Passing the vision along
1 Chronicles 22: I wanted in the worst way to build a sanctuary to honor my God. But God prevented me.
It was years earlier that David envisioned building a great House of Worship. The Lord blessed David for having that vision but he told David, “no.” David obediently yielded but the vision never faded. Now, late in his life David begins stockpiling materials for the great Temple project. There’s now a huge store of gold and silver and other precious building materials. David has also identified gifted stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and artisans. He’s still on the throne but he’s preparing for the day when his son Solomon ascends to leadership in Israel. The King has a father-son chat with his son, expressing his great disappointment in not being allowed to build the Temple, but also describing for Solomon all the preparations he’s made for its construction. Obviously, David wants Solomon to be infected with his vision. Worthwhile visions are, indeed, infectious. My enthusiasm is passed on to others who may actually accomplish more with it than I ever could. Also, David’s preparation efforts did a lot to assure that it would come to pass. David did more than dream of a Temple; he also did everything he could to prepare for its construction. Without that key ingredient all we have is good intentions. Visionary thinking includes not only thinking big, it includes real life preparation, and an intentional effort at vision casting.
Take Away: All the vision in the world is worthless without real life application.
Obedience is required
1Kings 11: He hasn’t lived the way I have shown him, hasn’t done what I have wanted, and hasn’t followed directions or obeyed orders….
This epitaph of Solomon’s life gives me insight into what it is that God wants. He wants me to live as he’s shown me to live, to do what he wants me to do, and to follow his directions and obey his commands. If I build impressive church structures and amass great wealth yet fail at these key points God will not only be disappointed in me, he’ll take action against me. Sometimes we act as though all this “obey God” business is kind of theoretical; not literal, but something that happens only in an ideal world. We really think that we can pretty much do what we want and tip our hat to God once in a while and he’ll be satisfied with that. In this passage I see that no matter how much I do in the Name of the Lord I never get beyond the requirement of simply living the way he has shown me to live. If I ignore that, then all the “Temples” I might build are meaningless in his eyes.
Take Away: If we think we’re so valuable to the Lord that we don’t have to obey him – well, we’d better think again.
Close only counts in horseshoes
1Kings 11: Solomon faithlessly disobeyed God’s orders.
Solomon has accomplished much in God’s name. He’s built the lavish Temple, made Israel a world force, and stabilized the nation. He’s amassed knowledge and written proverbs filled with good common sense. But, because of his lack of self-control in relation to the opposite sex he becomes a miserable failure before God. My society seems to think God keeps a sort of balance sheet on our lives. Therefore, the goal is to do more good things than bad things. If a person attains that goal, they’ll make it to heaven. Solomon’s story teaches us better. His failure isn’t that he destroys the Temple or begins writing bad proverbs. Instead, it’s that he disobeys God. One act of disobedience destroys a lifetime of obedience. We all stand in need of God’s grace, and if we make it to heaven it will be because of that grace. Still, God requires obedience. A lifetime of accomplishment can’t atone for even one act of disobedience.
Take Away: It’s worth repeating: a lifetime of accomplishment can’t atone for even one act of disobedience.
1Kings 11: King Solomon was obsessed with women.
It’s too bad that Solomon’s story can’t end with chapter 10. That whole chapter is about his achievements and fame. I read it and can’t help but be impressed by all he does. Then, I turn the page and here’s “King Solomon was obsessed with women.” Even as he’s over the top in his achievements he’s also over the top with his obsession. He collects women in the same way he collected wealth and fame. This will lead to his downfall. The Bible is always up front with us when it comes to the failures of its heroes, and that’s the case here. Even as I read of Solomon’s making silver as common as rocks in Israel, I read that he sins against God by marrying women from the surrounding pagan nations and allowing them to influence him away from God. His willingness to be “unequally yoked” brings about his great failure. No doubt infatuation with the opposite sex has been the downfall of many throughout history but the larger issue here is that God requires my first allegiance. Anything that comes between God and me becomes my god. To obsess over anything is to deny his Lordship in my life.
Take Away: We’re never too smart or successful or, yes, even too wise to mess up. The key is to live close to the Lord and follow his directions for living.
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.
The big picture
1Kings 4: People came from far and near to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.
Under King Saul Israel becomes a military power. Under David, the nation is united and made secure. Now, under King Solomon Israel becomes an admired, respected nation. It is one thing to be feared and safe and secure and something more to be respected, viewed as a positive contributor to the world in general. That’s what happens as Solomon leads Israel. Those who were enemies or at least subdued rivals now come to Israel in peace to sit at the feet of her wise king and to bring goods for trade. It has taken hundreds of years but this nation of slaves has received the inheritance promised to their ancestor Abraham. I know this is the high water mark for the Kingdom of Israel, but what an impressive mark it is. Because of the patience of power of the Almighty the impossible has happened and Abraham’s journey from Ur to the Promised Land is complete. I know I’m supposed to read this story and be impressed with Solomon, but today, I can’t help but be impressed with his God; a God who makes unbelievable promises to unlikely people and then delivers on those promises. If I ever find myself doubting God, I need to step back from the close up snap shots of the Bible and get the big picture. It’s pretty impressive.
Take Away: We too have huge, amazing promises from the Lord. How thrilling it is to remember that he always keeps his promises.
What a wise guy!
1Kings 3: They were all in awe of the king, realizing that it was God’s wisdom that enabled him to judge truly.
The most famous example of the wisdom of Solomon is how he deals with two women claiming to be the mother of the same child. He relies on the love of a mother for her baby to reveal which of the two women is the baby’s mother. It’s a pretty impressive display of wisdom, but only the first. In the pages to come we repeatedly see examples of Solomon’s wisdom. Clearly, God keeps his word and gives Solomon the wisdom he so wisely asked for. I like this statement that says people are in awe of Solomon but they also recognize that his wisdom is directly from God. In the New Testament it’s James who talks about wisdom. He says that if I lack wisdom I should ask God who will freely give it. I don’t know if James is thinking about Solomon or not, but as I put these two things together I conclude that God’s in the wisdom giving business, willingly helping me make good decisions as I cooperate with him. This, my friend, is a pretty good deal. I find myself in need of wisdom and here I’m reminded that there’s a Source of wisdom available.
Take Away: Maybe we should pray for wisdom more often and concerning more things.
1Kings 3: God give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.
Solomon begins his reign with a great worship celebration that pleases the Lord. Because of this, God asks Solomon what he can do for him. His answer is a life changing one. He asks for a “God-listening heart,” or “wisdom.” Since we’re told elsewhere in the Bible that “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” describing Solomon’s request as asking for a “God-listening heart” is insightful and reasonable. If wisdom is anything it’s hearing the voice of God, especially in dealing with the gray areas of life. We also see that Solomon’s request for wisdom is a wise one! The Lord likes his request and agrees to grant it, and, in addition, to bless him in every way possible. This is all interconnected. When I base my life on having a “God-listening heart” it opens the way for God to work in my life, blessing me and blessing others through me.
Take Away: Solomon’s request might be a good starting place for us in our walk with the Lord.
Seeking a righteous response
1Kings 2: The final verdict is God’s peace.
On his death bed David reminds Solomon of some unfinished issues that need attention. Solomon’s response is to execute some people. This isn’t pleasant devotional reading but there’s at least an insight into why David sets this agenda for his son. When Joab’s executed we’re reminded that he’s killed some innocent people. Then we read, “Responsibility for their murders is forever fixed on Joab and his descendants; but for David and his descendants, his family and kingdom, the final verdict is God’s peace.” We see that these executions aren’t for revenge but rather are for justice. David believes that if the crimes committed by these people are left without response that he and his descendants will be responsible in part for what happened. The concept here can only be carried so far and it’s important to remember that Solomon isn’t acting here as a vigilante. He’s acting in the capacity of king, head of the government. But let’s step away from the specific of executions and also lay aside the role of the government here. When I do that I’m still reminded that if I stand by while some wrong is done, declaring, “It’s none of my business” I become a part of that wrong. That’s true not only for government but for individual citizens as well.
Take Away: Sometimes doing nothing makes us as guilty in the eyes of the Lord as if we have done something.