Lessons from Mount Moriah

Today’s reading: II Chronicles 1-3; John 12:1-19

Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.                                                   II Chronicles 3:1

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.                                        John 12:17-18

Mount Moriah is significant in biblical history. We hear about it first when Abraham went to that location to offer his son, Isaac, in response to God’s command (Genesis 22:2). A thousand years later, David buys property from a Jebusite named Araunah or Ornan (his name is recorded both ways) in order to make an offering there to avert the plague, he had brought upon the nation by taking a census. In today’s reading, we learn that the location of that property is none other than Mt. Moriah.  It becomes the location of the temple which Solomon built.

Long before Jesus’ time, the first temple (Solomon’s) had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian invasion and rebuilt. The second temple is the one which is mentioned in the gospels and which Jesus cleansed (John 2:13-17), but it was in the same location, Mt. Moriah. That temple was also destroyed by the Roman general Titus in 70 AD.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He rode into Jerusalem and was proclaimed King of Israel by the crowds. John points out that it was because of the resurrection of Lazarus that the crowds came to see and hail Jesus.  All this is occurring in the vicinity of Mt. Moriah and the second temple, soon to be destroyed.

Mt. Moriah had significance because the events that occurred there showed the need for an offering for sin to satisfy the just wrath of God. Abraham learned that God would provide His own sacrifice for sin. David learned that the punishment for his sin demanded an offering. Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate offering. He referred to it when He cleansed the temple of money changers and sellers of sheep, oxen, and pigeons. “Destroy this temple,” He told the Jews, “and in three days, I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). He was, of course, referring to His body, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. (John 2:18-22)

Don’t miss the importance of the lessons taught on Mt. Moriah.

Mercy Trumps Judgment

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 28-29; John 11:47-57

9 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.                                                                                    I Chronicles 28:9

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.                                                                            John 11:49-52

To know God is the supreme privilege and responsibility of mankind, full of promised blessings and grave warnings, but, in the end, the blessings purchased by Christ’s death are even greater than the warnings.

David, in turning over the kingdom to his son, Solomon, charged him to know and serve God. This was not merely good advice but an urgent mandate. Solomon would rule over God’s people, but they were God’s people not his. His leadership would affect the population and be either a credit or discredit to their God. The God that Solomon needed to know and serve is One who “searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” He cannot be manipulated or fooled. He knows not only the actions of all people but their hearts and thoughts as well. To fail in this mandate is to incur eternal judgment.

Caiaphas, was high priest of Israel in the days of Jesus’ final earthly ministry. He stood as the highest authority among the Jews who lived under a Roman governor.  He, like Solomon, held an obligation to know and serve God, but he failed to see that the Son of God was among them making the Father known (John 1:18). He proposed to execute Him, but could not see that He was decreeing the offering of the Messiah, the true Passover Lamb, who would die for God’s elect people both in Israel and throughout the earth. His words had one meaning to him but another in reality. He prophesied inadvertently to the crucifixion and its significance for the world.

The God we are called to know and serve is One who rules all things and knows all things, including your heart and mind. That God “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).   Now that we know Him, we also know we have failed Him, but He gives the promise of eternal life to all who believe. The promise of mercy trumps the warning of judgment (James 2:13b).

The Love of God

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 26-27; John 11:18-46

4 And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sachar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, 5 Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peullethai the eighth, for God blessed him. I Chronicles 26:4

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36

The path of God may take us through pain, suffering, and death, but never away from His love and compassion.

What image do you have of the Man Jesus? Is He too cool and calm to ever show grief or sadness? Is He always upbeat, joyful, and in total control? Think again. That is not the picture we get in John 11. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, the home of Martha and Mary, He was deeply moved and troubled by what He saw there: distraught family, friends seeking to console them, everyone grieving. His love and compassion for the sisters and the friends of Lazarus expressed itself in tears that flowed. Isn’t it curious that Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead in a few minutes, but for the moment He entered the agony of the bereaved family and felt suffering with them.

Today’s reading in I Chronicles is another with long lists of names, yet, as we have seen before, there are treasures to be found in these lists. One example is the comment about Obed-edom and his eight sons. “God blessed him.” The note in my study Bible helped me remember that Obed-edom was the man who for a time took care of the Ark of the Covenant for three months after a mishandling of it had resulted in death (I Chronicles 13:13-14; II Samuel 6:10-11). Now we pick up with this same Obed-edom and learn that God’s blessing included eight sons who were listed among the divisions of the gatekeepers.

God’s plan for the lives of Obed-edom and Lazarus took them in different paths centuries apart from each other but always under the providential care of the Lord who reigns over all things. Praise Him who does not overlook the loving and careful service of a man who housed the Ark of the Covenant at his home, even after Uzzah was struck dead for touching it. Your service for Him will not be forgotten. Be comforted that the Lord who cared for a grieving family knows and cares for you who are His. He is the resurrection and the life. Fear not. His plan is good and ends with His victory. Meanwhile, walk on by faith and trust in the love of God.

Your Assignment

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 23-25; John 11:1-17

8 And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike. 9 The first lot fell for Asaph to Joseph; I Chronicles 25:8,9a

3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:3-4

God assigns work to His people which results in their good and His glory.

In John 11, we learn about the illness and subsequent death of a friend of Jesus named Lazarus. We also get a glimpse into the two benefits that came from this sickness and death. First, it was for the glory of God and so that the Son of God would be glorified through it (John 11:4). Jesus would show His power in this incident and the disciples would learn more about His glory. Second, it was so that those disciples might believe (John 11:14-15). Jesus was all about teaching His disciples so that they might believe in Him.

Death is universal. No mere human has ever solved the problem of death. Everyone dies. Some younger; some older. You and I will die. But Jesus, the Son of God, came to give eternal life to all who hear His word and believe God (John 5:24). Believers have hope of life eternal. This world is not the end. There is life after this life. Not only that, Lazarus had a role to play, albeit passive, in Jesus’ lesson on the resurrection. Lazarus had the assignment of getting sick and dying so that the glory of God would be seen and the disciples would believe.

Under David’s reign, God’s people were also given assignments for His glory. In today’s reading, there are long lists of people who had responsibilities in the service of worship, such as playing musical instruments. Maybe you find the lists of names tedious to read, but if your name were on that list you would not. Those listed there had positions, an assignment, a specific job to do, and a time and place to do it.

It is thrilling to know we have a place in God’s great cosmic plan. You may have to suffer like Lazarus for God’s glory and the building up of His people. You may play an instrument so that the worship of God is done with excellence. There are innumerable ways that we may be assigned to glorify God and to build up the faith of His people. We may be conscious of how we are doing that, like Asaph and the others whose names we read, or we may be merely patient in suffering, like Lazarus, but, make no mistake, God has an assignment for you, if you are His (Ephesians 2:8-10). Seek to glorify Him whether you are clearly conscious of your role or not. Just think, the story of the raising of Lazarus was told around supper tables and campfires for decades to come and God was glorified. May you complete your assignment, too.

Stay with the Bible

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 20-22; John 10:22-42

12 Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. I Chronicles 22:12-13

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? John 10:34-36

God’s Word must be heeded as His Son confirmed previous Scripture as authentic.

Jesus was continually questioned and criticized during His years of earthly ministry. It only got worse, and, of course, concluded with the arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In the incident mentioned here, He used Scripture to defend His reference to God as His Father and His claim to be the Son of God. In a parenthetical comment, He says, “…Scripture cannot be broken…” This is not His only reference to the veracity of the Bible, but it is a very clear one.   He knew the Word, used the Word, and applied the Word to real life situations and questions.

David advised his son, Solomon, who would succeed him as king. He told him that the Lord would be the One giving him charge over Israel. Solomon needed to understand that he was a vassal, a steward of the kingdom of God’s people, not his own autonomous boss. Furthermore, David emphasized the need for discretion and understanding to keep and to observe carefully God’s law if Solomon were to prosper.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35). Do you hold God’s Word in high esteem?   Do you know that Scripture cannot be broken? It is not wasted time you invest in the careful reading, studying, and obeying of the Bible. Stay with it.

A Different Kind of Shepherd

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 17-19; John 10:1-21

7 Now, therefore, thus shall you say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, 8 and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. I Chronicles 17:7-8

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

God sees His people as sheep that need a shepherd, but only He can be the kind of shepherd that they need.

David’s life started out very simply. He was the youngest son of his family. He was assigned the unenviable task of taking care of the sheep, dirty, dumb sheep, who could not take care of themselves, nor be left alone. His work meant hot days and cold nights. We wouldn’t have imagined that he would one day sit on the throne of Israel. Much less, would we have imagined that his dynasty would be guaranteed by God Himself through the prophet Nathan. The Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be of David’s lineage.

As Jesus revealed Who He is through His teaching, He presented Himself as the Good Shepherd. He is good because, unlike mere hired shepherds or even sheep stealers, He would pay the ultimate price of death to save His sheep. The relationship He has with His sheep is intimate and unique. He knows His sheep and they know Him. They flee from a stranger. They do not recognize the stranger’s voice.

Sure enough, the people who heard Him make these claims and promises revealed their identity as either trusting Him or doubting Him. You could tell who His sheep were by their response to His voice.

God who is gracious to His elect people raised up a lowly shepherd boy to be king over Israel and to establish a throne upon which His Son would sit as King of kings and Lord of lords, but also as the only truly Good Shepherd of His people.

Be amazed at the beauty and intricacy of God’s plan. He painted a picture in the Old Testament through the history of Israel, and He fulfilled it in the advent of the Son of David, Jesus Christ, who will reign forever and ever. Flee other voices. Trust Him, my fellow sheep. We need Him who died and rose for us, dirty, dumb, and unworthy as we are.

 

Simple Trust

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 14-16; John 9:24-41

9 Now the Philistines had come and made a raid in the Valley of Rephaim. 10 And David inquired of God, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.” I Chronicles 14:9-10

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” John 9:35-36

Belief in God is evidenced by simple trust, a readiness to believe Him and to seek His direction in His Word.

David was off to a good start in his reign (except for all the wives). When the Philistines heard that he was on the throne they wasted no time in coming against him in battle. Perhaps their utter defeat of Saul, a few years earlier, had left them over-confident. Maybe they thought the new king would be distracted with all the matters of the kingdom and be an easy push over. David was a seasoned military commander. He could have relied on his extensive experience, but he consulted the Lord for direction about how to respond to the approaching army. David was not presumptuous, but wanted to know what God wanted him to do. David showed simple trust in the Lord.

That simple trust paid off and David was victorious.

Jesus had a second meeting with the man who had been born blind. The now-seeing man had held his ground in the repeated interviews with the Jewish authorities. Now Jesus asks him if he believes in the “Son of Man.” Of course, the man does not know what Jesus means but he is quick to express simple trust in the Lord. “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” he asks without hesitation. Jesus introduces himself to the man formally as that One to whom He referred.

And the man worshiped him. He got more than he bargained for that day: physical sight and spiritual sight.  His simple trust was well-placed.

What is your attitude toward God and His Word? Does your faith express itself in simple trust? No drama, just a readiness to accept whatever the Lord puts in front of you today? Seek to be a person who believes without delay and without excuses, one who trusts simply.

 

 

Free to Lead

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 11-13; John 9:1-23

2 In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.’”                                                                I Chronicles 11:2

22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess that Jesus to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue).                                                                                       John 9:22

Godly leaders seek to do His will, and therefore are free to act with courage and give clear direction to their followers.

Saul, the first king of Israel, failed on many levels in his leadership. He failed to encourage faithfulness to the Lord and obedience to the Law of God. Worship of God seems to have been neglected under Saul, as David commented, “…let us bring up the ark of God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul” (I Chronicles 13:3). It was generally understood that even while Saul was the king, it was David who gave real leadership to the nation.

Although David was loyal to Saul, he did not trust David and wasted much of his time and energy trying to assassinate him. In the end, David became king in a joyous coronation that reunited the kingdom of Israel (I Chronicles 12:38-40).

In Jesus’ day, the Jews showed some of the same leadership weaknesses as Saul. They were threatened by Jesus’ power and popularity. They adamantly resisted the mounting evidence that pointed to His identity as the Messiah. They used their authority to squelch discussion and intimidate the citizenry by ruling that “if anyone should confess Jesus to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” Just as Saul demanded that everyone side with him against David, so the Jewish authorities also drew a line insisting that the people choose between them or Jesus.

Godly leaders encourage those they lead to seek the Lord, to know His Word, to follow Christ. A godly leader, like King David, knows that God is the real King of His people and he does not exceed the position of prince. Are you free from the slavery of pleasing people or the jealousy of holding on to your position so that you can use whatever leadership authority you have to encourage faithfulness to God? Consider today, how you can facilitate godliness in those the Lord has allowed you to lead.

The Consequences of Not Hearing

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 8-10; John 8:37-59

13 So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. 14 He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.                                                     I Chronicles 10:13-14

47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”                                                                                   John 8:47

Hearing the words of God is evidence that one is of God. Disaster awaits the one who will not hear.

The Book of I Chronicles opens with a meticulous genealogy of Israel as we have been seeing. There are not many details about all those individuals until we come to Saul. Then the writer zooms in on the final hours of Saul’s life. His life ended the same way he lived it during the long years of his reign. He disregarded God’s commands. He sought guidance from a medium rather than from the Lord. He led the nation to defeat and died in agony by suicide. Three of his sons died at the same time. The threat of imminent defeat and death did not serve to awaken Saul to his need to repent and turn to the Lord for mercy and deliverance.

The Jews listening to Jesus reacted negatively to His every claim.   They hid behind their status as descendents of Abraham. They were sure that God was their father. Yet they were already plotting to kill their Messiah. They considered Jesus to be the one who was illegitimate, not themselves. They drip with self-righteousness. As the Apostle Paul would later write, “ And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” II Corinthians 4:3-4.

Privilege and status did not make Saul faithful or obedient. He grew harder as his life unfolded and he left a shameful legacy to his nation. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day did not believe the Truth when He lived among them. We can learn from these examples of foolishness and blindness, but will we? Let us learn and humble ourselves to hear and do what God has said.

None so Blind

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 6-7; John 8:21-36

49 But Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense for all the work of the Most Holy Place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.          I Chronicles 6:49

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”                                                                            John 8:23-24

Ever since the nation of Israel was constituted with the Law of Moses, the priesthood had been established with the system of sacrifices for atonement for sin as the central element.  It was such a significant part of the religious culture of the nation that one tribe, the Levites, were ordained to tend to the matters surrounding worship and sacrifices. One family within the tribe of Levi, the descendents of Aaron, were eligible for the priesthood.

The sacrificial system was established to show the heinousness of sin and the need for atonement, an offering to God for offenses made against Him. But when Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, came who would be the One to bear the sins of His people, there was caution, skepticism, rejection, and hostility heaped on Him. As we see throughout the Gospel of John, His origin was debated. His words were parsed and doubted. His explanations were questioned and re-questioned. The evidence of His authenticity was dismissed.

Now He plainly tells them that they will die in their sins if they do not believe in Him. His whole purpose in life is to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Faith in Him is a matter of life and death.

Yet many refused to see. The problem of sin has existed since the Fall of Man. God has presented His Son to be the atonement. Is it not plain? Is it not clear? Why persist in unbelief? Why remain blind? The old saying is true, “There is none so blind as him who will not see.” If you are troubled by your unbelief, call to Him for faith and the ability to repent. If you see, give Him praise for His great mercy to you.