Wisdom, peace and preparing to build the temple…the mission continues

22 07 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE : 1 Kings 3 v. 16 – 5 v. 18; Acts 12 v. 19b – 13 v. 12; Psalm 74

1 KINGS
A Wise Ruling – Okay, so the first test of Solomon’s wisdom:
two prostitutes who live in the same house (brothel?), bring a baby to Solomon, both claiming to be the mother. They had both had babies within a few days of each other, and one had died when his mother had laid on top of him in the night. This mother swapped the babies during that night, as the other mother claimed she woke to find a dead baby in her bed – and that this dead baby was not her own. Complicated case !!
The two women begin arguing, shouting at each other before the king.
Solomon summarizes the case before him :
‘This one says, ‘My son is alive and yours is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.”
He calls for a sword and decides to settle it by cutting the baby in two, and giving them half each.
Of course, the true mother would rather see the baby live so speaks up
‘Please, my Lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him.’, whilst the other woman says she would be happy to receive half.
Solomon knows now who is the true mother of the living baby, and gives the baby back to her.
‘All Israel…held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.’

Solomon’s Officials and Governors – During Solomon’s great rule over all Israel, he had alongside him : Azariah (priest), two secretaries (brothers, Elihoreph and Ahijah), a recorder (Jehoshaphat), commander-in-chief (Benaiah), priests (Zadok and Abiathar), head of the district officers (Azariah), priest and personal adviser (Zabud), head of the palace staff (Ahishar) and head of forced labour (Adoniram).
Each region of Israel had its own appointed governor, ‘who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household’. (Ben-Hur, Ben-Deker, Ben-Hesed, Ben-Abinadab (married to Solomon’s daughter, Taphath), Baana, Ben-Geber, Ahinadab, Ahimaaz (married to Solomon’s daughter, Basemath), another Baana, Jehoshaphat, Shimei and Geber. (‘Judah seems to have been tax exempt, a situation which certainly did not create good feeling for Judah among the other tribes’ – The Wesley Study Bible)

A well-structured work force over all Israel – another sign of Solomon’s wisdom and insight.

Solomon’s Daily Provisions – there’s a contented picture of Israel under Solomon’s rule : they are as numerous as the sand on the shore, and they ate, drank and were happy. Even Solomon’s daily provisions are noted :
30 cors of flour and 60 cors (a ‘cor’ being about 60 gallons) of meal; 10 head of stall-cattle, 20 of pasture-cattle, 100 sheep/goats, then also deer, gazelles, roebuck and fowl.
The extent of Solomon’s kingdom is outlined, and his kingdom ‘had peace on all sides’.
Judah and Israel lived in safety – ‘each man under his own vine and fig-tree’ – an idyllic picture of a land at peace.  
Each district officer, one month in turn, brought provisions for the king, and for him to entertain at his banqueting table – ‘they saw to it that nothing was lacking’, including food for Solomon’s 12,000 horses in their 4,000 stalls.

we are supposed to see the link between God’s blessing of Solomon with wisdom to lead, and that affecting the whole nation – its peace and prosperity.

Solomon’s Wisdom – ‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore’, wisdom greater than in all Egypt, or far East, or of anyone else (some of the wise men of the time are listed : Ethan, Heman (who get a mention in the Psalms (88,89), Calcol, Darda).
Solomon’s fame and renown spreads fast.
He was also prolific in his writing of proverbs (3,000 wise sayings) and songs (1005).
He studied plant life and described it (from the great cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop shrub), and taught about animal life, birds, fish, reptiles.
‘Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom’.
 
Preparations for Building the Temple – Friendly neighbouring king Hiram of Tyre sends envoys to Solomon, who sends them with a message: ‘Now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster, I intend to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God…’, to fulfil words spoken by God to his father, David.
He asks for the cedars of Lebanon to prepared, Solomon’s men working for the king of Tyre’s men, Solomon offering to pay all their wages.
Hiran was ‘greatly pleased’ with this continued friendship, and sends word back to Solomon agreeing to prepare the cedars and pines. Solomon will provide food for Hiram’s royal household (wheat, and 20,000 baths of olive oil).
Solomon continued to receive great wisdom from God, and peace (‘shalom’ – harmonious relationship resulting in security and wholeness) reigned between Israel and Tyre (they even made a treaty).
30,000 men were conscripted to work on this project, and they were sent 10,000 a month for a month in Lebanon, followed by two months at home.
There were 70,000 carriers and 80,000 stone cutters involved, and 30,000 foremen, supervising and directing (that’s a lot of directors !!).
Large blocks of ‘quality stone’ were quarried, cut and prepared.
All was ready to start building this glorious temple.

The success of building a temple was wrapped up with Israel’s neighbours being at peace with them – time to focus on God’s relationship with Israel.


ACTS

Herod’s Death – Herod moves to Caesarea for a while. There had been arguments between him and the peoples of Tyre and Sidon, who depended upon the king’s country for their provisions (like our OT reading today). There’s a personal servant of the king, Blastus, who gets a mention as he befriends some of the people of Tyre and Sidon and pleads their cause with the king, asking for peace.
Herod prepares to address the people, wearing his royal robes, sitting on his throne. When he speaks, he is honoured as a god, not a man. Because he, himself accepts this worship, and doesn’t praise God, ‘an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms…’. King Herod dies.
God’s word continues its influence, increasing and spreading.
Barnabas and Saul finish their mission, returning from Jerusalem, and taking John Mark with them.

Barnabas and Saul Sent Off – Back in Antioch, and alongside their prophets and teachers (Simeon, Lucius (of Cyrene), Manaen (brought up with Herod the tetrarch)), Barnabas and Saul are set apart (through fasting and praying) by the Holy Spirit ‘for the work which I have called them.’
After more fasting and praying, they place their hands on Barnabas and Saul and send them off.

The first time a church sends out missionaries – prayer and fasting opening the way for the Spirit to guide.

On Cyprus – Setting sail from Seleucia, the two of them, with John Mark as helper, land on Cyprus (where Barnabas originates from), arriving at Salamis, proclaiming God’s word in the synagogues. They travel through the whole island to Paphos, where they encounter a Jewish sorcerer (Bar-Jesus), who also attended the proconsul (Sergius Paulus). The proconsul calls for them to hear the word of God, but the sorcerer (Elymas) turned against them and tried to persuade the proconsul.
Saul (also named here as Paul), ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, looked at Elymas, saying,‘You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery…now the hand of the Lord is against you…you are going to be blind for a time’.
Immediately he was blinded, and his proconsul boss believed,‘for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.’

It appears that this episode on Cyprus sees Saul, now named Paul, become the first-named leader of the mission, ahead of Barnabas.

PSALM 
The enemy mocks You, O Lord, foolish people revile Your name.
Do not hand over the life of Your dove to wild beasts.
Have regard for Your covenant…may the poor and needy praise Your name.
Rise up, O God, and defend Your cause…..’

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