Archive for December, 2012

2 Chronicles 3

2 Chronicles 3 describes the building of the House of the Lord by Solomon.  It was a project God gave to David who passed it on to Solomon.  The location was set – “on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite” which is on Mount Moriah and where the Lord had appeared to David.  And the plans were set by God and handed down to Solomon.  So all that is left is for the construction to take place.  David hadn’t gotten it done because of the constant wars and battles he was in.  But now Solomon is ready to take on the task.

He begins to build “in the second month of the fourth year of his reign”.  Speculation is that it took that long to get the materials in place and the people assembled for this huge task.  It was no little deal to move timbers from another area, accumulate enough gold and other precious metals and gems to complete the job.  But whatever the case, the time has come and Solomon begins the project.  We find measurements using terms we don’t use today: cubits, talents, shekels and the like.

So how long is a cubit?  It depends as there are different definitions based on the time in history and who is writing about it.  Seems that the one common denominator is that the cubit is defined as the distance from the elbow to the fingertip.  But that obviously depends on whose are we are using as a measurement.  Investigation reveals that the cubit can be anywhere from 17 to 25 inches in length.  Here is a chart of some of the common cubit measurements:

Culture Inches
Hebrew (short) 17.5
Egyptian 17.6
Common (short) 18
Babylonian (long) 19.8
Hebrew (long) 20.4
Egyptian (long) 20.6
Ezekiel 25

 

Whatever measure of cubit we use, the House of the Lord was an enormous project.  The different places in scripture that define the size may in fact use different cubit lengths as the numbers given differ between 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and Ezekiel.  But it was one and the same building, and a magnificent House of the Lord.

While the cubit is a measure of length, the talent and shekel are measurements of weight.  Again, there are different definitions of what these things are through history.  It was approximately equal to the mass of water to fill a cubic foot and equated to as little as 57 pounds but up to 130 pounds in New Testament times.  So again, it is all over the board.  The shekel is a sub measure of a talent which was divided into 60 mina which was subdivided into 60 shekels.  These numbers don’t mean a lot to us today – but the key is that God had a very specific blueprint and Solomon followed it closely.  Are you seeking God’s blueprint for your life?  He has given a big portion of it to us in scripture.  The question is really whether or not we are living life according to what He has told us!

2 Chronicles 2

2 Chronicles 2 gives us a bit more detail on Solomon’s plan to build a temple.  We are told that he “purposed to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself”.  I love that word – purposed.  He set his heart on it, he was determined to do it, he planned for it, he committed to doing it.  This wasn’t some random decision.  It was part of what Solomon knew he had to do.  He built an amazing complex, one that took seven years to complete the temple and thirteen years to complete his own palace.  It was a huge undertaking with 153,600 workers that were “resident aliens” from outside his people, and I’m sure many more that were part of his kingdom.

His purpose became his rally cry.  “I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him”.  Solomon became single minded on getting this job done.  He is focused.  He is on task to do what God had asked his father David to get done – build a temple.  And Solomon is all over it.  What is the mission here?  “The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods”.  It isn’t simply to build something for God.  It is going to be magnificent, worthy of God and His greatness.  It is to build what God desired, as He has given the instructions.  Sort of like His Word.  We just need to obey the things He has told us.  That is what Solomon is doing here.  God gave him the plans.  He is just executing.  We need to do the same with God’s truth spelled out so clearly for us in the Manual He provided – His Bible.

Solomon needs some real talent to do this right, and the perfect resources to do the construction.  So he reaches out to Hiram who is King of Tyre for help.  He asks Hiram to “send me a man” to do the skilled work, and also he asked for “cedar, cypress, and algum timber from Lebanon”.  Solomon wanted specific wood to build with.  Can you imagine being ‘the man’ that was chosen?  Well scripture tells us that Hiram did exactly as Solomon requested, and he sent Huram-abi as ‘the man’ with the skills needed to work with “gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving”.  That is quite a resume, isn’t it?

Hiram also provides his servants to lead the timber preparation, and Solomon sends some men to join them.  “My servants will be with your servants”.  Solomon didn’t just ask for things from Hiram, he also helped provide the resources to make it possible.  So often leaders just expect others to do things for them without necessarily providing the necessary resources to make it happen.  Great leaders understand that with a request needs to come the appropriate support and resources.  Hiram does all this because he knows Solomon is a special leader.  “The Lord loves his people, he has made you king over them.”  If there was any doubt as to why he cooperated, it is because he knew this was a God request, not just a neighboring king wanting something from him.  What God originates, He orchestrates.  That is exactly what He did through Solomon in building His temple.

1 Kings 6

We are now “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt” and Solomon is sitting on the throne.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge.  He is focused on building the temple that God instructed David to build, and who passed that torch on to his son Solomon.  This is a big project and a huge building.  It is definitely no small task.  He has thousands of men working for years.  In fact, we learn at the end of this chapter “he was seven years in building it”.  Huge project to accomplish, with few or little in terms of tools other than brute man power.

But the key words that strike me in this chapter come right in the middle of the description of the project.  Scripture is recording details around cubits and olivewood and cherubim and inner and outer rooms, and then right smack dab in the middle comes this: “Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.”  God interrupts and reminds Solomon of what really matters.

He didn’t come to praise his work, or tell him the walls were leaning a bit.  He comes to focus Solomon on relationship.  He reminds Solomon that HOW we do things is more important than doing them.  God gives Solomon a promise here.  It is a classic ‘if-then’ sort of statement.  God asks Solomon to do four things:

–       “if you will walk in my statutes

–       obey my rules

–       keep all my commandments

–       walk in them”

Seems pretty basic doesn’t it.  All we need to do is know God’s Word, and let that be the way we live.  On the surface it seems simple, but underneath it is not so much.  First it requires knowing his statutes, but then it gets difficult as we have to actually obey and live that way.

But the beautiful part of the promise is the outcome.  If we do what God instructs, “then I will establish my word with you…. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel”.  The payoff to obedience is amazing.  God dwells with us.  And He will not forsake us.  He is part of us and lives with us.  What a promise!  So it comes down to obedience.  Will we live God’s way in obedience, or in our own self-centered and pride filled way?  Solomon has a huge opportunity here.  We’ll see how he does in future chapters.  For now though, “Solomon built the house and finished it”.  He carried out the task assigned to him, at the construction level.  We’ll see how he does at the heart level (unfortunately not quite as well) in the days ahead as we continue our journey.

1 Kings 5

1 Kings 5 has Solomon going to work on a dream that his father David had – to build a house for the Lord.  He reached out to Hiram who was king of Tyre for assistance, as the best timber were “cedars of Lebanon” which Solomon wanted to use for the construction.  Solomon reminds us of the challenges his daddy had.  “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet”.  He was constantly under attack from all sides and spent his life defending his people and protecting his land.

Solomon is now is a very different place that his father David ever experienced.  “But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune”.  He has the freedom to do something other than fighting.  “I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God”.  He picks up David’s dream and decides to build the tabernacle, just the way God had instructed.  God had give the marching orders many years ago, but now is the right time to execute.

Solomon approaches Hiram for help. He needs workers and access to the trees.  And they hit it off and Hiram grants permission.  Solomon was filled with wisdom and fulfilled his place as “a wise son to be over this great people”.  Hiram has his people cut the timber and get it down to the sea so it can be tied into rafts and floated to Solomon.  It was a huge project and took many men to get it done.  Solomon pays for this with wheat and oil.  And the transaction was completed by year end.

Solomon continues to lead well.  “The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him”.  Talk about being equipped for the job.  God pours his wisdom into Solomon who uses it to lead his people well.  He and Hiram reach a treaty.  Solomon drafts about 30,000 men from Israel to help with the project.  He also had 150,000 others who were “burden-bearers and stonecutters” from the hill country.  They rotated in monthly shifts with one on and two off.  And it took 3300 chief officers to oversee the project – a huge number of people to create this project.  But Solomon’s request for wisdom was exactly what was needed to do this job well, and complete it according to the plan.  God prepared and equipped him for the job at hand!

Proverbs 31

Proverbs 31 talks about an excellent wife.  Having one myself, this chapter just made me smile.  Solomon says it this way: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels”.  There is nothing better than a marriage that is lived God’s way.  It isn’t easy, and I struggle to do it consistently, but when we are focused on each other and not self, when we are living in covenant relationship instead of thinking about what we need or want or should get, when we are loving by choice and married by commitment – things are very good.  My bride is more precious than jewels.  She is more valuable than gold or any precious metal.  She is the joy of my life.

Solomon goes on to remind us that relationship matters.  “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain”.  When we do marriage right – when we have the relationship the way God intended – there is no lacking of anything.  The blessing of a marriage done God’s way is amazing.  It is built on a foundation of trust – trust in each other.  Trust in God and the way He created each of us.  The reality is that God is the Author of life – He alone created my bride the way He did – and who am I to question that and spend my life trying to change His creation.  But that is often what we do in marriage.  We spend all our time trying to change our spouse, rather than focusing on what we can change – which is ourselves.  That is what God wants us to do – to change our heart and get our attitude right – not focus on trying to change our spouse into what we think we want.  Why?  Because we really don’t know what we want.  But God does.  And He created our spouse perfectly for what we need, not what we think we want.

The chapter goes on to give a very detailed list of what an excellent wife looks like.  Check these things out:

–       “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life

–       She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands

–       She is like the ships of the merchant

–       she brings her food from afar

–       She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens

–       She considers a field and buys it

–       with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard

–       She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong

–       She perceives that her merchandise is profitable

–       Her lamp does not go out at night

–       She puts her hands to the distaff

–       her hands hold the spindle

–       She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy

–       She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet

–       She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple

–       Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land

–       She makes linen garments and sells them

–       she delivers sashes to the merchant

–       Strength and dignity are her clothing

–       she laughs at the time to come

–       She opens her mouth with wisdom

–       the teaching of kindness is on her tongue

–       She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness

–       Her children rise up and call her blessed

–       her husband also, and he praises her

What a list.  Seem overwhelming?  It is if you try to accomplish those things on your own.  But God created the list, which means He is able to help wives achieve it.  In His power, in His way, you can be an excellent wife!

So guys get off easy?  Maybe in this chapter.  But actually there is one very important thing that Solomon calls out here.  That is for husbands to praise their wife.  He writes it this way: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all”.  That truly describes my bride.  When is the last time you praised your wife?  Publicly?  A lot of us are pretty good at complaining or asking for more, but pretty lousy at praising our wife and kids.  God calls us to do that.  Not once, not once in a while, but regularly and publicly.  An excellent wife is a great gift from God.  I am certainly blessed by my bride every day.  And for that I am grateful.  She is all that I could ever hope for, and the greatest earthly gift that God can provide.  Thank you Lord for my bride!

Proverbs 30

Proverbs 30 contains a number of lists that Solomon writes.  But he begins by being transparent about his state of mind.  “I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out”.  Ever feel like that?  I certainly do sometimes.  Often it happens when I have not managed my life appropriately, putting too much in too little time.  That is an issue when we don’t put any whitespace on the calendar – time to just have free and without being scheduled.  I’m not good at doing that.  He goes on to describe even deeper feelings of frustration: “I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One”.

We all face times of despair.  Things seem to overwhelm us.  We are unsure what to do because we feel like we are too stupid or just can’t figure it out.  But Solomon gives us the answer here.  “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him”.  God is always the answer.  Whether we are weary or feel stupid or don’t understand or need wisdom and knowledge – the answer is still the same – we need to run to God.  He is always there.  He is always true.  He is always a shield.  He is the answer.  He is the only answer in fact!

Solomon creates lists of key truths in this chapter.  He often begins by saying “three things are” but always ends up with a list of four.  Here are those lists:

–       “Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”

–       Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand

–       Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up

–       Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise

–       Three things are stately in their tread; four are stately in their stride

Check out these lists.  There is much truth in them.  He speaks of the smallest ants to the mightiest lion.  He warns of people of all sorts.  It is powerful truth and warnings we should heed.

He ends with reminding us of the destructive nature of pride or evil in our lives.  “If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth”.  We need to learn to keep our mouth shut.  That begins with thinking highly of us.  We have all done some good stuff, but we also have all done some things we aren’t or shouldn’t be very proud of.  And all the good stuff we claim to have done is really all from God anyway.  We have nothing to exalt ourselves about.  We need to exalt God, the Creator and giver of all things.  He alone is worthy of praise.  We need to learn to let God be our press agent.  If He wants to lift us up, He can do that without our help.  But we need to lift Him up and make sure the world knows that all we are and do is because of Him!

Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29 begins as Solomon contrasts the good and bad.  He calls out those who “stiffen his neck….wicked….companion of prostitutes….he who exacts gifts….flatterer…..evil….scoffer….fool….bloodthirsty….poor….hasty….man of wrath….prideful….unjust”.  The truth is that there are a whole lot of things that we can fall into that lead to a less than good result.  Solomon makes it clear that the result of these ungodly behaviors is not what we are looking for.  How we live matters.  We need to pay attention to the way we relate to God, and to those in our patch.

He reminds us that words matter.  “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him”.  We have to learn to think before we speak.  I heard that a million times growing up.  ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’.  Ever heard that one?  But it is true.  If we fail to think and speak wisely, it is a very destructive thing.  Solomon goes on to say it this way.  “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back”.   We should never just vent and let words fly.  Whenever we speak, it should be after thinking about the impact and with wisdom.  Anything less will create pain and is never a good thing.

Solomon again reminds us as parents of our role to shape and mold our kids.  Discipline has gotten a bad rap from society today, but it is a critical responsibility for us as parents.  “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother”.  This isn’t a ticket to allow us to beat our kids – far from it.  It is a charge to pass wisdom to them, and that means we do what is needed to discipline them to hear and learn.  “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart”.  While it may seem easier to just look the other way and let them live the way they want, failing to discipline them is the worst option.  It will prevent them from growing up in the wisdom of their parents, and will not create an environment for joy and success in the future.

Finally, Solomon again gives us some leadership advice.  First he reminds us that without vision, people don’t know what to do.  That is a major responsibility of a leader – to cast vision that gives direction.  “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law”.  That begins with the family and moves into every area we lead others.  Vision is what keeps people engaged and on course.  They can’t be on the bus properly if they don’t know where it is headed.  And he also reminds us that pride is a very poor way to live or lead.  “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor”.  Leadership is about being transparent enough that those following can see that a leader is real.  They need to be served by a person who is focused on them.  Pride gets in the way of being a servant leader.  It changes the focus from those we lead to self. And self is almost always a very bad thing to have in control of anything.  Are you a prideful leader – be it at home, in the workplace, or in other areas you lead?  If so, it is not going to end well.  Make sure to lead as a servant leader!

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