Today’s Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 9-10:14; Acts 27:21-44; Psalm 8:1-9; Proverbs 18:23-24
1 Chronicles 9 begins with the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon. It wasn’t famine or drought that sent Israel to Babylon. It wasn’t even Babylon’s military superiority. Israel was banished from their land because they were unfaithful to God (1 Chronicles 9:1). God would certainly have protected them from a stronger enemy or natural disaster if they had just obeyed Him.
Seventy years of captivity had passed. The people were now going home to “their property” (1 Chronicles 9:2). God still considered the land theirs and apparently kept it from being possessed by other peoples during these seventy years. Even while punishing Israel, God was looking out for them. How cool is that?
The first people to return are the priests and the rest of the Levites (1 Chronicles 9:14-34). There were many jobs in the temple. There were the aforementioned priests who conducted the sacrifices. But the priests needed a support team. The support team consisted of gatekeepers who were in charge of various items (1 Chronicles 9:27-29), cooks (1 Chronicles 9:31-32), and musicians (1 Chronicles 9:33).
Our modern-day churches operate the same way. The pastor teaches us. But there are many jobs to do beyond that. God needs people to sing in the choir, to play drums or guitar, to conduct the offerings, to greet, to staff the bookstore, to direct traffic, to operate the children’s ministry, to clean the bathrooms, and so many more things. None of these jobs is unimportant. God notices everything that we do for Him. If you are not yet involved in serving God by serving in your church I highly encourage you to get involved.
Starting in 1 Chronicles 10 the author recounts the lives of the kings of Israel, starting with Saul. We’ve already read this history in 1 & 2 Kings, but the books of Chronicles will supply some further information.
Saul had been king for some time when the Philistines attacked (1 Chronicles 10:1). The Philistines were originally from Cyprus and were known for their use of iron which gave them military superiority over Israel (e.g. the Philistines had chariots and armor). They were also known as sea-faring and traded with many lands around the Mediterranean. They traded a lot with Greece from where they received their military equipment.
Not much has changed in 4,000 years has it? Back then Israel was being attacked by rebels who were supplied by an outside country (although Greece probably had no political interest in the outcome). Today Israel is still being attacked by rebels like Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran, and Hamas which operates out of the Gaza Strip – the same area where the Philistines were located.
Paul takes the opportunity to encourage and calm his fellow passengers in Acts today. He tells them that God sent an angel the previous night to tell him not to be afraid and he would “surely” stand before Caesar (Acts 27:22-24). Paul unapologetically tells everyone about his relationship with God and also tells them “I believe God” (Acts 27:25). Paul didn’t just say he believes in God; he said he believes what God says. And God said that they would survive.
Its always a great opportunity for a believer to be in the middle of a storm (literal or not) with others. We can encourage them by categorically stating our faith in God. We may not receive a visit from an angel (but that would be pretty cool). But we know that God has everyone’s best interests in mind and is not out to harm anyone. Behaving differently than others while in the midst of a crisis will pique the curiosity of those around us and they will want to know how we can be so calm. That is then our opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Notice the sailors prayed (Acts 27:29). Its doubtful that these men knew the true God (this was an Egyptian ship). But there are no atheists in foxholes. Apparently there aren’t any in two-week storms, either.
In fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy everyone survives even though the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners (Acts 27:42-44). The penalty for a soldier losing his prisoner was the same penalty as the escaped prisoner so the soldiers were merely acting in their own interests. But God promised everyone would live and, of course, they did.
Psalm 8 reminds us of just how awe-inspiring God is. He created the heavens with just His fingers (Psalm 8:3) – without much effort. When we consider just how awesome and powerful God is we have to be amazed that He would take notice of us mortals (Psalm 8:4). But not only does He notice us, He thinks about us and cares for us. That is amazing.
We were made a little lower than the angels in God’s hierarchy (Psalms 8:5) and are stewards of all He has created (Psalm 8:6-9). That is even more amazing – that such a powerful and awesome God – who can create life and universes with minimal effort – would give us responsibility for all He has created.
When things go bad in our lives we cannot expect our friends to stick by us (Proverbs 18:24). Only God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
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