The Not-So-Secret Recipe To A True Relationship With God
Without doubt, the world’s most popular drink is Coke. A staggering 1.8 billion bottles of Coca Cola products are drunk every day all over the world. And as you can expect, several companies have tried to make their own version of coke – from Pepsi to Twizzer and Fizzer and all the other imitation “cokes”. But so far, no one has managed to do it. Why? Simply because they do not know the recipe or its ingredients.
The coke recipe is one of the most closely guarded secrets. There is only one written copy of the recipe, and it kept in a locked vault under tight security. At any one time, only two anonymous people in the world actually know the full recipe. So as long as that recipe and its true ingredients are kept secret, no one will ever be able to make a true Coke, other than the Coca Cola Company itself.
But a far more important question than the secret recipe of Coke is, what are the ingredients of a true relationship with God?
Since Coke hadn’t yet been invented, this was the biggest question facing the Israelites at the time 1 Chronicles was written.
Having returned from exile, they were facing a crisis of identity. Who were they? What were they? Where they still a nation? Where they still the people of God? What assurance did they have that they still had a true relationship with God?
The reason why these would have been troubling questions for these Israelites is because they realised that there are two crucially important ingredients to having a true relationship with God. And fortunately for us, they are an open secret that is much simpler than the recipe for Coke.
A true relationship with God requires obedience to God’s rule as the king, and our worship to him as his servants.
In the nation of Israel, the king was the one who represented God to the people. Through the king, God ensured that the people obeyed God, as well as providing justice, peace and prosperity.
On the other hand, it was the priesthood that represented the people to God. Through the temple, the nation brought sacrifices to God for the forgiveness of sins, and to thank him for his blessings. It is through the temple that they also asked for their needs.
Therefore, these two elements – kingship and the priesthood – were key factors in the marriage between God and his people.
But the exile had changed everything. As a result of her unfaithfulness to God, her husband, Israel had been sent into exile. First, the 10 tribes of the Northern kingdom had been attacked and scattered by the Assyrians in 722BC. The Southern kingdom, Judah and Benjamin, did not learn from the fate of the North, and a couple of centuries later, they too were punished by God through the Babylonians. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was burnt down and the people were taken off into exile.
And now, in the time that the Chronicler wrote this historical account, the people were indeed back in the land, but they no longer had a king. The temple had been built, and the priests were offering sacrifices to God, but this new temple was nothing like the temple Solomon had built.
They were therefore a kingdom without a king, and they had a temple without glory. The people were therefore right to ask “are we truly still the people of God?”
This morning God is posing the same question to you. “Are you in a true relationship with Him? Do you truly belong to God?”
In many ways, just by coming to church this morning, you are declaring that you are in a relationship with God. But is it a true relationship?
The first requirement of a true relationship with God is your obedience to his rule over your life.
The King’s Rule
As we’ve already seen, the Israelites were back in the land, but they were not the kingdom they had once been. Even though they had been released from exile, they were still being ruled by the Babylonians.
Of the 12 tribes that made up Israel, only the two Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin had survived their exile. The northern tribes others had been scattered across the Assyrian empire, and only a small number of them remained, as we see in chapter 9:3.
On the face of it, chapter 8 seems like just another long list of obscure, meaningless names. But verses 33-34 are very interesting.
Ner was the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab and Eshbaal;
34 and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal was the father of Micah.
(1Ch 8:33-34 ESV)
I hope you noticed a very familiar name in verse 33. Saul.
Saul’s claim to fame was that he was the first king of Israel. And this was the point the Chronicler was trying to bring across to these former exiles who were suffering a crisis of identity. God had indeed established them as a kingdom. And over the years, he had given to them kings, from Saul to David to Solomon and the rest.
The duty of the king was to ensure obedience to God’s law and to rule with godliness and justice over the nation. In short, the king stood in the place of God, and ruled over God’s people on his behalf. And as God’s people, they were expected to obey the law of God.
But, for now, these former exiles were a nation without a king. They were under the rule of a foreign power. And yet, despite all that, the Chronicler reminds them of their heritage. Israel’s first king had come through the tribe of Benjamin. Israel’s greatest king had come from the Judah, the only other tribe to survive the exile fully intact.
So even though they did not have a human king ruling over them, they still remained as God’s kingdom, and they had to act as such. They still had God’s law. And they were meant to obey it.
And as we each consider our relationship with God, you must ask yourself some vital questions.
As I’ve already said, your being in church this morning is in itself a declaration that you are in a relationship with God. But is it a true relationship?
Is God ruling in your life? Is he the first and final say in your life?
Is God ruling over your thoughts, feelings and actions?
Does what he thinks, and what he feels and what he wants factor into the decision that you are making?
Before you do something, do you stop and think “will my God and king be pleased with what I’m about to do?” Do you consult him before you take the big steps and make the little choices in your life?
Or is he an afterthought, a mere prisoner whom you confine to the two hours that you come to church on a Sunday morning?
Brothers and sisters, you cannot have a true relationship with God, unless you are obedient to his rule as your king. Otherwise the confessions of your mouth and your church attendance and bible carrying are just reduced to mere lip-service.
The second key ingredient to this recipe for a true relationship with God, is your worship to him as his servant.
The Servant’s Worship
When the Babylonians had attacked Jerusalem, they had also destroyed the great temple which Solomon had built. And for an Israelite, for whom life was centred on worship, that perhaps was the most painful experience of the exile.
It is no wonder then that the very first thing that they did when they returned from exile under Joshua and Zerrubabel, was to rebuild the temple. This was because worship was at the very core of an Israelite’s relationship with God.
This is also why the Chronicler devotes most of chapter 9, from verse 10 -34 to showing that the Levites and the priests had been preserved by God. In verse 2 of chapter 9, he mentions that they had been amongst the exiles who had returned to the land.
Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants.
3 And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem: (1Ch 9:2-3 ESV)
He not only tells us about the descendants of the Levites and priests, but also their various responsibilities in the temple, from gate keeping to singing day and night in the temple.
Of the priests: Jedaiah, Jehoiarib … besides their kinsmen, heads of their fathers’ houses, 1,760, mighty men for the work of the service of the house of God. (1Ch 9:12-13, ESV)
The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south.
25 And their kinsmen who were in their villages were obligated to come in every seven days, in turn, to be with these,
26 for the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted to be over the chambers and the treasures of the house of God.
27 And they lodged around the house of God, for on them lay the duty of watching, and they had charge of opening it every morning.
28 Some of them had charge of the utensils of service, for they were required to count them when they were brought in and taken out.
29 Others of them were appointed over the furniture and over all the holy utensils, also over the fine flour, the wine, the oil, the incense, and the spices.
30 Others, of the sons of the priests, prepared the mixing of the spices,
31 and Mattithiah, one of the Levites, the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with making the flat cakes.
32 Also some of their kinsmen of the Kohathites had charge of the showbread, to prepare it every Sabbath.
33 Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night. (1Ch 9:24-33 ESV)
Their work was not trivial, but it was right at the core of who the Israelites were as the people of God.
And by showing them that God had preserved the temple, the Chronicler was saying to them “look, not only do you still exist as a nation under God’s rule, he has also preserved the means of your worship to him”.
Through the temple, the Israelites could maintain their relationship with God. The priests were there to represent them to God, offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins. The people could give to God their offerings of thanksgiving and praise to their God. Through the temple they could let their cast their burdens on God, telling him of their struggles and trials. There they would receive mercy and find grace.
Thus, the Chronicler was showing them that they were still the covenant people of God because they were still the worshipping people of God.
And the same is true for us. Your relationship with God cannot be true unless you worship him. It is a two way communication between you and your King. He gives you his will to obey, his love, blessing, and protection, and in response you give the praise, worship and honour that is due to Him.
So then, are you worshipping God as he rightly deserves?
Are you reading your bible, feeding your spirit so that you grow deeper and richer in the knowledge of God?
Are you joining fellow believers regularly in worship, singing, and lifting up your heart and hands, bowing your head and knees as you are doing this morning?
Are you giving up things that are dear to you in order to focus on God and on the needs of others?
Are you serving God and your fellow neighbours? Are you using the things that he has given you, your wealth, your gifts, and your skills in service of his church and for the wellbeing of others?
Are you deliberately telling others about Christ, about sin and death, about forgiveness and life?
Are you saving sinners from destruction and helping believers from straying?
Are you praying with praise and thanksgiving? Asking for your needs and those of others?
Are you acknowledging your dependence on him and him alone, not making your own plans, but seeking God’s will and direction?
Are you worshiping God? Because there can be no true relationship with God unless you worship.
As I have been listing all the aspects of a true relationship with God, from obedience to his rule as your king, to your duties as his servant in worship, perhaps, like me, you could feel your heart sinking deeper and deeper in you.
For how can any of us honestly claim to live up to the demands of this relationship that we have with God? Our God demands perfect obedience and perfect worship, so who amongst us can stand before him?
Even though the Chronicler had shown the Israelites in chapter 8 that they were still a nation under God, the fact remained that they were a kingdom without a king.
And even though he had shown in chapter 9 that God had preserved the temple and worship, still the temple they had was far from the one Solomon had built. The sacrifices that were offered in the temple could not completely wash away their sins. Their priests were only mere human beings who could not give to God the one sacrifice that would completely pay their debt of sin. They served in a temple without glory
Therefore, there had to be something and someone better. All their kings had failed, including Saul their first king, David their greatest king and Solomon their wisest king. There had to be a king who would rule forever according to God’s promise.
The temple in which they now worshipped had once been destroyed, and because they were sinners, it could very well happen all over again. So there had to be a temple that would last forever.
There had to be a priest who would offer perfect sacrifices that would truly wash away their sins. Otherwise their relationship with God would always be unsure and uncertain.
The king and priest they were waiting for, and whom we have now seen is none other than Jesus Christ. Without him, no one can ever claim to be in a true relationship with God. And so the final ingredient to a true relationship with God is the Saviour’s love.
The Saviour’s Love
Sin has always been the one thing that breaks our relationship with God. We see it in Adam and Eve, we see it with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, and we see it again with the Israelites and the exile.
And above all else, we see it in our own lives. There can be no true relationship with God if sin is not dealt with completely. Your obedience to God’s law will always fall short, and your worship will always be less than perfect and pleasing.
It is for this reason that Jesus Christ was given to us by God. John 3:16 says to us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”.
It was in order to reconcile you and I to God in perfect relationship, that Jesus offered his own life as the perfect sacrifice to pay for the debt of our sins. This is your Saviour’s love.
And for this reason, Hebrews 4:14 and following, calls him our perfect high priest, who has opened up the way to the everlasting temple, the eternal presence of God which we can enter freely without fear of judgment. And it is there that we will find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
Because we could not obey the law of our God perfectly, Jesus became a man and fulfilled it completely. He therefore is not only God who demands that his law be kept fully, but he also has written it on our hearts of flesh, and enables us to live it.
The only way you can obey the King’s law perfectly and worship him perfectly is if you believe in Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Saviour who has loved you by laying down his life for you. If you go through him, then the Father will receive you gladly and joyfully.
Jesus himself said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
Jesus is the only way that you can be in a perfect and true relationship with God. Amen.