Power

Re:Verse passage – 2 Chronicles 6:1-11 (day three)

“The king faced about and blessed all the assembly of Israel.”

Will a person who holds power in a society work for the good of all the people in that society? That’s always the hope, isn’t it? What often ends up happening, though, is that the powerful people in a society support the one who will keep them powerful, and that person then works for the good of only some rather than all. Throughout history, the Lord has raised up people to speak truth to power. But for now, here’s power speaking truth to the people. Speaking the truth involves more than the right words; it’s also righteous actions for the good of all people. For a shining moment, it actually happened. Then Solomon abandoned the truth. He used his power to weaken and destabilize an entire nation. Leaders matter.

Living

Re:Verse passage – 2 Chronicles 5:1-14 (day three)

“There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets which Moses put there at Horeb.”

There was nothing in the ark but the word of God delivered to human beings. There was nothing in the ark except a description of the good life recorded in language people could understand. There was nothing in the ark save the revelation of the only kind of life that will last eternally. The point is that the physical, geographic point in the temple where God would dwell with human beings contained the only thing it needed to contain: God’s guidance to a life that lasts through all uncertainty, all adversity, all hostility. God would meet there with the high priest and tell him, “Remind the people, train the people, love the people with these words. They will live when they learn this way of life.”

Material

Re:Verse passage – 2 Chronicles 3:1-17 (day three)

“These are the foundations which Solomon laid for building the house of God.”

There is something in us that insists that what is material is of lesser worth than that which is spiritual. This is not true at all. The physical realm – matter, energy, space – is contingent upon the spiritual realm. That is, the spiritual realm – ultimately God himself – undergirds and upholds the physical realm. What is material depends on the spiritual for its existence. But there is a difference between dependent and worthless. God worked with Solomon to build the temple because God is very interested in living with human beings in this material realm. In the age to come, heaven and earth will merge to become one. Then we will know by sight that God loves this whole glorious place that he made.

Periphery

Re:Verse passage – 2 Chronicles 2:1-12 (day three)

“My servants will work with your servants…”

How does God view the laborers who had no say in the decision to use their bodies for the building of the temple? Are they peripheral? Are there any peripheral people in God’s eyes? There are in ours. We’ll never know their names. Their lives of forced servitude, harsh conditions, and static social position are foreign to those who have never been brushed aside in society. That was long ago and far away, but not to God. Wherever people’s decisions are made for them, wherever grand plans depend on the bodies and skills of those who have little say in the world, we do it again. We will cease such practices when we heed the words of Jesus regarding the temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Riches

Re:Verse passage – 2 Chronicles 1:1-13 (day three)

I will also give you riches, wealth, and honor…”

The lure of the underdog narrative can command our attention to such a degree that we start to believe that underdogs always win. They don’t. They often have something to teach us about perseverance, faith, hope, and humility, but they don’t command the voice, influence, and authority it takes to shape a society. In fact, the tragedy of the underdog is this: If that person possessed social power equal to character, the kind of triumph that could result would leave a legacy capable of determining the course of history for generations. As it is, though, the world often suffers at the hands of those possessing vast resources but little understanding. “May I learn wisdom at least equal to my net worth for the sake of those I might influence” is a worthy prayer.

All

Re:Verse passage – 1 Chronicles 29:1-11 (day three)

“With all my ability I have provided for the house of my God…”

To live in the state of mind in which you can’t tell whether you or God has possession of a treasured item because you and God are so unified in the intent of how that item will be used – it seems like that would be such a pure way of life. Some people in the Bible appear to have come very close to that state of mind: the poor widow who placed all she had into the temple treasury; Zacchaeus the tax collector; Mary, the woman who anointed Jesus. We see here that same kind of spirit in David, who, for all his mercurial and ruinous patterns of living, was never one to covet wealth. Living with abandon comes with its pitfalls. One of the upsides, though, is generosity.

Life

Re:Verse passage – 1 Chronicles 28:11-21 (day three)

“Then David gave to his son Solomon…the plan of all that he had in mind.”

David’s most painful and harmful behavioral patterns – emotional distance from his family and reckless military buildup (see the census in 1 Chronicles 21), among other things – marked a continuing cycle of spiritual distress and repeated reconciliation with God. War and blood, bodily and spiritual, permeated David’s life, and he found solace with God in between those episodes. Although the temple would be God’s dwelling, it would, in the eyes of the nation, also reflect the character of the one who would set his hand to build it. David reached a point at which he understood that. The temple required the kind of stable foundation that was foreign to his way of living. His life with God was not Solomon’s. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is.

Ground

Re:Verse passage – 1 Chronicles 28:1-10 (day three)

Now…in the hearing of our God, observe and seek after all the commandments.”

Every stab at enlightenment, every utopian dream, every attempt at higher thought has tried and failed to find a foundation besides God that will support its system of ethics or its theory of the good. One can appeal to empathy, to economics, to enterprise, to eloquence. All these and more have had their turn as the ultimate basis of a new and better way of life. And they’ve all ended up on the ash heap of history. David rightly appealed to God as the ground of all that is good. In the New Testament, Gamaliel echoed his words: “If [it] is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop [it].” If we haven’t learned that by now, when?

Need

Re:Verse passage – Mark 3:31-35 (day three)

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Did Jesus need the intimacy of family – mother, brother, sister, father? To feel uncomfortable with that question is to recognize that we have deemed need a weakness, a frailty, a liability. But is it? Consider the kind of person for whom fellowship is not an integral part of that person’s being. That person would most certainly not be God, for God is revealed in the scriptures as an eternal fellowship of three persons. Moreover, the only way God is presented to us in the Bible is as a creator seeking fellowship with the created. To distill a “pure” form of God who exists apart from his desire to live with human beings is to suggest a God who doesn’t actually exist. We need fellowship’s intimacy not because we’re weak, but because we bear God’s image.

Shift

Re:Verse passage – Mark 3:20-30 (day three)

“He has lost His senses.”

When one encounters new circumstances, one can wedge those new circumstances into an already existing understanding of the world, or one can change that understanding to accommodate the new circumstances. Therein lies the fundamental difference between those who did not believe Jesus and those who did. The Pharisees – and others who disbelieved – never strayed from their insistence that the world is as they say it is. Jesus’s own family started in this frame of mind. Their reasoning regarding the difficulties and controversies Jesus found himself in shows a family trying to fit what they see into what they know. What they come to realize, though, is that it doesn’t fit. They will have to live with that incongruity, or change their minds. The Bible records the family’s gradually allowing what they see  lead them to know something new.