Archive for November, 2018

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 1 of 7)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we begin looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series. Why would you spend so much time on this one passage that only tells you details of the furnishing of the Temple? At first blush, I would have to agree with you. But, in comes the difference between just reading a passage and studying a passage. When you really study a passage, mull it over, do research from respected biblical analysis sources, so much more begins to emerge. Everything written in this passage is to get you to think about what the furnishings mean, what they symbolize. That got me to thinking about my own life with my wife, Elena. So, indulge me a bit as we go down memory lane over the next 7 blogs, including today, about the symbolism of certain things in my relationship with Elena.

When you have been together as a couple for any length of time, like Elena and me (between dating and marriage) have been together now for 11 years (dating for 3 years, married for 8), you begin to gather artifacts of your life together. Most everything in our house has a memory and/or a meaning attached to it. There are numerous examples to which I can point.

For example, our coffee table was purchased by me before our marriage when were dating and living in separate apartments in Rock Hill, SC. It is wrought iron with little individual granite squares that are removable that make up the top of the table. I bought it at a discount furniture store in Charlotte, NC (just across the border from Rock Hill). It is a unique piece of furniture with those individual, removable granite square that are about a half-inch thick that make up the table top. I have never seen before or since, a coffee table like that. The individual squares to us represents the fact that God has cobbled our lives together from our previous individual lives and put them together into a pattern that makes sense. The individual squares are unique each and by themselves have a beauty of their own, but it is only when placed together in the right order in the table top that it becomes this beautiful piece of furniture, that has this timelessness to it. It’s beauty is understated and will stand the test of time. Likewise, our relationship is one where we have confidence that yeah, sure we could make it on our own individually in the absence of the other, but it is only through God’s providence and guidance that He has cobbled us together into this beautiful pattern of a relationship that gives Him glory as we seek the Lord together.

A funny thing about that coffee table is that, because it was so unique (and because of the layout of my apartment, I did not need any end tables), there was just no way that I would every find anything remotely similar to it on that off chance some that I would need end tables. However, for about two years, Elena and I had a cross-country relationship. My job had transferred me out to division headquarters in Santa Clara, CA to clean up the accounting department there. I lived in the San Francisco Bay area on the left coast of the country and Elena was living on the right coast of the country in the Charlotte, NC area. Finally, when the position turned permanent out there in California, Elena decided to move to California to be with me. When got married soon after she came to California. While we were living clear across the country from our families and hometowns, we were trying to furnish our apartment. By the way we arranged the living area of our apartment, we needed and end table to fit between how we had arranged the couch and love seat which were at 90 degree angles from one another. We needed something in between the two to fill that space. We needed an end table. We said to ourselves that we will never find anything like that coffee table. It’s too unique and one of a kind almost. We were just hoping for something remotely similar. But, lo and behold, while we were on about our third discount furniture store, we found an end table that looked exactly like our coffee table. Although the inlaid granite squares had a slightly different coloration, the coloration was in the same family of color. We were amazed. Here we are, completely on the other side of the country from where we bought the coffee table that we find its almost sister match end table. What are the odds that there was a match and that we, out of all the furniture stores we could have gone to, find this furniture with this piece of furniture in it.

That end table tells the same cobbling together story as our coffee table does but it has an added dimension to it as well. It represents to us that God is directing all of our lives. Because the odds of Elena and me ever meeting each other was simply God ordained. I had lived in the Greenville, SC area for all of my teenage and adult life – from age 14 to age 42. It was only because of a job change and the fact that I was single again and single for an extended period of time that saw me grow into a more independent person in life that I moved to the Charlotte area. And, because my daughter was at Clemson University at the time pursuing her college degree, I had to live on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte area so that (1) I could continue paying in-state tuition rates and (2) allow her to maintain the LIFE scholarship offered only to South Carolina resident students. Then, almost a year later, I meet Elena who moved to Rock Hill from Clover, SC after her marriage ended so that she could be closer to her job and be away from the small town culture of Clover. And then she moves into the same apartment complex as me and even wilder is that she moved into the same apartment building as me in this huge apartment complex called Pace’s River there in Rock Hill just off Interstate 77. What are the odds? We met. Became friends. Fell in love. And the rest is history. When we look back at that, we say that it has to be God. He guided us through what might seem like coincidental factors to others to meet one another. Because He had plans for us together as a couple. How we have grown as a couple as Christ followers, both individually and together, since we met! It has to be a God thing that we met. When we look at that end table, where the odds of us finding it clear across the country remind us of God’s guiding hand in us meeting one another – the odds against that are astronomical when you look at our lives individually beforehand.

There is meaning in everything that God does. There is meaning in everything that He says. There is meaning in everything that He orchestrates. There is no random coincidences in God’s economy. Sometimes, we need reminders of that on this side of heaven. For Elena and me, there are reminders of God’s hand in our lives in the little artifacts of our life together of what we mean to each other and what God has done in our lives. These are not idols but rather visual reminders that symbolically represent what God has done for us. That was the thing that I thought of this morning as I started analyzing the furnishings of the Temple. There is meaning and symbolism in everything that is described here. Let’s start today by looking at what the pillars mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see the details of the furnishings of the Temple. This is God’s house so everything in it has a symbolic meaning. For today, as we visually approach the Temple, let us look at the pillars at the entry way to the temple.

Verses 15-22 give us the detail about the two bronze pillars. They are about 8.1 metres tall, 5.4m in circumference, and hollow being about 3 inches thick. They both had large and ornate capitals topping the pillars. These pillars would have resembled trees and reminded of Eden. They were covered in pomegranates and lily work. Pomegranates are a picture of bounty and fruitfulness with the interior full of seeds. Lilies in the Scripture are associated with love. They were most likely symbolic and decorative as opposed to load bearing, since they were hollow. We see that they were named. Since the temple faced East the southern pillar was called Jachin and the northern, Boaz.

Jachin and Boaz stood at the entrance to the temple’s vestibule or portico. Their dimensions indicate the extent of the work involved in creating them. Including the decorative tops of the pillars, Jachin and Boaz stood approximately forty-five feet tall, with a circumference of eighteen feet (1 Kings 7:15–20). The brass used to make the twin pillars had been taken by King David from the king of Zobah as part of the spoils of war (1 Chronicles 18:8–9).

The pillar on the south of the entrance which was called Jachin, and one on the north named Boaz. Both 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings say that “he” set up the pillars and “he” named them Jachin and Boaz. Commentators are divided as to whether “he” refers to Hiram or Solomon. Whoever named them, their names are significant. Jachin (pronounced yaw-keen) means “he will establish,” and Boaz signifies “in him is strength.” Taken together, the names were a reminder that God would establish the Temple and the worship of His name in strength.

That Jachin is mentioned in the Bible as a descendant of Aaron means that this name is associated with the priestly class of Israel. The priests were establish to mediate between the Israelite people and the Most Holy God. It is a reminder to us as Christians that Jesus is our high priest and He mediates our cleanliness before God on our behalf. Because of our sins, we can not exist on our own the presence of God. We need to have Jesus the mediator, the priest, the clean one, to impute His holiness unto us. Thus, we are established as clean and holy before a pure and holy God. It is through Jesus that we can stand before God in right standing. Thus, the Jachin column to us as Christians represents the way that Jesus makes us holy enough to enter into God’s presence.

That the name Boaz is used represents to us the mercy of God such that He redeems us through Jesus Christ. Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth and made her part of the family of God through his sacrificial act, so too does Jesus act in that way toward us. Jesus redeems us through his sacrifice for our sins on the cross. It is through this sacrificial act that we are adopted into the family of God. We are made rightful heirs to His Kingdom through Jesus. Just as Ruth was made a rightful heir in the family of Israel by Boaz. Boaz teaches us that we have strength in our adoption. We can act with full confidence as citizens of the Kingdom through Jesus. It does not matter what our past includes, we are redeemed and made worthy citizens of the Kingdom through Jesus Christ will all the rights and privileges that we are given even though in and of ourselves we do not deserve them. The Boaz pillar then represents the fact that we must humbly remember what God has done for us through the sacrifice of Jesus as we enter into God’s presence. The Boaz pillar also represents that we can rightfully enter into God’s presence because we are married to Jesus Christ through His sacrifice for us on our behalf. We can stand up as a part of the people of God – past wiped away and present and future made secure that we are a part of God’s people through Jesus Christ.

That then shows us that these are not just mere words on a page describing furnishing but rather and opportunity to see God’s design for us in the details of the Temple. Just as the coffee table and end table in Elena’s and my home represent more than just mere furniture. There is meaning pointing us to what God has done in us, through us, and for us since we have been together. These visual reminders, again, I remind you are not idols to be worshiped in and of themselves. We do not pray to or venerate this furniture in our home, but just seeing them and reflecting on the story that goes with them, it reminds us of what God has done. That it points to God and not themselves makes them visual cues and not idols. Here in this passage, we see the amazing symbolism of the pillars. We see them as teaching tools as to what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. That warms the heart and humbles the heart to remember just what God did for us so that we can come into His presence unafraid and assured.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:1-12
Solomon Builds His Palace

In business, they call it vision creep or vision slippage. It’s when a company loses sight of what has been the central driving force behind their business for years. You often see it in businesses that begin to branch out into businesses that are not in line with the company’s expertise. Sometimes, you see companies buy other companies without checking out the corporate culture of the company that they are buying and as a result allow different values to become part of the bloodstream of the company. You sometimes see companies get so inward focused that procedures become more important than business opportunities and the company slowly dies.

In churches, too, we are not immune. In older, traditional churches, have you ever been a part of churches where the color of the carpet in the sanctuary that they are about to purchase will literally rip the church apart? Have you ever been a part of a church where who is serving on what committee is causing friction and people leave the church over it? But newer, more modern churches can lose sight of vision of church too. They can become too centered around their mega-church high profile pastor. They can become focused on “being cool”, on being “relevant” and on in touch with people where they are at. In these cases, often, discipleship is the first thing that suffers and church can become about it being a production, a rock concert, featuring a hip motivational speaker.

Churches, both old style and new style, can lose the vision, have vision slippage, and allow things that are not in line with the vision to become part of the bloodstream of the church. The main thing. The reason we are “in business” in the church can become a sidelight. The main thing – going and making fully devoted and spiritually developed disciples of Jesus Christ who are His gospel representatives where they live, work and play – must remain the main thing for a church to be what Jesus envisioned. Just as a business must measure everything by its vision statement so too should we as churches measure everything we do as to whether it is about leading people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and, once saved, leading them to deeper and deeper relationships with Him.

That was the thing that struck me this morning as I read about Solomon’s Palace. It was not the intricate descriptions of the construction or the detail about its fixtures but rather the fact that it took him almost twice as long to construct the palace as it did to construct the Temple. He paid more attention and took more time on the palace. It is kind of an indication as to what was most important to Solomon though in a subtle way. His focus was more what was “all about him” than it was about glorifying God. It reminded me of how in corporations, we can lose focus on “what got us here”. It also reminded me too that churches can lose sight of their core business too – bringing people to the cross of salvation and leading them to deeper relationships with Jesus. With that idea in mind, let us read this passage now:

Chapter 7
1 Solomon also built a palace for himself, and it took him thirteen years to complete the construction.

2 One of Solomon’s buildings was called the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. It was 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high.[a] There were four rows of cedar pillars, and great cedar beams rested on the pillars. 3 The hall had a cedar roof. Above the beams on the pillars were forty-five side rooms,[b] arranged in three tiers of fifteen each. 4 On each end of the long hall were three rows of windows facing each other. 5 All the doorways and doorposts[c] had rectangular frames and were arranged in sets of three, facing each other.

6 Solomon also built the Hall of Pillars, which was 75 feet long and 45 feet wide.[d] There was a porch in front, along with a canopy supported by pillars.

7 Solomon also built the throne room, known as the Hall of Justice, where he sat to hear legal matters. It was paneled with cedar from floor to ceiling.[e] 8 Solomon’s living quarters surrounded a courtyard behind this hall, and they were constructed the same way. He also built similar living quarters for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married.

9 From foundation to eaves, all these buildings were built from huge blocks of high-quality stone, cut with saws and trimmed to exact measure on all sides. 10 Some of the huge foundation stones were 15 feet long, and some were 12 feet[f] long. 11 The blocks of high-quality stone used in the walls were also cut to measure, and cedar beams were also used. 12 The walls of the great courtyard were built so that there was one layer of cedar beams between every three layers of finished stone, just like the walls of the inner courtyard of the Lord’s Temple with its entry room.

In this passage, there is certainly a lot of detail about the palace dimensions and the content of its construction. However, the most striking thing is right at the beginning of the passage in the first verse. That Solomon took longer to build his palace than it took to build the Temple (13 years vs. 7 years) gives us an early glimpse at his weakening value system. As well, in the eighth verse, you will note that he had married the Pharaoh’s daughter. Although it was a politically savvy move to marry the daughter of another nation’s king to solidify an alliance with that country, it did bring pagan religious beliefs right into the heart of Israel.

That’s the thing that we should take away today is that as Christ followers, we have one job – to glorify God by sharing the gospel with the world around us. If we get caught up in fights about the color of the carpet, or about whose family name is going to be on a classroom, or about who is serving on a committee, or any of a number of things that traditional churches can sometimes bicker about, we have lost our way, we have lost the vision, the central core of our reason for being – to be the light of the gospel message to the dark world around us. If we are a modern mega-church, we can get off course when we treat our rock star nationally popular pastor instead of Jesus Christ. If we worship the light shows and production values of Sunday morning and Jesus is just someone to follow because he is cool, we have lost focus on the vision.

Then we look at ourselves in our personal walk with Jesus, we must examine what we are making important. Is Jesus the most important thing in our lives? Do we allow other things to become more important? Like our jobs, our spouse, our kids, our extracurricular activities? Are we spending time with God? Do we study God’s Word or do we squeeze His Word in when we have time? Do we give God the firstfruits of our income or do we give Him what is left over? Let us each one examine how we spend our time each week. Are we like Solomon where we spend twice as much time on personal pursuits as we do pursuing God?

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 6:14-38
The Temple’s Interior

We are a nation of copiers. Not the kind of copiers that transfer images from one piece of paper to another, but rather we tend to copy what we see in the media with regard to fashions, attitudes, swagger, and so on. When kids see their favorite TV or movie personalities dress a certain way, then, they follow suit. When we see our favorite celebrities acting a certain way, we think that it is OK to act that same way. When one person decides that he is personally oppressed by the cops, though he grew up in middle class Wisconsin and though he has made millions of dollars in professional football and owns a $3.2 Million condo in New York in addition to his home in San Jose, CA, and decides to kneel during the national anthem at football games. Then, the entire league of millionaire athletes follow suit, not necessarily because they believe in the cause, they don’t want to be singled out as not doing it. Remember high school? The pressure to copy others is enormous there, probably more so than anywhere else in our culture. Think about social media and 24 hour news channels today. Think about how a media story can get started nowadays in one area of the media and then it cascades across the internet and television. Often, it is with regard to whether a claim is true or not. However, the joining in with the cascade is the most important thing to the media and social media platform participants. All want to be seen as being valid and in compliance with the prevailing popular opinion of the day.

What is it that makes our culture this way? Back before social media, the news outlets would verify, verify, and verify again before publishing something that was not true or substantiated. Now, the concern is more about being in line with prevailing opinion than it is with whether something is true or not. Why are we such copiers now? Why are we more concerned with joining in with the crowd than whether something is true or necessary to the public good? We copy celebrities whose lifestyles are a train wreck. We copy whatever we see in fashion on TV. We copy whatever the pro athletes do. We copy what we see on the internet. Is it that we are seeking belonging but seeking in the wrong places?

That’s what I thought of this morning – about how we are a nation obsessed with copying others so that we can feel like we are in line with the “in crowd”, the “with it” crowd, the “those on the cutting edge” crowd. When I read in this passage, 1 Kings 6:14-38, I saw that Solomon basically copied God’s instructions for the Tabernacle when he built the Temple. He could have done anything else! But He chose to copy God’s instructions for the temporary Tabernacle when he built the permanent Temple. It got me to thinking about how our culture copies the wrong things. Let’s read the passage now:

14 So Solomon finished building the Temple. 15 The entire inside, from floor to ceiling, was paneled with wood. He paneled the walls and ceilings with cedar, and he used planks of cypress for the floors. 16 He partitioned off an inner sanctuary—the Most Holy Place—at the far end of the Temple. It was 30 feet deep and was paneled with cedar from floor to ceiling. 17 The main room of the Temple, outside the Most Holy Place, was 60 feet[a] long. 18 Cedar paneling completely covered the stone walls throughout the Temple, and the paneling was decorated with carvings of gourds and open flowers.

19 He prepared the inner sanctuary at the far end of the Temple, where the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant would be placed. 20 This inner sanctuary was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high. He overlaid the inside with solid gold. He also overlaid the altar made of cedar.[b] 21 Then Solomon overlaid the rest of the Temple’s interior with solid gold, and he made gold chains to protect the entrance[c] to the Most Holy Place. 22 So he finished overlaying the entire Temple with gold, including the altar that belonged to the Most Holy Place.

23 He made two cherubim of wild olive[d] wood, each 15 feet[e] tall, and placed them in the inner sanctuary. 24 The wingspan of each of the cherubim was 15 feet, each wing being 7 1⁄2 feet[f] long. 25 The two cherubim were identical in shape and size; 26 each was 15 feet tall. 27 He placed them side by side in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. Their outspread wings reached from wall to wall, while their inner wings touched at the center of the room. 28 He overlaid the two cherubim with gold.

29 He decorated all the walls of the inner sanctuary and the main room with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. 30 He overlaid the floor in both rooms with gold.

31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary, he made double doors of wild olive wood with five-sided doorposts.[g] 32 These double doors were decorated with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. The doors, including the decorations of cherubim and palm trees, were overlaid with gold.

33 Then he made four-sided doorposts of wild olive wood for the entrance to the Temple. 34 There were two folding doors of cypress wood, and each door was hinged to fold back upon itself. 35 These doors were decorated with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers—all overlaid evenly with gold.

36 The walls of the inner courtyard were built so that there was one layer of cedar beams between every three layers of finished stone.

37 The foundation of the Lord’s Temple was laid in midspring, in the month of Ziv,[h] during the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. 38 The entire building was completed in every detail by midautumn, in the month of Bul,[i] during the eleventh year of his reign. So it took seven years to build the Temple.

From this passage, we see that it is true that the décor was elegant. However, it is not true that the Temple was unique. The Bible explains that Solomon built the Temple according to his vision, but his vision was based on the Tabernacle. The Scriptures explain that the walls of the Temple were decorated with etches and carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. The efforts that went into this design shows that Solomon was not trying to innovate a new place of worship for the Lord, but it was based on the pattern that God had previously determined in the Tabernacle. In other words, Solomon recognized the perfection dictated by God previously and simply sought to copy it with the tools and talent that was provided to him.

What does that mean to you and me in our 21st century life? I think it begs the question, “What are you copying?” What do you look toward to determine how you are going to act in and respond to the world around you? Is it celebrities? Is it pro athletes? Is it social media? What do you admire and emulate your life after? Are you coming up empty chasing/copying after the latest trend? Do you feel like you are the last one to the party and everybody’s been there and has already left? Do you feel like you are forever chasing something that you will never be able to capture? If you are fashioning your life by popular opinion or by what another person does, you are forever a step behind. You are forever going to be disappointed.

Let us become a people that copies the right things. Let us fashion our lives as a copy or duplicate of Jesus Christ. Though we can never reach His perfection (since we are sinful and sin-filled creatures by our very nature), we can seek to become like Him by submitting our lives to his Kingship. Once we have given authority over our lives to Jesus Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and who then begins His work of making us more and more like Jesus each day. The Holy Spirit will convict us of our sins and help us to turn away from them. The Holy Spirit will direct us to God’s Word and that is where we will find eternal truth. That is where we will find what to emulate (and often because of the failures of the characters of the Bible, what not to emulate). That is where we find what never changes. That is where we find what we need to copy. Through God’s Word, the salvation of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls, we find God’s plan. That’s what we need to copy. Just as Solomon knew that God’s instructions for the Tabernacle were perfect enough for the Temple and just copied them, so too should we find God’s perfect instructions in the Bible and copy them and apply them to our lives.

Amen and Amen.

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.