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1 Chronicles 16:23-34
It’s interesting that President Paul Wendland of our Seminary just presented a paper on Chronicles at our Pastors’ conference a few weeks ago. It was entitled “Memory and Hope.” President Wendland stated that purpose for the writing of Chronicles was to give those who had returned from exile in Babylon hope by reminding them of the wonderful acts of God, and that the LORD still reigns! It’s a fitting message for us today. Remembering that the Lord still reigns gives us hope too.
There was good reason for the returning exiles to feel hopeless. Their forefathers had felt invincible because they were God’s chosen people and because they had God’s presence displayed at the temple in Jerusalem. They believed that, no matter what they did, no matter how far they drifted away from God, he would never allow anyone to conquer them or to destroy his temple. But, because they were just going through the motions of worship instead of trusting in the Lord himself, and at the same time worshiping idols, God did allow them to be conquered and carried off as captives to Babylon, and he did allow his temple to be destroyed.
Seventy years later, when they heard the news that they could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple they must have been filled with joy and excitement. But when they arrived, reality set in. Everything was a bigger mess than they anticipated. The amount of work necessary to rebuild seemed overwhelming for the small amount of people who actually did return to Jerusalem. In addition, the people who had been living in the area for the last 70 years didn’t want the city or the temple to be rebuilt. They opposed those who were trying to rebuild politically, and even threatened military action to stop them. When the foundations of the second temple were laid, those who could remember the first temple wept as they realized that the glory of the second temple couldn’t compare to the first.
They suffered from the same syndrome we do when troubles face us and we look back on the past. The old days seem so good by comparison, mostly because we remember selectively. We tend to focus only on the good things. Through the rose-colored glasses of our memory we think things were so much easier, safer, simpler back then. But for Israel, and for us, to look on the past in that way robs us of strength to face today, and it robs us of hope for tomorrow.
The guidance the Holy Spirit gives us through the Chronicler is not to trust our own faulty memories of the past, but to remember what Scripture tells us that God has done.
David writes, Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his wonderful acts among all the peoples.
Declare his glory, his wonderful acts. Literally, count them out. Make a list of all the surprising, extraordinary things the LORD has done. Count them out for yourselves and for anyone who will listen.
The two things that should be at top of your list of his wonderful acts are, the good news of his salvation, and the fact that he made the heavens.
If you reject God’s claim, repeated many places in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, that he made the heavens, that he is the creator of all that exists, then the LORD is not your God. You have an idol of your own making. And all the gods of the peoples are not gods at all. If you think God couldn’t have made everything that exists in six days, then you don’t have the true God who is almighty. You have an idol who is weak and can’t do anything to help or save you. If you reject God’s claim that he created all that exists, including Adam and Eve, then you are saying that you don’t have to answer to him; there is no such thing as sin, and therefore no need for salvation. If you reject what the Bible says about creation, you are saying that what is recorded in all of Scripture is only as reliable as your own faulty memory.
Declare the glory of God, including his wisdom and power in creating all that exists, among all peoples so that he may be feared above all gods. Let everyone know that they have to answer to him so that they see that they are in need of salvation.
The second thing at the top of our list of his wonderful acts is the good news of his salvation. Those returning from exile needed to have recounted for them God’s plan of salvation. They needed to see that the LORD reigns; that history is His story. They needed to be reminded of his promise to Adam and Eve in the garden. They needed to be reminded of his rescue of Noah and his sons. They needed to be reminded of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how those promises were fulfilled in surprising, extraordinary ways- giving children to the barren; sending plagues; dividing the red sea; providing manna and water from a rock; knocking down city walls; even making the sun stand still. The LORD reigns. He governs the events of every nation on earth in a way that fits his plan of salvation.
How much more do we have to recount than David did! We know that the Lord’s salvation, Jeshua in Hebrew, was born of a virgin; performed miracle after miracle, even raising the dead; and although he suffered and died, offering himself to be punished in our place, he rose from the dead himself! All these things happened just as God said they would. The good news is that God has provided salvation as a gift to all, for Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world!
Worship the LORD by proclaiming to everyone, every day, that the one and only true God is the creator and redeemer who wants all to be saved through the salvation he has provided them in Jesus
David continues. Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name. Bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
As we remember God’s promises and that he has kept each promise perfectly we have hope because we realize that he will continue to keep every promise he has made us perfectly. We will be moved to give him the credit he deserves for everything good that happens in our lives. As James says, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights. By our own strength and wisdom we would turn everything into a mess, but in his mercy and grace, God chooses to bless our feeble labors. Any good we do is done through him. He works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose. When people see our good works, he is to get all the glory, not us.
As we are reminded daily of what God has done for us we will be moved to bring an offering and come before him. We will realize that he is not glorified if we bring him leftovers, or if we are just going through the motions like Cain, or the people of Judah before the exile, because we don’t want to look bad in front of others. If your best friend wouldn’t be honored if you gave them what you give to the Lord why do you think God would be honored by such a gift. As God says through Malachi, When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. Make sure your offering, whether in time, talent or treasure, comes from a thankful heart and ascribes to the LORD the honor due his name.
Worship the Lord day after day, every day. He never takes a vacation from you. In fact, as Jesus told the pharisees, if we keep quiet, if we fail to declare his praises day after day, the stones will do it. David says, Let the heavens be glad. Let the earth rejoice. Let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” Let the sea and everything that is in it roar. Let the field and everything in it rejoice. Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth.
Remembering what God has done; remembering that he has kept his promises and that we have salvation in Jesus, gives us hope even in what might seem to be a hopeless situation. The creation, the sea, the fields, the forests, all look forward in hope to the day when God will keep his final promise. On that day he will come in the clouds of heaven and release us and everything he has made from the bondage of sin. There will be a new heaven and a new earth where there is only righteousness, no sin will be found anywhere in it. The old things, like pain, and sickness, and disease, and storms, and earthquakes, and death- all those things will be gone for good. And all who trust in Jesus, who have received the salvation he has won for them through faith in Jesus, will be judged “not guilty”. They will live and worship God in the glory and splendor of his holiness for all eternity.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. The LORD reigns. The LORD is ruling all things for our good! His mercy endures forever.