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Category: 2 Chronicles

Solomon asks for wisdom

God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 2 Chronicles 1:11-12

What occurs to me this morning is the idea that wisdom and understanding is a pre-requisite to receiving and effectively stewarding the blessings of God. Without wisdom and understanding, it would be a train wreck to be given all of the material blessings that Solomon received. Without wisdom and understanding (which begins with the fear of the Lord), we see ourselves as “owner” rather than “steward” of God’s blessings. Without wisdom and understanding, we are driven by our pride and appetites rather than a desire to bring glory to God.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Active worship

Reading through 2 Chronicles 1-19 this morning accomplished two things for me. One, it reinforced Josiah as a godly king that is pure in his motivations for seeking the Lord and doing what is right in the sight of God. The other thing it did is it made me consider how Old Testament, temple worship was a very active and participative type of worship. Much more so than what our contemporary definition of, and experience with worship might be.

In Josiah’s preparation of the passover celebration we see a very proactive approach to organizing the priests and the Levites so that they can be effective in fulfilling their roles in the passover. We see the people being organized according to their tribes and families. We see the temple being prepared and the ark being returned to it’s place. We see the bringing in and slaughtering of the sacrificial animals, the offering to God. We see that the singers and the gatekeepers are in place. And we see the service lasting for hours, well into the night.

When we read something like that in the Bible we think, “well, that’s what they are supposed to do according to the law – no big deal”. And yet, oftentimes we are apathetic in our own approach to worship. Maybe we don’t join in with the congregation on a particular Sunday for corporate worship because it interferes with our desire to watch the big playoff game, or because our kids are playing in a little league tournament, or because we had a little too much “fun” the night before. Maybe we hop around from church to church depending on who’s teaching on a particular Sunday, how nice the building is, or what the music is like. Always being a consumer and never serving. Maybe we show up on Sunday’s with unconfessed sin in our lives or bitterness in our hearts and are so preoccupied with the cares of this world that we are never free to enter into worship. Maybe instead of the noisy bleating of animals as they are being led to the slaughter and the throwing of blood against the altar, we quietly pass the plate after dropping in whatever spare change happened to be in our pockets. Maybe we start nervously checking our watches when the service is an hour old because it’s usually over by now and we have scheduled our worship time in between the cracks of our very busy lives and feel the need to get to more “important” things.

When Josiah kept the Passover in 2 Chronicles 35 we are told,

No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 35:18 ESV)

What if on this coming Lord’s day, we set our heart toward keeping a Sabbath day like no other Sabbath day? What if we responded to Paul’s appeal in Romans 12:1 when he said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”? What if we took time on Saturday evening and Sunday morning preparing ourselves so that, upon showing up at church on Sunday morning, we might be a fragrant and pleasing aroma to our Lord? What if we emptied ourselves of everything except our desire to render honor, reverence, glory, and praise to God? What if we show up, not out of duty or obligation, but with a heartfelt desire to worship, praise, and exalt the Name that is above all names? What if we were liberal in our worship, praise, and offerings to the point that we were joyfully exhausted and blessedly poor, trusting that the Lord will strengthen us and provide for us? What if our offerings included more than just our money? What if it included our schedules, hopes, fears and dreams? What if, instead of taking God’s kindness for granted, we allowed it to lead us to repentance and confessed our sins to God so He could forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness? What if we did things different this Sunday not for the sake of doing them different but for the sake of coming back to the heart of worship where it’s all about Jesus? What if we try to find out this Sunday?


Making plans, taking action, and keeping the faith

Have you ever noticed that it is usually during the spiritual highs in our life and the times when we are enjoying the sweetest and most intimate fellowship with the Lord that the world throws everything it has at you? This is certainly the experience for Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 32. After leading his people in repentance and calling them back to worship the God of their fathers, after restoring temple worship and sacrifices to God, and after doing what was right in the sight of the LORD his God and seeking Him with all of his heart, Hezekiah is faced with an attack. Surely it is a spiritual attack but it is also a physical attack that not only threatens his land, dominion, and rule but also his very life and that of all his people. So, what does Hezekiah do in response to this threat?

And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and intended to fight against Jerusalem, he planned with his officers and his mighty men to stop the water of the springs that were outside the city; and they helped him. A great many people were gathered, and they stopped all the springs and the brook that flowed through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” He set to work resolutely and built up all the wall that was broken down and raised towers upon it, and outside it he built another wall, and he strengthened the Millo in the city of David. He also made weapons and shields in abundance. (2 Chronicles 32:2-5 ESV)

Isn’t that interesting? Here is a guy that has established a track record of desiring to seek, pursue, honor, and obey the LORD his God and rather than do something spiritual like pray, he apparently takes action in his own might. He plans, he set to work, he built, he raised, he strengthened, and he made. All actions and none of them involved humbling himself in prayer. Come on! I thought this guy had his spiritual act together. So much for doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. So much for seeking God with his whole heart.

Hopefully, you can tell that I’m being somewhat facetious here. But isn’t that the reaction that a lot of Christians would have to Hezekiah? Aren’t there some of us that would counsel Hezekiah to just pray about it. We might even tell him to sit still and take a whoopin’ from Sennacherib king of Assyria because perhaps it was God’s way of disciplining him for some unconfessed sin.

It’s true that Hezekiah took some very practical steps in response to this threat. But he does it in faith. He does it with the knowledge of where his true help comes from. He’s simply choosing to be an active participant, by faith, in the plans and will of God. After taking all the practical steps of stopping the springs of water, and building the wall, and making the weapons, notice what Hezekiah says to encourage the people.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 ESV)

Despite the wisdom in his strategy, logic, and actions, Hezekiah knows perfectly well that no matter how dry the springs of water are, no matter how strong the walls are, no matter how high the towers are, and no matter how effective the weapons and shields are, it is not their power, might, nor wisdom that will win this battle. He knows that the only way they will prevail against the Assyrians is if it is the Lord God’s will. Hezekiah’s not taking action to demonstrate a confidence in his own might. He’s taking action to demonstrate his faith in God. He realizes that the offering of his actions is insufficient, but he is willing to do what he can because he knows that God is more than able.

Sometimes I need to be more like Hezekiah in this regard. To just be satisfied with what little I am able to offer to the Lord and then just leave the results to Him. I may not necessarily be guaranteed a “victory” every time, but it will certainly always result in God’s glory. And really, that is all that matters.

So, in a nutshell, the approach looks something like this:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the challenge/issue/threat/opportunity
  • Make a plan
  • Consult with your mighty men (these are mature brothers-in-Christ that love you enough to tell you the truth)
  • Take action and trust in the Lord that His will be done
  • Make sure that this is all done prayerfully and under the guidance, direction, and influence of the Holy Spirit

And remember, be strong and courageous!

Did he or didn’t he?

When you read through 2 Chronicles, you start to notice a pattern. Pretty much each chapter is dedicated to providing a summary of a king and each one starts out with one of two possible introductions. It’s either going to be “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” or “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD”. The other interesting thing is that, based on the introduction, the rest of the story can be somewhat predictable. Maybe not the specific details, but you certainly get a sense of whether it’s going to be a “happy” ending or not. In Chronicles 28, we learn about Ahaz’s reign as king. Unfortunately, this chapter starts out with the type of introduction that gives you the impression that the ending will not be so happy.

You see, Ahaz worshiped idols and false gods. This even involved burning his own sons as an offering. Ahaz did all of this “according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 28:3 ESV) This is very unfortunate. I guess Ahaz either forgot, or disregarded the command in Deuteronomy 18:9 which says, “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.”

What really jumped out at me this morning was this.

In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD—this same King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.”
(2 Chronicles 28:22-23 ESV)

This is scary because, while it might be easy to read this account in 2 Chronicles 28 and be simply a passive spectator and voyeur into the twisted life of Ahaz, I have to wonder if he is really that different than some of us in today’s day and age? I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some men who are going through their own time of distress and it has caused them to press in to the Lord and to draw closer in their walk with Him. It has been encouraging to me because in my estimation, it is the “right” response. But how tempting it can be for “Christians” to follow in the footsteps of Ahaz who, in the time of his distress did not look to the Lord but rather, looked at the world around him and employed their tactics instead of Godly tactics. To say, if it worked for them, perhaps it will work for me. Perhaps if Ahaz was on the couch across from Dr. Phil he might be asked the question, “so, how’s that working for you?”. Let me answer that for him.

You see, verse 23 that’s quoted above doesn’t end with Ahaz wondering whether the gods of the kings of Syria might help him. Instead, it ends with the following statement:

But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.

The very gods that Ahaz hoped would be a help and a refuge became the ruin of him and all of Israel. A very unhappy ending. And a reminder that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Jesus. A strong and mighty tower. A shelter like no other. Nothing has the power to save but His name. Amen.

Random thoughts on 1 & 2 Chronicles

As I’ve worked my way through all of 1 Chronicles and most of 2 Chronicles so far this year with my reading plan, some things have stood out to me that I thought I would share. Although 1-2 Chronicles covers events previously recorded in the books of Samuel and Kings, Chronicles focuses more on the meaning of the historical events rather than on the events themselves. Specifically, the book focuses on the transition from Mosaic covenant to royal covenant and from the law and prophets to the kingship and temple. The Israelites are reminded of God’s promise to secure the kingdom of Israel for David and his descendents forever. This is a strong reminder of their future hope.

Secondly, Chronicles marks a move from the law and sacrifice to obedience, repentance and grace. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God offers to forgive the truly repentant.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV)

Rather than just being a place to fulfill ritualistic worship practices, the temple was now becoming a monument to the grace of God where the repentant could find forgiveness.

I’m not sure if there are any theologians that would validate these thoughts, but these are just some themes that I have seen as I’ve walked through these books in the last couple of months.

A full heart

My reading in 2 Chronicles 25 this morning introduced Amaziah who began to reign as king following the assassination of his father, Joash. I found the most interesting part of the introduction to be verse two which reads,

And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.
(2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV)

It starts out good, doesn’t it? He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. This is a good thing. It’s probably a description that each of us would be proud to have associated to our name. I may even want something like that to be inscribed on my tombstone; “Here lies Chris. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” To be honest, I would be very satisfied if that was all that people knew of me. That would be quite a legacy to leave. However, that’s not the end of the sentence for Amaziah. No, it continues with “yet not with a whole heart.”

To be honest, the last part of the sentence kind of deflates the impact of the first part. Let’s just say that if there was a per letter charge, I certainly wouldn’t want to pay the extra money for that last part to be included on my tombstone. Quite frankly, including the second part of the sentence dilutes the first part enough that I probably wouldn’t even bother to include the first part. I guess that would leave me with a tombstone that just reads, “Here lies Chris”. Yet, if I’m really honest with myself, could I say the first part of the sentence about myself without including the second part?

What does it even mean that Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the LORD but not with a whole heart? The original Hebrew here for “not with a whole” is transliterated as “shalem” and can be defined as complete, safe, peaceful, perfect, whole, full, and at peace. Apparently, although Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, he did so in such a way that his heart was not complete, not safe, not peaceful, not perfect, not whole, not full, and not at peace. And when we’re talking about his “heart”, we’re not talking about the muscle in his chest. We’re talking about his inner man. We’re talking about that inner seat of his passions, courage, emotions, and appetites. We’re talking about his heart of moral character. We’re talking about his inclination, resolution, and determination of will.

The parallel passage in 2 Kings 4 tells us the cause or indication of Amaziah not having a whole heart. It tells us that even though he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, he failed to remove the “high places”. The places that were dedicated and used for worshiping and offering sacrifices to God (as opposed to the one prescribed place of worship) as well as foreign gods.

There are a lot of places I could go with this but the one place where the Holy Spirit has led me this morning is to be reminded that man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart. In other words, I feel a need to be very careful that I am not seeking to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord simply to esteem myself or to gain a good reputation with man. I need to be very careful that I don’t get caught up in admiring, and making sure that others admire, the cleanliness of the outside of my cup. Especially if the inside looks like a biology experiment with all kinds of filth and mold growing inside. I need to be humble as I approach the throne of grace, with an honest and sincere heart that desires to please the Lord because I love Him. I need to ask God to search me and know me and to reveal any offensive ways that might be within me that I might willingly submit myself to the discipline of a loving Heavenly Father. I need to allow Him to purify my heart and to cleanse me from within with His refining fire that I might be holy because He is holy.

Lord, let me do what is right in your eyes not by my own might or power, but by your Spirit. Let the motivation of my heart be pure. Thank you that my actions will not cause you to love me any more, nor any less. Thank you that in light of your perfection it is easy to see that my heart, like Amaziah’s, is not perfect. Make me aware of the “high places” in my own life, that I might remove them and by doing so, be free to worship you in Spirit and in Truth. And thank you that you, who began a good work in me, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Thank you that you are the author and perfecter of my faith. Be glorified.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

In 2 Chronicles 20, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites are preparing to come against king Jehoshaphat and the rest of Judah for battle. In the chapter preceding this, we see that Jehoshaphat implemented some great religious and judicial reforms with the intent of bringing the people back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. So, how is he repaid for these efforts? With the physical and political threat of war. But, based on the how the rest of chapter 20 plays out, perhaps the threat of war has nothing to do with any sort of punishment or correction, but perhaps it is simply an opportunity for the people, fresh in their recommitment to the Lord, to exercise and demonstrate their faith in Him and for God to once again prove His faithfulness.

As I read through this chapter, I am most encouraged by both the attitude of prayer taken on by Jehoshaphat, and the response to the prayer (as delivered by His Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jahaziel) offered by God. There is a cause and effect relationship going on here. Don’t misunderstand me. God’s will be done regardless of what the people of Judah pray. He is a sovereign God and He does as He pleases for His glory alone. So, even if the people did not humble themselves and cry out to God in prayer, the result could have been the same. But they would have missed out on the fruit of their prayers – the reassurance and comfort that they were able to take in God’s reply to their prayer. They would not have been able to have their faith bolstered by the word of the living God. They would not have been able to experience a peace that transcends all understanding. Even though the result may have been the same, the process would have been different.

And although I marvel and rejoice more at God’s response than I do to His people’s prayer, there is something that I appreciate about how Jehoshaphat prayed. Jehoshaphat realized what my friend recently discovered as he studied the book of Leviticus and that is, your offering to God is never too salty. As Jehoshaphat prays to God, he seasons his prayer-offering by reminding God of all the past promises He has made – like when He drove out all the inhabitants of the land before His people Israel and gave it forever to the descendants of Abraham. He also acknowledges God’s sovereignty and how He is powerful and mighty such that no one can stand against Him. He also reminds God of how He is faithful to hear His people’s prayers and save them from their affliction. And then he acknowledges their present situation and asks for God to intervene. But the best part is saved for last when Jehoshaphat prays,

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
(2 Chronicles 20:12 ESV)

I love that. But at the same time, I’m convicted of how many times I only pray the first part of that sentence. More often than I would like to admit, it’s “I don’t know what to do but I’ll figure it out” or “I’ll just try this”. Jehoshaphat’s posture seems to be of faithful expectation as he keeps his eyes fixed on the only One who does know what to do and the only One that can save him from his present circumstances.

As much as I loved what was prayed by Jehoshaphat, I appreciate God’s answer even more. First, He reminds His people that,

Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
(2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV)

You see, God wants to make sure that everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities. This is God’s battle to win, not theirs. Of course, if the people of Judah are anything like me, their battle will be an internal one. The battle to believe and trust in God when everything within is crying out to plan, do, and conquer. God essentially tells His people, “Don’t worry. I got this!”. But once God’s role and responsibility is clear, it’s now time for God to make the people aware of their role and responsibility in all of this.

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
(2 Chronicles 20:17 ESV)

Really, all that’s being asked of the people are three things. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD. Stand firm in your understanding that the battle is not yours, but God’s. Hold your position of faith knowing and trusting that God is faithful to fulfill His promises. See the salvation of the LORD on your behalf and understand that He has done for you what you could not do for yourself. Don’t plan, do, and conquer. Instead, rest, trust, and rejoice for the Lord your God is mighty to save. Amen to that.

Encouragement to seek the Lord

The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
(2 Chronicles 15:1-7 ESV)

In chapter 14 of the book of Chronicles we learn that Asa takes over the throne after Abijah dies and that Asa “did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God”. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord and to rest under Him. He appears to be a man on a mission.

Here in chapter 15, Azariah, empowered by the Holy Spirit, offers encouragement to Asa to “keep on keeping on”. He reminds Asa that there was a time where the people of the land were without God and in distress. He reminds him of how, when they sought the Lord, they found Him. And now, he’s calling Asa to seek the Lord that He may be found and to not forsake him. Azariah implores him to “take courage” because, although it may not be easy, it is certainly worth it.

How blessed Asa is to have a Spirit empowered “brother” that is willing to offer words of encouragement. So often, believers are more than willing to be offer words of correction and rebuke but for some reason, we are not as liberal with words of encouragement. Or, even if we have the words within us, we don’t take the extra step of blessing a brother or sister in the Lord by sharing them.

The response to the encouragement is exactly what the Spirit had in mind. Asa purges the land of detestable idols, repairs the altar of the Lord, and the people make sacrifices to the Lord. They even make a covenant that they will all seek the Lord with all their heart and with all their soul and that anyone that does not do this, will be put to death. Talk about responding to Azariah’s encouragement with great zeal.

But, what’s even better about this story is the response to the response. The Lord was found and gave them rest. If ever there was a happy ending to a story, that would be it. To find the Lord and enjoy His rest.

If you are looking for opportunities to follow in Azariah’s footsteps today, be filled with the Holy Spirit, respond in obedience, encourage someone in the Lord, rejoice and praise God when the people you have encouraged find the Lord and enjoy His rest. Repeat daily.

Pride and punishment

In 2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah provides a good example of how not to respond to a rebuke. Here’s the detail:

But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the Lord had struck him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the Lord. – 2 Chronicles 26:16-21

Isn’t it interesting that a person can grow proud to their own destruction? It doesn’t say that Uzziah grew successful to his own destruction or that he grew rich to his own destruction. It doesn’t say that Uzziah was promoted to his own destruction or that he was blessed to his own destruction. None of these things are bad. It’s all about the attitude of the heart towards these things. It is somewhat obvious by Uzziah’s actions that rather than a humble acknowledgement that all he has is due to the grace of God, he instead has considered himself more highly than he ought. In fact, he considers himself so highly that he thinks it’s ok to break God’s commands, insert himself into the role of priest, and believe that his political and kingly authority should be extended to include spiritual authority as well. In response to this, Uzziah is rebuked by the priests and instructed in the ways of the Lord. But unfortunately, rather than acknowledge his sin and repent, he lashes out in anger. Not a righteous anger either but rather an anger fueled by pride. In response to this, God strikes him with leprosy and he stays that way until he dies.

What went so wrong here? Where did the wheels come off for Uzziah? Earlier in chapter 26 we learn that Uzziah was instructed in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper. How does he go from being prospered by God to be struck by God and to die without honor and viewed as unclean the rest of his days? I think Uzziah’s problem was that he forgot who he was. Sure, he knew who he was in relation to his fellow Jews. He knew he was their king and was enjoying good favor. But he forgot who he was in relation to God, the King of Kings. Uzziah forgot who the giver of all things was and started believing his own press. He became so accustomed to success and favor and enjoying whatever privileges he wanted that he couldn’t stand that there should be anything (including the priestly duties) that should be withheld from him. He became prideful and he suffered greatly for it.

My prayer is that by God’s grace I may remain humble both in success as well as in failure. That rather than having the prideful attitude of Uzziah, I might share the humble and contrite attitude of the prophet Isaiah and say, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). That I would never presume upon God and that I would acknowledge Him in all my ways as the giver of all good things. Good things that are received and enjoyed not because I deserve them or am worthy of them in any way. But He provides because he is a loving Father in Heaven and his grace and mercy are endless and beyond compare.

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