Monday, February 8, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 9. Preparing For The Temple

Prophets And Kings
Day 9
Preparing For The Temple

Solomon plans to build the temple as God said him woulds. During hims lifetime, David amassed many materials for hims son to use in the future temple, and today a good friend and neighbor adds to those materials.

1 KINGS 5:1-18
"When Hiram king of Tyre heard that Solomon had been anointed king to succeed his father David, he sent his envoys to Solomon, because he had always been on friendly terms with David." (1 Kings 5:1) Having good neighbors makes life pleasant. This king showed his friendship to David by supplying materials and craftsmen to build the palace, "Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David." (2 Samuel 5:11) This man didn't just claim to be David's friend, he proved it by putting friendship into action.

"Solomon sent back this message to Hiram: 'You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, 'Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for My Name.' So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.'" (1 Kings 5:3-6) It would appear that David and Hiram were in the habit of communicating personal things to each other. Hiram is aware of David's desire to build a temple but that he was not allowed to do it in his lifetime. Solomon wants good lumber like Hiram sent for the palace in David's time and he is willing to pay handsomely for the lumber and for the men to do the work. He doesn't even attempt to bargain about the price but tells Hiram to set his own price. Solomon is getting what he wants (a temple) and Hiram is getting what he wants (continued friendship with Israel and employment for citizens of his country). 

Some commentators criticize Solomon's desire to build the temple, citing God's words to David in 2 Samuel 7 when He made it clear to David that He had never asked for a temple. The Lord was perfectly happy with the tent of worship. As I pointed out during our temple talk in 2 Samuel, the tent was simple and kept man's mind on the glory of God. But glorious temples often have a way of putting our minds on the skill of man rather than on the awesome power of God. Have you ever walked into a cathedral that practically took your breath away? When you were standing there amazed by the craftsmanship, were you thinking about the Lord or about how skillful the craftsmen and artists were? Speaking for myself, I would have to say that in magnificent cathedrals I am more likely to marvel over the skill it took to create them. I find myself wondering how long it took to build it and how much money it cost. These things, if we are not careful, will serve to glorify man and not the God who gave them the skills and talents. God would far rather see us enter a simple tent in faith than to see us sit in a temple astounded by the works of man. 

I found a few statements in my background study in which scholars accuse Solomon of building the temple for his own name and for his own renown among the nations. They say he built the temple at great cost to his people, even mortgaging part of the kingdom to pay for the work, and that the upkeep of the temple was always a burden to the people. Did God really want to put this burden on Israel? Well, it's obvious He allowed it. I can't say for sure He approved of it. God often allows us the desires of our hearts in order to discipline us and we know Israel began to trust in the presence of the temple more than she trusted in her God. Her citizens believed they could run after other gods and make sacrifice to them on the hilltops while sitting secure as a nation because God's temple was there. They did not believe the prophets who warned them God would not spare the nation for the sake of His temple. God never lived in the temple. God wanted to live in their hearts. I don't know whether Solomon's motives were pure in building the temple but I do believe it was a part of God's permissive will to allow him to build it. God knew the entire future of Israel as well as if it had already happened and He knew He could use the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar to break the stubbornness and pride of the people. The prophet Jeremiah tried desperately to get his fellow citizens to understand that if they did not repent, the Lord would allow the nation to be taken captive and the temple destroyed, and that it was no use listening to false prophets who promised they could go on in their sinful ways without fear because God would never allow His house to fall. "Do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!" (Jeremiah 7:4) The people had come to want the symbol of God more than they wanted a relationship with God Himself. They wanted to put Him in a box and to enjoy His protection and provision while they went on their merry way. They wanted Him to stay out of their business but God was about to be right in their faces. Sometimes He allows us the desires of our hearts because we desire good things and it pleases Him to give them to us. At other times He allows us the desires of our hearts in order to use them to discipline us because the things we desire are not godly.

"When Hiram heard Solomon's message, he was greatly pleased and said, 'Praise be to the Lord today, for He has given David a wise son to rule over His great nation.'" (1 Kings 5:7) Not much is known about King Hiram of Tyre. There is an inscription to a King Ahiram, thought to be the same person, on a royal sarcophagus in Tyre. We don't know whether he ever worshiped the God of Israel. But it seems as if he believed the God of Israel was real and that He had blessed David and now intended to bless Solomon. Hiram and David must have had enough in common to become good friends and I don't doubt David spoke to him often of the Lord. David made a number of mistakes in life but he loved the Lord and I think he couldn't help talking about Him.

"So Hiram sent word to Solomon: 'I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and juniper logs. My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.'" (1 Kings 5:8-9) Hiram isn't asking unreasonable wages for the materials and work, but Solomon's provisions are practical and welcome in Tyre. I found one commentary that criticized the amount of food Solomon sends to Tyre but most of the materials I studied did not think the payment was out of line with what was reasonable.

"In this way Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and juniper logs he wanted, and Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household, in addition to twenty thousand baths of pressed olive oil. Solomon continued to do this for Hiram year after year. The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as He had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty." (1 Kings 5:10-12) It was advantageous for these powerful nations to be at peace with each other, but it was not especially spiritually advantageous. Solomon will bring women into his harem from that nation and his heart will turn aside from the living God in his later years as he falls into the worship of the gods of Tyre and Sidon. We can certainly be friends with unbelievers but we must take care not to join in with any sinful practice. I think David was able to be friends with Hiram without being led astray but Solomon is not as spiritual as his father. This is why the Bible warns us about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. We are warned not to enter a marriage relationship or any type of close partnership, such as in business, with an unbeliever. (2 Corinthians 6:14) When we are unequally yoked, one of us is bound to change and become more like the other, or else the marriage or partnership will fail. The Lord doesn't want to put the believer in a position of feeling like they need to compromise their faith to keep the peace.

"King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel---thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers. At the king's command they removed from the quarry large blocks of high-grade stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and workers from Byblos cut and prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple." (1 Kings 5:13-18) Solomon drafted these men into his service, much as men would be drafted into the army. Rather than offering jobs to the men of Israel, it would seem they had no choice but to work on this project if they were able-bodied. It would appear though that Solomon only made them work one out of every three months of the year and he would be responsible for their food and shelter during that time and possibly regular wages too. The other months of the year they worked their own fields or worked at their own occupations, if they had fields and occupations. It probably did create hardship for some citizens but there were most likely some citizens who were grateful for the work. 

This huge project is about to take over Solomon's life for quite some time. It's a project that never could have been completed except in peacetime. If not for the peace and prosperity given to Israel by God, she could never have had this magnificent temple. But I agree with those who feel she would have been better off keeping the simple tent. We don't want to get so caught up in works that we lose sight of our relationship with God. 

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