Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solomon

Yesterday, I finished reading about the life of Solomon.  It is a really interesting study in contrast.  There was something in Solomon that made both his father and God take notice, and he though not the eldest inherited the throne of Isreal.  He was chosen to carry out the work of building the temple.  God offered to give him ANYTHING, and he asked for a good thing, for wisdom to execute judgement for the Lord's people.  This so pleased God, that he gave him everything else too.  He wrote at least 29 of the 31 chapters of Proverbs, more wisdom than I will ever be able to fully comprehend and apply in my life.  When reading about the life of Solomon he started out in his father's footsteps.  One thing that particularly struck me, this reading through, is his regard for everyone, not just the Israelites.  All of the Canaanites that were still in the land, who way back under Joshua agreed to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, aka servants, it is those peoples that Solomon drafts to go into Lebanon and cut the trees for the Lord's House, amongst other jobs (according to II Chronicles 2:17-18).  However, if you notice over in I Kings 5:13-14, he doesn't work all of these men to death, but rather works them one month, and then they spend 2 months at home, and then work another month.  It enabled them to take care of their families, their crops at home, their businesses.    They weren't part of His chosen people, but Solomon treated them well regardless.  His wisdom and works, were so well know that many countries paid tribute even Syria and Egypt.

A couple of Sundays ago, on the way to and from Church, I read the accounts of the building and dedication of the Temple in II Chronicles, and I Kings.  Gary and I then talked about it alot.  The temple was dedicated according to the timeline about 7 months after it's completion, and the presence and shekinah glory of God was so evident, weighty, overpowering that the priest could not stand to minister, and all present worshiped God. (I Kings 8:10-11)  Then the prayer that Solomon utters is prophetic and incredibly moving, that I thought I would include it.

"And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:  ... But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?  Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:  That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.  And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:  Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.  When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:  Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.  When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:  Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.  If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;  What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:  Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)  That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.
Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake;  (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house;  Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.
If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name:  Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.  If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;  Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;  And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:  Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:  For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron:  That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee.  For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.
And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.  And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.  The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.  And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be nigh unto the Lord our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:  That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else.  Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.  And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord." (I Kings 8:22, 27-62)

After this the Lord comes to him, and tells him that he has heard his prayer and will honor it.  And yet, the man with legendary wisdom, the wisest man to ever live, other than Jesus, did one really, really dumb thing.  He thought it was a good idea to have 700 wives, and 300 concubines.  The numbers are too much for me to even comprehend.  Many of his wives were foreigners who bought their religions with them.  Moses and Joshua had warned the people not to intermarry, for the very reason that we see played out in Solomon's life.  Initial he builds the princess from Egypt her own house, because he says she shouldn't stay in the house in Jerusalem where the ark had been kept, because it was holy, and she worshiped other gods.  But in the end he has so reversed course, that he sacrifices and offers strange incense to all his wives' gods around the countryside.  He even, despite the Lord appearing to him twice, and the great glory at the dedication of the temple, he even builds alters and houses for all these other gods.  Then when God judges him for this, and by a prophet tells Jeroboam that he will give him the throne next, Solmon tries to kill him as if that will change the judgement of God (I Kings 11:29-40).

This slide away from God causes him to amass chariots and horsemen, and build many massive cities to house them, even though, the Israelites were told not to.  The burden on the nation to support the king, and his court, and his household was enormous (I Kings 12:4) and everything that Samuel predicted would happen came to pass (I Samuel 8:11-18).  This would be a sad place to leave Solomon, and it is sad that he wasted so much of his life, but we have Ecclesiastes.  On the way to Church on Sunday, I read the entire book, and Gary and I talked about much of it.  (I have mentioned what a long drive we have now.)  It is kinda like an autobiography, Solomon tells off all the things he has seen and tried, and that nothing outside of God brings lasting peace, purpose, and satisfaction. The final chapter is especially hopeful when he sums up the whole point of life, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  We both came to the conclusion that at the end of his life, Solomon "woke up" and returned to the Lord.  It is comforting to know, no matter how badly we mess up, that we can always return to our Father, and spend whatever days remain walking along side him, and obeying his word.

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