Archive for December, 2011

A house for God

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”
2 Samuel 7:1-3

Life could not be better for David. He had brought the ark of covenant back, his enemies had been squashed and he built for himself a magnificent palace. It was a time of rest and luxury after all his accomplishments. As he admires his work, he looked at the tent that housed the ark of covenant – representing the place where God dwells. Compared to his huge palace made of the best wood, God’s tent looked insignificant, plain, unworthy of the glory and splendour of God. It was almost pitiful!

Then it struck David, he should build a glorious house for God! A temple that reflects God’s splendour! He spoke to Nathan the prophet about it. As we know, Nathan and David had a close relationship. You could say that Nathan was a close friend. Nathan sees that David has a good idea and agrees. Afterall, it can’t be a bad thing to build a temple for the Lord.

But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
2 Samuel 7:4-7

Nathan couldn’t be more wrong. David’s idea was a good idea, just not a God idea. God’s reply reveals not just His heart, but David’s heart. A few things to note:

  • David is addressed as “the king” 3 times (v1-3) at the beginning, until God addresses him as “my servant”. This is no coincidence. Basking in his accomplishments, David thought that he could do a favour for God. Afterall, he was the king. But once God steps in, He puts David in place right at the start.
  • When God asks a question, it is often rhetorical. It causes the listener to self-examine and think. It brings our attention to a significant point. God asks David “Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?” or in another translation “Do you really intend to build a house for me to live in?”, He seems to say “Who are you to build me a house? Think about it carefully.”
    Stephen got it right when he said that God simply does not dwell in a temple. God never asked for a temple in the first place. Whats more, a temple is made of things which God himself made! The wood, stone, metals and jewels in the temple are God’s creation (Acts 7:45-50, Isaiah 66:1-2). Who are we to say that we built something (or anything at all) for Him?

This is God’s rationale. He has not asked for a house. From the beginning of Israel’s journey coming out of Egypt, their wandering, their conquests, all the way to David, He has never asked for a house. If God didn’t ask for it to be changed, then the current setup is good enough. If God had wanted to have a house rather than a tent, He would have said something to one of the leaders in the past. God was asking David, “when did my tent become not good enough?” When did God’s timelessly perfect plan become outdated and imperfect?

David has fallen into the trap of seeing the things of God from worldly eyes – palace of cedar versus tent of leather. David thought that he could improve on God’s tent! It is too easy to fall into that trap, it is in our nature to seek advancement and improvement. When have we measured the things of God by worldy eyes? When have we tried to improve on what God has instituted? When have we thought that we could do God a favour in our service?

Have we looked at a sluggish congregation on a Sunday morning and thought that worship was bad? Have we looked at a guitarist playing the wrong chords and thought that it wasn’t pleasing to God? Have we looked at a God thing and said that we can make it better? Have we approached service as a favour to God? Do we lead with humble hearts?

Ever so often I need to get off my little pedestal, think about it and get it right again.

Unless the Lord

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
Psalm 127

God’s free gifts are so much bigger than our best efforts.

The Psalmist addresses how God provides for our basic needs – housing, protection/safety and food. This Psalm points out that our labour does not necessarily equate to the desired outcome. Building a house is a wise endeavour and seen as a permanent solution for housing, but unless the Lord builds it, our building does not equate to housing. Unless the Lord watches over the city, our efforts to protect our family and community is honourable but ineffective. Our labour to put food on the table is a daily exertion, an endless and restless battle, but God is the one who gives rest from this labour. It doesn’t state that our labour is not required, but that God links our labour to outcomes and gives relief for our labour.This relief comes in 2 ways – when the outcomes for our labour is met and when we have rest from our labour (sleep).

The psalm then goes further to point out the extent of God’s love – His gift of children. Children in those days mean security for old age and social status for women. It is a gift that needs no labour on our part, only enjoyment! Oh how He loves us!

All kinds of busy

Monday, December 12th, 2011

December 2011 is turning out to be the craziest month in my 28 year history.

We got keys to our new house on 7th December and we’re planning to move in on 29th December. That means, we need to get tiling put in, get the wooden floor laminate installed, get the internal wall painting done, evaporative unit installed, security system installed, furniture purchased and delivered, the house cleaned and dusted and everything in our rental place packed and ready to move. All that in a span of a little more than 3 weeks. And somewhere , we will be celebrating my dear wife’s birthday and Christmas. It is going to be fun fun fun.

From 2012, this will be our home. Our very own suburban dream come true.  

A house is a big deal. It is something that we’ve saved up and sacrificed for. Now that we’ve got a nice new home with beautiful furnishings, so what? What now?

I am reminded of 2 passages in the bible that relate to building houses.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27

and

After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.”
But that night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying:
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ …
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you…
2 Samuel 7:1-7, 11

Both significant scriptures with loads to say. I’ll be looking at these 2 scriptures in the next few weeks or maybe when things settle down.

I am reminded again and again of the goodness and greatness of God. I am so in awe that all I can say is in David’s prayer of praise: “Sovereign Lord, you are God!”

“LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
2 Samuel 7:27-29

Without limit

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God rested on man in measured portions for certain periods and functions. Men and women alike did great things when the Spirit of God came upon them. One could do one thing by God’s Spirit, while another could do something else. All of these things were done supernaturally because they were supernaturally enabled for a period of time.

  • Joseph could interpret dreams and was wise and discerning (Genesis 41:38-39)
  • Bezaleel was commissioned and empowered to work on the temple and it’s artifacts (Exodus 31:1-3)
  • Joshua led Israel to bring down the walls of Jericho (Numbers 27:18)
  • Othniel lead Israel, went to war and was victorious (Judges 3:10)
  • Gideon blew a trumpet and summoned the Abiezrites to join his army (Judges 6:34)
  • Jephthah advanced against the Ammonites (Judges 11:29)
  • Samson killed a lion, 30 men and a 1000 men (Judges 13:24-25,14:5-6,19,14-15)
  • Saul led Israel to victory until the Spirit left him (1 Samuel 10:6,16:14)
  • Saul and his messangers were on a murderous mission when they prophesied (1 Samuel 19:20-24)
  • David led Israel, prospered and wrote numerous Psalms (1 Samuel 16:13)
  • Seventy elders helped share Mose’s burden of leading the people (Numbers 11:16-17,24-29)
  • Elijah had supernatural speed (1 Kings 18:46)
  • Elisha inherited a double portion of God’s spirit in Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11,15)
  • Elisha prophesied the future (2 Kings 3:15-19)
  • Ezekiel was teleported to a different place/dimension and rasied dry bones to life by prophesying (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
  • Elizabeth exclaimed and Zechariah prophesied (Luke 1:41,67)

    Source: Wikipedia

So what happened in the New Testament when Jesus came?

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
John 3:34-35 (Colossians 1:19)

Jesus had the same Spirit poured out on Him without limit. No specific time, place or purpose, He simply has the full continuous unlimited flow of God’s Spirit. Everything that he did, He did supernaturally; everything that He said, He said supernaturally (John 5:19,30; 8:38).

As was prophesied, Jesus came that He might put His Spirit in us (Isaiah 44:3; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). We aren’t just getting a little bit of the Spirit or measured portions, we’re getting the whole lot.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7

This same Holy Spirit lives in all of us (Acts 2:38;5:32; Romans 8:9). We got it abundantly, generously, richly. Since the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, people like you and me have been living supernaturally. It isn’t just doing or saying supernatural things, its our whole lives being supernatural. You can see it in the early church:

  • The disciples spoke in different tongues (Acts 2:4, 13:52)
  • Peter and others spoke boldly (Acts 4:8; 31)
  • Seven leaders were chosen with being “full of the Spirit” as a criteria (Acts 6:3)
  • Stephen saw Jesus and the glory of God just before his death (Acts 7:55)
  • Barnabas was described as one such person who seemed to always have the fullness of His Spirit (Acts 11:24)
  • Paul blinded Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8-11)

Things that we do everyday seem so normal and natural, but little do we know (or feel like) it’s supernaturally enabled. I wonder what it must have been like not having the Holy Spirit?