1Kings 10: King Solomon was wiser and richer than all the kings of the earth.
Literally, it’s the golden age. Each day dignitaries arrive at Jerusalem, each bringing valuable gifts for Solomon. They all want to experience Solomon, a human wonder of the earth. Israel is poised to be a world power for generations to come and every national leader willingly bows to Solomon’s wisdom knowing that the overflow of his prosperity is beneficial to them too. This may be the finest picture in the Bible of God’s temporal blessings. The Lord does, indeed, know how to shower worldly blessings on people and in this case, his intention is to establish Israel forever in this land promised their ancestor Abraham hundreds of years earlier. You and I know this isn’t going to last. Before the children of Israel ever set foot in the Promised Land Moses described for them the “blessing and the curse.” If they obey the result is, well, what we see in this chapter. If they disobey…sad to say, to see the results we just have to keep reading. I see here God’s desire and intention. He likes blessing us. For the past 2000 years he’s been preparing a place for us that will make Solomon’s Jerusalem look poor in comparison. I understand that not all of God’s blessings are in the health and wealth category, but this chapter of the Bible gives me a glimpse of what he can do, and what he plans to do, if I’ll just cooperate with him.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for his good will, for his grace, and, yes, for his many blessings to us; all undeserved and all humbly appreciated.
Centered on God
1Kings 8: May he keep us centered and devoted to him.
Solomon concludes his beautiful prayer of dedication of the new Temple. He then stands to bless the great congregation that has gathered. His words, “may he keep us centered and devoted to him” are important and powerful words in any setting. How we need God’s help in this! There are so many voices calling to us, so many distractions, so many opportunities to turn our hearts from God. If I’m not careful the Lord is pushed from the center of my life to some secondary role. Many things lay claim to “first” in my life. Some of those things are worthy in and of themselves: family, health, relationships. Others are merely pretenders: comfort, entertainment, security. The thing is that when my life is centered on God everything else tends to land in its proper place. That includes both those things that are pretty important and those that only seem to be important. My prayer for myself today is Solomon’s prayer for his people, “May he keep me centered and devoted to him.”
Take Away: When the Lord is at the center of our lives, the throne of our hearts, everything else tends to fall into their proper places.
1Kings 9: Everything that had to do with The Temple he did generously and well; he didn’t skimp.
I know there are huge differences between our church buildings and the Temple and I’m not getting ready to make an argument for the construction of large, extravagant places of worship. Still, Solomon’s commitment to the Temple impresses me. He takes no shortcuts in anything he does in relation to the Temple. While I have great respect for the house church movement, I also believe that there’s a desire within human beings to have sacred space, places set aside for the express purpose of worship. I think that the place where we worship should be clean and uncluttered. There should be evidence of loving attention to detail and, generally speaking, there should be symbols of our faith. On one hand, I know worship can take place in other settings. On the other hand, though, there’s a feeling of “rightness” when worship is done in a place set aside for that purpose. Note that these attributes can be said of a plain Quaker meeting house or a mega-church with a large campus. Solomon’s commitment to God is reflected in his commitment to the place where God is worshipped. I think this is a reasonable concern today.
Take Away: The place where I often meet the Lord becomes for me, sacred space.
Move right on in
1Kings 8: Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood?
Solomon’s praying his great prayer of dedication of the newly constructed Temple. He understands that, while the Temple is an impressive house of worship, that God is bigger than any one place, even as beautiful a place as this is. With the thought in mind that God is the God of the universe and can’t be contained in any one place, Solomon prays that the Almighty will always be attentive to the worship done, and the prayers prayed, at this new Temple. He’s a wise man, after all God’s too big to really live among us, right? Well, not quite! Many years in the future God will do exactly what Solomon imagines being impossible. God will come to us. He’ll indeed move right into our neighborhood. As he does this, human beings will encounter God in a whole new way. And the story won’t end with the pages of the Gospels. God will come to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, and in so doing, he’ll move right into the temple that is the heart of every willing person. He’ll not only be “with us,” but God, the Holy Spirit, will be “in us.” As impressive as the Temple is, and as lofty as Solomon’s prayer of dedication is, we have the privilege of God actually moving into the neighborhood of our lives today.
Take Away: Have you invited God, the Holy Spirit, to take up residence in your life?
1Kings 8: The glory of God filled The Temple of God!
The painstaking work of constructing the Temple is complete. It’s a truly impressive structure with every detail perfect. This house of worship is one of the wonders of the world. But that’s the least of the story. What really matters is what happens next. As the dedication service is about to begin God’s glory falls on the place. His glory is so powerful that it’s tangible. The Presence of God flows into and through the structure to the extent that the priests, who have assumed their assigned positions of service are driven out! Like a cloud, God’s glory has descended and the people are in reverent awe of the Lord. I’ve been in church services in my life in which God came in glory and majesty. The scale was much smaller, but I’ve tasted just enough to imagine it’s like on this day. In less public moments God has touched my life and these are my most precious spiritual memories. I thank him for such wonderful encounters with the divine. Beyond that, I hunger for God to pour his glory out on me and on the church I pastor. Passages like this both warm my heart and rekindle a hunger for God in the depths of my spirit.
Take Away: There’s nothing like the presence of the Lord.
Thank God for plumbers and roofers and carpenters
1Kings 7: Hiram was a real artist — he could do anything with bronze.
Solomon presides over some of the most impressive building projects imaginable including the construction of beautiful palaces and the impressive gold-inlaid Temple. He’s the architect, the mastermind, of these great projects. But he isn’t the workman. He recruits a man named Hiram from Tyre to do the bronze work. This guy and some other key people are craftsmen with extraordinary abilities. Under Hiram’s expert guidance durable, functional, and beautiful artifacts are created. I thank God for people like Hiram: people with practical knowledge and skill, people who have God-given gifts willingly given to the work of the Lord. As a person who just barely knows which end of the hammer to use, I’ve come to appreciate those who bring their practical abilities as an offering of love to God and his Church.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for dedicated people who willingly give their skills to the work of God’s Kingdom.
Keeping first things first
1Kings 5: What’s important is that you live the way I’ve set out for you and do what I tell you.
Solomon has an aggressive agenda. He’s already built palaces, cataloged information about plants and animals, and amassed an impressive and well-equipped army. His reputation has spread across the face of the earth and he’s forged alliances with other nations. Now, he turns his attention to the building of the Temple. You might say that everything else he’s done has been practice for this, his most memorable accomplishment. As construction gets underway Solomon hears a word from the Lord. He’s reminded that living in daily obedience to God is even more important than constructing buildings to the glory of God. For Solomon, and for all those who call on the Name of the Lord, this is a vital concept. It’s so easy to confuse the things we do for the Lord with being in a right relationship with the Lord. More than sacrifices, more than building projects, more than well-organized church programs God desires that I concentrate on having a genuine connection to himself. All the rest is to flow out of that relationship. It’s a vital matter of priorities and, as it’s important in this passage for Solomon it’s important for me.
Take Away: We must be careful we don’t confuse the things we do in the Name of the Lord with our living in a genuine relationship with the Lord.