust that the Temple itself protected them.  It took the destruction of that Temple (multiple times) to remind them that it is God who is the focus, not the building.

Today, we sometimes forget that church buildings are simply the mechanism to worship God, not worship itself.  Or that our preferred style of music is essential to worship.  Or that a well-manicured lawn or matching carpet is necessary to enter into God’s presence.  These things are all fine if they are done to glorify God, but not if they are done to satisfy our sense of fashion or to impress others. We need to be careful that we don’t forget God and his people are the real focus, not building and protecting the tools we use to accomplish that mission.

If not one stone was left of your church building, would it impact your worship?

When the Crowds Come

Click here to read Deuteronomy 28 on BibleGateway.com
Click here to read Isaiah 55 on BibleGateway.com

“nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” – Isaiah 55;5

Here at EverydayDevotions, we use the McCheyne Bible Reading plan, which suggests reading four chapters a day from different sections of the Bible.  One of the advantages to reading in this manner is that sometimes the passages work together in ways you might not notice if you read straight through the Word.  It’s kind of like when you mix a bunch of sauces at the Mongolian grill – you know they’re awesome individually, but together they can create something truly epilicious.

Take today, for example.  In Isaiah 55, God is talking about bringing all the nations to Israel as a blessing to Israel.  Basically, if they are faithful to God, they will be so blessed all the nations of the world will want to come there and see what’s what.  But in Deuteronomy 28, God says again he will bring all the nations to Israel, but in this case it’s a judgment to Israel.  The nations are coming to see how low Israel has fallen, and to take all the blessings of the land for themselves. The nations will come – either to share in the blessing, or to plunder the remains.

THE ARRIVALS

The same principle is true for our churches today – people will come, one way or another.  The reason they come is what’s up for grabs.  Do people get excited to meet Christians because they want to know more of Jesus, or because they want to see them fail?  Do they come to church to have changed hearts, or because they need more material for complaining on Facebook?  Our churches can be oases of glory, or they can be mausoleums ripe for scavenging.

Of course, there’s always going to be some of each; even Jesus had his Judas.  But God describes in our readings today that he will send the nations to Israel either way – they can either be an example of God’s blessing, or a warning of God’s judgment.  For us, people can come to experience God, or they can come to mock.  They are either drawn closer to God because of what we do, or they are driven from Him.

THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERNCE

What makes the difference?  In a word – Christ. If Jesus is lifted up, if we are dedicated to knowing Him and following His commands,  then everything else will be blessed as well.  If not, then those momentous edifices will be turned into museums or art galleries or businesses.  It sounds simple, yet it’s amazing how often we get distracted from Jesus by emphasizing outreaches, apologetics, compassion ministries, politics, and many other good-yet-not-Jesus-pursuits.

It’s so easy to get distracted with building a nice framework to do our ministry in, we forget that Jesus himself did not have a place to lay his head.  It’s not about the structure (by which I mean programs and policies as well as physical structure), but it’s about serving Christ in a personal, intimate relationship.  That’s when the nations will come for the right reasons. Our first goal must always be to know Christ, and Him crucified.  Otherwise, we become just another social club following our own wisdom, and that can never last.

They will come – why they come is up to you.