2 Chronicles 31, Zechariah 13:2-9

Read 2 Chronicles 31 and Zechariah 13:2-9,

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 31.

Hezekiah restored the temple and the priesthood (chapter 29) led Judah to observe the Passover again after generations of ignoring it (chapter 30), and called his people to return to serving and worshipping the Lord from the heart (also chapter 30). God worked through his leadership and the people responded favorably to the Lord. The word “revival” is used whenever a large number of people turn or return to the Lord. Here in 2 Chronicles 31, we see the results of genuine revival from the heart.

The first result is the removal of idols. Idolatry was a constant struggle within Israel and Judah and even when godly kings ruled, it was still practiced in secret. After God revived the hearts of his people under Hezekiah, they voluntarily destroyed their own idols as a result (v. 1). This demonstrated true repentance–a true turning from sin to serve the Lord alone. That’s what happens in our lives, too, when God works to revive and strengthen our commitment to him.

Another result of revival is giving to the Lord’s work from the heart (vv. 2-19). The Levites and priests had abandoned their ministries, as we saw in chapter 29. This was partially due to their own disobedience and partially due to the lack of funding they were receiving from God’s people. After God worked through Hezekiah to revive the hearts of people, the people gave so generously to the Lord’s work that the priests and Levites had more than enough for themselves (vv. 9-10). How did this happen? People started tithing faithfully (vv. 5-6). When people were faithful in tithing, there was more than enough to provide for God’s work and God’s servants. In fact, there was so much more than what was needed that the priests just starting piling it up (vv. 7-8) and built storerooms to warehouse it all (vv. 11-13). In addition to providing for the priests, were two additional results to this faithful tithing. First, there was heartfelt praise and thanks to the Lord for his provision (v. 8). Second, there was adequate provision for more men to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord (vv. 16-19).

This is what happens when God works in a group of people. People stop loving and start hating and repudiating their idols and they start giving faithfully to God’s work. As God’s work is better funded, his servants are able to do more for him and a virtuous cycle begins.

What is the state of your heart before the Lord? Are you praying for God to revive the hearts of people in our church and our community? Are you tithing and giving generously to the Lord’s work through our church?

2 Chronicles 19-20, Zechariah 4

Read 2 Chronicles 19-20 and Zechariah 4.

This devotional is about Zechariah 4.

God was moving his people back to Jerusalem in the days of Zechariah. A man named Zerubbabel was the leader in charge of rebuilding God’s temple (v. 9). In this chapter, the Lord sent some encouragement to him.

The people who returned to Jerusalem were poor. They had an immense amount of work to do rebuilding the city and the temple; but the resources they had to do that work were miniscule.

A massive job to do and few resources to use can easily result in discouragement. God sent Zechariah to Zerubbabel to remind him that he had the ultimate resource in God. How would he be able to rebuild that temple? “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (v. 6). The natural, financial, and human resources at Zerubbabel’s disposal were few but only resource he needed was spiritual, the power of almighty God.

As a result, neither Zerubbabel nor God’s people should give up or be discouraged by meager beginnings. As verse 10 says, “Who dares despise the day of small things….” Everything that exists once started as something small and modest. Every large church, for example, was once a small church; indeed, it was once merely the idea and desire of a small group of people. If God is in the project, it will not be stopped; if he is not in it, it will not ultimately succeed.

Are you ever tempted to look at your ministry or your life or something else that belongs to God and think, “This is never going to amount to anything!” Verse 10 is for you: “Who dares despise the day of small things…?” Trust God that the desire to serve him matters. Your resources may be few and the beginning may be humble, but God is more than powerful enough to make something great.

1 Chronicles 28, Micah 5

Read 1 Chronicles 28 and Micah 5.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 28:9: “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.”

Solomon left behind a kingdom that was incredibly wealthy, a city with impressive architecture, a government that was well-organized and well-run, and a library of wisdom literature that he personally authored. These are impressive accomplishments for anyone. If you consider the time in which Solomon lived, they are even more impressive.

That’s how Solomon’s public life ended but this chapter tells us how his public life began. David, his father, had already publicly enthroned Solomon as his successor; in this chapter, David publicly charged Solomon to build the Lord a temple (vv. 2–6).

But David wasn’t content to see that Solomon constructed a great edifice; he wanted his son also to walk with God. Embedded in the charge of this chapter was a charge from David to Solomon to walk with God (vv. 8-9). Part of that charge to walk with God was to do so “with a willing mind” (v. 9b). The word translated “mind” here is a word that describes someone’s “spirit,” his inner person. David’s command to Solomon, then, is not just to do the Lord’s work but to put his heart and soul into it.

And God would know whether or not Solomon directed the building of the temple this way because, as verse 9c says, “…the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.” This was a huge project; would it be done as an act of love for God or just to get it done as quickly as possible so that Solomon could move on to other things? God knows the difference even if nobody else can tell.

Think about your ministry for God–greeting people on Sunday morning, making coffee or serving donuts, preparing your AWANA challenge for Wednesday night’s counsel time, practicing your instrument for worship team, advancing the slides during the worship service, editing the video livestream, or any number of other ministries that you do for the Lord. Are you doing them with a “willing mind/spirit” or just half-heartedly doing what you have to because you were asked or volunteered out of guilt?

God knows when our ministry is wholehearted, halfhearted, or nohearted,. He will reward us accordingly in the last day. In my experience, the key to doing wholehearted ministry is to remember that you’re doing it for God not for recognition or because “somebody’s got to!” Let’s remind ourselves what God has done for us and that it is a privilege to serve him by serving his people. That will give us a willing mind as we going about serving Christ.

1 Chronicles 24-25, Micah 3

Read 1 Chronicles 24-25 and Micah 3.

This devotional is about Micah 3.

How do those who set dates for Christ’s return keep going in ministry after they are proved wrong? How do the prosperity preachers respond when someone says, “I sent you every dollar I had in my bank account but I never got the financial miracle you promised me!”

I don’t know how anyone who delivers a false message remains in ministry after the message proves to be false. Some of them are able to withstand being discredited and continue in their “ministries.” They shift the blame to others saying, “You didn’t have enough faith” or, in the case of false rapture predictions, “I made a mistake in my calculations.” Although they may continue in ministry for a season or longer, their audiences dissipate and their influence dwindles. This is as it should be, of course.

In this chapter Micah continued speaking on the same themes as in chapter 2. He confronted the oppression of the elites (vv. 1-4, 9-12) and the false prophets who tried to neutralize his message (vv. 5-8). His message to the false prophets was that they would run out of material: “Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them.”

This prediction wasn’t so much that they would lack things to say; rather, it was that reality would make it impossible for them to keep up the false hype. Verse 7 says, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God.” The context for this is the coming judgment of God (v. 12). When you’ve been prophesying peace and prosperity, what are you going to say when Nebuchadnezzar sieges your city and people are starving? When you cry out to God to deliver his people from the Babylonians, but the Babylonians invade your city, kill a multitude of men, then ship the rest off to Babylon, what is your answer going to be?

Micah was confident in the Lord that God would continue to empower his message (v. 8) and that he would be vindicated when his predictions came true. Likewise, he knew that God would not allow false teachers to get away with preaching their prosperity gospel. It was only a matter of time before truth was established as fact and lies were debunked by reality.

The Bible always tells us that false prophets will be discredited by their results. Their predictions will not come true and/or their lives and the lives of their disciples will disintegrate into moral disaster. Keep your eyes, then, on the results of a religious teacher’s message; don’t be fooled by how positive and encouraging it is.

Are you looking for truth from someone who has already been discredited? If so, then these words to heart. It is safe–and right–to ignore what someone says if the results they predict don’t materialize.

1 Chronicles 9-10, Amos 6

Read 1 Chronicles 9-10, Amos 6.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 9, believe it or not.

  •  I did not go into the ministry so that I could decide what color to paint the walls in the hallway of the church building.
  • I did not go to seminary to learn what a 501(c)3 corporation is and what the government requires of it.
  • I did not accept the position of Senior Pastor to spend my life pouring over budgets and financial reports.
  • I do not study the Bible to try to get people to give more money to the church, spend more time serving in the body, or just show up regularly and on time for the worship service on Sunday.
  • I don’t get paid to order guitar strings or bulbs for the projector or copier paper.

I went into ministry to serve the Lord. I did it to study and teach God’s word. I serve the Lord to equip God’s people to reach out to others with the gospel.

But…

…all the stuff on that list above–and more–is necessary. It is mundane and, in the light of eternity, doesn’t seem to matter. But it does matter because it enables us to serve the Lord, to minister to people, and everything else that goes along with being the Lord’s church in this age.

Our last few days reading 1 Chronicles have taken us through this lengthy genealogy. Maybe you’ve skipped reading these chapters. I don’t blame you, but they are worth reading because they matter. Here in chapter 9, we read about the names of the first men who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity ended (vv. 2ff). Many of these people were “priests, Levites and temple servants” according to verse 2. These people were listed by name in verses 10-21.

We understand from reading the Old Testament what priests do: They offer sacrifices and teach God’s people the Law (v. 13).

The Levites were an entire tribe of descendants of Levi. God had set apart for his ministry. Some of them were priests. All priests were Levites but not all Levites were priests. In fact, most Levites were not priests but served in more mundane ways. This chapter lists them by name (vv. 14-21) and gives us some insight into their duties:

  • Verses 22-27 tell us that some of them were guards. God’s temple had its own private security. These men were there to keep the temple from being robbed (vv. 26-27).
  • Verse 28 tells us that some of these men were accountants. Well, sort of; accountants count things and these men counted the equipment used in the Lord’s service. Their work made sure nothing got stolen. That is, in part, what modern accountants do, too.
  • Verse 29 tells us that some of these men were a bit like janitors. They made sure the things needed for the Lord’s service were in good working condition and that the temple had all the supplies it needed for the ministry.
  • Verse 30-32 tells us that some of them were like cooks. They “took care of mixing the spices” in verse 30 while others baked the bread that was used in the temple according to verses 31-32.
  • Verse 33 tells us that there were musicians. They got free apartments in the temple and were not required to do other things besides play and sing with great skills.

So here we have, recorded in the pages of holy writ, the names of men who serve the Lord in more “basic” ways than we usually think about. They didn’t write like Isaiah, preach like Elijah, or inquire of the Lord like Abiathar. But their work was important because it made the temple a safe place to come and worship as well as one that had everything the worshippers needed at all times.

In our church we have people who count the money that is collected in the offerings on Sunday. They work in teams and make sure that every penny is counted and accounted for with absolute integrity. We have others who account for the finances of the church and prepare financial statements. Some of you come in and clean the church on Saturday night. Some prepare the elements for communion on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. Some clean the baptistry and changing rooms before we baptize. Some get up early to buy donuts and make coffee. Some come in the evening or on Saturday to repair chairs, replace burned out bulbs or broken light fixtures. All of this stuff needs to be done and you do it faithfully; so faithfully, in fact, that nobody thinks about it because it is always just ready.

At times these tasks may seem tedious. They might get old and you may wish you could spend that time doing something more fun. In those moments, remember 1 Chronicles 9. God knows the names of everyone who serves him. He sees your work that is done for his glory. He will reward you for loving him and his body in these often overlooked ways.

If you’re not serving the Lord in any capacity, why not? There is something that everyone can do. God sees and rewards even the most basic acts of service that are done in his name.

Deuteronomy 31, Isaiah 58

Read Deuteronomy 31 and Isaiah 58.

This devotional is about Isaiah 58.

There is a place for symbolism and ceremony when it comes to following the Lord. In the Deuteronomy 31 chapter that we also read today, God commissioned Joshua (vv. 14-15), a symbolic act where the Lord officially recognized Joshua as Israel’s leader. So, symbolism sometimes is useful.

Here in Isaiah 58, however, God confronted the mere symbolism of fasting. In verse 2 he said, “day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways….” Fasting was the symbol they chose to signal their sincerity and desire to know the Lord. But they were unhappy that their humility in fasting did not give them the answers to prayer they had been seeking (vv. 2b-3d). In response, the Lord called attention to the ways in which they were living disobediently to him while they attempted to show their devotion through fasting.

Fasting was regarded as a way to express humility (v. 3c, 5b). Humility is about unselfishness; it is about acknowledging that God is the Creator and Lord and we belong to and serve him. But the Lord was unimpressed by the pretense of humility symbolized by fasting. Instead, he wanted to see some actual humility, some real unselfishness, expressed in giving your workers some time off to rest (v. 3f), not bickering and arguing with others (v. 4a) or using violence to get your way (v. 4b). If you make your workers work while you take time off, argue with people to get your way, and even beat someone else while you are fasting, you’re not humble or unselfish; just the opposite.

God wanted his people to skip the fasting and be generous in sharing food with the hungry, shelter with homeless, and clothing with those who need it. In these ways you aren’t symbolically depriving yourself but rather depriving yourself in the sense that you give up some of your food, some of your space at home, and some of your clothes to someone who needs them. Generosity for those in need, then, is a greater expression of faith and devotion to God than a religious symbol like fasting.

How does this apply to us today? We don’t have many symbolic or ceremonial practices in our faith because Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law for us. But we do sometimes measure our spiritual life by how faithfully we practice things like church attendance, serving in the ministry, or reading the Word. When done from the heart, these change us to live more in line with the image of Christ but they can also be done to reassure us of our spirituality or to signal to other believers how devoted to God we are. We can have perfect Sunday attendance but still be mean and quarrelsome and cranky. We can read the word everyday and not miss one verse in this devotional plan but still selfishly take advantage of others.

We don’t feed the poor or shelter the homeless to earn favor with God. We also don’t read the Word or pray to gain his favor either. All of these things are expressions of a heart that loves God. Verses 13-14a spelled this out in connection to observing the Sabbath: “if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord….”

So, do you enjoy reading the Word, praying, serving, and worshipping on Sunday because you want to connect with God? Do you show love and generosity toward others because you are grateful for God’s love and desire to share it with others? This is the kind of worship God wants. It is worship that does what he commands but does it from the heart, not to impress God with our consistency.

So, how can you show genuine generosity to someone today?

Exodus 31, Proverbs 7, Psalm 79

Today’s readings are Exodus 31, Proverbs 7, and Psalm 79.

This devotional is about Exodus 31.

At times in my life I have heard people make negative comparisons between “secular” work and the work of the ministry. For example, one successful businessman said he’s just “building a bonfire” because 1 Corinthians 3 talks about a man’s work being either “gold, silver, and precious stones or wood, hay, and precious stones.” I don’t think he was interpreting that passage correctly but his interpretation was that saving souls, teaching the Word, and building up Christians was work that would last for eternity while everything else would just burn up.

The previous chapters in Exodus described the tabernacle and all the furniture and tools that the priests would need to minister before the Lord. Here in Exodus 31:1-5 we read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” This man Bezalel was a godly man; he was filled with God’s spirit, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. But he had other gifts, too, ones that are not usually connected to godliness. Those gifts were “skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” Where did he get these skills? They were gifts of God which probably means that he had some natural ability in these areas. Where were these gifts honed? Making bricks and tools and other stuff as a slave in Egypt. For the first time in his life, this godly man had the opportunity to use his “secular” gifts for the Lord’s work. But was this the first time in his life when his work mattered?

No.

Read that again: No.

This was not the first time in his life that his work mattered. The rest of his work life was not “building a bonfire” at all. The same is true for you, no matter how you earn your living. The work you do as a Christian matters whether or not it is done in secular or sacred contexts. Here are some reasons why:

  1. God created us to work and to make skillful and practical use of this earth an the resources in it. In Genesis 1:28 God commanded Adam and Eve to “…fill the earth and subdue it.” In Genesis 2, before Eve was even created, verse 15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Working the garden and taking care of it was God’s will for Adam. The curse on Adam when he sinned was not that he would have to work but that his work would be hard (Gen 3:17-19). When you do work that makes good use of God’s creation, you are doing the will of God. That work matters.
  2. Doing “secular” work develops skills that can be used in “sacred” contexts. That’s what’s happened to Bezalel. If you’ve ever used anything you’ve learned in your profession to help our church or some other ministry, you’ve been used by God to serve him. That work matters.
  3. Doing “secular” work gives you the opportunity to develop godliness in your life. Working in a frustrating world (because of the curse of Gen 3) and with frustrating people gives a believer the opportunity to develop the fruit of the Spirit. It can teach you to love the unlovely, have joy when things fail or disappoint you, be at peace when there is turmoil around you and so on. Note that in our text, Exodus 31:3, God described Bezalel as a godly man. He was “filled with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge.” That godliness was cultivated as a slave in Egypt, using his skills to serve godless men. It was hardly a waste of time, then, given the difference it made in his life.
  4. Doing “secular” work pays you which supports your family and, through giving, it supports God’s work financially.

I put the word “secular” in quotes throughout this devotional for a reason. I don’t really think there is a true distinction between “secular” and “sacred” work. Please do not consider your work futile and unimportant. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home parent, a CEO, an assembly line worker, a brain scientist, or a pastor. What matters is that you are faithful to do what God calls you to do and to cultivate Christlikeness as you do it.