Listening to God (Saturday)—II Chronicles 7:11-22

            Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s palace, and successfully completed all that he had planned on doing in the house of the Lord and in his palace.

            Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.’ “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 

            As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’”  2 Chronicles &;11-22

After seeing the ifs and the thens in our passage (which the disciples were no doubt familiar with), I am not surprised by their questions (from John 9:2) to Jesus when they saw:

 …a man blind from birth. They asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

In light of the their if and then old covenant conditioning, their question seems reasonable. But:

 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The God revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament was the same God of the New Testament. However, in the Old, for reasons of his own choosing, God did not show his full hand. So, what cards were face up? What were the assumptions operating in the mind of the ancient Jew? Well…God showed up infrequently; He seemed to have favorites; He made conditional promises; His standards were very high; He had a temper; and it took a lot of blood to appease him. And, one thing for sure, if they were unfaithful then…

 I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

Yet, this same God shows up on earth in the most humble and vulnerable way, inviting children to come sit upon his lap, working to undo any misconceptions his chosen people might have had about him. By just being himself, he communicates who I AM actually was and is and always will be. And perhaps, the hardest thing for the Jews to grasp was that God did not show up in anger to exact justice for their failure to comply with the if aspect of their covenant. Yet, what is the story of the chosen people?

 As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’ 1 Kings 9:9 NAS

When I read the ifs and thens of the OT, I am increasingly grateful of the new covenant we enjoy.

 …..if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.

Jesus, the Lord, was God’s ace-in-the-hole. With Christ, all God’s cards were on the table. And with Jesus, the surprise and the mystery just get deeper. While…

 The Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place (a temple made of wood and stone) for Myself as a house of sacrifice… 

But to us Jesus says, “It is expedient that I go away so that the Helper will come.” And, instead of electing to dwell in a man-made structure, God elects to dwell (as the Holy Spirit) in man himself. Paul’s ministry was in large part an attempt to convey that those who believe become the temples of God, that it was now Christ in us— animating our lives from within rather than God dwelling in some inanimate structure—would be the hope of glory.

So instead of our story being one of desolation, it is turning out as God intended it: as for his house (My Church and My Bride), she will be exalted. Everyone who passes by her will one day be astonished and say, “How has the Lord done this?”  And they will say, “Because they believed in Jesus Christ, who bought them out of bondage, he has adopted them and has poured out all this favor upon them.” Because of God, being who He is in us, we will work the works of Him who sent us as long as it is day; while He is in the world, we are the Light of the world. (from John 4:9 & 8:12)

God is so good it astonishes me. I am writing from the Character Inn in OKC, a facility owned by the Gothard Institute. Unfortunately Bill Gothard’s story is currently not playing out well. I wonder if Mr. Gothard, who had a big influence on my life 35 years ago, drifted back into an if-then paradigm where mystery is lean and grace is (consequently) in shorter supply.

I have found my secluded hiding place in the lobby where I am doing my RWP (reading-writing-praying) thing—but my spot is next to a piano. A young man has sat down and is playing a tune that is hauntingly beautiful, strange and yet familiar to my ear. It turns out it was his own composition; a combination of “The Fellowship Theme” (form The Lord of the Rings) and This Is My Father’s World, which is my favorite hymn. This is what my listening ear is hearing and my heart is resting in;

Children, since you are a co-heirs with Jesus, this is now our world. If you will listen, you will not only hear my assurance of your eternal life, you will be eternal life. You will hear nature and everything around you declare wonders and mystery. When injustice seems so overwhelming, do not let your heart be sad. Since I am King in-residence, let your heart be glad and let your voice, along with creation, declare the good news of my kingdom. (Note: This is not scripture. Its scripture that has passed through my ears and my heart.)

Father, thank you that you have chosen us and equipped us to complete all that you have planned. Thank you that you have become our sacrifice and that we have become your house. Thank you that our ongoing story is the establishing of your royal throne in our hearts. Thank you that you are perpetually attentive to our prayers because in you every if of the old covenant has been fulfilled. Now, Father, let us complete the then of loving you with all that we are. As we show up, just being ourselves, help us to be a refuge of safety for the downtrodden. From your own Life within, may your works be displayed in us, further undoing remaining misconceptions of who you really are.

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

 

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

 

This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their maker’s praise.

 

This is my Father’s world,

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.

 

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

 

This is my Father’s world:

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

 

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