Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

Time flies when you’re having fun
1Kings 1: King David grew old.
First and Second Samuel have told us the stories of two kings. The first failed miserably and the second became Israel’s greatest king. Now we come to the stories of all the rest. All fall somewhere between Saul and David. These “king stories” start with “King David grew old.” It’s interesting to be reminded that even great people grow old. Our days are numbered and, while it’s a blessing to live to old age, it isn’t really much fun to get there! Physically David’s wasting away. His circulation isn’t good and he’s cold all the time. His aids come up with an interesting solution for keeping him warm at night. They recruit the young and beautiful Abishag who serves as a sort of “electric blanket” for “poor” old David. It brings a smile to our faces now, but even the Bible writer notes that David’s advanced years assure that their relationship is purely platonic. The more serious issue for Israel is that there’s jostling among his surviving sons as to who will to take the throne. Throughout David’s 40 years on the throne of Judah and then Israel Absalom’s effort to take the throne has been the only serious threat to Israel’s stability. Now, King David grows old and national unity is threatened once again. David has just one more thing to do. He has to name his successor. Once that’s done the burden of leadership will be lifted from his frail shoulders. I can’t feel sorry for David. He’s lived a robust life. If anyone ever “grabs the gusto” it’s David. Now though, even though he’s bigger than life, it’s life (or maybe better, death) that’s winning. So it is for all of us. There’s only one alternative to getting old and it isn’t a very good choice. With that in mind, I want to live as large as I can; to serve God right now with all my strength. Then, when my turn comes I want to be able to look back on a life lived all out for God.
Take Away: We only have one opportunity to live our lives enthusiastically for the Lord, let’s not miss this opportunity.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

The long arm of the law
1Kings 2: Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you.
The transition of the throne from David to Solomon will not be bloodless, but considering the day and age, it comes close to it. David calls for Solomon to come to him and they have a father-son (or maybe better, a king-king) talk. Some of what David says is lofty, truly uplifting. He encourages Solomon to walk in God’s ways. If he does that, the Lord will lead and bless him. Some of what David says sounds cold and calculating. There are some people who have acted in ways intended to promote their own agendas rather than his but for various reasons they’ve never been brought to justice. From his deathbed David lists them for the new king. He doesn’t tell him what to do in each case but he reminds him that he thinks something should be done. At its worst, this is just plain old revenge. At its best, it’s a cold reminder of reality. This, I think sums up David’s life. On one hand, he’s a hard pragmatist who’ll unflinchingly kill a man he thinks is a threat to the kingdom. On the other hand, he’s a man who loves God with all his heart, who can write soaring poetry and lift the spirits of all those around him. One thing is certain: there’s nothing lukewarm about David and that’s abundantly clear in this, his final appearance in the Bible.
Take Away: Let’s let David’s unhesitant devotion to the Lord inspire and challenge us in our own relationship with God.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

Good answer!
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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 -Pictured Rocks Cruise – Munising, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Along Lake Michigan at Manistique, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Along Lake Michigan at Manistique, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

Glory!
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 what 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 his church. 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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – At Mackinaw City, MI

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?

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

Golden age
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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

Woman trouble
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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

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.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

Servant leadership
1Kings 12: If you will be a servant to this people…they’ll end up doing anything for you.
Solomon gets all the credit for his impressive and massive construction projects, but he probably never did an ounce of actual labor. The common people did the hard work. Now that Solomon’s son Rehoboam is assuming the throne the people ask for relief. I know how this turns out, but I can’t help but note the wisdom of his father’s senior advisors in this. They recommend that Rehoboam be a servant to the people; that he respond with compassionate consideration, showing them respect. The result, they say, will be that he’ll get his own way. That is, they’ll work themselves to death for him. Centuries before Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest should be servant of all, these advisors tell Rehoboam the same thing. This principle applies across the spectrum. It works at national leadership levels, in business, and, yes, in the church as well. Rehoboam doesn’t get it and ends up with a rebellion on his hands. The same thing happens in other applications as well. The best leaders are servant-leaders.
Take Away: Good leaders understand the servant-leadership concept and practice it.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinaw Bridge, MI

It’s not my fault, God made me do it
1Kings 12: God was behind all this…
I’m a firm believer in the God-given gift of free will. As someone said, “In his Sovereignty, God granted human beings the freedom to choose.” There are plenty of scriptures that speak to this concept but this isn’t one of them! Just to set the story: Solomon sins against God and because of that the Lord says he’ll rip the larger portion of Israel from his descendants’ rule. Then, when his son Rehoboam assumes the throne he foolishly follows the wrong advice and that brings about a split in the nation. At that point we come to the statement that “God was behind all this.” This leaves me playing defense on the topic of free will. Does God cause Rehoboam to do something stupid to bring about the split between Judah and Israel? And, if that’s the case, is Rehoboam responsible for what God causes him to do? Does God suspend free will in this specific circumstance? I don’t have a sweeping answer to these questions, but I don’t think God over-ruled himself on the topic of free will. Maybe this can work if I think in terms of “influence” rather than direct cause. For instance, God knows Rehoboam’s heart — that he’s a stubborn, selfish man. The Lord knows that Rehoboam’s friends are like him. It doesn’t take God’s pulling strings like a puppeteer to get Rehoboam to go along with the bad advice he receives. A slight suggestion is all it takes to accomplish that. Once I start thinking in terms of “influence” I more easily see how this works in both negative and positive ways. If my desire is to please the Lord in all I do, it won’t take much of a nudge from God to get me moving in the right direction. I’m not claiming that I’ve resolved all the “free-will verses God’s sovereignty” issues here, but I think it is a step in the right direction.
Take Away: I’ve been granted free will. Will I or won’t I use that gift to allow the Lord to positively influence me in the decisions of my life?

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinac Island, MI

How far is too far?
1Kings 12: It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship.
Jeroboam is now king of Israel with Rehoboam left with only the loyal tribe of Judah. Jeroboam immediately realizes that Rehoboam holds one powerful trump card. He has the Temple. Even though the people have made him king, his subjects will still go to Jerusalem to worship. Once they’re in Jerusalem they’ll be reminded of David and Solomon. When that happens, they’ll remember that Rehoboam sits on the throne of these two great men. He solves this problem by turning his back on God and the Temple. How does he convince these worshipers of Jehovah to abandon worship at the Temple built in his Name? He does so by telling them that it’s too much trouble to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. By keeping them away from the Temple he keeps them out of Judah, and by doing that, he keeps them away from Rehoboam’s influence. Of course it’s a blatant sin. The people, though, go along with his suggestion. I understand the temptation because, like them, I like convenience. I like having a remote control for my TV, a microwave oven, a garage door opener. I even like having my church less than a mile from my house. Still, there are some things that are worth inconvenience. I’ll drive extra distance to see the doctor in whom I have confidence and I will go out of my way to spend some time with my grandchildren. Am I willing to be inconvenienced to worship God? Do I want a worship experience that isn’t too much trouble, or do I want to really connect with God Almighty? What value do I place on having a genuine worship experience? Thanks, but no thanks, Jeroboam. I think I’ll just go on making that trip to Jerusalem!
Take Away: If we have to choose between convenience and God, well, the choice is obvious.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Mackinac Island, MI

Not all free meals are free
1Kings 13: An angel came to me with a message from God…but the man was lying.
Jeroboam, in an effort to secure his hold on Israel, has diverted the people away from God by creating shrines and alternative holy days. This is a serious sin with real consequences. God sends a prophet to declare his judgment. The man is faithful to the task, accomplishes his mission, and is on his way home when a fellow catches up to him, inviting him to stay and eat. The reply is that he can’t do that. God gave him specific orders about this: “don’t eat a crumb and don’t drink a drop.” The reply is that the prospective host has received a word from the Lord too. He’s been told that it’s okay for the prophet to come to his house for some hospitality. The Bible says that “the man was lying.” Hard to imagine isn’t it? How could anyone say, “The Lord told me” when they just want to get their own way? Well, come to think of it, it isn’t hard to imagine at all! People do it all the time. Sometimes they’re religious fanatics who are perverting God’s Word. Sometimes they’re well-meaning people who simply have a hard time telling the difference between what they want and what God says. In this case a good man, a prophet of God listens. As a result, he loses his life. On one side of this issue, I want to be careful I don’t attach “God says” to what “I want.” It’s okay for me to have opinions and desires, but I need to be honest with others and myself and not use God’s name “in vain” by saying “God told me” when I’m just saying what I want. On the other side of the issue, I need to get used to hearing God’s Voice in my life. Once I learn to listen to what he’s saying others who say, “God told me to tell you…” won’t easily sidetrack me.
Take Away: Saying “God said…” when it’s really “I want” is, in a sense, taking the name of the Lord in vain.

Devotional on 1 Kings

2015 – Finn Road Campground – Essexville, MI – trail

Trading bronze for gold
1Kings 14: King Rehoboam replaced them with bronze shields.
Solomon’s son Rehoboam sits on the throne of Judah, sovereign of what’s left of his father’s great kingdom. While it’s true that rival Israel is worse off than Judah, both of these kingdoms are unraveling. Up in Jerusalem, idol worship is taking root and a mixture of Jehovah and idol worship is common. When Egyptian forces raid Jerusalem and carry off the gold shields that Solomon made, Rehoboam simply replaces them with bronze shields. They’re not as beautiful as the gold ones, but they’ll have to do. Rehoboam orders that these substitute shields are to only be used for special occasions and kept in storage the rest of the time. I think this substitution of bronze shields for gold ones reflects what’s happening in the life of the people of Judah. Under David and Solomon they had the “gold” as they worshiped the God who had brought them to this land in the first place. Now, though, they settle for a cheap substitute. Those shields aren’t the real deal but they look a lot like the gold ones. How often do we substitute bronze for gold in our own lives? We could have the real deal, but we settle for a mere replica instead. Many years in the future Jesus will tell us that God is looking for people who want to worship “in truth.” I’ve already decided that I have no time or patience for just going through the motions. I want to know God, to live in him, and to experience him. I won’t settle for “bronze” when “gold” is available.
Take Away: The Lord’s best is simply “the best” – nothing else even comes close.

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