a house for a name

Day 119

Prayer for the day

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, “Great is the LORD!”

Scripture for the day

1 Kings 8-9, Luke 21:1-19

“They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel.”

The people of Israel were overjoyed with the temple. They saw it as a place of grandeur, but more than that, a place of God. They saw it as the place where they would gather as a corporate entity to connect with God, sacrifice to God, pray to God, see and be with God.

It is entirely understandable that after hearing their king’s prayer, after seeing their king’s accomplishment, they would be excited. They went home joyful, and glad in heart. They went home this way because to them the temple represented the presence of God, the blessings of God, and the love of God.

It is with these things in mind that we read the warning of the Lord, that his Name would reside in the temple UNLESS the people forgot God, turned away from him, and abandoned him. Then, he would destroy the temple. Then they would see the wrath of God and feel the abandonment they deserved.

Jesus says a very similar thing in the book of Luke. He states that the new temple (Herod’s temple) would suffer the same fate as that of Solomon, because of the hard hearts of the people. God’s word comes to pass multiple times because the people refuse to follow. They refuse to understand that God’s care for them as people and God’s exclusive residence with them is tied to their faithfulness. God makes this explicit many times, but they refuse to believe.

And so they witness the temple’s destruction. It is torn from their grasp because of their disobedience.

Save us Lord from our disobedience.

A Fitting Place

Day 118

Prayer for the day

The LORD has made known his victory; his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

Scripture for the day

1 Kings 6-7, Luke 20:27-47

The house that Solomon built for God was a thing to behold. Richly dressed with gold and ornament, the Temple was the centrepiece of Jerusalem. It was set at the pinnacle of the hill around which Jerusalem sat. All homes would have looked up to see the beauty of the work of Solomon and the dwelling place of the Lord.

Interestingly, while the temple only took seven years to complete, Solomon spent twice that amount of time on his own palaces. Grandiose hardly begins to describe the palace of Solomon, the stables and the other buildings. These buildings, in addition to the temple, were to trumpet the wealth, success, and loved-ness of the Israelite people. Solomon’s work boasted of their riches and wisdom. It was a good thing. But it wouldn’t last.

It wouldn’t last because the covenant God made with his people required them to keep his law and his word. God’s requirements of his people were never kept and so the house that was so impressive came crashing down.

Jesus talked about similar benefits of big houses when he spoke to his disciples about the teachers of the law, who love to be adored and honoured because of their position. They built themselves up by thinking of themselves as more than others, by lording their position over others, by insisting that they were worthy of honour. And at the end of the day, their grandeur, like the grandeur of the temple and the palace, would be overturned.

Building ourselves up is like that. We get recognition early. We are sometimes stared at and sometimes admired, sometimes loved and sometimes longed for, until we’re not. Better to build something that lasts.

A Home

Day 117

Prayer for the day

May God give us his blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Scripture for the day

1 Kings 3-5, Luke 20:1-26

The Temple. This iconic symbol stood as a testament to the Israelites of the presence of God, of the wisdom of their king (Solomon), and of their greatness and specialness as a people. The temple of God was to stand as a place where the presence of God would dwell and meet with the people, where they could come and make sacrifice, inquire of their God, dedicate their children, and their entire lives to the God who dwelt there.

The temple was supposed to be the place where humanity and divinity encountered one another, a “thin” place between nature and super-nature. It was not a place where God dwelt exclusively, but a place where people could gather exclusively, a sign, a symbol, a signpost of the presence of God among Israel and in the world.

This sign and symbol stood for years as a picture of the “thin” place, until it was destroyed. When the temple was rebuilt it was to be the same kind of place, a place where people could come to meet God. Yet as we see in the Second Testament, the temple was much more. And much less.

It is in the temple where Jesus is questioned about his authority. The religious leaders, in the place that is said to house the Holy One of Israel, the place worthy of the Name, question the nature of the one who sent Jesus, the one who IS the Name, the Holy One. They stand in the symbol, with the presence standing before them, and they do not recognize him. They show us so clearly what missing the point really looks like.

God preserve us from worshipping the symbol of your presence and missing your presence altogether.

Long Live the King

Day 116

Prayer for the day

Search for the LORD and his strength; continually seek his face.

Scripture for the day

1 Kings 1-2, Luke 19:28-48

David was on his deathbed, and a battled ensued over who would be king after he was gone. It’s not unusual. It’s understandable. The king had many sons, and many of them would likely want power.

The scriptures are very clear that Adonijah decided that he would like to be king and began preparing for it. He was a take-charge fellow, and he had found something he wanted, so he took charge. Adonijah started to rally support, obtain military might, and sought out advisors. He was a self-starter, and entrepreneur, someone who would do well in the world of 21st-century North America.

The other candidate was a young man, Solomon. Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba (you remember Bathsheba), was worried for her life and the life of her son, and so she approached the king, asking for help. David, in his wisdom, announced that Solomon was to be king after him. And so his friends and servants marched into the city with the declaration that Solomon was the new king in Israel. They shouted his worth and declared him to be the new reigning monarch.

A similar crowd in a similar city proclaimed a similar sentiment a thousand years later. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem mirrors Solomon’s in many ways. Solomon was seated on a mule, Jesus on a colt. They were both acclaimed by the crowd. Both were sons of David. Both were to bring peace to their people.

And the cry of kingship still echoes. Solomon’s kingship has long since ended, but Jesus still remains. He is the good king who entered Jerusalem all those years ago and he remains the king who brings peace and glory, the one who comes not only in the name of YHWH, but AS YHWH. This is the long-awaited eternal ruler.

And we, in a response like the crowds, cry his praises.

Solid Investment?

Day 115

Prayer for the day

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 23-24, Luke 19:1-27

The markets are tricky these days. It’s always hard to know what’s going to happen. Will gold go up or down? Bonds? Commodities? Will a simple word or a single note change everything? Will a quick news report send our stocks up or down?

Making a good investment these days isn’t easy.

In our two scripture passages today, we see some investments gone good and some that go the other way.

David makes good investments. He has a small cadre of fighters who serve as his elite echelon. His investment in these men is not simply financial. His investment in these men is something significantly more. He places his life in their hands.

In placing his life with his men, David entrusted them with his most prized possessions, and in so doing, he invested in them in a way that drove them to be the most mighty, the most valiant, the most feared and respected warriors in the land.

Jesus’ story about investment takes a slightly different tack.

Jesus tells the story of a man who invests in three of his servants. He gives them each a certain amount of money. Then he leaves. The true investment in this story is not the cash. The true investment is his trust in his servants to know what he will want and what he will require.

This investment has different returns. To the first servant, he gives ten. He receives twenty. An excellent return.

To the second servant he gives five. He receives five. An excellent return.

To the third, he gives one. He receives one. The safest return. And the one he will not accept. The servants were told to make his investment work for him. And the third servant has failed.

Each of us has received a gift, and investment of the king. What return are we working toward?

The Memory

Day 114

Prayer for the day

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 21-22, Luke 18:24-43

God has a long memory. He evidences his memory in so many ways, in so many scriptures, that it becomes for us inescapable. God remembers his people, the good and the bad. As a Father, as a Friend, as a Lord, God remembers.

In the First Testament story, though David is now king, Saul is dead, and the land is at peace, God remembers the evil of Saul. God remembers what has happened to people because of Saul’s sin and his family. God remembers and judges the land and the people for the sin of Saul, who, as king, represents the people of Israel to God.

God remembers what Saul did, what Saul’s children did, and he sends famine on the land as a result. It is not until restitution is made for the evil Saul’s family did that God relents. He does not forget the sins of Saul’s family. Instead, he forgives the land. His word is that restitution has been made, and his memory, though it does not fade, is satisfied.

Jesus speaks of a similar kind of memory in the Second Testament. Here, however, instead of God’s memory being long for evil, God’s memory is long for good. God remembers what the people who follow Christ have given up. God remembers their sacrifice, and Jesus says they will be rewarded in good measure.

The God of Israel remembers all, and as he remembers all, he acts as he will. The response that is appropriate, the response that is called for in both situations, is that we be redeemed. In the good, we thank God for allowing us to follow. In the bad, we repent and make restitution. In both scenarios, we remember that God remembers. We remember that God is good, that God is just, that God is love. And we respond. We respond in love and thanks and justice and goodness.

Humble Reminder

Day 113

Prayer for the day

Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people, and visit me with your saving help.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 19-20, Luke 18:1-23

As David is returning “victorious” from his fight against his son, Absalom, he meets a group of diverse people along the way.

The people David meets are people with whom he has had contact in the past. Some were with him when he left the city in the first place, some stayed back in Jerusalem, and some hurled insults at him from the side of the road. Now that he is returning, each comes out with his own particular method of receiving the king’s favour.

Each, though, comes understanding that his life is in the king’s hands. The ones who have done well do not come expecting reward, but humbly, knowing that they may not be well received by the king because of perceived disloyalty. The ones who insulted him come in humility, believing that the king may have mercy, but not expecting it.

And David metes out his justice and mercy. Many receive what they do not deserve, some what they do.

Jesus talks about people who approach humbly for remembrance, people who aren’t expecting grace or mercy and people who haughtily are expecting them, and the significant difference.

He tells the story of two men who approach God. One of the men lifts his hands and thanks God that he isn’t like other men. He thanks God for his specialness, for the way he was apparently created so much better. The other approaches God in humility, knowing his sinful, evil self, and wanting nothing but to pour out his heart to God in hopes that God may hear him and release him from his anguish.

One gets what he deserves, and the other does not.

Which will we be?

O Be Careful Little Ears…

Day 112

Prayer for the day

Praise Him from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below; praise Him you heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 16-18, Luke 17:20-37

It’s always a good idea to be careful who you listen to. We see it in political debate, we see it in religious institutions, we see it in all areas of our lives. We teach our children how important it is to be careful about who we listen to, who we take advice from, and what we do with that advice.

In our First Testament story today, David’s son Absalom was deceived, told what he wanted to hear , and this led him on the path to his death. He listened to David’s advisor, which most would agree was a terrible idea, but Absalom’s vanity allowed him to be fooled into thinking that Hushai was on his side, and was looking out for his best interests. He ignored the advice of Ahithophel, who was well-known to give sound counsel, because it was less flattering and less glamourous. Absalom wanted to decimate David, and because of his poor judgment in listening, he met his own defeat instead.

In the Second Testament, Jesus warns that when the end comes (and people dispute which end he speaks of…I don’t think it matters…it’s one of the ends!), there will be those who speak lies, claiming them to be truth. These ones will claim that Jesus has come back, point to him, stir up chaos, rumours, and whip the crowd into a frenzy. Jesus cautions his disciples to be on their guard for these, because they will lead many astray.

Isn’t that just the way we’ve seen it happen? Haven’t we seen preachers and leaders calling the faithful to sell everything and prepare for the return of Christ, claiming that they’d figured out the day and the time and the place? Haven’t we seen people flock to these falso prophets, having heard what they longed to hear? Haven’t we seen people disregard the very clear speech of Jesus to believe a lie?

Haven’t we been tempted to do the same thing ourselves, time and again? Aren’t we tempted to listen to the easy voices, the smooth voices, telling us life won’t be hard, Jesus will make us rich, give us all the success we desire?

Stand firm, therefore.

Strangers

Day 111

Prayer for the day

For the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 14-15, Luke 17:1-19

It’s easy to get caught in the web of self-importance that so quickly entangles. We see it in all sorts of different forms of faith (and politics, economics, etc). We become so self-concerned, so self-important, that we too easily forget that we as humans have very little to differentiate us. We are the same, essentially, and have the same standing.

We see xenophobia all over the place in our culture. Call it racism, profiling, selective hiring processes, or national protectionism. What happens is the regular dehumanization of people who differ from us only in their place and ethnicity of origin. We shouldn’t minimize difference or pretend that it doesn’t exist. What we need to avoid is the fear and hatred that springs from an improper emphasis on the difference and value judgments associated with that emphasis.

In the First Testament story today, David encounters a man named Ittai the Gittite, who is fleeing the city with David while his son Absalom is making his way to Jerusalem. David urges Ittai to go back to the city but Ittai makes a strange statement: “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.” We see extraordinary loyalty in one who has barely known the king.

In the Second Testament story, Jesus heals ten men of their skin disease (leprosy or something like it). Only one returns to give thanks, and this one is an outsider, despised by the people to whom Jesus belongs. The one who returns should be the one who has no time for the Jewish folk, yet he comes back to say thank you to the God who healed him.

In both of these stories, we see the work of God and the character of God evidenced by people who don’t have any right (naturally) to be evidencing these things. They’re amazing pictures of the God who works in His own people and those “outside” the fold. We would be wise to take note that God does not ONLY work in our circles.

What People Value…

Day 110

Prayer for the day

Our help is in the Name of the Lord; the maker of heaven and earth.

Scripture for the day

2 Samuel 12-13, Luke 16

It’s easy enough these days to see what people value. Sure, many value family relationships. Many value friends. Many value love. But most of us, if we’re honest, value a whole lot of things that have NO place in our values. We value success, we value money, we value showing off our success and our money, we value living vicariously through our children, we value making other people suffer so that we might be exalted.

In the First Testament story of the sons of David, Amnon seems to value only one thing: his own personal pleasure. He rejects the value of family, the value of morality, the value of decency, and instead, gives into his primary value: his own personal pleasure. This value gets Amnon killed. He rapes his sister and enjoys himself. He then comes to understand the lack of value that his value truly embodies. He values personal pleasure, but finally understands that his personal pleasure will not bring him happiness. He finally understands that his personal pleasure will never be satisfied, and never met. He comes not only to regret his action, which would have been appropriate, but instead, to hate his sister with a vehemence that outstrips his love for her.

In the Second Testament, Jesus runs through a number of stories and teachings to teach the Pharisees about the dangers of setting up improper value systems. He warns of valuing money, of valuing status, of valuing ourselves too highly. Jesus is very clear in his teachings: we need to understand our priorities and have them properly ordered by Jesus in order to be the followers we desire to be. Nothing else can be a proper primary value. All need to be subverted by and submitted to the lordship of Jesus and following him. All else is window dressing at best and idolatry at worst.

Let us value Christ, and him crucified.