Synopsis 1Kings 6:22-36 3/19/2019
Solomon completed the construction of the main house of the temple. Afterward, he made two cherubim that he placed in the Holy of Holy place. These were large figures that dominated the space where the mercy seat would be located.
Everything inside the house was made from wood that was covered in gold. Even the cherub figures were covered in gold. And all the wood was carved with ornate, symbolic figures.
Solomon worked from a pattern. But he had to orchestrate the effort and make provision for much of the materials. His was a creative effort that transcended merely following directions.
So, he used his gifts of wisdom and administration in order to glorify God.
God Inspired Creativity
I also have certain innate gifts. In fact, we all do. And we also have time and resources.
What’s curious, is that we have pretty much the same as Solomon. Not the same resources. And not the same vocation. Nor the same gifts.
But we all have some of each.
And so, there is Solomon in all his royal splendor. He was ruler over God’s chosen people. And he was Creator of the first temple devoted to the one true God.
And yet, we are no less than he in the eyes of God. Our present mission is just as great.
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them:” Rom 12:6
Synopsis 1Kings 6:9-21 3/18/2019
Solomon finished the structure of the house. After this, he directed the construction of the roof. And once the building was under roof, God spoke to Solomon again.
God promised to live in the house. And He promised to continue to dwell in the midst of the Israelites. However, His promise was conditional. As king, it was up to Solomon, and his heirs, to remain faithful.
After this, Solomon continued the work of finishing the temple. He paneled the interior with cedar planks. And all of the planks were carved with various, symbolic shapes. And all of this was covered in pure gold.
Solomon’s Encouraging Respite
Solomon’s Temple was a big project. It took a long time to finish. And it cost an enormous amount of money. And it took a lot of labor too. There was much riding on getting the project done.
Putting the roof on the building was a milestone. Even though there was much left to do, it represented a level of achievement. And it was at this point that God spoke to Solomon. God basically assured him that he was on the right course. And he validated Solomon’s plans by promising to dwell in the temple, as long as Solomon and his sons remained faithful to God.
Take Time to Regain Perspective
Sometimes it feels like l live in a series of projects. One after another. Always, it seems, there is more to do. So, it’s sometimes easy for work or even home life to feel like a grind. But when I accept that feeling unchallenged, I often lose sight of why I started – or what I had hoped to accomplish.
It’s at these moments that it’s doubly important to seek out time with God. I must commit to the Way of Presence. I must commit to live in each moment as God gives it. For, God is the giver of each of these moments. So, he is always there. He is always “in” the moment.
For this reason, when I turn to Him and listen – I find that He is always speaking. He offers a word of encouragement. He speaks a word of hope in the midst of frustration or despair. And even if I can’t quite hear it myself, I know that He’s speaking. And I know that He is encouraging me in goodness, and truth and beauty.
“What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Matt 10:27
Synopsis 1Kings 5:31-6:8 3/13/2019
Solomon used the forced laborers of Israel to build the temple. Before the construction began, the Israelites prepared the raw materials. Then, four years after Solomon had become king, the actual construction on the temple began.
And so, Solomon constructed the temple proportional to the dimensions of the Tent of Meeting. Yet, he adorned the building with additional features. However, the design preserved the basic room structure that included the holy place and the holy of holy places.
All of the stones for the temple were quarried and cut outside of Jerusalem. So, the workers constructed the temple in silence. They made no irreverent sounds in the place that the God of Israel would one day dwell.
Making God’s House Solid
Solomon wanted to make the transient tent of God into a permanent dwelling. He wanted to build a magnificent structure that would last throughout time. But he wanted the magnificent, permanent Temple to reflect the essence and mystery of God’s original, and humble, design.
Recognizing the Eternal in Change
It’s a blessing to recognize the eternal nature of God. He is utterly transcendent. And everything He has created has been created through wisdom, which is also, utterly transcendent.
And, this transcendence means we can never really touch the eternal, at least not in our present state. But the mystery and the miracle of God’s creation is that it still makes sense. I can understand purpose. I can apprehend cause and effect. And, I can relate to story as it’s being told. We too easily take for granted the fact that our constantly changing world still makes sense.
But it is precisely because of this that we can know God. He has made Himself perceivable by making the world intelligible.
“Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they [human beings] have no excuse” Rom 1:20 0
Synopsis 1Kings 5:22-30 3/12/2019
Solomon desired to build a temple. And so, he requested the raw materials from King Hiram. Hiram’s kingdom controlled vast amounts of materials, especially cedar trees. So, he began sending the provisions that Solomon had requested.
The relationship between the two kings went on for many years. And Solomon paid for the resources with vast amounts of grain and hand-pressed oil
Additionally, Solomon pressed Israelite workers into forced labor in order to help process Hiram’s wood, as well as to build the temple itself.
Solomon invested large amounts of grain and valuable oil in order to obtain the materials he needed to build the temple. And he also took the labor of Israelite men. And as taxes go, forced labor is perhaps the most personal form of taxation.
All of this Solomon saw as a necessity. The price to build the temple was extremely high. Even so, the clarity of his vision drove him.
Value and Investment
It’s a Sunday School answer – “I am a temple of the Holy Spirit”. It’s not wrong thing to want. In fact, it’s a good thing to want. I should want to be a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Even more than that, I should want it as much Solomon wanted the first temple in Jerusalem. Accordingly, I should want to invest what Solomon was willing to invest. This is the House of God after all.
You are the house of God.
“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.” Luke 14:28
Synopsis 1Kings 5:12-21 3/8/2019
Like his father, King Solomon wrote proverbs and songs. But he also made inquiries into the nature of plants. And in a similar way, he considered the nature of various animals.
Hiram, the king of Tyre, had been a friend to King David. So, when Solomon became king, Hiram extended friendship to him as well.
For his part, Solomon recognized the potential to acquire natural resources from Lebanon through a relationship with Hiram. And so, he asked Hiram to supply his needs in order to build a fantastic temple for the Lord God. Hiram was pleased at the prospect of a healthy and profitable relationship with the new king of Israel.
Solomon’s Wisdom and Culture
King Solomon was perhaps the original warrior-poet. His wisdom had the unique quality of recognizing the transcendent qualities of existence. He saw the universe, not merely from the perspective of how to obtain pleasure or avoid suffering. Instead, he saw the potential for truth and goodness and beauty. And he spent his time dwelling on these.
As a result, he used the prosperity of the nation to invest in the formation of culture. And for him, culture began with the worship of God in a manner that was commensurate with the greatness of the God of all creation.
Wisdom and Culture
Sometimes I feel anxiety about the state of things. Our culture has become so “scientific” that it sometimes seems as though fewer and fewer people have an interest in “faith”.
But our modern culture owns this strange paradox. On the one hand, we look for science to solve our greatest questions. And these include questions of what’s really good and really true and really beautiful. On the other, while there is scientific consensus on all sorts of issues, modern people seem to agree less and less about the actual nature of what’s good and true and beautiful.
Of course, the natural moral law reconciles this paradox. And this is the reason that I, as an ordinary, lay, Christian person, need not fear.
For any culture that genuinely seeks the truth will find God. But any culture that seeks to serve its own pleasure will only find confusion.
“And foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, To love the name of the LORD, to become his servants— All who keep the sabbath without profaning it and hold fast to my covenant, Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Oracle of the Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel— Others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:6-8
Synopsis 1Kings 4:20-5:11 3/7/2019
Israel and Judah thrived under Solomon. The king had consolidated the power of the nation. And he used it to influence and control the nations around Israel.
Everywhere there was peace. And the kingdom grew to its greatest size. In fact, King Solomon’s court was magnificently large and attracted the attention of all nations around it. And the abundance of the court was a reflection of the abundance of the land.
On top of all of this, God gave King Solomon this extraordinary wisdom. And with that, anything seemed possible for Israel.
The Beginning of a Golden Age in Israel
King Solomon’s reign was the beginning of a golden age for the nation of Israel. Like the first flowering of a fruit tree, the Israelites viewed the abundance as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. And they tended to view Solomon as the leader who ushered in God’s golden age.
A Golden Season in Life
A fruit tree has different seasons. For example, there is a season for quiet growth. And then, there are seasons flowering. And these comes the fruit. Generally, every season of fruitfulness is followed by a season of quiet before the cycle repeats.
It will not be different for me. So, I can expect to experience seasons when God’s goodness feels like a flowering in my life. And I can also anticipate times of incredible productivity. But I can also expect to have days when nothing seems to be happening.
This is normal. Yet, very often in such times, I’m tempted to wonder if I’ve been forgotten. Or, I’ll wonder if I’ve somehow missed out on God’s best for my life.
Not so. You are exactly where God intends you to be. And so, maybe I’m the guy lying on a mat waiting to be healed. Or, maybe I’m the person for whom nothing ever seems to go wrong. The important and actionable truth is to simply respond to my circumstances with love for the God of all Creation, and with loving-kindness for my neighbor – whoever that may be.
“I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” Phil 4:12
Synopsis 1Kings 4:3-19 3/6/2019
In the early part of his reign, Solomon retained many key administrators from King David’s court. These included Zadok, the high priest. Also, Benaiah, who was one of King David’s “Thirty” and who led the army for King Solomon.
Yet, Solomon seems to have reorganized certain political divisions within the nation. He used governors to tax the various regions. And he used the tax to support the central government in Jerusalem. Some of these regions were closely associated with particular tribes. But some of the regions seemed to cross traditional tribal boundaries.
The Experienced Court of Solomon
Solomon kept much of King David’s leadership intact. He recognized the value of allowing experienced leaders and administrators do their work.
And in this sense, Solomon demonstrated remarkable leadership. He rejoiced in the gifts and abilities of others. Accordingly, he engaged with skilled workers and honored those who had achieved great accomplishments in life.
With the Wise Surround
I have the tendency to think that I understand more than I actually do. And this has sometimes resulted in my reluctance to seek out the wisdom of others. Despite knowing people who have gained insight through years of experience, my pride prevents me. Pride powers my ignorance.
Yet, when I realized that wisdom is often the exclusive result of long-experience, I’m forced to make a decision. So, I have to decide if preserving my pride is worth the pain of having to rediscover lessons that more experienced people would gladly teach me.
So, consider actively seeking wisdom. Find a way. Find a spiritual director. Gather with others to study the scripture or the tradition. Engage the elders in your faith community.
“Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching.” 1Tim 5:17
Synopsis 1Kings 3:20-4:2 3/5/2019
There were two women who lived together. Both women were prostitutes. And both had recently borne baby boys. One woman’s infant son died in the night. She had inadvertently smothered the child. But when she realized what happened, she switched her dead child with the other woman’s living son.
A dispute broke out between the women. And there was no one who could resolve the dispute. So, the women brought the case before King Solomon.
The king heard the two women’s competing claims. Then he asked for a sword, with the intention of cutting the child into two pieces and giving each woman half the child.
The king’s proposal to slay the child mortified the true biological mother. And so, she relinquished her claims. However, the other women agreed with the king’s proposal that it would be better for neither of the women to have the child.
With this ruse, the king discerned the true biological mother. And so, he reunited the woman and her child.
Solomon and the Prostitutes
The curiosity of this scene isn’t just the bizarre circumstances. And it isn’t just King Solomon’s profoundly wise process of discernment. The strangeness of this scene begins with the idea of two prostitutes standing before the king seeking judgement.
Prostitution wasn’t within the law. And although it seems to have had a tacitly accepted place in ancient Israelite culture, it wasn’t a proper industry. So, in a certain way, it was like two thieves going before a judge with a dispute about the ownership of stolen property.
The implication is that neither of these women were of good reputation.
And yet, they loved.
Solomon knew this. He understood a mother’s love. And he used the essence of love to identify the true mother of love.
And so, he proved that the love of a mother for her child was the same.
So, the one who loves is the true mother….
“For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matthew 12:50
Synopsis 1 Kings 3:9-19 3/4/2019
Solomon received wisdom from the Lord. But, God gave him wisdom because he recognized that he needed clear insight in order to lead the nation.
And, because he valued wisdom above every other thing, God also gave him other material blessings. These included wealth, power and a long life.
So, Solomon returned to Jerusalem. And once there, he went to the tent of meeting. And he offered sacrifices. In addition, he celebrated by giving a feast for all his servants.
Solomon’s Wisdom and Blessings
Solomon received wisdom because he needed it to rule effectively. But as he made wise decisions, other kinds of blessings seemed to naturally flow into his life.
Wisdom, Materials, and Blessings
Wisdom is a peculiar blessing because the effective use of every other kind of blessing requires wisdom. So, wisdom has a multiplying effect. Instead of simply consuming material blessings, there is tendency to make them grow.
God has promised that if I seek for wisdom, then it will be found. And, of course, this promise is not unique to Solomon, or to any specific person. God has promised wisdom to anyone who seeks it.
So, let’s ask God for wisdom. And in that way, we might more fully enter into the possibility of our lives.
“Long life is in her right hand, in her left are riches and honor;” Prov 3:16
Synopsis 1Kings 2:46-3:8 3/1/2019
Solomon made an alliance through marriage with Pharaoh, King of Egypt. He married Pharaoh’s daughter. And she lived in Jerusalem with him.
The people were sacrificing on the high places throughout Israel. And even Solomon offered sacrifices on the high places of Gibeon. In fact, it was there that the Lord appeared to Solomon. It was in a dream. And, the Lord offered to give Solomon whatever he asked.
So, Solomon responded by acknowledging his youthful inexperience. And accordingly, he asked God for the wisdom necessary to rule the people well
Solomon Knew What He Needed
Solomon was a young man. And young men often suffer from the delusion that they know more than they actually do. There are many reasons for this. But perhaps the greatest is the pressure they feel to be a grown-up man. They feel the need to appear self-sufficient in the eyes of the community.
But Solomon recognized in himself a certain lack that he, by himself, could not fill. And, in addition, he was suddenly thrust into the kingship. So, he quickly realized that he needed wisdom if he was going to keep the fledgling kingdom of Israel together.
Knowing and Needing
The Way of Knowing is a middle way between the extremes of either utter ignorance on the one hand, or presumptive arrogance, on the other. I can simply lack the life experience to be able to understand and interpret my circumstances. That is simple ignorance. Naivety.
But I can also think that I understand when in reality I don’t. I can stake my claim as an armchair quarterback, knowing everything and yet knowing nothing. That is presumptive, ignorance.
But when I really need an answer then I’ll quit my presumption. Or, when I really need an answer, I’ll no longer be satisfied with my naive ignorance.
In that moment, my obvious need for wisdom will trump everything else. And like Solomon, I’ll cry out to the fount of all wisdom. And I won’t be disappointed.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to fathom a matter.” Prov 25:2