‘All the riches of His love…He gives to you, He gives to me!’

27 07 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-THREE : 1 Kings 9 v. 10 – 11 v. 13; Acts 15 v. 1 – 21; Psalm 77 v. 1 – 9

1 KINGS
Solomon’s Other Activities – After a period of twenty years, during which the temple and the palace were built, Solomon gave his trusted servant Hiram (who had supplied all the wood (cedar and pine) and gold) twenty towns in Galilee. When Hiram sees the towns, he is not pleased. Hiram called this area Cabul (‘good for nothing), which marked out a territory between Tyre and Israel. ‘Now Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents of gold.’
Solomon conscripted non-Israelites (Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites etc.) into forced labour to build the temple, the palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (Gezer had been captured by Egypt’s Pharaoh and set on fire, but Solomon’s wife (Pharaoh’s daughter) was given it.
He also built store cities and towns for his chariots.
The Israelites made up Solomon’s army, his government officials, his commanders, and chief overseers of the working projects (550 officials supervising the work).
Pharaoh’s daughter moved up to the City of David and lived in the palace – and Solomon had supporting terraces built.
Solomon offered sacrifices three times a year…‘so fulfilled the temple obligations’.
Solomon also built ships, on the shore of the Red Sea, and Hiram’s men served alongside Solomon’s there. The ships carried more gold back for Solomon!

Solomon is very well organised, and the gold keeps arriving. He appears to be thriving.

The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon – Sheba was in SW Arabia, a kingdom perhaps the size of Yemen today – an important and wealthy region built on trade between Africa and Asia. The Queen hears of Solomon’s fame and faith, and comes to visit Solomon ‘to test him with hard questions’.
The Queen has an impressive entourage – camels carrying spices, gold, precious stones – and she arrives in Jerusalem to talk things through with Solomon.
‘Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.’
The Queen is overwhelmed at Solomon’s wisdom, his faith, his riches, his power. She tells Solomon that she is more than doubly amazed at his achievements and wisdom. She proclaims
‘Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel.’
She gives Solomon 120 talents of gold, lots of spices and precious stones – never again did he have such extravagant gifts given.
Solomon, in return, ‘gave the Queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for’.
Then she returned back to Sheba….

Solomon’s Splendour – This is a great account of all Solomon’s wealth.
666 talents of gold received annually, with revenues from merchants, traders, kings and governors.
200 large shields of gold (600 bekas of gold in each shield) and 300 small shields (3 minas of gold in each) are made, and placed in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.
A beautiful throne is crafted – ivory and fine gold, lions on the armrests, lions marking the steps up to the throne.
Goblets of gold, golden household objects
‘Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days’
Trading ships returned every three years filled with gold, silver, ivory, apes and baboons !!
‘King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.’
Everyone who visits Solomon brings gifts – gold, silver, robes, weapons, spices, horses and mules.
1400 chariots and 12,000 horses (imported from Egypt and Kue).

It is Solomon’s much sought after wisdom which enables him to build up such wealth and treasures – this is a rich and fruitful time for Israel.
 
Solomon’s Wives – Solomon’s weakness? The chink in his armour ?
‘Solomon loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter…He had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and his wives led him astray…’
Gradually, Solomon’s heart is turned away from God, and accommodates the false gods of his wives (Ashoreth and Molech to name some of the ‘detestable gods’).
‘So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.’
Solomon oversees the building of a place of worship to Chemosh, god of the Moabites, and Molech, where incense was burned and sacrifices offered.
God was angry with Solomon, after all ‘He had appeared to him twice’. Solomon had broken the command not to follow other gods. God’s judgment is that the united kingdom will be torn apart
‘Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.’
Because of David, even then, Solomon’s son will be given authority over one of the tribes.

Solomon married many wives from neighbouring kingdoms, a form of making political allies, strengthening his arm, and his treasury. Subtly, though, Solomon was being influenced away from the one true God, and lured into accommodating, and then even promoting the worship of other gods…
As for us all, there are limits to our wisdom, and there are areas of weakness.
Solomon was expressly breaking one of the covenant commandments, and there would be consequences in the years that followed.
Lord, help us to remain true to you, unwavering on Your commandments, as we open ourselves up to all sorts of friendships and alliances within our community.

ACTS
The Council at Jerusalem – Really good lessons here on how the early church grappled with differences of opinion in relation to new Gentile converts to Christianity, and a move away from the Jewish regulations and requirements (in particular, circumcision).
Clearly, there were some who believed,‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’
Thankfully, for all who will follow, they (Paul and Barnabas, returned to Jerusalem, along with the apostles and elders) decided to agree that 
‘We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they (Gentiles) are’ – Peter, himself, addressing the assembly, reminding them that God had revealed his gospel to the Gentiles, they believed and were filled with the Holy Spirit. ‘He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith’. Circumcision is described as a yoke on their necks, and not a requirement for salvation through Christ.
The assembly is silent as they listen to all Paul and Barnabas have to tell them about the fruit of their ministry – including miraculous signs and wonders.
James speaks up, quoting from the prophet Amos about the restoration of the tent of David : ‘that the remnant of man may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name’.
James’ judgment seems conclusive (he is the leader of the church in Jerusalem ?)
‘we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God’ (though he still encourages them to abstain from food offered in idol-worship, from sexual morality, and from unclean meat, underlining the value of reading and abiding by the books of Moses).

This passage highlights the issues of dealing with disputes (gathering the elders, listening to the testimonies of what God is doing, honouring silence to hear from God), and of welcoming people of all backgrounds into the family / fellowship of Christ, growing in our understanding that it is belief in the grace of Jesus, alone, which makes salvation possible (not any list of ‘do’s and don’ts’, or acceptable behaviours, or traditions); then there is the need to commit to one another in love, whilst holding differing views at times about what makes for the life of a disciple, seeking never to be a ‘stumbling block’ for others to come to know the fulness of God’s love.
A challenging and inspiring passage to dwell / reflect upon, and pray through.

PSALM (One of Asaph’s songs)
‘I cry for help – O God, hear me!
In my anguish I seek Him, need Him.
In the night-time my hands stretch out, my soul is un-comforted.
I think of You, God, and I sigh, I ponder, my spirit is wearied.
You kept me going, when I had no energy left to mutter a sound.
Oh for the good old days – my music-filled nights, my happy slumber and my singing soul.
Will I be this down forever ? Will You not lift me up, once again?
Show me Your favour? Delight in me once more?
Is this it?
Your unfailing love finally fading, Your faithful promises wearing thin?
Have You forgotten how to be….God?
Mercy, compassion…..?’

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