1 Chronicles 7-8, Philippians 1
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 ESV
Tola, Puah, Uzzi, Rephaiah, Isshiah, Becher, Jediael, Asriel, Machir, Sheresh, Mahiah, Shuthelah, Huram …
The list of names goes on and on and we know virtually nothing about the vast majority of the individuals listed. Each of their lives and all that they did are contained in a single name written on the pages of Scripture. But they each represent generations of Israelites who lived and walked on this earth, marrying, bearing sons and daughters, contributing to their communities, growing old and, eventually, dying. Obviously this list contains the names of some who remained faithful to God, but also the names of those who walked away from Him, serving the false gods of the Canaanites and Ammonites. In the list of names found in chapter 8, we see the influence of these false gods over the people of Israel, as they evidently named their children after the pagan god, Baal. In the genealogy of Benjamin are found the names of Baal, Eshbaal, and Merib-baal. Even Jonathan, the son of King Saul and the friend of David, had named one of his sons Merib-baal, known elsewhere by his Hebrew name of Mephibosheth.
These lists span the time from the arrival of the people of Israel to the Promised Land all the way to their return after their exile in Babylon. Generation after generation of Israelites are contained in these chapters, all compressed into a shortened list in order to remind the people of Israel of their heritage. The chronicler wants them to know their roots. He wants to assure them that they are still God's people and can trace their roots all the way back to Adam. While much has happened over the generations, and the people of God have suffered much for their spiritual infidelity, God is not yet done with them. He has promises yet to be fulfilled. The original readers of 1 Chronicles would have been living back in the land, having returned from exile in the land of Babylon. They would have found themselves living in relative poverty, having returned with nothing to a land that had been taken occupied by their enemies in their absence. They had no king, no army, no power, and no reason for national pride. They would have been a weakened, feint shadow of their former selves. But God was not done with them yet!
What does this passage reveal about God?
The apostle Paul, writing to the believers living in Philippi, also encourages them to consider that God is not done with them yet. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV). As with the Israelites who had returned to the land of promise only to find that things were not quite what they had hoped or expected, the Philippian believers found themselves having to live out their faith in Christ in difficult surroundings. So Paul encourages them to keep on loving, to be pure and blameless in their conduct, and to be filled with the fruit of righteousness – waiting for the day of Christ. Paul knew that God's plan was not yet complete. He understood that there was more to come and that present circumstances were a poor criteria for judging the faithfulness of God. Paul himself wrote this letter while sitting in prison, most likely in Rome. He viewed his own situation from a divine perspective, describing it in extremely positive terms: “ I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13 ESV). He saw God's hands all over his circumstances, and even knew that others had “become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:14 ESV). Paul knew that God was not done yet. He fully believed that there was a perfectly good reason for his imprisonment and he took full advantage of it to write his letter to the Philippians and to share the gospel. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that is has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest” (Philippians 1:12-13 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
To often, we view our circumstances from a limited, earthly perspective. We fail to see God's hand in it or understand God's purpose behind it. The Jews who found themselves living back in the land of promise felt that the future was anything but promising. They were weak, powerless, confused, and without a king to lead them. They failed to recognize that God was in their midst. He had returned them to the land – miraculously. He had kept them alive – mercifully. He had overlooked their sins – patiently. And He would eventually send His own Son in fulfillment to His promise to David. He would send them their Messiah, the descendant of David, who would someday sit on his throne in Jerusalem. But the time was not yet right. God's plan was not yet ready to unveil. And so it was easy for them to focus on their circumstances and lose hope. It was natural for them to question the goodness of God and wonder about the validity of His promises. And we can find ourselves struggling with the same thing today. Which is why Paul's words are so powerful and appropriate. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Philippians 1:27-28 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The plan of God is far bigger than my current circumstances. My problems and perceived struggles are lousy indicators of God's sovereign will. Just because things get difficult does not mean God is out of control or has fallen out of love with me. He is working behind the scenes in ways I will never fully understand. Paul's imprisonment was anything but easy. He faced a possible death sentence. And while he hoped for his eventual deliverance and freedom, he was willing to accept death if that was God's will – “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21 ESV). His desire was to honor Christ, “whether by life or by death.” In fact, he was torn between the two options of living and continuing his work of spreading the gospel and dying and going to be with the Lord. “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Philippians 1:23-24 ESV). What a unique, refreshing perspective. Paul truly wanted to honor Christ with his life – whether that meant a continuation of his work or his own death – and he was willing to trust God for the outcome. He was willing to see God's hand in the midst of it all.
Father, You are not done yet. Your work on this earth is not yet completed. And Your work in my life continues as well. You are still transforming and perfecting me, through the power of Your Spirit and with the help of Your Word. Help me see You in the midst of all the circumstances of my life – the good and the bad. Give me a heavenly perspective and an eternal focus. Don't let me get wrapped up in the everyday affairs of this life and forget that Your plan is far greater and much bigger in scope. Amen