Sunday, March 18, 2018
Lesson: II Chronicles 7:1-9; Time of Action: 959 B.C.; Place of Action: Jerusalem
Golden Text: “And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshiped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (II Chronicles 7:3).
I. INTRODUCTION. Worship is a popular subject in churches today and it well should be. But sometimes I wonder if much of what we call worship in our churches is only external and emotional. Worship is much more than singing (or listening) to music or feeling emotionally lifted up. True worship is consciously thinking about God and His greatness. However, the Lord can certainly use the different parts of a service to encourage worship, but when all is said and done worship is a personal matter within each believer. Sometimes worship may cause an outward expression, but we should not be fooled into thinking that worship always has to be shown outwardly. In this week’s lesson, we will get a clearer picture of how we should truly worship our great God.
II. LESSON BACKGROUND. Having completed the building of the temple (see II Chronicles 5:1), in II Chronicles chapter 6 we have the record of Solomon’s fervent prayer as he dedicated the temple. This week’s lesson comes from chapter 7 which continues to describe the events surrounding the temple dedication by recounting the ways in which King Solomon and the people of Israel worshiped God during the temple dedication. Our lesson begins with the first verse in chapter 7.
III. WE WORSHIP BY PRAISING GOD (II Chronicles 7:1-3)
A. God’s fire and glory (II Chronicles 7:1-2).
1. (vs. 1). Our first verse says “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.” After the temple was completed, Solomon prayed to God in II Chronicles 6:12-42). After he finished praying, this verse says that “the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices.” This was God’s way of showing that He approved of Solomon’s actions just as He had approved of David’s actions (see I Chronicles 21:8, 26) and Elijah’s (see I Kings 18:21-38). God sent fire from heaven and it “consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices.” Note: In many passages of Scripture, fire is a symbol of God’s presence, His holiness, and His purity (see Genesis 19:12-29; Exodus 3:1-22; 13:21-22; Exodus 19:1-25; I Kings 18:20-30). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit appeared on the Day of Pentecost as “cloven tongues like as of fire” (see Acts 2:3), and at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord will test the works we’ve done on earth by fire (see I Corinthians 3:13). The author of Hebrews also declared that “our God is a consuming fire.” While the sacrifices were being consumed by God’s fire from heaven, “the glory of the Lord filled the house.” God’s “glory” is His moral beauty and perfection as a visible presence. Although God’s “glory” is not a substance, at times God does reveal His perfection to man in a visible way. Such a display of God is often seen as fire or dazzling light as it is in this verse. This was the second time that God’s “glory filled” the temple during this dedication. It happened earlier when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the most holy place in the temple (see II Chronicle 5:7-14). God’s “glory,” when it was seen by human eyes, was probably in the form of an extremely bright cloud. It signified His presence in the temple (see Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 40:34-35; Leviticus 9:23-24; I Kings 8:11).
2. (vs. 2). This verse says “And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.” When “the glory of the Lord filled” the temple, it was so overpowering and overwhelming that “the priests” couldn’t go into it to perform their duties.
B. The people’s response (II Chronicles 7:3). This verse goes on to say “And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshiped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” When all the people who were gathered at the temple dedication saw the fire come down from heaven and God’s glory upon the temple, “they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement.” This action was a sign of the people’s reverential fear of God’s divine majesty, and their cheerful submission to His divine authority. Bowing down also demonstrated their unworthiness to come and stand in God’s presence. The manifestation of the Lord in the fire and His glory was more than enough to convince the Israelites that God alone was worthy of worship. So in response to what they had witnessed the people bowed down to the ground with their faces on the stone pavement, and “worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” The word worship means giving worth to something or someone. In the believer’s case, it means telling God what He is worth to us. Our worship must be directed by the Bible, which tells us that God is of supreme worth. As the people worshiped with thankfulness for the goodness of God even when the fire of the Lord came down, they praised him, saying, “for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” These words of praise are often found in the Old Testament (see I Chronicles 16:34; II Chronicles 5:13; Psalms 106:1; 107:1; Jeremiah 33:11), and is a song (see Ezra 3:11) that’s never out of season. No matter what our circumstances, one thing is always certain: God “is good and His mercy endures forever.” To say that the Lord is “good” means more than He does good things. One of His attributes or characteristics is goodness which means that He is inherently “good” and the source of all goodness. In other words, as God, He can’t be anything but “good” so all goodness comes from Him. The term “mercy” is often translated as “loving-kindness” and points to His enduring, undeserved love for His own. “Mercy” is God not giving us what we deserve: eternal death. God’s goodness and His “mercy” or loving-kindness will last forever. We can rest assured that He will never withdraw His loyal love from His own. Note: It’s important to note that the people had no idea that God would respond to their prayers this way. No one told them what would happen. They didn’t utter any special prayers or formulas. They didn’t perform any special works of any kind that had been prescribed as the way to get God to respond the way He did. They didn’t do anything special to cause something special to happen at this dedication. We must remember that when people claim that there are certain formulas that can be said in order to gain holiness or special access to God, or to get our prayers answered, we must avoid them and simply obey what God has actually said. Doing more than that is sacrilege.
IV. WE WORSHIP WITH SACRIFICE AND MUSIC (Daniel 3:24-28)
A. We can worship by sacrifice (II Chronicles 7:4-5).
1. (vs. 4). This verse says “Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord.” After the people celebrated the Lord with worship and praise, “the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord.” It appears that this was the second time that sacrifices were offered to God during this dedication of the temple. They had earlier offered burnt offerings and sacrifices just before God made His presence known in the fire and His glory (see II Chronicles 7:1). The sacrifices mentioned here were additional offerings in response to God’s manifestation of Himself.
2. (vs. 5). This verse continues to say “And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.” Although this passage says that King Solomon offered the sacrifices, it was the priests who actually performed this service to the Lord. The people sacrificed 142,000 animals; 22,000 oxen or bulls, and 120,000 sheep. It’s impossible for us not to notice the large number of animals that were sacrificed here. Sacrificing so many animals demonstrated the people’s love for God and their desire to lift Him up and worship Him. With their praise and worship (see II Chronicles 7:3) and offering of the sacrificing of the many animals, this verse ends by saying “so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.” In other words, everything the people and the king did was done in order to dedicate the temple to the Lord. Note: We must not miss the lesson for us that may seem to be hidden in this verse. We know that the people had offered sacrifices earlier. But after God manifested Himself through the fire and His Shekinah glory, they worshiped Him and increased the number of sacrifices. The lesson for us is this; when God manifests Himself in our lives and we receive tokens of His goodness and mercy, we should enlarge our hearts by giving more of ourselves to His service (see Romans 12:1). The example that the king set by leading the people in prayer, worship and praise stirred them up. When the leaders of a people lead in good works or service, the people are more likely to follow with more service.
B. We can worship with music (II Chronicles 7:6). This verse says “And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.” The phrase “the priests waited on their offices” means that the “priests” took their positions for service. In addition, “the Levites also with instruments of musick of the Lord, which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry.” The “Levites” who were the musicians and singers, were also a part of the priesthood. I Chronicles 15:16 says, “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.” Like the priest who had taken their positions for service, The “Levites” also took their positions with the musical instruments that King David had made (see I Chronicles 23:5) for the purpose of praising God, and he used them whenever he gave thanks, saying, “his mercy endures forever.” David was a very good musician himself (see I Samuel 16:14-22), and he understood the value of music in worshiping God. The words “the priests sounded trumpets before them” means that the priests stood opposite the Levites. Then they blew their trumpets while all the people stood. A clearer translation of this verse would be: “The priests stood at their posts ready for service, and the Levites also, with the musical instruments of the Lord which King David had made to praise the Lord, whenever David offered praise through their ministry saying, “his mercy endures forever.”
C. We can worship with offerings (II Chronicles 7:7). This verse says “Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.” There were so many animals to be offered as sacrifices, that the “brasen altar” Solomon built for this purpose could not hold all of them. As a result, “Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord.” Solomon “hallowed” or dedicated the inner court of the Temple to be used for the overflow of offerings that Solomon and the people were bringing before the Lord. This area was needed because “there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.” Note: There were three types of offerings made that day according to the Mosaic Law. First, there was the “burnt offering” (see Leviticus 1:3-17; 6:8-13). This was a “sweet savor” or “sweet smelling odor” to the Lord, which means it was accepted by God. This offering was voluntary and could be a male sheep, goat, bull, turtledoves, or young pigeons. When offered on the altar, except for the skin, the whole animal was burned (see Leviticus 1:8-7). The skin was given to the priests for food (see Leviticus 7:8). It was offered in total surrender to God. Second, the “peace offering” (see Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-21), was a “sweet savor” and a voluntary offering. The offering had to be an unblemished male or female from cattle, sheep, or goats. When offered on the altar, the fat on the breast and right thigh was to be burned with the kidneys (see Leviticus 3:3-4). The priests were given the right thigh and breast for food (see Leviticus 7:31-32). The one giving this offering and his family could eat the remaining part of the animal (see Leviticus 7:15-17). The purpose of the peace offering was to represent a right relationship and friendship with God. Peace offerings were rendered as thanksgiving for divine help and blessing. Third, the “meat offering” or meal offering (see Leviticus 2:1-16; 6:14-23) was a “sweet savor” and a voluntary sacrifice. Portions of either mixed fine flour, oil and frankincense (see Leviticus 2:1-2), cakes or wafers baked in oven, pan or covered pan (see Leviticus 2:4-5, 7), or green grain mixed with oil and frankincense (see Leviticus 2:14-15). The remaining portions were eaten by the priests (see Leviticus 2:3, 10’ 6:16-18). The meat offering was made along with the burnt offering as sacrifices of thanksgiving and devotion to God. The point of these and all offerings was that they were offered according to God’s directions. Likewise, when we worship, we should do it according to how God says it should be done (see Psalms 149 and 150).
V. WE WORSHIP BY ASSEMBLING TOGETHER (II Chronicles 7:8-9)
A. An immense gathering (II Chronicles 7:8). This verse goes on to say “Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.” The phrase “Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days” means that following the seven day dedication service of the temple, Solomon and all the people observed the “feast.” This refers to the feast of Tabernacles which was celebrated from the 15th of the seventh month until the 22nd of the month (see Leviticus 23:34). We are told that there was “a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.” Considering the number of sacrifices that were offered (see II Chronicles 7:5), there had to be a large number of people present. This massive number of people came “from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.” These two locations, “Hamath” and “the river of Egypt” were the northern (see Numbers 34:7-8) and southern boundaries of Israel. The “river of Egypt” refers to a brook in northeastern Sinai in southern Israel. The point here is that the people came from all over Israel for the temple dedication, and also to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles.
B. A solemn assembly (II Chronicles 7:9). Our final verse says “And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly: for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days.” The “eighth day” here refers to the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Seven days the people were to offer sacrifices and the eighth day was to be a solemn day of rest (see Leviticus 23:34-36). The last part of this verse tells us how long the dedication service and the feast of Tabernacles lasted. They observed the “dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days.” However, the total time period the people celebrated the Lord in worship was fifteen days since the feast of Tabernacle included an eighth day which was reserved for a sacrifice and a period of rest before they were dismissed to return to their homes (see I Kings 8:66). Note: In order to better understand this verse, the Bible provides us with needed information. II chronicles 5:3 says that the dedication of the temple services occurred in the seventh month (our September-October). The Feast of Tabernacles was from the 15th to the 22nd of the month (see Leviticus 23:39). In order for the people to have assembled for 15 days, the dedication services had to begin on the 8th of the seventh month and lasted for seven days until the 15th of the month which began the Feast of Tabernacles. It continued for seven days until the 22nd of the month. Solomon sent the people home on the eighth day or the day following the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles.
VI. Conclusion. The Israelite’s worship at the dedication of the temple is an excellent model of how we can worship our God today. First, we can worship God by praising Him. Praise should be a part of every Christian’s life. In the 150th Psalm, after acknowledging that the Lord should be praised with all kinds of instruments, the psalmist ends by saying: …Let everything that hath breath praise the lord (see Psalms 150:6). Second, we can worship the Lord by sacrifice and music. Of course, we don’t offer animal sacrifices today, but we can offer spiritual sacrifices (see I Peter 2:5). The author of Hebrews tells us what spiritual sacrifices we can offer: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (see Hebrews 13:15-16). But more than anything else, we must offer ourselves as living sacrifices (see Romans 12:1-2). Finally, we can worship by assembling together. Yes, we can worship the Lord privately and in our homes, but we must also worship Him as a group by assembling with other believers in church. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us of the importance of joining with other Christians. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
***The Bible Expositor and Illuminator, Union Gospel Press***