Friday, October 16, 2009

The One who Keeps

I got weepy over a set of bowls recently. Nope, it wasn't that I dropped and broke any. Nor was it that I walked in half-slumber on an early morning to pour that  must-have bowl of cereal only to then find that no bowl was clean (talk about a bummer). The truth of the matter is that I got weepy over four hundred and forty bowls. Every stinking single one of them. Ezra did me in. Well, to be precise, the LORD did me in.

Maybe it is because I have been heart-deep for over a year in the study of the Northern and Southern Kingdom time periods (and no where close to being done). So don't question yourself and scratch your head if this means not more than half an iota to you. Because I've been bonding with this portion of the Word for over a year, I'm kind of all emotionally wrapped up in it. You would be the normal person. I mean, who cries over bowls?

Nonetheless: Here's the short story deal: Abraham --> Isaac --> Jacob --> born 12 Tribes of Israel --> from which is derived Judah --> born King David --> born King Solomon --> who builds the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon's bears a son, Rehoboam, who later becomes king. Rehoboam refused to lighten his father's tax burden on the people he now rules. So what happens? One of Solomon's able servants, Jeroboam, takes 10 of the tribes, and high tales it to the north. Taking these 10 tribes out from under the 'slavery' of the house of David, Jeroboam (northern kingdom) is the man of the hour. He was given word that God would build him a sure house and establish his kingdom (1 Kings 11). But stank, you know what Jeroboam does? Because he didn't want his own 10 tribes venturing back down south to worship in the true center and dwelling place of their God in the temple of Jerusalem, he set up two golden calves in their city of Bethel and told the 10 tribes 'Behold your gods, O Israel...' (1 Kings 12:28). (Can anybody say 'Aaron?') Stank - you would have thought they would have remembered the sin of their fathers here on this repeat, but nope :(  For 208 years, those calves remain as a center of worship amongst the 10 tribes of Israel. And that's just the Northern Kingdom....

While Jeroboam leaves on his valid tantrum away from Solomon's son Rehoboam, and sets a plum line for the remaining history of the northern kingdom in idolatry, we hope for the best in the Southern Kingdom. Maybe they will obey God and His laws.The Southern Kingdom, the line from which God promised there would always be a 'lamp before Him in Jerusalem, the city where He had chosen to put His name' and dwell (1 Kings 11:36), does not meet God's hope of obedience and blessing. The lineage of Jesus during the days of the Southern Kingdom rocks out the following: pagan religious practices, cult prostitution, harlotry, murders, child sacrifices, payments to foreign kings for protection instead of seeking their God for help, witchcraft, idolatry, as well as placing idols in their very temple. Now, not every single one of their 20 kings is evil; some of them are wonderful kings, bringing covenant renewal, the removing of idols, and a trust for their God. But in summary, the Southern Kingdom, the line which God's promise was that He would always maintain a king on the throne for the sake of His servant David, cycles with evil and horrible sin, and fewer occasions of obedience and trust.

My heart broke over the cyclical failures of God's people - the people He had chosen for His very own possession. My heart broke for the deaf ears turned to the prophets that God sent again and again and again to warn, judge, and encourage His people. My heart ached for the curses of the Mosaic covenant that befell His people: In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar takes the people of Judah (our Southern Kingdom peeps) into exile in Babylon. The temple, where God had made His dwelling, He abandoned. Nebuchadnezzar, and the full weight of his army, destroy the man-made dwelling place of God. Truly, His glory has departed. And His people, a display of His glory, are at this time, a display of His justice, righteousness, and zeal, as He chooses, in His own timing, to love them with discipline. He will be their only God.

Nebuchadnezzar and his fellow Babylonians destroy everything, yet they carry off many of the temple furnishings for the value of their metal. And he places them in the temple of his god. The beautiful instruments used to worship the LORD of heaven and earth are placed in the house of a false god because of their material value (2 Kings 25:13-17).

And the clock ticks. And the exiles are weary. And the hope of a true Saving King surely comes to doubt in a man's mind. And the prophets lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. And they mourn.

Yet in the heavenlies, the kingdom clock resounds. And where the Southern Kingdom ended, God's promise did not. No, God did not forget His promise. And the line of Judah, the lineage of promise, continues. And one man, born into exile, an exile's son, is born - Zerubbabel. More time passes, and decades later, the Persian Empire defeats Babylon.

This Persian king, King Cyrus, issues a decree in 539 BC that allows the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their ruined temple. One year later, temple building begins under Zerubbabel. But not without this to start with:
"Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.  This was the inventory:
 gold dishes 30
 silver dishes 1,000
 silver pans 29
 gold bowls 30
 matching silver bowls 410
 other articles 1,000
In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along when the exiles came up from Babylon to Jerusalem." Ezra 1:7-11

Those articles fashioned for the dwelling place of God, stolen by King Nebuchardnezzar merely for their monetary value, and set up in a idol's den, were preserved in the midst of a city destroyed to a state of absolute desolation. And not only were they preserved, but they were returned to the people for their trip home and the temple's rebuilding.

The thought was more than I could bear. They were such a small detail of life, yet they were preserved. Like the Israelites themselves, they too had been taken in to exile, but they too were called back to a life of service in worship. The remnant had been preserved. The temple instruments had been preserved. No sin could usurp the promise of God's steadfast love in the promise to His people. And He called them back home to fulfill His promise. He called them back home to a place of obedience, trust, and worship to the One True God.

I cannot be overly dramatic and exclude the fact that the temple is indeed rebuilt, but with no evidence of God's glorious return. The LORD's coming is delayed due to the sin of His people. But you and I know, on this side of the cross, that He does return, and no temple made by man is necessary, for the Son became flesh, and His glory dwelled among us.

The Covenant-Keeper kept it all. He kept His promise. He kept His people. And He even kept bowls, pans, and dishes, in the midst of their misplacement in the house of an idol, to be set back again in their proper context - one of worship for the One and Only.

I was undone...

Because He does that for me. And He does it for you. No amount of time on that kingdom clock lessens His power to preserve, protect, and keep guard over those things from which He has promised to bring forth life and worship. Even if my past, gifts, talents, relationships, or emotions have been set in an idol's den at some point, God can still keep watch over them to bring them back to their proper setting. That thing I thought I had lost, the Restorer of ancient ruins brings back through the oddest of circumstances and the strongest of healings to full restoration, for the display of His splendor. That 'bowl' I had once used in service to Him, that I lost or gave up in sin to a false god, He does not forget. But He is able, with my obedience, to bring back life to that area of spiritual death, that I may worship Him. He has taken my soul out of prison, be it the one I created on my own, or the one I was placed in by another, that I may praise His name (Psalm 142:7).

He's in to the details. He is in to preserving, for the sake of restoring. He's in to keeping guard over, for the sake of keeping your worship. He's zealous over you and all that you have, for He is a God not willing to share His glory with another.

With what you gave me Lord to worship you, I offer back to you. With the things you put in me, that I offered up to a false god, You call back to true worship. As one who has been brought from death to life, I offer the parts of my body, and all that I am, to You, as an instrument of righteousness. Come, Lord Jesus, and hear the love song that I sing in worship to You, my Covenant-Keeper and Protector of Love. You are my Glory (Psalm 3:3). Come and get Your glory LORD.


brittanybaker said...

girl, you are amazing! I can't wait to read your blog again in more detail...I'm currently studying 2 Samuel so I'm getting there ;)

As for the roommates, it is getting better. My roommate Jaclyn and I are really social and the other two rarely have friends over so we're just trying to find a good balance.

I love what you wrote in this posting...and that God really does care about the details. It's so overwhelming that he knows our coming and going along with the other bajillion people in the world....I can already tell that your blog will be such a blessing! Enjoy that fall weather!

Ang baylis said...

You are SO smart, Shelly! I'm coming back to read this with a cup of coffee in the morning. Your passion is SO genuine. I'd give anything to sit in on a conversation between you and Beth Moore talking about this post! I bet the two of you could talk for hours! It still amazes me how younger sisters in Christ can teach me so much! I'll be back. Promise! By the way, I can't tell you how many times I've listened to the song you shared with me. I'm listening to it right now! His Glory Appears is new to me. I love it! I'm glad you're back!
Love you,
Angie xoxo

Toknowhim said...

Ang is right when she says how much we can learn from a younger woman like yourself...Your passion for Him is contagious girlfriend...

Keep posting as you get time :)

Ang baylis said...

"The Covenant-Keeper kept it all. He kept His promise." Have a great Sunday, dear friend!
Love you,
Angie xoxo

Toknowhim said...

Hey Girl...

I am going to the LPM conference in November. Are you going to be going to any conferences soon? I know that you have gone with your hubby before :)

Blessings... Kim

Katie said...

Shelly, I love this!
I liked how you gave a recap that led up to the event you were talking about since I am still not grounded in the order of the OT. God has been working on cleaning me out (His Temple) for the past 6 mo. It is excruciating. Isn't it scary how easy it is to have idols and unclean stuff secretly dwell inside of you? It really freaks me out when God reveals it to me. This passage made me shiver as you talked about how the people ignored God and "did their own thing". Its almost wonderfully unbelievable how God still keeps His people even when they let go of Him. This whole thing is truly a "God story"! How could He be so good to a wretch like me?! I mean really, where we would we be if He gave men what they deserve? (Ps. 103) Thank you Lord for having mercy on me, a sinner!!!

You make me pray to love and live God's Word more and more, thanks again for writing this. Oh, and thanks for emailing me too!

Love ya,
Katie Taylor, AL

Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife said...

This post has 1 Tim. 2:21 all over it...FABULOUS!

I also am totally in love with Ezra and Zerubbabel... Ezra 7:10 is my fave "And Ezra set his heart to know the law of the Lord, to practice it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel." It's one thing to know God's Word, another entirely to do what it says. And there lies the great disconnect of our generation.

One more fine exposition young lady. Have I ever mentioned you should write a book? :))

Ang baylis said...

I'm hoping you'll write some more, girlfriend! You bless me so...
Love you,
Angie xoxo

Kelly S. said...

I've tried 3 times to comment on this post, and every time my words are lacking to describe my feelings.

I loved it. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.....that my friend, describes you.

And what about these sweet comments...all so true. Here's a "howdy" to Katie, your comment made me want to hug your neck :) (and I totally agree with you about Shelly)

BTW Shelly-
Praise the LORD our week away was wonderful. Everything else the same, big meeting tomorrow... prayers appreciated :)