Hello again. Welcome to Series Six of Satisfied. The Series Six podcasts enhance the Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study of the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. I’m Melanie Newton, just an everyday kind of woman who loves the Lord and His Word.
We’ve been learning about living in the power of God’s presence. In the last podcast, we learned that we can celebrate God’s presence with us and in us as believers. In today’s podcast, we see that we must individually choose to commit ourselves to God’s presence. This is from Lesson 5 of Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study.
Experiencing the Joy of God’s Presence
The Temple was completed. The people were gathered together. Solomon led them in prayer to their faithful, powerful, promise-keeping God. The Bible says that…
"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple…When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the Temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord." (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)
God's presence came to dwell in this earthly Temple—declaring it to be His own. The Shekinah glory. Brilliant. Shiny. Very visible. Very memorable. I've always loved this passage as well as the similar event in Exodus where God comes to dwell in the Tabernacle. The Ark of God was present both times—representing the holiness and power of God plus His covenant with Israel.
Everyone in Jerusalem that day saw the procession moving the Ark of God from David’s tent to its resting place in the Temple. They saw the fire from heaven to the altar, the glory of the Lord above the Temple, and the cloud filling the Temple. Those who remained at home could only hear about it. I felt sad for them. There was no YouTube video they could watch of this event. I wish I was there!
After Solomon's very public act of installing the Ark in its proper place, he praised God for keeping His promises to Israel, especially those God had made to David that Solomon would be king and the Temple would be built. Solomon was choosing to submit to God as his own ruler and to God’s covenant with Israel. He followed this declaration with a beautiful prayer for all of Israel and all the situations in which Israelites might find themselves—both personally and nationally. He asked God to be faithful even when He had to discipline His people.
Solomon calls God "my God." At this point, we see Solomon as a man of faith just like his father David had been. But, every man or woman of faith has a choice to embrace or forsake God every day of their lives.
Choosing to embrace or forsake God’s presence
There is a choice. Embrace or forsake. There is no in-between. The choice is to embrace God and forsake sinful ways. But, the opposite of embracing God is to embrace other gods, worshiping and serving them. When Israel made that choice, the consequence would be loss of their land, loss of their Temple, and loss of their reputation as righteous people. We know this happened 500 years later.
For 500 years, God in His goodness sent prophets repeatedly to His people to draw them back to embrace Him when they would forsake Him and stray away. Finally, He had enough. The only thing that would bring them back to their senses was total loss of what they held dear, more dear than loving Him. God wants His people to embrace Him and forsake what is not Him. Being in a nice cushy protected environment doesn’t do it. God knows that about people.
I ran across some verses in Isaiah chapter 26 that literally grabbed my attention. Listen to this,
When your judgments [God] come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord. (Isaiah 26:9-10)
Isn’t that amazingly true! When grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness. They go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.
What causes a people to forsake their God who has been so good to them?
The influence of others certainly does. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Bad company corrupts good character." A lot of people who worshiped idols were still living in the land like pockets of pus. Their idols were enticing to the Israelites because they were carved images. Something visible. God had forbidden carved images. And, the farmers who worshipped those idols and the false gods they represented were promised good crops. That was very enticing.
Then, there’s the influence of your leaders. Solomon married wives from each of those people and all the other surrounding nations. Every one of them brought their own gods into his palace. God had forbidden that and for a very good reason. You can see what happens!
1 Kings chapter 11 verse 4 says that
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been." (1 Kings 11:4)
Solomon even built worship spots on the high hills for each of the gods of his wives and offered sacrifices to those gods there. He became a cosmopolitan ruler. Anything goes. A little bit of our God, a little bit of our neighbors’ gods. Solomon had forsaken "my god" and embraced other gods as his own. When your leader is doing this, that gives permission for you as a people to do it as well. So, when Solomon died after a 40-year reign as king, the kingdom divided into two nations. There was little hesitancy on the majority of the northern 10 tribes to just forsake God and embrace idols instead, sacrificing to them on high hills. The influence of those idol worshipers dwelling in the tribal areas that became the northern kingdom infected Israel badly.
Why is that? What is the allure of bad character that draws us down? A friend and I were talking about this the other day. If you hang around a group of women for several days who aren't embracing Christ and approaching life His way, it’s more likely that you will pick up their bad ways of being negative, critical and mean than that they would pick up your good ways of being kind and compassionate toward each other. It’s like an infection.
The only way to stay healthy is to embrace God fully and forsake anything that is not God. Forsake anything that is not His way of approaching life. That's a pre-decision—a choice made ahead of time knowing that you will be exposed to spiritual infection. Solomon didn't do that like David his father had done. Solomon got infected as did many of the people who were influenced by him. They may have recognized God’s reality, but they did not commit themselves to His presence.
Committing Yourself to God’s Presence
Christians live by faith in an ever-faithful, always present God. Faith is a matter of loving God wholeheartedly so that you want to approach life His way in obedience. You commit yourself to doing that. Faith involves elements of hope in the unseen. Faith takes the risk of believing that God is enough to meet any need.
Faith does not require seeing the glory cloud or the golden Ark in front of our face in order to believe that God is real. In fact, many of those who saw God's physical presence on a daily basis didn't commit to being obedient followers of God. Those Israelites in the desert who saw God's presence constantly front and center did not obey God and march into their Promised Land to conquer it when given the first opportunity to do so. They rebelled. They didn’t commit themselves to the power of God’s presence.
Having an "experience seeing God" doesn't guarantee a heart of faith. Solomon saw God’s glory cloud, heard directly from God in a dream and through prophets, yet still went against God's ways later in his life.
It’s a daily choice to commit yourself to the power of God’s presence in your life. He is with you. You are to live dependently upon Him as though He is truly Lord of your life, not just an appendage. If you want to learn more about living dependently on Him, I recommend The God-Dependent Woman Bible Study covering 2 Corinthians.
As Paul writes in Galatians chapter 2,
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
That is commitment to the power of Jesus Christ in us. The Bible says He is here with us and in us. When we commit to living by His power and not our own, then we can truly live!
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the power of His presence. Then, live in that power!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 6 of Satisfied.