We recycle. I’m not talking about paper and plastics. In our culture, we recycle many themes and storylines over and over. Whether it is the fifth production of the three musketeers or Cinderella, you see stories like these resurface repeatedly. We even recycle elements of a story. Think of the haunted house scene or the royal palace. There are certain iconic stories which are “plug and play” when you want your audience to have a certain mood.
The Bible circulates certain storylines over and over as well. In 1 Kings 5-9, you see some of this happening again and throughout the rest of the book, you will see the culmination of this set story. Here is the framework:
• Something wonderful is created
• God promises blessings as long as a man follows His single requirement
• The man agrees to follow God’s requirement
• Man breaks God’s requirement
• Man is exiled from the wonderful creation
Does this sound familiar? It sounds like the Garden of Eden, right? And it is also circulated throughout Israel’s history repeatedly. Solomon is permitted by God to create this wonderful house, the Temple of God. God visits Solomon twice and promises, “If thou wilt walk in my statutes…and keep all my commandments…I will dwell among the children of Israel…and there shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 6:11-13; 9:2-9). Solomon agrees to follow God’s requirement. Everything looks really great. You are even lead to believe the chapters recounting all of Solomon’s treasure is actually a sign of how great things actually are. However, if you read through the Torah, the Jewish law, Israel was supposed to be different from the worldly nations. Solomon had slaves building cities. Solomon amassed tremendous wealth and status. All of a sudden, Israel does not sound much different from Egypt when the Israelites were the slaves. Is Israel keeping the commandments of God?
No, they are not. Everything comes crashing down when you see the first word in 1 Kings 10. “But” Solomon had a harem of women, and basically followed the world’s way as ruler of Israel. He broke God’s requirement and eventually you will see the Temple destroyed and the people taken away in exile.
There are some powerful warnings in these chapters which echo from the Fall in the Garden and repeated failures of God’s people. Be on guard when things are going well. When the blessings of God are measureless. You may shift into auto-pilot which means you will live as the world would live. You do not default to the ways of God. The moment you take your guard down, the moment you fail to intentionally follow God’s ways, this is the moment you begin to follow the pre-programmed methods of the world.
Solomon let his guard down. He had three visits from God which should have been a powerful reminder. The truth is we need a daily visit with God. Read your Bible and prayer are proactive steps to not repeating history.
I love cornbread! It’s delicious when it’s hot out of the oven, spread some butter and lather on some honey…Mmm Mmm Good! But I like it even the next day. You take some sweet cornbread break it up in a bowl and pour cold milk on it. Wow! It’s better than Lucky Charms! The thing that almost always gets me with cornbread is the directions. We have made it all different ways. We have made it from a box or from scratch. We have made the simple version and the complicated, separate-the-egg-whites-from-the-yolk-version. Almost every way you make it has one simple step in it which I almost always miss: “Pour the batter into a greased dish.” I get too eager and start pouring before I finish the rest of the sentence. Yes, we are usually scraping the Pyrex dish after we have finished the scrumptious cornbread. If only I would follow the directions precisely.
“As the Lord commanded Moses.”
This phrase appears a lot. Sometimes the redundancy is almost like the refrain in a chorus. Actually, this phrase appears 57 times in the Bible. It’s most concentrated uses are in Exodus 39-40 and through the book of Numbers. They built the Tabernacle as the Lord commanded Moses. They sacrificed as the Lord commanded Moses. Everything they did in order to approach God had to be done as the Lord commanded Moses. Moses showed them the way, and as long as they did it as the Lord commanded Moses, they would be blessed.
They saw the connection between obedience and blessing through the instructions from God through Moses. If they wanted to eat, they needed to collect manna on the right day. If they wanted God’s favor then they needed to be right with Him through sacrifice. They needed to live as the Lord commanded them. A great illustration of their daily obedience is seen in their walk with God through the wilderness. As long as the aura of God’s presence remained on the Tabernacle, they abode in their tents. As soon as the cloud was removed from the Tabernacle, they knew it was time to move. It didn’t matter if it was night or day, whether they were healthy or sick, or if they felt like it or not; they were to respond as the Lord commanded.
If an Israelite, in the desert, had taken it into his head to make some movement independent of Jehovah; if he took it upon him to move when the crowd was at rest, or to halt while the crowd was moving, we can easily see what the result would have been. And so it will ever be with us. If we move when we ought to rest or rest when we ought to move, we shall not have the divine presence with us (Thoughts for the Quiet Hour).
Do you live your life as the Lord commanded? Do you devote your life to the work of God as the Lord commanded? Do you parent as the Lord commanded? Do you love your spouse as the Lord commanded? Do you invest your time, talents, and treasures as the Lord commanded?
When we live “as the Lord commanded” we are guaranteed His presence will go with us.
Revenge. Even just typing the word brings with it a positive feeling. The opportunity to get back, to make things even. Justice! Many a good story or movie has revenge as its theme. It might be a son whose parents were murdered so he finds and ends up killing each of those men. Justice is served!
While those types of storylines make for good movies, they don’t exactly fit the spirit that God intends for us to have. Galatians 6:10 teaches, “As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Paul’s admonition is for us to look for opportunities to do good to people, whether they deserve it or not. In a world in which selfishness and self-interest pervade the lives of most, we as Christians should stand out as looking to do good for others.
This helping of others can take on different forms. One of my good friends frequently goes with Samaritan’s Purse to help out after natural disasters. Of course, even the name “Samaritan” reminds us of the parable in which the lowly Samaritan helped out an injured man while a priest and a Levite walked around the man without offering a helping hand. While many of us cannot take a week off of work on a moment’s notice to do something like that, there are frequently small deeds of kindness we can do, down to something as insignificant as holding open the door for someone or letting someone go ahead of us in line. Maybe it would be helping a neighbor with a project or helping someone who is stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire. No doubt if we lived our lives looking for opportunities to do kind acts toward others we would see many chances to show this form of Christ-likeness. And who knows what opportunities for witness these simple acts of goodness might lead to? As the old saying goes, “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.” May we be a people and church that is known for our kind and caring heart that will often stand out in the self-centered culture in which we live.
While in high school, I was on the basketball team. Don’t be impressed. It was our church’s team and up to that point they never cut anyone from the team. I was the first (as far as I know) who was nearly cut from the team, but that’s another story.
Recently, one of my teammates reminded me of a half-time “family” chat we had. Our team was playing poorly, so one of the assistant coaches was reaming out the guys. “You aren’t diving for the loose ball! Your free throws stink because you won’t bend your knees! You guys have just got to beat them. They are an inferior team, and besides all that, their socks don’t even match!!”
Yes, mark it down in the annals of our team’s basketball history. Our coach wanted us to beat the team with unmatching socks. Those involved in sports are familiar with the pep talk. It is intended to be very motivating.
Proverbs 1 is your pep talk, but it’s not about winning a basketball game. No, this pep talk is about living the good life. Much like our coaches, Solomon is very persuasive. He breaks everything down in two poems. The first poem is from the father figure you will see a few more times. He says, “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10). There will be people who will tempt you to veer from the path of wisdom, but the father tells his son, “It won’t end pretty.” They think they are taking from the unsuspecting, but they are actually the unsuspecting and their lives will be taken tragically.
Then there is a beautiful poem where wisdom is personified as a woman calling to those willing to listen. The facts are presented: Only fools despise wisdom and instruction. See how persuasive he is? It would be like looking at a seven-year-old and asking them, “You don’t want to be a dummy do you? Of course you don’t! So listen to the words of wisdom.”
How do you access this wisdom? Through the humility of fearing the Lord. Many prominent figures in Scripture bear the description of an excellent spirit, wise behavior, prosperous. At the core of everyone of those people’s lives is this one trait: they assimilated the ways of God as their own in order to enjoy the good life.
It is clearly evident in Scripture that God takes care of those who believe in Him. There is a key word in Ps.65:5 and that word is confidence, “By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea” (Italics mine). Confidence is defined as trust, certainty, assurance and hopefulness in a person or something. Sitting down in a chair requires confidence that it will hold you. But what about confidence in God? How does one build confidence in God?
First and foremost, we must have trust. Putting our faith in God will provide the confident assurance we need to live in this world. God is not a rickety bridge over a roaring river. He is someone we can fully trust for He will never let us down.
A key in developing confidence is exercising trust. Most young men are daring, bullet-proof and ten feet tall (so we think). However, when faced with obstacles we become quickly humbled. During boot camp at the “University of Parris Island” a recruit is treated to an obstacle course referred to as the “Gauntlet”. It is a tortuous course one must complete to obtain the title “Marine”. There is so much buildup that by the time it arrives (seventh week) you are scared to death for lack of confidence. They tell you that running with rifle and full gear through the swamps, in blistering heat for miles only to face the crucible at the end, is a confidence builder (I think). Once done, each successive time gets easier because one’s confidence is being built.
Likewise, with God. We must trust Him and exercise our faith (confidence) in Him. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). In essence, lay back in the arms of God. “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8).
The Bible is packed with confidence building stories and verses there for the finding. It would be a great personal study; moreover, start journaling. Set aside a book (a diary) just for God. Daily record verses of confidence found in the Bible, write down what you pray to God and record His responses. After time, this journal will become a tremendous confidence builder as you look back on the mighty things He has done for you. As you start this journey, save the first few pages to record things God has already done in your life. It will make for a great reminder and become a cherished read (and confidence builder) for generations to come. Would it not be great if someone were to be saved from reading about our confidence in God? To God be the glory, great things He has done…