Have you ever gone to a restaurant only to eat the most incredible dessert? You savor each bite and almost let it melt in your mouth, aware that this marvelous treat is something far too good to be eaten quickly. You quickly ask your server to give your compliments to the chef and timidly ask for the recipe. The chef walks out to thank you but then proceeds to explain that she only shares her recipe with her exclusive guest list (a list you will never get on because you don’t have any of the necessary credentials).
The enjoyment of a dessert is a far cry from the significance of the new covenant. And the pain of disappointment for never learning a secret recipe would pale in comparison to never knowing the Lord. But the new covenant is new, in part, because it expands the boundaries of who’s in. Believing Israel knew the Lord, some more closely than others, but through the priceless blood of Jesus, inaugurating the new covenant, all Jewish and Gentile believers share in the intimate knowledge of God. Regardless of our heritage or ethnicity, we have been invited into all the insight God has revealed to His people Israel. The recipe is ours!
What measures can you take today to get to know God better and to experience His presence?
We live in an age when we are bombarded with messages of “You can!” “Your destiny is yours!” and “You are in charge of this day.” And certainly you are. No one is coaxing you out of bed besides the possible smell of delicious coffee brewing in the kitchen. But this message can subtly turn into a false gospel of “me.”
Throughout the early church, we see a movement of God, one that has allowed us to have the Bible in our hands today. Men and women believed so deeply in the Messiah Jesus and His death and resurrection that many were killed as they carried the message and cast it forward into the next generation and onward to our own.
This certainly was not the case because they mustered up an “I will!” mentality. It was because they depended deeply on the movement of the Holy Spirit to flatten mountains and make paths through jungles. If we would follow in their steps, we must start first in prayer and follow up with dependency. God will fulfill His promises as we follow in obedience.
What are some ways God is calling you to be obedient today?
Like a prodigal son, Israel will return home. In this passage, Ephraim represents the ten northern tribes of Israel. Because God is a good Father, He will have compassion on His children despite their direct disobedience. God still yearns for His people to return because they are like precious sons and daughters in His sight. It’s this kind of love that makes a home inviting. It’s this warmth that tethers our hearts to God.
It must be noted that in the midst of their wandering, God disciplined His people like any good father would do (v. 18). A father who doesn’t discipline his children is not a loving father at all but a father of chaos. God longs for His people to live good and satisfying lives that reflect His glory; therefore, He gives them boundaries. Psalm 18:19 reads, “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” God gives us boundaries out of love, and because He knows what is best for human flourishing, He will correct us when we’ve veered off the path.
Why are God’s boundaries actually the markers of a good life instead of rules or limitations against what makes us “feel good”?
Hollywood has made billions of dollars off of good love stories. They’ve learned the way to our pockets is through our emotions. Journalists also have discovered that we love pouring over every detail of someone else’s engagement and gorgeous wedding. Love captures us like no other emotion or feeling, but with love comes the potential for betrayal. Deep joy can cause gut-wrenching pain.
In these verses we read of God’s faithful love; we listen as He calls His people to singing and dancing. But previously we are confronted with God’s disappointment in His people. He exclaimed, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13). Israel abandoned and betrayed God (3:20). Recognizing the pain of such abandonment makes chapter 31 demonstrate God’s faithfulness all the more richly.
God reminded His people that He had loved them with an everlasting love—despite their betrayal. So He called them to sing, shout, proclaim, praise, and say the greatness of His love. The greatest love story of all has been written by God, and His faithfulness is without end.
In what specific ways are you proclaiming God’s faithfulness?
“None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah” (v. 18). When one dives deeply into the holiness of God, repents, and is made new, celebration is in order. Because Josiah understood the gift he had been given, he threw a party like no other. A quick math calculation reveals that 41,400 animals were slaughtered for the Passover!
There is a pattern in Josiah’s life that must be noted. He tore his robes upon hearing God’s word. He repented profusely over his people’s disobedience. But then he rose to his feet, gathered the people, and celebrated profoundly. Such is the pattern for the believer. It should never be rushed and never be forced. Rather, when our eyes are unveiled to our wickedness and then we drink deeply of a grace that stretches as far as the east is from the west, our bodies can’t help but stand up straighter and our lips can’t help but have an upward turn. Praise the Lord!
How can you more fully cultivate in your life the pattern of mourning that turns into joy?
Like finding hidden treasure, Hilkiah discovered the book of the law. But the high priest didn’t stumble and trip over himself racing to get the book to King Josiah; instead, he handed this gold mine to Shaphan, who eventually told Josiah about the book.
The book was read to King Josiah. He tore his clothes as he realized not only had he sinned in the eyes of God but so had all of his people. His reaction, though, was fitting only if God is real and holy. What we begin to realize in 2 Chronicles is that repentance does not necessarily suspend the earthly consequences of personal and corporate sin. The kingdom of Judah would eventually be destroyed, and the people would be exiled to Babylon even though Josiah had turned his face to God.
We must never see God’s grace as cheap. Instead, it’s a call for us to come and die to ourselves. Even then, often there will be earthly consequences for our sinful choices, rippling out and affecting the multitudes. So let us be wise, loving, and obedient.
What is a specific example in your life of sin having earthly consequences? How were these circumstances reconciled by grace?
A recent Pew Research Center study found that 23 percent of the adult population of the United States identified as “religiously unaffiliated,” or the “nones,” up from 16 percent in 2007.4 This has led people to seek new forms of community building outside of the church, such as at the gym. How sad that the life-giving community of the church could be substituted with a work-out group, that the vision and purpose in the Great Commission could be overshadowed by getting one’s body in shape.
Josiah recognized his role in filling his sphere of influence with the truth of God, but he also called others into the adventure. He allowed others to realize their dynamic role in God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 12). This hasn’t changed. Every believer has been placed in his or her church, neighborhood, and community to influence it with the love of God, a far greater task than hopping on a spin bike and getting a good sweat. So let us be on God’s mission first and foremost, and let’s call others to join us in this meaningful work.
How are you loving and serving alongside the body of Christ for its growth and for the Great Commission?
We live in a largely postmodern culture that often values feelings over facts. This potentially leads people to reject absolute truth because it doesn’t sit right with them—a terrifying conclusion given the life and death implications of truth in Scripture.
Christians know that sin is real (Rom. 3:23). Because our culture believes everyone is innately good, sin isn’t a term we use frequently. Instead, we talk about our feelings and how we are “struggling” with something rather than the fact that we have a sin we must confess. This line of thinking can even slip into our churches.
Between Hezekiah’s reign and Josiah’s, there were two bad kings, Manasseh and Amon. The good work Hezekiah had done on the temple and to purify the land was destroyed by their sin. So Josiah went throughout the land to tear down altars, remove false gods, and destroy the wickedness. Sin can easily creep in and pollute us both individually and corporately if we aren’t constantly returning to God. We must take sin seriously.
How can you as an individual keep sin from creeping into your life and your church?
Hezekiah seems like the kind of person people were drawn to, a magnet for the people of Israel. Although his father, Ahaz, didn’t do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, Hezekiah did. In the first month of his first year, he swung open the doors of the temple (that’s if they could swing at all) and decided to restore it.
It makes one wonder if he had been waiting anxiously for his opportunity to sweep into the building and start making reforms. Maybe he kept a blueprint under his pillow. He certainly kept the dream in his heart.
Hezekiah employed and encouraged the people, as any good leader does, and spoke of the covenant he longed to make with God on their behalf (2 Chron. 29:10-11). In a mere sixteen days, the Levites cleansed and consecrated the temple and walked into the newly renovated building, where they slaughtered animals to make atonement for all of Judah.
Hezekiah may have had a blueprint for restoring the temple, but he had no clue how his restoration pointed to a far greater temple—Jesus. Under the new covenant inaugurated with Jesus’ blood, God doesn’t dwell in a building—He dwells in His people.
Since this is our wondrous reality, we must take measures as Hezekiah did to swing open our lives and make reforms. This looks like confession, and we can go directly to the source and ask that He cleanse us, and He is faithful to do so every time (Heb. 4:16; 1 John 1:9).
What do you need to confess today?
The Lord does the humanly impossible. He redeems the widow and the childless. He builds her gates of sparkling jewels and gives her walls of precious stones. It’s a real-life Cinderella story. What was needed to satisfy the righteous anger of God had been done, and there would be no more barriers to Him.
In fact, He has set a table before us and has extended us the invitation to come join Him at the feast. The readers of this message were faced with a choice: to stay where they were in unbelief or accept the invitation with no clarity for their next step.
Faith always involves letting go of security and control to do things God’s way. Remember when Peter walked on water (Matt. 14:28-30)? He had to get out of the boat. God is calling us from hunger to feast, but in answering this call, we are to leave our worldly ways of comfort and launch out into the adventures God has designed for His people. His ways are higher—will you believe and obey?
What is a specific area where you believe God is calling you to step out in faith? Pray for God to help your unbelief, and then take your next step.