Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 17. The Lord Speaks To Solomon

Prophets And Kings
Day 17
The Lord Speaks To Solomon

The temple is now complete and it haves been dedicated to the Lord. For fourteen days the people feasted and rejoiced but now they haves gone back home and back to theirs regular lives. Now, in the quiet, the Lord speaks.

1 KINGS 9:1-9
We have spoken before in earlier Bible studies about how we are never so much in danger of falling into a spiritual slump as we are right after a great spiritual victory. Solomon has completed the temple, his grand achievement for the Lord, and he completed it fairly early in his reign. Now what is he to do? Have you ever accomplished something so momentous that you had no idea what to do for an encore? Have you ever had your sights set on something for so long that once it was achieved you felt aimless and purposeless?

This is the danger in setting our eyes more on earthly things than on heavenly things. It's natural to want to finish school, find a good job, marry a nice spouse, buy a home, have children. But what if you've already done those things and you still feel unsatisfied? What if you feel empty and unfulfilled? What if you realize none of the things you've been working toward have made you feel complete? If our relationship with the Lord is not at the center of everything we do, we can fall into terrible trouble following great accomplishments. We might start to think, "My husband doesn't make me happy. I don't think he's my soul mate. I think the person I'm meant to be with is still out there." Or we may say, "I really wanted this job but I don't get the recognition there that I hoped for. They don't seem to see how smart and talented I am. I probably need to start sending out resumes." We might even ponder in our hearts, "All I ever wanted to be was a mom but instead I feel frustrated and tired and lonely for adult conversation. Maybe I wasn't meant to be a wife and mother." We might muse, "I think I'd feel better if I had a drink. Or several drinks. My wife doesn't pay much attention to me anymore what with the kids and all this mess in the house. Maybe I'll go online and see whatever happened to my old high school girlfriend."

I know what it's like to work toward certain things and then find out they didn't provide what I was looking for. I was still empty inside. There was still something hollow at the core of me that nothing satisfied. Following major accomplishments that leave us feeling empty, Satan likes to slip up and whisper in our ear, "You don't have to live like this. You aren't happy with the life you've made. Well, that's easily fixed; simply throw it away and get a new life! The next decisions you make are bound to bring happiness. Get rid of everything in your life you aren't satisfied with and replace these people and these things with new people and new things." 

The truth is we were never meant to be completely satisfied with the things we get in this life. Our soul mate is intended to be Jesus Christ. The One who completes us is Jesus Christ. The One who "satisfies our desires with good things" (Psalm 103:5) is Jesus Christ. Everything else is just gravy! We can let our spouse be our spouse and stop expecting him or her to be God. We can find our identities in who we are in the Lord instead of in our occupations or in people's opinions of us. We can learn how to be good mothers and fathers by letting our Father in heaven treat us as His dearly loved children. With Christ at the center of our lives, we can find happiness in the simplest of things. When all is right between us and Him, our spouse looks a whole lot better and we no longer expect them to fulfill our every need. Our homes and furnishings appear adequate for our needs and we stop coveting what other people have. Our children are more beautiful and precious because they are expertly fashioned by Almighty God. The money we have in the bank and the food on the table are blessings because they are provided by the One who owns all things, the One who encourages us to cast all our cares on Him. 

I think the Lord comes to Solomon at this time because he is likely experiencing a spiritual low. The celebration that was beyond anything Israel had ever seen is over. People have gone back to their work. Solomon has gone back to hearing cases in the judgment hall. The mountaintop feeling he had just a few days before has settled down into the humdrum sensation of daily living. His greatest achievement, the magnificent temple, stands in golden splendor but where can he go from here? What will ever beat that? Well, an encounter with the living God pretty much outshines anything else we ever experience in this life and Solomon is about to find that out.

"When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. The Lord said to him: 'I have heard the prayer and the plea you have made before Me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting My name there forever. My eyes and My heart will always be there.'" (1 Kings 9:1-3) What could possibly top this: the Creator making a personal appearance to Solomon! I don't know of anything that ever will top the experiences I've had when the Lord suddenly shows up and says to my spirit, "I've heard your prayer," or "I'm with you in your troubles." or "I'm going to make everything ok." A few times His presence has been so overwhelming that it felt like the entire universe couldn't contain Him. I had such an awesome sense of His indescribable holiness that I felt like flinging the shoes off my feet because I was standing on holy ground, just like like Moses in Exodus 3:5. Solomon was having an ordinary day, probably feeling down in the dumps, and suddenly God shows up and says, "I've heard your prayer and I've answered it by accepting this temple and consecrating it for My people to use in worship. I will never turn My heart away from this spot or from My people."

"As for you, if you walk before Me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe My decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, 'You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.'" (1 Kings 9:4-5) God's love is unconditional but His promises often contain conditions. David loved the Lord and the Lord made him a great promise, but it depends on whether David's descendants have a heart for God. Some of the blessings Solomon receives appear to be an overflowing from David's life into his; he is king because God promised David he would be king. This is the line God has chosen from which the King of kings will someday come. But in the meantime, holding on to the throne depends upon holding on to God. The Lord never threatens to remove His love or His salvation from us, but He does reserve the right to negate promises if we do not keep our side of the bargain that we agreed to. 

"But if you or your descendants turn away from Me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for My name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?' People will answer, 'Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them---that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.'" (1 Kings 9:6-9) The Lord's terms were very clear. All Solomon and the people had to do was walk before the Lord as best they could, not perfectly but in faith, with their hearts firmly fixed on God. This is all David did, for we know he wasn't perfect and he even committed a couple of particularly vile sins, but he was quick to hear the word of the Lord and was not resistant to the Holy Spirit, eagerly repenting and seeking the Lord. David had things in the right perspective at most times in his life. The Lord was at the center. The Lord was who made him whole and complete and satisfied. Everything else was gravy. We note that the failure to walk in the Lord's ways will cause Israel to lose the land and the temple, but at no time does God say they will lose His heart. His heart is always with them because He loves them, but like a loving Father, the Lord knows when and how to apply proper discipline. 

We know Solomon will fall into idolatry later on as he accumulates many foreign wives. He will stray from the truth and will come back to it as an older man, realizing anything he did without the Lord means nothing. Israel herself will fall into idolatry and will suffer the defeat of the nation and the destruction of the temple by pagan Babylon. We find the Lord's dire warning fulfilled as the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zephaniah proclaim that all who pass by Israel shake their heads and scoff and view her as a ruin and as a proverb to teach their children about what happens to the nation that forgets her God. In deploring the idolatry of His people the Lord points out that He has not forgotten them but, "My people have forgotten Me, days without number." (Jeremiah 2:32) The people had forgotten to keep the Lord at the center of their lives and they fell into "many foolish and hurtful lusts". (1 Timothy 6:9) They fell away from God and allowed Satan to whisper in their ears. They looked around at other nations and found their worship of false idols to be far less burdensome than dealing with a personal God. Those idols didn't expect holy living from them. Indeed, many pagan practices involved sex cults and the use of temple prostitutes. Their religious observances involved long gluttonous feasts and wild drunken parties. That type of religion placed little responsibility on the people and it allowed them to do what their carnal natures wanted. But our loving Father wants so much more for us than that! He knows falling away from Him means falling into trouble. Solomon learned this lesson the hard way and that is why he would later say, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." (Proverbs 3:7-8)

If the Lord isn't at the center of our lives, things can creep in, little things at first. We can shrug them off and say, "Well, that's such a little sin." But that's how Satan gets his foot in the door. He starts prying at the cracks in our lives, magnifying our insecurities and our disappointments until we focus on the things of this life instead of on our marvelous God who gave Himself for us. David faltered at times but he got up, dusted himself off, marched on, and constantly maintained an ongoing relationship with God. Solomon isn't starting out as spiritually strong as David and I think the Lord comes to him now because he's feeling down, more prone to listening to the lies of the deceiver. Solomon ended up with seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines but they couldn't satisfy what was lacking in his soul. He built a magnificent temple, a beautiful palace, and many other architecturally significant structures in Israel, but these projects left him feeling incomplete. He had more wisdom than any king before or since, with the exception of King Jesus, and was able to study complex subjects and understand many things, but no amount of knowledge could push the emptiness out. 

God created us with a space inside that's specifically designed for Him and nothing else will ever fill it. We can try a lot of things, and I have tried a lot of things. Maybe you have too. But as Belinda said in her little book, "A Dog At The Master's Table", why don't we just "taste and see that the Lord is good"? (Psalm 34:8) He's good and He's good all the time. There is no darkness in Him. (1 John 1:5) Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from Him. (James 1:17) He is it. He is all there is. He is everything that matters. All our other blessings mean so much more when He means the most. 

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