Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Daily Bread for Apr 15, 1 Kgs 8-9

Today's readings are 1 Kgs 8-9.

In 1 Kgs 8:1-8, the ark is brought into the Temple with grand ceremony, symbolizing the arrival of God into His house. Surprisingly, for some, 1 Sam 8:9 reveals that the only contents of the ark are the stone tablets. As it turns out, the ten commandments were always the only contents. Aaron’s rod and the jar of manna, both of which most people think we placed in the ark, were actually in front of the ark (Num 17:10; Ex 16;33). There is no mention of their presence or absence in today’s text.

Whether they are present or not, the ark has always been known as the “ark of the covenant of the Lord” or the “ark of the testimony.” It was the witness of Israel’s calling, a symbol of the presence and promise of God but it was also a sobering reminder of Israel’s responsibilities before God. The tablets, engraved upon by the hand of God, encompassed all of the symbolic and corporeal implications of the covenant. That’s why they were specifically designated to be placed in the ark.

The Temple is dedicated, and the glory of the Lord settles into the Holy of Holies (1 Kgs 8:10-11). Solomon prays an incredible prayer (1 Kgs 8:22-53), thanking God for His goodness and prophesying the coming captivity of the Hebrews (1 Sam 8:33-34). Once again, we see the amazing grace of God toward Solomon and toward His people. God knows they are going to stumble, yet He comes to dwell among them anyway.

Solomon’s prayer also provides us with a portent of the gospel (1 Kgs 8:46-53), establishing, like Paul will in Rom 3:23, that all have sinned and are in need of redemption.
Solomon delivers a benediction, and an enormous amount of blood is shed in dedicating the temple (1 Kgs 8:54-64). The king oversees the sacrifices and stages a celebratory feast for all the people.

In 1 Kgs 9:1-8, the Lord blesses Solomon with promises, but they are conditional on his obedience and the obedience of his people. The warning is explicit, if they go after other gods, they will experience a broken relationship with God and extreme hardship (1 Kgs 9:6-8).

Solomon’s empire and influence are multiplying rapidly. It is getting massive and impressive but sits under a cloud of oppression - one that may not be apparent at first, but will become more evident as time passes. The evidence is there in these early stages.

First, we see that Solomon has formed an alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre (1 Sam 9:10-14, 26-28). This is a highly questionable decision. God does not prohibit commerce with other nations but warns his people not to align themselves with them. Solomon has already formed an alliance with Egypt to the south. Now he allies with the nation to the north if Israel. God's people are to depend solely on Him, not those around them. Of what benefit is an alliance with an ungodly people? Can they protect Israel better than God? Can they provide Israel with something that God cannot?

It is ironic that Solomon does such a great job of completing the house of the Lord then immediately joins with Hiram, a Gentile, in a money-making venture. 

It is so easy to be swayed into compromise by the lure of easy money or by the reluctance to deal with sinful behavior. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, falls into it pretty readily.  This should cause us to be extra vigilant to avoid making the same mistake.

Second, Solomon gives cities in Galilee to Hiram (1 Sam 9:11). God had given those areas to Israel. Israel was to keep them in perpetuity as the fulfillment of God's promise to them. Solomon was actually violating the commandments God gave concerning the land.

Third, Solomon uses "forced labor" for many of his building projects, putting some of the northern tribes into compulsory service, not as slaves but as leaders and taskmasters (1 Sam 9:15-23). This will prove to be a problem when the northern tribes begin to rebel and separate themselves from Judah in 1 Kings 12 over the "yoke" Solomon placed upon them.

Perhaps for these reasons, God appeared to Solomon in the opening verses of 1 Kings 9, promising to bless his reign but cautioning him that the blessings are conditioned upon how Solomon conducts himself and his affairs.

This is a good thing for us to remember. God's promises are predicated upon a heart that longs after Him and longs to please Him. They are not guarantees but hinge upon our heart attitudes toward Him and His holiness. Taking Him for granted and assuming He will shed His grace will not go well for us. We will soon see it doesn't go well for Solomon.

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