Monday, January 15, 2018

The leader prays for his Nation

Read 1 Kings 8:22-66.

What a powerful scene this is!  The Temple was breathtaking.  God displayed His presence and stopped the celebration.  Then, the king of the most powerful nation stood, stretched his hands out toward heaven and publicly prayed.

There is so much in this prayer about Solomon's understanding of who God is and how the LORD works in the lives of people.  Here are just a few of those:
-God keeps His promises.
-God shows steadfast love "to your servants who walk before you with all their heart" (v.23).
-God raises up leaders by Divine appointment.  In Solomon's case it was in accord with the promise made to David.
-God hears our prayers and forgives sin.  Such prayer and forgiveness is repeatedly coupled with the people turning from their sin.
-God knows and responds to individuals according to each one's heart (v.39).
-God knows there is no one who does not sin (v.46).

What is the overriding purpose of this Temple, its dedication, and Solomon's prayer?

"That all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.  Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day" (vv.60-61).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Priority Alert

Read 1 Kings 6-7.

Solomon began construction on the Temple in the 4th year of his reign.  Most would be surprised to realize the building itself was only 90'x30'x45'.  All the materials were pre-fitted outside of the city so there were no sounds of hammers or axes during the construction.  The place was incredibly ornate with carvings everywhere and many overlaid with gold.  Including the surrounding areas, it required seven years to build.

In 6:11, the LORD spoke directly to Solomon again.  Here God reaffirmed the Davidic Covenant to this second generation king.  Though there were clear expectations of Solomon's behavior to enjoy God's blessings, the covenant was everlasting and would not change.  This understanding is crucial because it directly relates to the Messiah ultimately fulfilling that covenant.

Next, Solomon built his own house.  That project took thirteen years to finish.  This fact in itself is not an indictment against Solomon but a pattern began to develop in this king's life.  While he did a great thing for God, on the other hand he did great or greater things for himself.  As his life unfolded, he became a man with a divided heart for God.

It is not the size or amount of stuff one possesses, great or small, which gives any indication of one's spiritual priorities.  The determination has to do with one's recognition of their stewardship for any and all that God has given to them.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money."

The wisest man on earth tried to do both and it often led to behaviors that displeased the LORD.  May the LORD who owns it all and has redeemed us from eternal punishment, be our consistent priority!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wise people need People

Read 1 Kings 4-5.

These two chapters provide insights into how Solomon applied some of the understanding and wisdom that God gave him.  In brief, "he was wiser than all other men" (4:31).

And, he was wise enough to know that with all his skill and understanding he could not do his job alone.  Solomon chose good and capable people who were organized to accomplish the work of leading the nation.  These trusted leaders took care of responsibilities of spiritual, financial, personal, domestic and foreign affairs.

Then, when it came time to construct the project of his life, he was wise enough to realize he needed a partner.  The Temple would need natural resources from outside Israel.  Solomon turned to his father's friend, Hiram king of Tyre.

Wisdom is displayed-
1. When we realize that we need other people to help us.

2. When we surround ourselves with the right people.

3. When we recognize the need for a special partner for a particular task.

Monday, January 8, 2018

What would you put on a blank check from God?

Read 1 Kings 3.

If God were to offer you a blank check what would you put on it?  This happened to Solomon in verse 5:  "Ask what I shall give you?" 

There are several distinct parts to this chapter.  Each of them contains powerful messages.

As king, Solomon began building great projects for the city of Jerusalem.  He established political alliances through marriages (an ancient custom).  He worshipped the LORD.  Yet, he knew something was missing.  God had much more planned for him and his future.  When he was ready to listen, God appeared to him.

1. The first thoughts Solomon expressed concerned his father.
-He knew God loved his father.
-He knew his father walked faithfully with the LORD.
-He knew his father lived to do what was right.
-He knew his father's heart was right with God.
May our children be able to say this about us.

2. The second group of statements concerned his stewardship.
-He acknowledged God's Ownership of all things.  Eight times in verses 7-9 the words "you" and "your"
-His position, the people, even he belonged to the LORD.
-As a steward, his request was to know how to make decisions that would help the people and please the Owner.
-His response to this personal encounter with God was to go to the place of worship and present offerings.
May our desire everyday be to help people and please God.

3. The test.
-When God gives us something, He expects us to use it to help people and please Him.
-God gave Solomon an understanding heart, or wisdom to discern good from evil.
-His first recorded decision shows that he listened to both sides.  Next he offered a solution that would draw out the truth.  Then, he made a decision.

May we cast our dependence upon God to pass the tests He has for us today.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

3 Words to live By

Read 1 Kings 2.

Notice David's last words to his son Solomon.  These are words from one generation to the next.

1. Confidence. (v.2)
Being strong under pressure and taking responsibility are signs of emotional and relational maturity.

2. Obedience. (v.3a)
-Fulfilling God's call upon one's life first requires that one knows how God has gifted them and what He wants them to do with their life.
-Living for God requires that one exercise daily discipline of personal time and habits.
-Keeping God's Word requires that one know and understand how to apply the Scriptures.

3. Dependence. (vv.3b-4)
Only in faithful obedience to God and depending upon Him for the future can one experience all that the LORD has planned for them.
-"that you may prosper."  The Hebrew word used in this verse for "prosper" has to do with acting circumspectly, or wisely.  God's Word has been made available to us for just that use.
-"that the LORD may establish his word."  God had made a covenant with David that one of his descendants would forever rule over Israel as king.  God has made eternal promises to those who place their faith in Him.  Our responsibility is to trust Him and faithfully live for Him.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Waiting for the Promotion

Read 1 Kings 1.

Whenever there is a leadership vacuum, someone will rush in to fill it.  If leadership transition plans are not made and communicated, someone else will make them and they may not be what were desired.  The process certainly will not be done in the most amicable way.

King David was elderly and faced his final days.  Though his mental faculties seemed in tact, he could no longer physically and publicly display his leadership.  One of his sons, Adonijah (Absalom's younger brother), took this as his opportunity to exalt himself to kingship.

The entire incident is one of self-promotion.  He sent out the invitations to the party.  Even his sacrifices appear to be more food for the gathering than for spiritual worship.  But all along he knew he was wrong.  That is evidenced in whom he did not invite.  Obviously, there was rift between himself and his father, David.  He carefully avoided those closest to the king.

God used Nathan, the prophet, once more in David's life.  With the appeal from Bathsheba and Nathan, Solomon became the new king of Israel.  Adonijah's foolishness turned to embarrassment and a run for his life.  But here we get to see the first bit of Solomon's wisdom in his response.

Often it may be difficult to know when to step in to seize an opportunity and when to stay back and wait to be asked.  The answer lies more in attitude than mere action.  If the attitude is right, taking action does not equate to taking over.  One who is a good and wise servant will realize a need before others, step in and provide what is needed.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

"'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you."  1 Peter 5:5-6

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Godly example from an imperfect Man

Read 2 Samuel 24.

We are not told why the LORD was angry with Israel, nor are we told the reason for the census.  It appears that because only fighting men were counted that, perhaps, David was looking to boast of his military might.  In any case, there was something here that crossed a serious line in David's relationship with God.  So much so, that God used this to deal with both David and the sin in the nation.  70,000 men died.

David's desire to publicly repent, stay the plague, and worship God led him to Araunah's threshing floor.  Here he wanted to build an altar and make a sacrifice to the LORD.  The humility and generosity of Araunah is worthy of meditation in and of itself.  He offered the king his property, his livelihood for the burnt offering, and even the wood for the fire.

David was not a perfect man.  He made some moral and leadership decisions that displeased the LORD.  Yet, the scriptures refer to him as "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22).  What made him such a godly man and leader was when he knew he had done wrong he knew how to repent and did so.  It was never a cheap grace that he sought.  Each recorded time the cost was high and painful.

The king refused Araunah's offer with this famous statement in verse 24: "I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing."  The result was peace with God and the people.

This was not his systematic worship of giving to the LORD of his tithe.  This was sacrificial giving out of generosity.  Sacrificial giving may be characterized as-
1. "Freewill" offering, as in Exodus 35:5, 22, and 29 when building the Tabernacle.
2. "Over and above", as David stated it in 1 Chronicles 29:3 when building the Temple.
3. "Cheerful", as Paul described such a giver in 2 Corinthians 9:7 when meeting the needs of the poor.

The tithe belongs to the LORD.  Those monies support the on-going ministry.  However, giving generously beyond the ten percent requires one to rethink personal plans.  It means that repurposing money for what God wants instead.

Generous giving is a discipline of one who is learning spiritual maturity.