THE STORY CONTINUES (December 9, 2018)

The part Solomon played in the journey from Eden to the New Jerusalem is a Good News/Bad News narrative. He had inherited a kingdom that had been well established by his father, David. And we continue to profit from his God given wisdom as we read the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The Bad News is that having tolerated the idol worship of his many wives they enticed him in his last years to participate with them. “For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (I Kings 11:4). 

After Solomon’s apostasy and death, things for the people of God did not improve. As God had promised (I Kings 9:7) The ten tribes of Israel were torn from the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and given to Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon. Only one tribe, Judah, remained faithful to the dynasty of David. The ten tribes became known as “Israel” and the tribe name, Judah, became the name of those faithful to David and Solomon. 

The wickedness of Jeroboam and Israel seemed to increase exponentially under the leadership of Ahab, the seventh king of Israel. He became the measuring Rod of the wickedness of Israel. The kings were described as “as bad as Ahab” or “evil, but not like Ahab.” His unending conflict with the prophet Elijah makes for interesting reading. Ahab considered him an enemy of Israel. Elijah had called Israel to repentance and informed Ahab of pending punishment if they did not respond. And when punishment came in the form of long-lasting drought (James 5:17) Ahab considered Elijah responsible.  

One of the most exciting incidents recorded in Scripture is Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Ahab and his notorious wife Jezebel had become worshipers of this idol. As a result, Elijah summoned all the prophets of Baal to meet him on Mt. Carmel. He then called all Israel to decide who they would follow, either Baal or the God who delivered them from bondage in Egypt. He suggested that the Baal prophets and he be given bulls, that he and the prophets of Baal would sacrifice and the God who sends fire to consume the bull sacrifice should be followedby Israel. He even allowed his foes to go first. 

After hours of pleading and mutilating themselves, with no response from Baal,  it became Elijah’s turn. He made an altar of stones, built a trench around it, and put wood and pieces of the bull on the altar. He also had water poured on the altar until the trench around the altar was filled with water. He then prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am youservant   . .  .   .  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may that you, O Lord, are God” (I Kings 18:36,37) Before he could say “amen” fire fell from heaven and consumed not only the sacrificed bull, but the stones and even licked up the water in the trench around the Altar.

Thinking about this earth shaking confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal reminds me of our service in Germany. I had many opportunities to conduct 5 day evangelistic meetings in many of the churches of Berlin.  This episode  was one of my favorite stories which I used in evangelizing children.  I had painted flames of fire on see-through paper and placed them above the picture of the altar on the flannelgraph. Then I placed a light bulb behind the paper. After reciting Elijah’s prayer, I turned on the light and the flames appeared on the flannelgraph above the altar. I think I enjoyed that as much as the children did. It helped to impress them with the power of God.

This confrontation between Elihah and the prophets of Baal must have had some temporary effect on the Israelites since God lifted the years of drought they had experienced. But it had no long term effect since all the kings that followed Ahab were about as bad as he was. And the idol worship continued. 

We have been discussing the situation in Israel following the dividing of the Kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon. In our next episode we will turn our attention to Judah.

SOLOMON (November 29, 2018)

Unlike the experience of his father, David, Solomon had an ideal beginning but a very bad ending. David had established the kingdom so Solomon could devote all his energy into governing and building. Near the beginning of his reign he began building the temple and also building his palace. Both were fabulously beautiful. It may reveal something of the character of Solomon when you consider that he spent 7 years building the temple, but 13 years building his palace. And during this time he was also building special dwellings for his many wives.

David’s charge to Solomon, made near the end of his life, is worth reading. “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes .   .   . “ (I Kings 1:2,3). It seemed, at least at first, that Solomon was following David’s advice. His prayer of dedication of the completed temple is also worth reading. (I Kings 8) 

Early in his reign God appeared to him in a dream and said to Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you.” (I Ki. 3:5). And in a moment of true humility He asked for “an understanding mind to govern your people.” (3:9) And his wisdom became known in his neighboring kingdoms. And because of his show of humility, God also made him fabulously wealthy. His wisdom is displayed in the book of Proverbs. I think I quote Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 ad 6, to myself nearly every day. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding”, and equally important, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  

Unfortunatly Solomon did not practice what he preached. His many wives lured him into tolerating, if not actually participating in, their idolatry. And his name is conspicuously absent from the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11 (where the name of Samson is included.) There are eleven chapters of I Kings devoted to the 40 years of Solomon’s rule of Israel. And they are all about Solomon. Very little is included about the subjects of his kingship. Why?

Because of his disobedience all but one of the tribes of Israel was removed from the reign of his son. Only because of the faithful life of David the tribe of Judah remained in the Davidic royal dynasty. The immediate cause of the separation is recorded in I Ki. 12. Solomon had forced the citizens of Israel into forced labor, (I Kings 5:13)The people approached Rehoboam, the new king, with the request that the burden be eased. At the advice of his comrades he promised to make their burden even heavier. As a result Jeroboam gathered all the tribes except Judah and became their king. They became known as Israel and the tribe of Judah kept the name Judah.

What an incredibly tragic story. If anyone ever had every possible advantage in life it would be Solomon. His dogged pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction is recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes. His final analysis is right on target. He sums up what he has discovered. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them“ And, “The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Beginning and end of Ecclesiastes chapter 12.) 

Solomon would probably summarize his life by stating, “Do as I say and not as I do!”  

DAVID TO SOLOMON (November 12, 2018)

David’s journey from the sheep fold to the throne was not without its problems. His national reputation began when he was the only person in Israel willing to confront Goliath. He then became a successful warrior contributing before and after his ascending to the throne. His popularity which exceeded that of King Saul made him the object of Saul’s jealous wrath. Even as an aid to the king his life was in danger. With the help of his loyal friend, Jonathan, the King’s son, he was able to survive for a time his presence in the palace. But it soon became so dangerous that he had to flee for his life.  

For the next few years he gathered a few followers who spent the time escaping the kings attempts to have David killed. Because of Saul’s disobedience he was rejected by God as king of Israel and Samuel was directed to anoint a successor. At God’s direction he came to the family of Jesse who had seven sons. He was impressed with eliab, the eldest, but God gave Samuel some eternally appropriate advice. “Do not look on his appearance .   .   .   .   .   .  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (I Sam. 16:7) David, the youngest son, was anointed the king of Israel. 

Quite a few years would pass before David would actually function as king over all of Israel. For some years he and his followers spent time escaping the armies of Saul. During that time at least twice David could easily have slain Saul and then would have become king. David displayed a great deal of Patience in waiting for God’s time.  
Patience is a great character trait emphasized throughout God’s Revelation. This appears to be one of the character traits most difficult to overcome. God is the epitome of patience. Think of the amount of time he has allowed to accumulate between the fall and the ultimate redemption. We tend to chafe at elections that don’t go our way. But they are but a moment in God’s plan. Remember, He is not troubled by any of the outward circumstances that trouble us. He looks not on outward appearance, but on the HEART. If we follow His lead we will emulate His patience and bring real peace in our hearts 

With a few notable exceptions (his sin with Bathsheba, the census) David was faithful to Jaweh who blessed his reign and established his kingdom in the promised land. His beginning had not been without problems. The opposite was true of Solomon. His beginning was without problems but he ended very badly. (See the next episode) 

We can probably learn more about David by what he wrote than by what he did. Having already seen from Psalm 1 that he was obviously careful In choosing his friends and associates, we also have some insight into his regard for God’s Word. He certainly identified himself with the blessed man who’s delight was in the law of the Lord and spent time meditating on it. I imagine his time in the fields when he had little communication with the sheep gave him adequate opportunities to ponder God’s truth. Good habits were evidently formed early in his life. They led to his later conviction that Goliath was no match for David’s shepherd. 

There is no ascription to the author of Psalm 119 but I think most agree that it rolled off the quill of David. Every one of the 176 verses has some reference to God’s revelation. He refers to this revelation using terms like “law”, “Word”, “Principle”, “Statute”, “Commandment”, “Testimony”, “Precept”, “Way”, “Ordinance”. Each verse says something about the value of the Word, or how we  in some way  should respond to it. Check it out!!! 

The entirety of the Psalms are loaded with praise, prayers, promises and a plethora of uplifting truths of the character of the God we also serve. I regret i  haven’t spent more time meditating delightfully with David on God’s “law”.