Giving thanks makes for a busy life. The busiest travel days in the United States occur around the Thanksgiving holiday. Airports are crammed and highways look like parking lots. Even so, Bob Russell says that Thanksgiving is the one holiday that has not suffered extreme commercialization (Bob Russell Ministries Blog, Thanksgiving—My Favorite Holiday, November 19, 2017). But family, food, and football still make for a busy time.
The same was true for our Israelite forefathers. When they paused to give thanks to God, life was busy. Our text follows last week’s lesson of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. The text describes fire from Heaven, thousands of sacrifices on the altars, God’s glory showing up in the temple, people worshiping, musical instruments at full volume, and one huge festival. Busy, indeed.
2 Chronicles 7:1-3
Solomon’s prayer is one of the longest and most moving prayers of the Old Testament. When he finished it, all Heaven broke loose. Fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices. Fire is a symbol of the presence of God and acts as a purifying agent for God. The glory (weighty presence and shining brilliance) of God filled the temple as it did in the tabernacle years previous (Exodus 40:34-38). God’s presence was so thick that the priests could not enter the temple.
Fire and glory were not the only things coming down. The people of God “got down” as well. Maybe they wanted to lower themselves so they would not be made low. They knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground. The word translated “knelt” means “to bow or be feeble.” In this posture of humility they worshiped and gave thanks (confessed) to God for his goodness. In fact they defaulted to their normal refrain seen throughout the Old Testament, “His love (mercy, loving kindness) endures forever.” This refrain occurs in Psalms 100, 106, 107, 118, and mostly in 136.
2 Chronicles 7:4-6
Part of worship demands humility but another part demands service. So Israel offered up to God sacrifices. The sacrifices were no respecter of persons. The king and the people were on level ground when it came to needing atonement for their sins. The number of sacrifices was staggering (22,000 bulls or oxen and 120,000 sheep and goats). Exaggeration? Estimates? Preacher count? Could the altar of burnt offering hold such numbers? Was there time to offer such high numbers of animals on one altar? Keep in mind that the ministry of the altar was extended out into the courtyard (2 Chronicles 7:7). Evidently multiple places and multiple offerings were being made at the same time.
But sacrifices were not the only thing that was offered up. Music was also lifted in praise to God. King David had assigned musicians to give thanks to the Lord (1 Chronicles 25:1-31). Priests and Levites joined in with instruments (trumpets are mentioned and probably harps and lyres were also part of the orchestra). The second verse was the same as the first, “His love endures forever.” Even the people stood up to allow their posture to match the sacrifices and instruments that were offering up praise to God.
2 Chronicles 7:7-9
When the heart is overwhelmed with the goodness of God it will overflow everywhere. This effort to dedicate the temple spread out into the courtyard, out into the calendar, and out into the whole land of Israel. Earlier in the text (v. 5) we read that the king and the people dedicated the temple. This word means “to train up.” In this section of the text one of the most significant words in the Old Testament is used to speak of this dedication. It is translated consecrated (v. 7) and observed (v. 8). It is the word sanctify. Whatever God touches is made holy. His holiness spreads out like gravy on a biscuit.
Offerings were everywhere. Three offerings were specifically mentioned—burnt, fellowship, and grain. These had different purposes (Leviticus 1-7), but they were all used to set the temple apart for God’s use. This sanctification spread out to the Jewish calendar too. They observed the festival (Tabernacles; see verse 8, 9) for seven days. This should be understood literally (not symbolically) since that is how long Tabernacles was observed. Counting the week-long dedication of the temple, the total time was a two-week celebration. This sanctification also spread out across the land. People from Lebo Hamath (up north) to the Wadi (dry river bed) of Egypt (down south) were affected. That would be like saying from “Dan to Beersheba” (the A to the Z of the land). Giving thanks makes for a busy life, but who deserves to be praised more than God?
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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