A girls’ trip for six of my besties to the beach is in the works for September, and I’ve been assigned the job of designing our t-shirt. I’ve been moody ever since: I hate making personal style choices for anybody but myself.
Four artist daughters have cured me of any delusions of my own good taste. I can’t remember the last time I bought anything for them beyond organic milk at Walmart.
So selecting a t-shirt for seven grown women has me sneaking semi-sweet chocolate chips in my pantry again.
Right on cue, the passages today tell me about the God who isn’t afraid of selection. Rather, he’s the one who’s always reaching out, unafraid of rejection.
2 Chronicles 29
Sometimes godly parents have delinquent kids. Sometimes delinquent parents have God-fearing kids. As important as good parenting is, the key to successful living isn’t found in it.
As good a king as Hezekiah turns out to be, his father has been just about the worst. He’s closed down God’s temple and opened up shrines to idols all over Jerusalem and Judah, among other wickedness, 2 Ch. 28.
Ahaz boarded the temple doors shut and canceled worship, but when Hezekiah takes over, he repairs those doors and throws them wide open. And he instructs the Levites to consecrate themselves and clean up the temple, which takes about two weeks. They haul off idol rubbish to a nearby valley and burn it, 2 Ch 29:3-9.
To celebrate the grand reopening, Hez organizes the city leaders, who come together at the temple and sacrifice offerings in a rockin’ worship service with instruments and singers. The whole congregation participates and brings their own animals and drinks. It’s an outpouring of generous giving to God and to each other, 2 Ch 29:20-35.
King Hezekiah had only been on his throne a month when this worship-party got started. If you deduct the 16 days it took to get the temple clean enough to use, it means Hezekiah got folks on the job for restarting worship after just two weeks as king of Judah, 2 Ch 29:3, 17.
He’s so centered and certain that God’s worship matters most, he dives in right away with energy and focus. It’s extraordinary that he knows God at all after the dad he’s had and the culture he’s lived in. It would be wonderful enough if eventually Hez gets around to jumpstarting worship. But that he does it first and so fast is what jumps at me.
Hezekiah doesn’t dilly-dally, sprucing up his palace or getting his royal wardrobe fitted (first on my list). He doesn’t get the public works people mowing grass and planting gardens (my second). He doesn’t get the schools or court system or health care overhauled and running again.
At the age of 25, this man decides his first order of business is getting temple worship going, 2 Ch 29:1.
The Bible’s commentary here is noteworthy because Hezekiah isn’t praised. He and the people are too busy celebrating what God did because they get it, “￼God had established a firm foundation for the lives of the people–and so quickly,” 2 Ch 29:30, emphasis added.
This is the secret of Hezekiah’s get ‘er done spirit: God was on the job. God was working. God raised up Hezekiah and got him moving because it pleased him to do it.
And this is good news for the rest of us, because being used by God doesn’t require extraordinary faith or gifts. It requires an extraordinary God who uses ordinary people to bring about what he most wants–whole-hearted, life changing, mind blowing, wallet loosening, foot stomping, intimate, and all-in worship.
Worshipping God is the secret for successful living. Hezekiah knew it, because it was God who worked through him to do it, “Everything he took up…he did well in a spirit of prayerful worship. He was a great success.” 2 Ch 31:20-21.
This chapter of Romans feels so fresh in The Message, I had to keep going back to the NIV to double check it. Peterson takes some liberty in his translation, carving out the meaning so the bottom line is crystal, “Don’t eat or say or do anything that might interfere with the free exchange of love,” Ro 14:21, MSG.
Paul says love is the point, whether we’re eating a meal or discussing politics, picking out what to watch or a girls’ trip t-shirt. Love matters most. Not being right about the issues. Not making someone else see your point of view. Not showing off what I have or know. The power to love like this comes from God, “It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right,” Ro 14:17, MSG, emphasis added.
Reaching out and offering kindness and inclusion, acceptance and grace–being humble, for goodness’ sake–this is what Paul is talking about when he says, “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other,” and “Let’s make every effort to do what leads to peace…,” Ro 14:19, MSG and NIV, emphasis added.
And he kindly advises us to keep our mouths shut about disputable matters, so we don’t turn off love, “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others.” Even more explicitly in the NIV, “So whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God,” Ro 14:22, MSG and NIV.
Love trumps everything else.
David asks: in this great big ole’ world we live in, who can find God? “Who can climb Mount God? Who can scale the holy north-face?” Ps 24:3, MSG.
David answers: whoever God helps to find him, “God is on their side; with God’s help they make it,” Ps 24:5, MSG. The Savior-God gives goodies and a helping hand to everyone who seeks him, Ps 24:5-6, He 11:6, NIV.
God helps. God blesses. God’s the hands-on hero.
So David says, wake up sleepy heads! Open wide your gates and doors! The King of Glory wants to come in! God’s place is with his people, with each of us who want him, with everyone who seeks him, Ps 24:6-10.
And everybody who seeks him, finds him. Jesus promises, Mt 7:8; Lk 11:10.
David says it’s a glorious world we live in, and it’s a glorious God who manages it for us, helping us find our way to him, moving into our neighborhood.
While he tells us to seek him, he’s already on the road seeking us. It’s only a matter of time before we bump into one another, 2 Ch 16:9; Ps 53:2, 119:176; Lk 15:20; Jn 4:23.
My takeaway from 2 Chronicles and Romans is that God wants worshippers who love each other. That’s what’s most important. That’s what Jesus makes possible.
And from Psalms, I learn that God knows I’ll never find him by myself, so he reaches down and helps. He finds me. He does all the work to bring me to himself.
This is the God who’s on the job for us.
2 Chronicles 29, Romans 14, and Psalm 24 are selected for today in The One Year Bible.