“The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be ‘Devoted for life.’”

Adoniram Judson

TODAY’S READING: 1 Chronicles 3–5

“Now these were the kings” (1 Chr. 1:43) becomes “now these were the sons of David” (3:1). The books of Chronicles were written after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. They were concerned to show continuity with their pre-exilic family and the best way to do so was through genealogies. “Genealogies recorded the continuity of families through the disaster of exile and beyond. To show an unbroken family line with Judean ancestors before the Exile became a way of establishing continuity and thus claiming a proper role in the postexilic society.”[1] The priority was on position (Can you be a priest?) and property (Can you regain your family land?), and lost along the way was the overarching passion of God. “The genealogical list of ‘the sons of David’ (1 Chr. 3:1) subtly supported the restoration of a Davidic king in postexilic Jerusalem. The Exile happened, yet the descendants of David should still be the rightful rulers of Israel. The Davidic Genealogy (1 Chr. 3:1–24) reminded the readers that God was not yet done with the line of David in Israel.”[2] The larger passion was not centered on a specific people having a specific piece of real estate, nor a specific family getting to rule that little sliver of land. The larger passion was that that specific people and king would be used to mediate all the royal blessings of God to all the peoples of earth. Jehovah’s kings ruled Jehovah’s people so that Jehovah’s blessings might permeate all nations of earth. The God of the Bible is not concerned about who gets to be priest or potentate as an end, rather all positions and all properties are intended to be means for the nations to be won to Jehovah.

The reason we read Chronicles at this point in the chronological reading through the Bible is that though it was written after the exile, its early chapters describe the settling of Canaan and the establishment of priests and kings. In Judah’s line we encounter Jabez who asks for blessing, enlarged territory, God’s helping hand, God’s presence, God’s holiness, and God’s purposes (4:1–9). These are missionary descriptions, plunked down in a litany of names to remind us of the main point. Whenever we read the word “bless” in the Bible as referring to a reception from God, we must read it through the lens of God blessing Abraham to bless all nations. No blessing of God is meant to be terminal; all blessings are meant to pass through our hands to others, to unreached peoples. Likewise, enlarged territory is not for despotic rule; all expansion of authority is ambassadorial for God’s people—we are to represent the King to all nations. The cries for God to dwell among us as His holy people are eternally linked to His purposes in all the earth—not to cause pain, but to give gospel life. Jabez directly prayed the tripartite formula: Be my God, dwell with me, make me your holy representative, and let me pass on the blessings of union with the one true God. And when we pray these missionary prayers, God is delighted to grant what we request (v. 10).

The revision of Israel’s conquest of the land brings both wonder and woe. We look back at God doing wonderful things for His own glory [“for the war was God’s” (5:22)], and we look with warning when the strong men fall. The family of Manasseh were “mighty men of valor, famous men, and heads of their father’s houses. AND they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers” (vv. 24–26, emphasis mine), so God sent them into captivity and exile. Looking back in missions history, we can see that indeed the war has been God’s and He has indeed done wonderful things. Looking around the world today, we have more mighty men and women in the church than ever before. We are more educated, we are wealthier, we are more informed and resourced, and we are more connected than at any time in history. But the 2.8 million Muslim Jula of Cote d’Ivoire won’t be reached by mighty men and women who are unfaithful to the God of their fathers. The God of our fathers is the God of mission. Unfaithfulness does not mean just the dramatic sins and idolatry; it also means the neglect or refusal of the Father’s purpose and passion to be glorified by all the peoples of earth. To be unfaithful to the missionary heart of God is to head down the path of captivity and exile.

[1] The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 962.

[2] Ibid. 962.

Prayer Focus: Cote d’Ivoire (36 UPGs)

Today’s Unreached People Group: Jula, Dyula
Population: 2,884,000
Language: Jula
Primary Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%
Estimated Workers Needed: 58

[Source: Joshua Project]

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