The Covenant God is in the midst of his people

Ds J Bruintjes
2 Kronieke 5 - 7
Preek Inhoud: 

The Temple is Built. The house of God.

Now in these chapters we see what it means for Gods people to dwell with them. These chapters are about the covenant love and faithfulness and of God. We see covenant language thought-out. In chapter 5 Gods covenant is most clearly portrayed in the Ark It is even called the ark of the LORDS covenant in verse 2 and again in verse 7, and it was a reminder of God holy presence. This is a story where Gods covenant promises are coming to fulfillment.

They had finally arrived in the land of promise. The Land God promised to bring them too. Rest was here. Peace. They could settle because God had settled among them. If there is one word that encapsulates these chapters, it is the word covenant.

The Covenant God is in the midst of his people.

  1. A covenant God comes to dwell with his people.
  2. A covenant prayer interceding for Gods people
  3. A covenant answer

God comes to his people.

Chapter 5:1 and chapter 5:14 has a beautiful connection. First Solomon builds the temple, and it is finished, and it ends with the glory of the LORD coming to such an extent that there was room for nothing else.

You see this is a connection again with the time of Moses. Exodus 40 Moses finishes the Tabernacle and in Ex 40:34 it is almost verbatim the same thing as in 5:14. This cloud this glory was the manifestation of God’s presence! Gods glory is who he is. Is that not what we want? This morning. God God to dwell among us? We want Gods glory to fill us as a community! Revealing what he is! And this glory is found preeminently in Jesus.

Haggai 2:7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts..

As John 1 say, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (Tabernacled) among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

1 Corinthians 5: “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Dear Church, this glory was a shadow of the glory that you have beheld! It is Christ in your midst. In him the fullness of God has come to dwell among us. If all of you put your eyes on him, this place will be filled with the glory of God.

Just imagine the scene! Close your eyes for a minute. This moment had taken hundreds of years. From the moment that Moses led them out of Egypt, God had lived in a temporary dwelling. Now after building for seven years the temple was complete. And in the seventh month on one of the great Jewish feast days the king gathers everyone together. It happens to be Sukkoth where they built temporary to remember the escape from Egypt, and it was also the feast of ingathering where they celebrate the harvest. All the priests have washed themselves and are ceremonially clean set apart to God. A symbolic washing that points toward a washing in the blood of the lamb. A people set apart to God through the blood of sacrifice!

And indeed, this passage is full of blood - a very bloody affair. We read in verse 6 that they sacrificed so many sheep that could not be counted. And after his prayer in chapter 7 we read that he offered 22000 oxen and 120000 sheep! As if to say there is no amount of animal blood that will ever make these people worthy of this moment, of enjoying the presence of God. No animal blood would ever be enough. And it is through this bloody trail that the symbol of God’s presence – the ark – enters the temple. The way to God is approached is through blood. The Ark is a picture of Gods utter holiness portrayed by the 10 commandments. And no one can approach a holy God except through blood. Which is what happens!

And when he enters his holy temple there is singing and praise! Of his covenant and steadfast love! Singing and worship go together. The church goes through history singing the praises of God. From beginning to the end of history, and into eternity. We read that these are gifted Levitical singers dressed beautifully with cymbals, harps, lyres together with 120 priest who were trumpeters. Ad we read in verse 13, “And it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD.  I love that. It’s your job to make sure people hear you in unison in praise and thanking God., “For he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever.” They sing of his HESED – which can be translated covenant love and faithfulness. We see this word in in chapter 5:13, 6:42, and again in 7:3.  

In the midst of sacrifice and worship God comes to dwell with his people. We read the connection between the sacrifices and God coming to dwell with his people in chapter 7 again where we read, “Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.”

O dear beloved is this not an amazing picture of the gospel! Is this not exactly what the way Our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavenly temple of which this temple was but a shadow! Through sacrifice! Through blood. A bloody trail with blood infinitely more valuable and worthy then the blood of bulls and goats. Hebrews says the blood of bulls and goats was never enough to make a people holy. But he was worthy! Infinitely worthy! And his blood would set the captives free! The LORD consumed him and his sacrifice was acceptable so that God could again dwell with his people. And that is what happened!

When he ascended, what was the response! SINGINING! Praise just as these temples’ singers, so the church in revelation sings when the Lamb who was slain ascended to sit upon the throne! And what happened after he ascended! His Glory – He himself came to dwell in the midst of his people who are the temple in the Person of the Holy Spirit!

A Covenant Prayer

Chapter 6:1 is great. He basically says God had promised all along. The expectation was that God would fullfill his promises! May that expectation live among us! And this king turns an blesses the people, before making a pulpit from which to pray  in the presence of all the people and lifts his hands to heaven. Interceding for Gods people, and their sins.

Before we continue: just an aside. Some people argue it is the posture of the heart that is important, and bodily posture does not matter. But often in Scripture your bodily posture is a reflection the heart. Like the parable of the pharisees and tax collector. Where the pharisees stands straight, and the tax collects beats his breast and cannot even look into heaven.

This prayer is based on Gods covenant promises in made in the past, fulfilled in the present to be consummated in the future. Prayer is the heart of worship ensuring that worship is not rote. If you have come to church your whole life but are not a praying person, chances are your worship is just a show.  In chapter 6:1-15 Solomon praises God for his covenant promises that God made in the past and has now fulfilled in David’s Son! And then for the rest of the chapter he asks God to be true to those promises. We see the transition in verse 15 to 16. Up to verse 15 he is praising God for what he had done, and in verse 16 onward he asks God to be faithful to those promises!

This is what the people of every generation need to be doing constantly. In prayer. God you have done this. And this. And fulfilled this promise! We can point the fulfillment of every promise in Jesus Christ! We know the son of David! The promises have been fulfilled! He reigns! God dwells with his people! Even Jesus Christ the Son of David prays or intercedes before the Fathers throne and the basis of all the promises that were fulfilled in his life death and resurrection. Just as this prayer by this Son of David is heard by God! And so, God does hear his people’s prayers! So another son of David intercedes that the father might hear every prayer directed toward his holy temple.

And this prayer of intercession by the Priest king Solomon. A picture of what Jesus Christ does as he pleads for us before the throne because of our sin. He prays that God might forgive, and in a sense reverse the curses of the covenant, when the people turn their faces toward the place of sacrifice. The place where atonement was made for sin

Look at the refrain in the prayer of v14-42.  In verse 24, “…because they have sinned.” In verse 26, “Because they have sinned.” And in verse 30 we see the result of all those trials is because they have sinned, because he says, “then hear… and forgive.” And again, in verse 36, “If they sin…” You see a theme here. There is in this prayer a cold hard realism that faces squarely the sinfulness of Gods people. And also the beauty that despite sin, atonement and forgiveness is available in Gods holy temple! We turn our eyes toward the lamb who was slain! We turn our eyes to Jesus Christ.  The place where God met with his people.

The sins of Gods people will not leave them on some dead-end road full of guilt, depression, and a hopeless future, but even in their sins there is a future and a hope, because the God of the bible brings his judgement upon his people in order to lead them back to his mercy.

There are only two petitions that seem to possibly not talk about sin, and those are the ones in verse 32-33, and 34-25. And here we have one petition about the spread of Gods glory and mission, and the other about the victory of the kingdom. In verse 32 we have a prayer for the foreigners.

Solomon did not expect the temple to be Israel’s best kept secret. He expected tit to be a kind of mission station. In this prayer we may see a shadow of when all people’s tribes and nations would flock to Gods house. The temple was God’s gift to Israel, but it was meant to draw those far beyond Israel into the joy of atonement and prayer!

Yes, he draws people today through his temple the church filled with glory of god – Jesus Christ, so that all the people on earth may know him and fear his name, as we do. That they may know this church is called by His name! We are not here for ourselves we are here for the nations! We are here to call every tongue tribe and nation! To fulfill the prayers of the Son of David! That people would be drawn to him and that every knee would bow!

And the final prayer that does not seem directly connected to sin, is the prayer that Solomon prays that Gods people would find victory through prayer toward the Temple! It echoes the prayer our lord that we pray toward the heavenly temple where our great mediator stands who defeated all Gods enemies and has brought us peace not unlike the people in Solomon’s time enjoyed. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  

A covenant festival

The first thing that we see in chapter seven is the sacrifices again. Which we spoke about already, so we wont touch on that again. But look at verse 8-10

We also see a feast. Where we see God and his people covenanting, we see feasting. A thanksgiving feast. A feast of joy. And we see that it is celebrated by all Gods covenant people from Lebo-Hamath to the brook of Egypt. Which, by the way, is exactly the area of land that god promised to Abraham. So, all Gods people feast together in response to his covenant promises fulfilled in David and Solomon.

How much more reason do we have to feast! It is not for nothing that the Lords Supper is often also called the Eucharist, which means “Thanksgiving” It is a covenant feast where we remember his promises and his goodness and look forward to that great day when we shall feast with that great son of David, the prince of peace whose kingdom will never end.

Not only do the people feast, but the Lord himself also appears and responds, and basically says, yes I have heard your prayer on behalf of the people, and I will hear it, as we read in 7:12. Gods eyes and hears are open to his holy temple!  

And finally, it is important as we look at the last part of our text in chapter 7 that have a very well known verse that is often taken out of context. I want to just spend some time on this verse. I heard it growing up in America applied to America, I have heard it here in South Africa applied to South Africa. It is verse 14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

We use this verse and combine God and country. Many people are familiar with one verse. And use it to says we need to reclaim South Africa back to where it used to be. A period of time is presented to show when the country lived morally good lives. It is easy to misunderstand this text, because it is easy to misunderstand the gospel in South African life. But as the culture changes, this text as everything to do with what it looks like for us as Christian looking into the future. As the church seemingly shrinks. But that was never the case. It just used to be that everyone to believe in a morality of Christianity without the cross. But that is not the gospel.

Remember this is written to exiles, not to south Africa as a nation, but to Gods covenant people, who were to remember the time under Solomon’s reign. They were feeling uneasy, unsure, and insecure in this new changed reality.

It says, “IF my people!” We need to know who we are! What is our identity. Many people apply this to South African. But it says, “if MY people.” Dear church we are not south Africans first we are people called by the name of God, this is addressed not to the world, but to the church! Not a culture, or a nation – the citizens of Gods kingdom!

And this kingdom is defined by the temple, the sacrifices, and the presences of God which for us all come together in the person and work of our Lord Jesus! We must understand who we are. There is pressure to identify ourselves by location, or demographic, or status, or national identity. And yet the gospel asks us to define ourselves by the covenant. We have an identity that takes priority over every other identity. And that is as the people who are called by the name of God through Jesus Christ.

This is not about getting South Africa in step with the church. But getting the church out of step with South Africa. One of the things that is happening now as our culture undergoes a changing time, when it takes less courage to admit that you don’t believe or believe something else. When cultural Christianity disappears. That is no time to panic! NO! Now we see that is God graciously identifying who is church and who his people are with a distinctive witness and message for the rest of the world and the rest of the culture.

It says, ““If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Right away we assume it says, “ South Africa would just repent of its wickedness then God would heal south Africa. But it is not addressed to outsiders, but to the people of God.

And it is addressed to the people of God not as the moral observers of the outside world, but as sinners in need of forgiveness! And in need of healing! He says if YOU will repent! If YOU will cry out! If YOU will turn! Then I will hear, and then I will heal.

What some people have tended to do with this, is to use it the same way prosperity gospel preachers use the other promises of God, but just on a corporate level. If only a nation will turn to God then they will be healthy, wealthy and happy! God says no! Your purification, your return, your healing will come through discipline. Through suffering..

This is about Jesus the messiah, and his people. We see that especially when we keep reading in verse 16 and 17. And then God also gives a curse for if they do not follow his ways. The temple will be destroyed as we read, “And this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” Again this is not about a country, but the people of God. It happened in the exile, and it would happened for many years after, but it ultimately happened at the cross. I just want you to reflect that Jesus says he is the temple of God. he was consecrated set apart. And what happened?

When he was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, everyone passing by looked at this man who said he was the anointed of God. and yet we see cursed is everyone that hangs on tree. God has abandoned him. God is cursing him. What they did not know or could not see, is that the curses that Jesus was bearing were curses that were directed toward us. Not the penalty of his own sin. But the penalty of our sin. He received these curses, so that he might also dispense the blessing of God.

He will do that for his people and all the created universes. As we see that the land here is important as the people. The worst thing that could possibly happened has happened. The covenant curses of god have been removed from you. And the best thing that could possible has happened, Christ is yours forevermore.

 You may walk joyfully to a kingdom in a trillion years South Africa will not be here. Gods kingdom will. So, let’s be kingdom citizens first. A community bought by the blood of the lamb. A temple in dwelt with the glory of God.  Offering our lives as thank offering for his work. For our God is the covenant God. the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon. The God of Jesus Christ. The answer to Gods covenant blessing and curses are found in Christ.