Upon reading the Bible this morning, I came upon verse 12 of Psalm 96, “Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.” I was reminded of a song we used to sing in Bible Camp. It is entitled, “When the Trees of the Wood Will Clap Their Hands.” As we sung this kid’s favorite, all would clap their hands at that part and sing out loudly. Being one of the adults there, I would wonder about trees clapping their hands-literally. Surely, I saw trees on the “Yellow Brick Road” engage humans in speech; however, this is not a fictional movie! But I did my share of wondering in awe.
So, do trees clap, the sea roar, do floods clap and hills rejoice (Ps. 98:8)? My answer is simply-yes. An inquisitive person would ask if I have ever seen or heard trees clap. I have heard mighty rushing winds that sounded like voices (another language only the Creator knows?). I have seen endless wheat fields sway back and forth, in the wind, as if dancing in the presence of the Almighty. Who could forget the majesty of the Tetons? Many a morning the alpenglow was glorious, as sunrise approached, giving the viewer a quick peak at God’s palette. There was no detectable sound, yet I knew there was praise taking place and it caused me to praise God too. What about the Grand Canyon? Nowadays folk gather there to discuss what millions of years have done to create it. Hogwash. Time was not the sculptor of this wonder, but a Holy God who either spoke it into existence or used a finger to etch it so. “I stand amazed in the presence…”
So, the verdict? Some say these verses are metaphorical, but not I. If God’s Word says these things, why couldn’t they be literal? Why do humans think they have to rationalize everything? “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rm. 11:33). Everything was created to praise God in one way or another, but humans have a choice; that sadly, not all exercise. From the early morning robin, to a rock on the ground (Lu. 19:40), to a hoot owl at night, to the clapping tree and even the stars (Job 38:7) these are all part of God’s choir. We have but a powerful lesson to learn from these things. We possess the wherewithal and knowledge yet we balk. Theologian Karl Barth summed this up beautifully when he wrote, “When man accepts…Jesus Christ…he is only like a late-comer slipping shamefacedly into creation’s choir in heaven and earth, which has never ceased its praise.”
The book of Chronicles begins and you probably wonder when the names will stop. Imagine looking through a photo album, but not of your family. It is your neighbor’s or your friend’s album. Maybe you recognize a few faces because you grew up together, but that is the extent of your familiarity. In Chronicles, you are looking through someone else’s photo album. Each name contains a story. There are stories of celebration and distress, of wickedness and righteousness, of renown and obscurity.
Keep in mind the author’s intent. He was not writing a cure for insomnia. A few decades earlier, the Jews returned to Jerusalem after spending a few decades in exile. The promises of God were fulfilled. He did bring them back to Israel, which meant His other promises were also possible. The promise of a perfectly just ruler in Jerusalem from the line of David who would reign with unrivaled righteousness. All the nations of the earth would flood into Jerusalem to worship Him. The Messiah would sit on the throne. This chronicler is simply stimulating the hope of Israel.
By replaying all the known history via a catalog of names, the reader is to quickly refresh his memory of God’s work in times past. The accounts of King David and his sons build the anticipation. The King is coming! In the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles is the last book. Can you appreciate the Jews excitement as you turn the last page of Chronicles and live out the incredible arrival of the Messiah in the Gospel accounts? The memories are fresh, the promise reviewed, the nation waits with bated breath as the forerunner announces the Messiah’s arrival. Can you also grasp their devastation as their Prince of Peace was not sitting on a throne, but hanging on a cross? The story continues. Just as the chronicler wrote, the future is bright because the promises of God are still alive and well. Get ready to herald the King’s entrance!
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).
“Well I used to go to church, but then one of the deacons offended me 4 years ago and I haven’t been back since. I mean, I read my Bible a couple times a week and watch my favorite preacher online every Sunday so I’m doing fine. As a matter of fact, I really don’t miss church too much at all.” How many times have you heard someone say something along those lines? Someone who used to go to church but now feels that church attendance is not that big of a deal. After all, we can read our Bible ourselves and now pull up thousands of good preachers online so is being a part of a local church that big of a deal?
In our reading today, we get a good glimpse of how important the church really is. 1 Timothy 3:15 says, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Did you catch that? Paul calls the church the “pillar and ground of the church”. You could rephrase that to say that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. God has chosen the New Testament church as the entity to hold up and carry on the truth expressed in His Word. As important as our personal walk with the Lord is, God did not design us to be “Lone Rangers” out and about of our own volition doing the Lord’s work. But instead He has chosen for us to be a part of and operate through a solid, Bible-believing church. All through the NT we see God operating through various churches as His Word was spread by the apostles and early church leaders. Evangelism, mission work and even the meeting of physical needs were all done through the church. So may we not yield to the temptation of thinking that attending church is not that big of a deal and that our involvement in one is optional. But may we instead take our rightful role in the “pillar and ground of the truth.”