Archive for November, 2018

1 Kings 6:1-13 (Part 2 of 2)
Solomon Builds the Temple

Be home by midnight. Act like you are a Bowling and not some redneck. Always defend your brother no matter what. Do your chores. Keep your room clean. You responsible for everything on your car except your insurance. If you want to date, get a job so you can afford it. If you make less than a B in school (which I know you are capable of), there will be restrictions. There were rules that my brother and I had to live by growing up in my dad’s house. There were not any dizzying array of rules to remember, but there were definitely a set of rules that my dad laid down for us, particularly in those all important pre-teen and teen years before we left home.

One of the most consistent violations of my dad’s rules was the keeping the room clean thing. As an adult living on my own, when I look back at how messy I was as a teenager it makes me laugh – the laugh of “oh my, what a dweeb I was!”. I may not be one that goes in with a white glove on things today but I am better organized and cleaner than I was as a teenager. My wife keeps our house squeaky clean so my view of my adult cleanliness may be tainted by that! LOL! However, regardless of the degree of my cleanliness now, I was definitely a slob as a teenager. My bedroom was always a mess. Dirty clothes strewn across the room rather than being deposited in the clothes hamper. Empty glasses from drinks sitting on the nightstand. Every few days, God bless her heart, my mom would attack my room while I was working evenings at the Furman University dining hall. And I would thank her. My dad would demand that I clean it up on weekends from top to bottom and yell at me about how I kept my room. But I guess there was a stretch there that even my loving mom got angry at me about me forcing her to clean my room. My dad told me that she was no longer going to be cleaning my room and it was up to me. Or there would be consequences. To me that meant restrictions, right?

Not getting to do something. I could live with that. By my junior year I was working practically full-time at the Furman campus police as a dispatcher. I was keeping up my grades with a lot of late nights studying after work. I had a 3.8 grade point average. I was handling everything on my plate pretty well, but there was not much time in my life that wasn’t spoken for. So, what could be so hard about restrictions other than restricting how much I could see my girlfriend, Lisa. Well, my dad had a different plan that restricting my use of my limited free time.

I was not home a lot during those days except to do homework and sleep. Otherwise, I was at school, or at work, or with Lisa. So, in those days, my room was just a place to throw my stuff down and do homework and to sleep. After being told that mom was not going to clean my room anymore, my room got progressively more “piled up” with stuff. On a Friday night, one of my few free nights each week, I was out on date with Lisa. Busting tail to get home by midnight, as was the rule, I made it just in time. My parents were already in bed, but I being the careless teenager surely made enough noise to wake them from what sleep they had achieved by midnight (they used to go to bed at 11:30 in those days, right after the late news on TV). So, they probably had not been asleep long if at all. As loudly walked down the hardwood floors in hallway down. My brother’s room the first door on the left. Bathroom first door to the right. My parent’s room at the end of the hall to the left. My room directly across from theirs to the right. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk down the hall. Last door to the right at the end of the hall. I try to open the door but it’s hard to budge. I put my should against the door to get the door open and what do I see?
I see all my dirty clothes, of which there were plenty in my room, tied from the bedposts to the window curtain rods, tied from the bedposts to the door handle, tied from the door to my little desk. It was really quite amazing to see as well as causing me to let go of some expletives of the four letter variety. Faintly, from my mom and dad’s bedroom across the hall I heard giggles. Dad got me. He got me good. He must have spent at least two hours in there criss-crossing the room with tied together clothing. He really must have had to climb out my bedroom window after he was finished so that all the streamers of clothing would stay tied together and taut. Message received, dad. Message received. He never said anything after that, loved me like I knew he did and he acted as if nothing had happened (other than loud laughter when the story got told and retold at family gatherings in later years). But after that, you know what, I kept my room clean. Not out of anger toward dad, but rather, just trying to please him and his unique way of demonstrating to me the price of disobedience.

Dad had his rules, yes, that he expected us to live by. But he wanted us to want to obey his rules rather than see them as limitations. That object lesson in cleanliness stuck with me because it had a very real answer about disobedience. In that case, he knew that restrictions were not going to be the answer because I had such limited free time anyway. He needed for the price of disobedience to be real and tangible. Me having to work my way into a room that had clothes tied together and tied to everything he could tie them to was the price. Even though I did not clean up his handiwork that night, I was just too tired. I did clean it up for a couple of hours the next morning. It took me a while to undo dad’s handiwork that is for sure. Nothing was said by dad. Nothing. He just let me deal with my disobedience and its consequences.
That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read 1 Kings 6:1-13. There is a conditional promise here. IF you keep my commands. Disobedience always comes with a price and we will see Israel in the coming chapters of 1 Kings and then in 2 Kings get all tied up in knots by their own disobedience. God did not come out of heaven and zap them. He left them to the consequences of their own disobedience. The no longer wanted to obey the Lord. It became a heart condition and God withdrew His presence and favor. Let’s read the passage now with an eye toward that conditional promise at the end of the passage:

Chapter 6
1 It was in midspring, in the month of Ziv,[a] during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, that he began to construct the Temple of the Lord. This was 480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.

2 The Temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high.[b] 3 The entry room at the front of the Temple was 30 feet[c] wide, running across the entire width of the Temple. It projected outward 15 feet[d] from the front of the Temple. 4 Solomon also made narrow recessed windows throughout the Temple.

5 He built a complex of rooms against the outer walls of the Temple, all the way around the sides and rear of the building. 6 The complex was three stories high, the bottom floor being 7 1⁄2 feet wide, the second floor 9 feet wide, and the top floor 10 1⁄2 feet wide.[e] The rooms were connected to the walls of the Temple by beams resting on ledges built out from the wall. So the beams were not inserted into the walls themselves.

7 The stones used in the construction of the Temple were finished at the quarry, so there was no sound of hammer, ax, or any other iron tool at the building site.

8 The entrance to the bottom floor[f] was on the south side of the Temple. There were winding stairs going up to the second floor, and another flight of stairs between the second and third floors. 9 After completing the Temple structure, Solomon put in a ceiling made of cedar beams and planks. 10 As already stated, he built a complex of rooms along the sides of the building, attached to the Temple walls by cedar timbers. Each story of the complex was 7 1⁄2 feet[g] high.

11 Then the Lord gave this message to Solomon: 12 “Concerning this Temple you are building, if you keep all my decrees and regulations and obey all my commands, I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father, David. 13 I will live among the Israelites and will never abandon my people Israel.”

In this passage, we see that God gives a conditional promise, “if you keep all my decrees and regulations and obey all my commands…”. God promised His eternal presence would never leave the Temple as long as one condition was met. The Israelites had to obey God’s laws. Knowing how many laws they had to follow, we must be thinking that God was setting them up for failure. And if we think today that Christianity is about do’s and don’ts, we could think the same thing about ourselves – that God is waiting for us to fail so that He can crush us. The Israelites situation, we see then is much like ours today. What we must understand and what the Israelites had to understand is that we/they are not cut off from God for failing to live fully 100% according to those standards.

Forgiveness was amply provided for all their sins, no matter how large or small. As we progress through Israel’s history in both these books of the kings of Israel, you will see that breaking God’s laws was the result, not the cause, of the condition of the hearts of the Israelites. The kings and the people abandoned God in their hearts first and then failed to keep his laws. When we close our hearts to God, we lose our desire to please Him. It’s always been about the heart.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, the presence of the Holy Spirt comes to live within us and changes us from the inside out. We begin to desire to please God in everyway that we can. We begin to change our attitudes toward our favorite sins and we begin to turn away from them. If we are just trying to keep up a checklist and heart’s desire is not necessarily to please God, then, we are not seeking His presence but rather seeking to keep up appearances.

However, when we disobey God, it is not His desire to come out of heaven and crush us like a bug. He simply allows our disobedience to have its consequences in our lives. For those of us who desire to follow God, we understand that we are sinful creatures who cannot go a day without sinning. However, we know too that it is our desire to please the Lord our God. We rely on the Holy Spirit to convict us progressively over our lifetime of the sins that we commit and helps us to seek the Lord for forgiveness of those sins and turn away from them.

Some of our sins, we are more stubborn about and have a hard time letting go of. Often we are so blinded about our pet sins, we often see them not as sins at all or we rationalize them away as being OK (such as “God and I have a deal on this one” or “God just wants me to be happy so this one is OK”) in our stubborn clinging to that sin or sins. Some of these sins, it takes a lifetime of the Holy Spirit working on us to get rid of. We are a stubborn, stiff-necked people. We complain about sin’s consequences in our lives and get angry at God for withdrawing His favor from us. But yet we are stubborn to see that our own actions have caused the consequences of sin (and sin always has consequences).

Just as my stubbornness about the rule to keep my room clean led to the consequence of breaking it. Basically, it was a visual lesson in how disobedience ends up leaving us tied up in knots. But the real maturity came in my understanding of the visual lesson. It was not so much about dad having this weird rule. It was about being obedient (and later realizing that he was trying to teach me not to be a slob – yes, dad, Elena thanks you for that!). The thing that was masterful by my dad. There was no imposed punishment. There was just a lesson. He did still love me. He treated me the same after that. He just knew that I had learned a lesson from my disobedience and after that, I obeyed him. I learned. The difference is learning that our sins displease God and then go about leaving the sin and turning away from it.

My dad’s reaction after that incident might have been completely different if I continued in my defiance but thankfully his point was made. I dealt with the consequences of my disobedience and learned from it and turned away from the disobedience. Similarly, God certainly knows that we cannot keep up the perfection that he requires because we are sin-filled descendants of Adam. However, what He does expect from us is to recognize our sins, seek forgiveness through the perfection of Jesus Christ, and turn away from our sins each and every day as the Holy Spirit does His work in our souls to make us more and more like Jesus every day.

Are you tied up in knots by the choices you have made in life? Do you blame God for letting you get to this place? Do you try to rationalize away why your sin is not sin? Do you play theological gymnastics to justify your sins but wonder why your life is in the condition that it is in? It is time now to see the consequences of sin and where it has led us and then look to Jesus for forgiveness and come home to the Lord. The Lord will accept you when you realize that your sins are real and when you realize that it is our sins that have crushed us and not God. God will still love you and say nothing when you have humbly called to Jesus to take over your life and cleanse you from all your sins. When you say to the Lord that it is my disobedience that caused all this, God is amply ready to give and move on with you through the sinless perfection of His Son, Jesus. He will love you as if none of that matters (through Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins) and restore you to the high and dry place. He will restore you to His favor. He will change you from seeing obedience as a chore but rather as an opportunity to say thank you to God for saving you through Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 6:1-13 (Part 1 of 2)
Solomon Builds the Temple

The thing that struck me this morning as I read the minutia of details about Solomon’s Temple was that “yeah that’s a lot of detail for sure, but let’s not forget the big picture!” I think that is a struggle that all of us have in our personal lives, our professional lives, and in our relationship with God himself. I think all of us get so caught up in the details of our lives that we forget about keeping the main thing the main thing.

In our personal lives, man, is it ever easy to get caught up in the details of life, and especially if you have young children at home. It is easy for life to become task oriented and forget the point of it all. With school for the kids, it’s a daily grind that repeats itself ad nauseum. Wake the kids up (have you ever noticed how hard it is to get your kids out of bed Monday-Friday but they wake up on their own at the crack of dawn on the weekend! LOL!). Fix breakfast. Argue with the kids about eating their breakfast. Get the kids moving on getting dressed. Yell and scream a couple of times to move them along in the process. Brush teeth. Fix hair. Gathering all the stuff they need for school. Getting the entire crew into car(s). Heading off to the school. Waiting in the drop-off line. Kissing kids goodbye as they exit. Race to work. Work all day (another story in itself). Race back to the school or daycare center. Pick up kids. Make sure they have everything. Home. Let them play a little bit. Homework. Dinner. Baths. Bedtime stories. Lights out for the kids. No, you can’t have a glass of water. Rest. And then repeat the whole process five times a week. And that is just a day when there are no extracurricular activities for the kids such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, softball, dance, cheer, etc. Throw that into the mix and its crazy and dizzying array of activity every day. The weekends have more activities and hopefully that includes church. Modern moms and dads have to have calendars for their family just to keep up with everything. We get so busy just getting through the week that sometimes we forget that we are a family. We become robots trying to accomplish tasks and mark things off the list so that maybe just maybe we can sit down for an hour or two at the end of the day before we go to bed. What’s the point of it all? We can get so wrapped up in the details that we forget why we are doing this?

In our professional lives, we have to have to-do lists to keep up with the dizzying array of tasks that often come our way in this world where staffs at organizations are leaner than they have ever been (as a reaction to the Great Recession not too long ago). We all have much work to do and little time to waste. As leaders and leaders in training, often the current workload can claim your mind to the point that it is difficult to dream the dreams that need dreaming. We can get so caught up in the minutia of the daily tasks that we have to accomplish each day that we don’t take the time to raise up and dream about where our ship needs to go. We can lose focus on what’s over the horizon and how we are going to get there because of the sheer volume of information that we have to process each day. We can get so caught up in such things that the joy of work is lost and we become slaves to our task lists. And the task list may get done for today but there are things that have to be added daily, weekly, monthly, annually. We can get so wrapped up in the details of work that we forget why we are here and what we are here for? What is the point of it all? Is the point of work the task list on your desk? Is the point of work the amount of product you can produce on your assembly line? What’s the point of it all? Why are we doing this?

In our spiritual lives, we can go down that same road too. We read our Bibles daily. We go to the church when the doors are open. We volunteer in ministries at the church. We attend special events at the church of our choosing. We pray daily. As a maturing Christian, our relationship with God can also become task oriented. We can get so caught up in our Bible reading plans such as “Read the Bible in 365 Days” or “Read the Bible in 90 Days” that we forget that hey we are supposed to meditate on God’s Word and not just read it. We do all the right activities. We can look at our calendar and say that we are highly active in our church. We have evidence of that – just look at the calendar right here. We can get so caught up in the details of being an active church member that it can become like auto-responsive reflexes in our body (you know—those things your body does without you having to think about it). The same is true for pastors as well as parishioners. We can get so caught up in the various details of the daily, weekly, monthly array of activities, appointments, weekly services, special events and other activities that we can become task-oriented too and lose sight of the main thing. What’s the point of it all? Why are we doing this? Is our spiritual life another set of auto-responsive marking things off a checklist?

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read 1 Kings 6:1-13. Here, in this passage, we see the amazing amount of detail about Solomon’s Temple that is provided. And I bet there were a bunch of workers scurrying about at the quarry and at the worksite. I bet that they carried out their tasks daily and I bet some of them just saw what was in front them – a checklist of things to get done today. That’s the thing, we need to look at, both in the passage itself and what this passage can teach us. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 6
1 It was in midspring, in the month of Ziv,[a] during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, that he began to construct the Temple of the Lord. This was 480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.

2 The Temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high.[b] 3 The entry room at the front of the Temple was 30 feet[c] wide, running across the entire width of the Temple. It projected outward 15 feet[d] from the front of the Temple. 4 Solomon also made narrow recessed windows throughout the Temple.

5 He built a complex of rooms against the outer walls of the Temple, all the way around the sides and rear of the building. 6 The complex was three stories high, the bottom floor being 7 1⁄2 feet wide, the second floor 9 feet wide, and the top floor 10 1⁄2 feet wide.[e] The rooms were connected to the walls of the Temple by beams resting on ledges built out from the wall. So the beams were not inserted into the walls themselves.

7 The stones used in the construction of the Temple were finished at the quarry, so there was no sound of hammer, ax, or any other iron tool at the building site.

8 The entrance to the bottom floor[f] was on the south side of the Temple. There were winding stairs going up to the second floor, and another flight of stairs between the second and third floors. 9 After completing the Temple structure, Solomon put in a ceiling made of cedar beams and planks. 10 As already stated, he built a complex of rooms along the sides of the building, attached to the Temple walls by cedar timbers. Each story of the complex was 7 1⁄2 feet[g] high.

11 Then the Lord gave this message to Solomon: 12 “Concerning this Temple you are building, if you keep all my decrees and regulations and obey all my commands, I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father, David. 13 I will live among the Israelites and will never abandon my people Israel.”

In this passage, we see that in order to honor God, the Temple in Jerusalem was built without sound of a hammer or any other tool at the building site. This meant that the stone had to be pre-finished (cut and shaped) miles away at the rock quarry. The people’s honor and respect for God extended to every aspect of constructing this house of worship. This detail is recorded not to impress us with detail or to teach us how to build a house of worship, but to show us the importance of demonstrating our reverence and honor for God.

That’s the point of this passage. Yes, the passage itself is full of detail that we may not remember five minutes from now but in that detail provided, the writers wanted to impress upon us that all the details about the building point us toward the fact that there was a significant investment in honoring God by the amount of detail poured into this passage.

On another level, too, we must remind ourselves of the fact that there were thousands of workers scurrying about and working on task lists for each day but there was a reason for all that. They were building a temple to the Lord. They were there to complete a building that was there to give glory and honor to God.

That’s the higher message to me of this passage that can speak into our personal, professional and spiritual lives. Why are we doing this? What’s the point of it all? In our personal lives, we must remember that we are here to honor God in everything we do. When we fly through the week of details of getting our kids and ourselves to and from school and work and social and athletic activities, let us remember that we are here to raise godly children and to be God-honoring parents and God-honoring spouses in our marriages. We are here to be obedient to the Lord. That’s the point of it all. If we focus on the tasks themselves, it can be mind-numbing and depressing. But if we remember that there is a grander goal – to honor and obey God. That’s gives us something to really sink our teeth into. It gives the litany of activities a sense and a purpose. In our professional lives, we must remember the same thing. Non-believers are watching us as Christians particularly at work. How we handle the day to day grind and checklists and task lists is our sermon. If we see our work as our mission field, we can begin to reclaim the bigger purpose. If we see our work as our personal way to honor God (and strive to do our best at all times and do it in an humble manner), we can reclaim the God-honoring vision of our job. In our spiritual life, if we remember that the purpose of it all is to lead us into to a deeper and deeper relationship with God and that in that deepness we come to know him more intimately and want to be more like him day by day, we can reclaim the grander vision of God for us. When we see our volunteering at church as more than a checklist but rather an opportunity to spread the gospel by our words and actions, then we reclaim the grander vision of God for us. As pastors, we, too, must remember that the point of all the appointments, tasks, checklists, meetings, weekly services and special events that cover our calendars is that each of those things is an opportunity to honor God with our best, then we can dive deeper into God and what He wants for us as pastors. When we see these things as opportunities to speak the gospel to others in our words and actions, then, we can dive deeper into God. When we see that each of our appointments make be an intersection with a church member or guest that is absolutely part of God’s plan for their lives, then, we see everything as an opportunity to honor God.

Yes, take a step back for a minute. Raise up out of the details. See what God is constructing. See what we are here for. We are here to honor God. That’s the point. That’s what we are here for.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 5:1-18
Preparations for Building the Temple

Are you one of those people that defines yourself by your job? Many of us men do that. Some women too but more so men. Are you one of those people where your job consumes your entire life? That’s where today’s passage struck me. And it struck me hard. One of the things that I am fond of saying when talking to people about growing in Christ is that our finances is usually the last thing that we submit to the Lord. However, after reading this passage, it kind of hit me that maybe our finances are the next to the last thing we submit to the Lord. Maybe, just maybe, the last thing that we submit to the Lord is our work, our job, our career.

Isn’t funny how the Lord teaches us something new from the same passage that we may have read 5, 10, 20, maybe 100 times? That truth that the Lord revealed today has always been there but it is only when your heart is ready for that truth that the truth jumps off the page at you. I know for myself during my 34 years in various accounting jobs from being an staff internal auditor all the way to being a divisional chief of finance for my last company, my job defined me. In a career that saw me having a steady and consistent rise in responsibility and pay, my work consumed me. When things were going well at work, the rest of my life was seen as good. When things were rough at times, my whole life was in a funk. Are you that way? Do you let your work define you? Do you let your work issues consume your whole life? I am not saying that you shouldn’t have a healthy concern about work. It is something that we do for about ½ of every waking hour of our days (when you include getting ready for work, commuting, and work and commuting home). We should give it our all no matter what. It gives glory to God when we work hard and strive to do the best that we can do.

However, when I read this passage, it struck me that we need to have work in proper perspective in God’s grander plan for our lives. Yes, work is important. No doubt about that. God gave us skills that we must use to take care of ourselves and our families and we give Him glory when we use the gifts He has given us. We can find fulfillment in that. However, just as with anything else, we can make work our god. When our job becomes more important than our faith, we lose. When our job defines the very fiber of our being, we lose. When our job becomes a god, it gets in the way of our relationship with the real God. When we let ourselves be defined by our job rather than God, we set ourselves up for a fall. We have to remember that though work is supremely important in our lives that it does not define us. We are defined by God. We are His child. Further, in God’s economy, our families are important too. When we prioritize work constantly over family, our families suffer. Remember, our kids are only small once. Remember, you only have one lifetime to share with your wife or husband. Don’t you know spouses that know from history that their spouse is married to their jobs instead of them? Your spouse and kids are right there in front of you. You have only one chance to lead your family. If you are absent all the time or are “not present” even when you are present, how can you lead your family?

With that idea of making work a god instead of simply a tool in our lives, let us read now the passage for today, 1 King 5:1-18:

Chapter 5
1 King Hiram of Tyre had always been a loyal friend of David. When Hiram learned that David’s son Solomon was the new king of Israel, he sent ambassadors to congratulate him.

2 Then Solomon sent this message back to Hiram:

3 “You know that my father, David, was not able to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord his God because of the many wars waged against him by surrounding nations. He could not build until the Lord gave him victory over all his enemies. 4 But now the Lord my God has given me peace on every side; I have no enemies, and all is well. 5 So I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God, just as he had instructed my father, David. For the Lord told him, ‘Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name.’

6 “Therefore, please command that cedars from Lebanon be cut for me. Let my men work alongside yours, and I will pay your men whatever wages you ask. As you know, there is no one among us who can cut timber like you Sidonians!”

7 When Hiram received Solomon’s message, he was very pleased and said, “Praise the Lord today for giving David a wise son to be king of the great nation of Israel.” 8 Then he sent this reply to Solomon:

“I have received your message, and I will supply all the cedar and cypress timber you need. 9 My servants will bring the logs from the Lebanon mountains to the Mediterranean Sea[b] and make them into rafts and float them along the coast to whatever place you choose. Then we will break the rafts apart so you can carry the logs away. You can pay me by supplying me with food for my household.”

10 So Hiram supplied as much cedar and cypress timber as Solomon desired. 11 In return, Solomon sent him an annual payment of 100,000 bushels[c] of wheat for his household and 110,000 gallons[d] of pure olive oil. 12 So the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon, just as he had promised. And Hiram and Solomon made a formal alliance of peace.

13 Then King Solomon conscripted a labor force of 30,000 men from all Israel. 14 He sent them to Lebanon in shifts, 10,000 every month, so that each man would be one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of this labor force. 15 Solomon also had 70,000 common laborers, 80,000 quarry workers in the hill country, 16 and 3,600[e] foremen to supervise the work. 17 At the king’s command, they quarried large blocks of high-quality stone and shaped them to make the foundation of the Temple. 18 Men from the city of Gebal helped Solomon’s and Hiram’s builders prepare the timber and stone for the Temple.

In this passage, we see that Solomon drafted 3 times more than the number of workers needed for the Temple project and arranged their schedules so that they did not have to spend extended amounts of time away from their families. This act showed his concern for the welfare of his workers and the importance that he placed on family life and keeping work in proper perspective. The strength of a nation, in Solomon’s wisdom, is in direct proportion to the strength of its families. Solomon recognized that work-life balance is extremely important.

As you can see here, even in the Bible, there are warnings about making your job more important than anything else in your life. Solomon reminds us that we cannot make our jobs our god. Yes, it is important. Each crew had to devote all they had for one month out of three. But they were sent home to decompress and enjoy their families so that their job would not become their entire life. I know that I let myself over my career let work become the most important thing in my life and still do. It still defines me but this passage convicted me. We must not have any idols or gods before God. I used to think that finances were the last thing we give up to the Lord. Now, I realize that often the last thing we give into submission to the Lord is our work.

Help us Lord to give work our all and give it as much as we are capable of giving. But, Lord, help us not to let our jobs define us and consume us. Help us to remember that you are God not our careers. Help us to remember that our families are with us for a reason and we are to lead them in the ways of the Lord. Help us to be present when we are present. Help us to have that proper balance of God-family-work. Help us to keep you are the reason for our being. Help us to let you define us not our careers.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 4:20-34
Solomon’s Prosperity & Wisdom

In our culture, we have an investment mentality. If you invest money in something, you expect an increase in value or a dividend or interest on what you have invested. We often have the same view of the Christian faith. For example, if we are obedient to God’s Word (and not play theological gymnastics to avoid it) and tithe, there are those who believe that God will give us riches and prosperity. For example, if we are obedient and follow God’s call on our lives, there are those who believe that there will be no hardship or trials that will come their way. We often think that if we are obedient to God in whatever way that may be made known to us that God will grant us our wishes for a wonderful life with the storybook ending.

If you have a wife or a daughter, you do realize that right now this time of year is the “Christmas movie” season on cable channels such as the Hallmark Channel. My wife spent all day this past Saturday watching a marathon of these movies on that cable outlet while I was watching college football. The typical pattern of these movies is to me often how we have to come about our understanding of God’s blessings on our obedience. The typical model in “chick-flicks” films such as these Hallmark Channel Christmas movies is one that is quite often used in film. It is “boy meets girl/boy gets girl/conflict/boy loses girl/boy realizes what is really important/boy gets girl back.” That is often how we come about our understanding of God’s blessing of our obedience.

With that idea in mind, let’s read about the prosperity of Israel during much of Solomon’s reign as we read 1 Kings 4:20-34:

20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They were very contented, with plenty to eat and drink. 21 [a]Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River[b] in the north to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt in the south. The conquered peoples of those lands sent tribute money to Solomon and continued to serve him throughout his lifetime.

22 The daily food requirements for Solomon’s palace were 150 bushels of choice flour and 300 bushels of meal[c]; 23 also 10 oxen from the fattening pens, 20 pasture-fed cattle, 100 sheep or goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roe deer, and choice poultry.[d]

24 Solomon’s dominion extended over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza. And there was peace on all his borders. 25 During the lifetime of Solomon, all of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. And from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, each family had its own home and garden.[e]

26 Solomon had 4,000[f] stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses.[g]

27 The district governors faithfully provided food for King Solomon and his court; each made sure nothing was lacking during the month assigned to him. 28 They also brought the necessary barley and straw for the royal horses in the stables.

29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. 30 In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. 33 He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. 34 And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.

In this passage, we see that throughout most of his reign, Solomon applied his wisdom well because he sought God. The fruits of this wisdom were peace, security, and prosperity for the nation. Solomon’s era is often looked upon as the ideal of what any nation can become when united its trust in and obedience to the Lord. However, we must understand that prosperity does not automatically flow from obedience to God. Sure, God will bless us for our obedience, but it does not always come in the form of material blessings or a secure life.

Earlier, we talked about the typical chick-flick movie model. Let’s go a little further with that idea now after having read this passage. Our understanding of obedience and blessing often looks like that model. We often begin obeying the Lord just as the boy begins by being smitten with the girl and she shows interest in him. We obey the Lord and things in our life seem to settle down a bit and we go “hey, this obedience thing ain’t so bad after all.” So, we continue to pursue obedience and it has its fruits just as in the movie the boy gets the girl to fall in love with him. We see tangible results of our obedience. However, just like in the movies something happens. In the movies, the boy loses the girl at this point.

In our obedience to the Lord, it often is that there is a conflict that arises with our being obedient to the Lord. It is often that our faith is being tested by the Lord to see if we will persevere in our faith or give us on what God has called us to do. Sometimes, it’s a financial crisis that challenges your blessing beliefs about tithing. Sometimes, when you have followed God’s calling on your life such as being a missionary in a foreign land or even just something simpler than that where you are doing what God has called you to do, there will be a conflict with the calling. Things don’t go the way you planned. Things get rough. Then, that’s when your faith and your commitment to your obedience come into conflict. We often think that being obedient means smooth sailing (based on our own definitions not God’s).

It is during this phase of the Hallmark movies that the boy realizes what’s important as he does some deep soul searching. He realizes that he loves the girl and can’t live without her. He then realizes that what he thought was important was not really all that important and that love is the most important thing. It is then that he works on getting the girl back. And in the final sequence of each of these movies, he gets the girl back after confessing his love and his screwed up priorities and the movies ends with them arm in arm embraced in a passionate kiss.

In our obedience to the Lord, it is during these times of trial where our formula of what our blessings should be gets changed. We realize that God does not promise us blessings in the sense that we will be made rich by our obedience or that when we follow God’s calling that everything is going to work out the way we had envisioned. It is during this time that we figure out that obedience to God means getting our perspective changed. We begin to see things from God’s perspective rather than our own. We begin to want what he wants. It is in these time of trials that we are humbled and made more useful to God. It is during these times of trial that we remove our ego and just want to do what God wants for us. It is during these times of trial that we learn that our blessings from God are defined by Him and not by us. It is during these times of trial that we learn that we must align our desires with his. We learn to persevere and depend on Him for guidance more so than we ever have. That’s when we get it. That’s the blessing.

Sure, Solomon accumulated great wealth and security for his nation but that was just window dressing. It was his desire to be a godly wise king that God was rewarding. He was rewarding Solomon not with wealth but with the security of knowing that he was in God’s will. That’s the blessing.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 4:1-19
Solomon’s Officials and Governors

Lee Corso, one of the college football personalities on the show, College GameDay, which airs on Saturday mornings during the college football season has a saying when he disagrees with one of the three other personalities on the show. That saying is “Not so fast, my friend!” That seems appropriate here in this passage. The first impression you get is, oh no! Not another list of names! However, when you dig deeper into it and think about this passage, it has much to teach us.

When you have a lot of different areas for which you are responsible, it is impossible for you to manage it all yourself. Solomon understood this concept. He was a ruler of a vast geographical area as well as over millions of Israelites. He just could not do it all himself. He had his closest advisers and then he had governors for twelve districts (these districts roughly approximated the boundaries established for the twelve tribes of Israel). His closest advisors included secretaries that were responsible for various functions of the national government. He had a historian which would be the equivalent of a secretary of state in today’s world. He had a guy in charge of managing the various and sometimes competing issues of the various district governors and several other guys who had defined responsibilities. For each region/district, there was a governor who managed the affairs of each region so as to keep all but the most important issues from having to reach the king in Jerusalem. It all sounds very modern and efficient and it most likely was.

Solomon understood that he could not be tied down with every decision with the nation and the government itself as large as it was. He needed to have people working for him that would take care of specified avenues of responsibility. We know that Solomon had the reputation in Israelite history as being the wisest of kings. So, there are certainly things that we can learn from his organization of his government that we can use in our lives whether we lead in churches or in secular organizations.

Let’s read about the organization of Solomon’s government now in 1 Kings 4:1-19:

Chapter 4
1 King Solomon now ruled over all Israel, 2 and these were his high officials:

Azariah son of Zadok was the priest.
Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, were court secretaries.
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian.
Benaiah son of Jehoiada was commander of the army.
Zadok and Abiathar were priests.
Azariah son of Nathan was in charge of the district governors.
Zabud son of Nathan, a priest, was a trusted adviser to the king.
Ahishar was manager of the palace property.
Adoniram son of Abda was in charge of forced labor.

7 Solomon also had twelve district governors who were over all Israel. They were responsible for providing food for the king’s household. Each of them arranged provisions for one month of the year. 8 These are the names of the twelve governors:

Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim.
Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elon-bethhanan.
Ben-hesed, in Arubboth, including Socoh and all the land of Hepher.
Ben-abinadab, in all of Naphoth-dor.[a] (He was married to Taphath, one of Solomon’s daughters.)
Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, all of Beth-shan[b] near Zarethan below Jezreel, and all the territory from Beth-shan to Abel-meholah and over to Jokmeam.
Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead, including the Towns of Jair (named for Jair of the tribe of Manasseh[c]) in Gilead, and in the Argob region of Bashan, including sixty large fortified towns with bronze bars on their gates.
Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Mahanaim.
Ahimaaz, in Naphtali. (He was married to Basemath, another of Solomon’s daughters.)
Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and in Aloth.
Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar.
Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin.
Geber son of Uri, in the land of Gilead,[d] including the territories of King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan.
There was also one governor over the land of Judah.[e]
In this passage, we see that just as the story of the mothers contending over one baby was an example of Solomon’s great wisdom, this chapter also shows Solomon’s wisdom. The wise way he selected, trained, empowered, and supervised leaders is clearly seen. Solomon was a leader of leaders. No wise leader does it all themselves. They know how to delegate responsibility and authority and get the job done. Solomon’s great wisdom enabled him to see the needs to get, train, and employ the right people to meet those needs.

Solomon’s government was structured much like that in modern nations. He had officials who served as ministers or department secretaries over their specific areas of responsibility. Jehoshaphat, who had served under David (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:24), continued as historian. As such he was more a chief of protocol than a ‘remembrancer’ or recorder of the past. His status was almost that of a Secretary of State. Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. Twelve governors were responsible for taxation in their individual districts. The districts were not strictly separated by tribal borders but often according to mountains, land, and region.

So, earlier I said that there is something that we can learn from Solomon’s organization of his government that we can use whether we are working in churches or in secular organizations. The things that I see are Solomon had defined responsibilities and boundaries for each position.

Each job had its responsibility and everybody had a supervisor. In this way, Solomon was able to keep the number of people reporting directly to him to a minimum and he allowed his supervisors to manage their people below them without interference. This freed Solomon up to deal with the big issues of the nation and to be boat captain who decides the direction of the ship rather than dealing with any and every issue. That issue I think is evidenced particularly by the fact that he had a supervisor for the 12 regional governors. Instead of having to deal directly with the region specific issues of 12 guys himself, Solomon placed a supervisor over them that could deal with their specific issues and then only pass up to the king those issues that require a national rather than a regional answer. As well, there were boundaries for each position. Each person in the chain had defined responsibilities and defined authority. They were empowered to manage their very specific responsibilities and only bubble up those things to those above them that required a more broad or even national answer.

We see in Solomon’s story how society depends on the work of myriad people, coupled with structures and systems to organize large scale production and distribution. The human capacity to organize work is evidence of our creation in the image of a God who brings order out of chaos on a universal and then earthly worldwide scale (Genesis 1). How fitting that the Bible portrays this ability this passage on the organization of Solomon’s government. Perhaps what we take away from this episode is that God is intensely interested in the art of coordinating human work and creativity to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. We see time and time again how God organizes his people to achieve his goals in the world – the organization of the Israelite tribes, the division of the tribes into legal units, the organization of the tabernacle and temple priests, the organization of the disciples (the twelve and the inner three), and ultimately the organization of the church under Paul’s supervision.

So, let us celebrate that God is a God of order and not chaos and examine what we can do to better define and organization our lives to reduce the amount of chaos in it. Whether its our personal finances by defining our budget of income sources and expenses, whether it’s the division of labor in our marriages (agreeing to what is each spouse’s responsibility), whether it’s sitting down with our kids to define their chores or to define their behavior expectations, whether it’s looking at our jobs and assessing ways to make changes that will help us better stay on top of what we are responsible for, you name it! We can all operate better when we reassess our situation and think of ways to be better organized. We can spend less time worry about little things and more time worrying about what wants us to do for Him in the world as His image bearers as the sons and daughters of God.

Amen and Amen.