The Hope for a New Beginning

by LA UBF   07/06/2008     0 reads


The Hope for A New Beginning���

The Hope for a New Beginning

1 Chronicles 1:1-29:30
Key Verse 9:1, 2

The other day I watched on a CNN News program a man starting to cry as he was being given an interview. This man had a house on a scenic spot with an ocean view in the Big Sur area. Unfortunately due to the brush fires, smoke was going up around; the fire was crawling in. The fire department issued an evacuation order. But he could not. The reporter asked the man, "Why are you not evacuating?" The man said, "How can I? This house is my life: I've got to protect it." Then he started crying. I don't know what is going to happen to his house. Will the fire die down? Would he be able to save his house? What if the house burnt down? What if he did not have an insurance? This man was in his early 50's. Will he be able to bounce back?

Many questions were asked about the purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles. But one most appealing answer would be for the Ezra to prepare his return to the Promised Land. As many Bible scholars indicate, it must have been Ezra who wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles. Assuming that it was to get himself ready to return to Israel and reform the nation that he wrote these two books, which I believe is the case, we can better understand what might have gone through the mind of Ezra as he applied himself to the compilation of the chronicles.

It is apt for us to consider then the situation the Israelites were in as Ezra prepared himself to go back to Jerusalem. And it is not difficult to figure out the difficulties Ezra had as he prayed to put the house of Israel back to an orderly condition. Historical records and references to the Bible verses tell us that already a significant number of Jews went back to Israel. The Jerusalem temple was completed, not in the way as grand and glorious as before but in a much lesser scale at least from a physical standpoint. But what about the people? Surely what counts most is people, not a physical temple. The temple is merely an environment in which people are to come to the Lord. So real recovery must begin with people. Will Ezra be able to lead the efforts to bring about the full recovery of the people? Here in the book of the first chronicles, there is a Bible passage which helps us to read the mind of Ezra and offers an answer to the question we have, that is, the two key verses for tonight. Let us read them together. Let us consider the hope Ezra worked with in three parts:

Part I. The people of Judah

As we pull ourselves through our life in a physical body on this side of the grave, we find that three things are difficult to accomplish: first is to succeed, second is to maintain success if one has ever been able to garner it, and third is to crawl back to prosperity after one hits rock bottom.

In the two Bible verses we read, it can be seen that the Israelites went through the experiences that are related to the first two categories of difficulties. They once upon a time rose to the highest point of successes. Did they manage the success well? No. Now that they fell all the way down to the rock bottom, the remaining question for them would be, "Do we still have the hope to rise to the glorious state as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation?" Or assuming that there is still such a hope for them, "Do we have the courage enough to work on this hope?"

In order to garner enough courage and strength to work for this hope to come true, one of the first things one must do is consider the glorious state from which he slid. What then was the glorious state in which the Israelites used to be? And how did they manage to arrive at such an exalted state? Again, in Ezra's mind, the expression "the people of Judah" answers the questions. In fact as we briefly covered in the lecture for the book of Judges, this description "the people of Judah" not only gives out the correct definition of "success" but also the "means" (or "formula" if you will) of fulfilling the desire to succeed. Judges 20:18 reads, "The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, "Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?" The LORD replied, "Judah shall go first."

Judges 20:18, particularly the instruction "Judah shall go first" defines what success is all about. Many people want to be successful, not knowing what being successful is all about. What is success? Who can be viewed as a "successful" person? That is a good question. But from a Biblical standpoint success refers to the state in which one has met all the needs he has, so that he is not in want of anything; therefore from the bottom of his heart he can say, "I have all I need for life." In this way, success can be defined to mean "total satisfaction" with the satisfaction permeating through all different levels of his existence. As man exists on [roughly speaking] three dimensions - the dimension of God, of man, and of material - in order for one to be called "successful", one must attain to a state where one has met all the needs one has on all the three dimensions. Since these three dimensions correspond to spirit, soul, and body, one must secure all the components that are necessary to generate total satisfaction on all different levels - on spirit level, on soul level, then on bodily level. Functionally, spirit is a vessel to hold God, soul is a container holding you, and body is a hardware (or form) to let you occupy a location in a time space continuum.

The order (of satisfaction) here is VERY important. The order is the order (of time and of direction) in which the streams of blessings making man deeply satisfied flow into his life, so that where spiritual needs are met, soul's needs are met. Where soul's needs are met, bodily needs are also met. It never works the other way around. No matter how much one is satisfied on a physical (or fleshly) level (by stuffing one's stomach with lots of food), where one's soul is NOT properly nurtured with soul food, one's soul will never be able to find satisfaction. In the same way, just as the soul's prosperity does not depend on bodily pleasures, so also the spirit's prosperity does not depend on the soul's wellbeing; rather, the soul thrives only as one's spirit thrives.

Of equal importance is the magnitude of the needs we have on each level: the spirit's need is infinitely great; the body's need is minimal (or virtually "nothing" compared with the greatness (or significance of the spirit's needs); and the soul's needs are coextensive with the needs of his spiritual and bodily existence (Gen 2:7).

The account of Leah in the book of Genesis serves as the case in point. She used to seek satisfaction from her husband Jacob. So she kept demanding her husband to come to bed with her. In a way she was like the Samaritan woman who was looking to quench the thirst of her soul at the Jacob's well (that is, from her relationship with her [five] husbands and one room mate]. But none of them was able to quench her thirst. But when Jesus came, he offered living water which is Jesus himself. On finding that Jesus is the Savior, she left her water jar, ran to her town, and with great joy, invited townspeople to meet Jesus saying, "Could this be the Christ?" Leah used to be the same as the Samaritan woman. Like the Samaritan woman the more she demanded Jacob the more Leah grew thirsty. Finally she turned to the Lord. Then on giving birth to Judah she named baby saying, "This time I will praise the Lord." She then stopped having children, which indicates that she found the living well which gives her true satisfaction.

The statement, "This time I will praise the Lord" also shows us the way to become successful in all we do: While success is defined to mean being no longer in want, praising the Lord serves as the key to participating in the world of the Lord's infinite perfection. In the Lord's mountain one can find all one need for life. And the supplies we get out of our relationship with the Lord are without a limit. We are limited, but God is not. So by being connected with what is without a limit, we can then be made fully sufficient.

As a nation this was how the Israelites rose to the all time high in their career as a priestly nation. While they were in Egypt they were pushed down to the lowest level of the society. For a while they endured. But as the oppression mounted up they could no longer bear it; they cried out to the Lord for help. In his mercy the Lord sent Moses to save them. After saving them from the power of Pharaoh the Lord invited them to himself. There at Mt. Sinai the Lord secured a covenant relationship with them. In exchange for the Israelites' promise to love and obey the Lord, the Lord promised to exalt them high above all nations as written in Deuteronomy 28:1,"If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth."

The Lord then empowered Joshua, so that through his leadership, the Israelites took possession of the land. During the days of the Judges, the Israelites went through ups and downs. Eventually the Lord established David as a shepherd king over Israel. Under the leadership of King David, the Israelites tasted sweet victories. By the time King Solomon came, as Solomon sought after the Lord, especially the Lord's wisdom, the Lord put the Israelites "high" above "all" nations, as 1 Kings 4:34 testify: "Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom."

Again as we live in this world, we find it hard to become truly successful as the word "successful" is defined in the Bible. Why is it so hard? First of all true success (in the true sense of the word "success") does not depend on men. No human being can make us succeed in the true sense of the word "succeed". But we are meant to succeed in all of our ventures. This is because we are created to rise above all creations. In order to equip men to be more than conquerors the Lord God crowned men with honor and glory (Psalm 8:5).  How then can we rise to the highest heights? It is through following the formula, that is, "This time I will praise the Lord". We need to look up to the Lord, and learn of him. As we worship him in spirit and truth, the Lord in turn inspires us to rise above all creations, so that all who look to him would rise to his infinite greatness.

Part II. The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon

The next thing which is hard to accomplish is to maintain the success one has secured. In the case of the Israelites, by the time King Solomon came to rule the nation, they reached the highest point of their career. In the book of First Chronicles, Ezra summarily described the high points of the Israelites in the Promised Land. He also highlights the high score earners such as David's mighty men.

But alas! They were not able to maintain the victorious standing as a priestly nation. They went downhill, until they were taken captive to Babylon.

Why then did they become what they became? We already know the answer: they started to focus more on creation rather than on the Creator. More specifically, the cause of their down fall is found in the very word "captive". The word "captive" is the same as "the conquered" or "the subjugated". They lost control over themselves. Someone or something else other than the Israelites came to take control over them.

This is not the way God created man. It is against God's will that man gets dominated by God's creations. According to Genesis 1:26-28 man's mission is to become dominant over creations rather than dominated by creations. But each time one loses sight of the Lord God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, one ends up being dominated by creation.

In the case of David, at the height of his success he came to be dominated by a lust problem. So he no longer became worthy of great blessings such as the position of a shepherd. So he went down to a pit real fast.

The same was true with Solomon. After reaching the zenith of his career, he started focusing on what is fleshly. As he lost his heart to what is physical, he rendered himself no longer worthy of the greater blessings such as the ruler of a priestly nation.

Speaking of the way in which one can perpetuate successes in the Lord, the Scripture says, "Be holy, because I am holy." Lev 11:44 One of the fundamental meanings of the word "holy" is to be free from [the dependency on] created things. Speaking of the same truth, the Apostle Paul says, "It is for freedom that the Christ has set us free." Gal 5:1 Therefore, by attaching ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, we can perpetuate the blessed state our Lord Jesus has secured for all who believe in Him.

Part III. Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites.

The third thing which is hard to fulfill is to crawl back to an exalted state after one has fallen from an exalted state way down to a lowest bottom. Figuratively speaking the challenge we talk about here is like a man who used to overeat for decades so that when he is supposed to weigh 150 pounds, he ends up weighing 300 pounds. Can he now have the hope to be in good shape, as slim and well fit as an Olympic swimming champion? Another example would be a young man, who after committing horrible crimes, serves a prison term for life, but is lucky enough to get released from the prison. However by the time he walks out of the prison gate, he is already in his late sixties. What hope then would there be for him?

Theoretically all things are possible. Doesn't even the Bible say, "Everything is possible for him who believes"? But to dream dreams is one thing, to actually go for a dream or dreams is another.

By the time Ezra wrote the first and second Chronicles, Ezra had a great challenge. He had to lead the returnees back to the Promised Land. It was a long journey involving a distance of 500 miles in a straight line. Most likely, as he was to lead a long caravan, he had to anticipate the distance of the journey doubling, if not tripling, up. In our day we have airplanes or cars or rail ways. But in those days they had to travel mostly on foot.

But the greater challenge was inside of men; and the challenge was to rekindle in the hearts of the people returning to Jerusalem the hope to live as a priestly nation. After going back to the homeland, will each returnee be transformed into a man worthy of God's call? How can a community of people who after more than 70 long years of assimilation into heathen cultures be molded into a new batch of people filled with the Spirit of the Holy God?

But in the key verse for today, the Prophet Ezra saw that already the Lord God rekindled the light of the hope of a new beginning. In fact to some, it was no longer a hope but a reality, for with this hope, they acted and started out on the journey back to Israel, and indeed they began to resettle in the holy land. Speaking of this people, 1 Chronicles 9:2 reads, "Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levities and temple servants." When we were in the Long Beach area, we had a space problem. As we prayed for the problem, the Lord granted us to move up to Downey. But at that time the Downey Bible center was still in ruins. Yet, in expectation of making a new beginning, the first family to move from Long Beach to Downey was Shepherdess Connie's. Since they first moved to Downey, my family moved to Downey. Then, in June 2000 we had a center dedication.

But let us notice the word "resettle". We did not move up to Downey to "resettle". But in the passage some of the chosen people Israel were the first to "resettle". This word "resettle" represents a bold step towards fulfilling the hope to reinstate Israel back to the original purpose of God's calling as a priestly nation. In this respect we can call these people the pioneers of God's hope for perfect redemption.

In conclusion, Ezra recounted the history of the Israelites with the daring hope to restore them back to the original purpose of God's calling. In our own generation as we live in this nation America, we are encouraged to pray that the Lord would restore our nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. May the Lord bless us to never stop praying that the Lord would use this nation as the city on a hill.

One word: the hope for new beginning


Class Exercise:

1. When might the book of [first and second] Chronicles have been written? ( )

(1) Before the fall of the Jerusalem Temple (built by Solomon)

(2) After the fall of the temple but before the Exile

(3) After the exile but before the return

(4) After the [beginning of] returns but before the completion of the temple (built by Zerubbabel]

(5) After the completion of Zerubbabel's temple but before the completion of the return

2. The first Chronicles begins with the word "Adam" and ends with David providing everything necessary for the building of the temple. How are the two [Adam and readiness for temple of the Lord] related to one another?

The end

 John 6:63