~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
1 Kings 9:1-10:29 ~ Acts 8:14-40
Psalm 130:1-8 ~ Proverbs 17:2-3
Old Testament - Well, we can gather from today's First Kings readings that Solomon was clearly wise and rich! I have to confess... when I was reading today's readings I briefly thought to myself, "well, it was just inherited wealth from his father David..." :) How wrong was this thinking! Yes, David was certainly wealthy and Solomon inherited the throne if you will. But Solomon had to administer the Kingdom, including the building of the Temple and the Palace, which were no small tasks! He was able to do this successfully I think because he asked God for wisdom - rather than riches or wealth - earlier in First Kings. Solomon sought God first and asked for wisdom, and I do think God blessed him with riches too. You'll recall that Jesus referred to "Solomon's splendor" in the Sermon on the Mount when he talked about the lilies of the field and his teachings on not worrying, from Matthew 6:29: "Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Below is a painting of Solomon in all of his splendor in "The Queen of Sheba before Solomon" by Nicolas Knupfer, c. 1640:
These are very interesting readings today. The thing that I'm thinking about now, after reading about Solomon's wealth and wisdom - and also thinking back to David's warrior skills - is that it is not surprising to me that many people in Jesus' day were expecting a differing kind of Messiah. When Jesus came on the scene, people were reading these sacred texts of King David and King Solomon. They were reading about how wise and wealthy and what great warriors these Kings were. And these Kings were shown great favor by God. So - surely the coming Messiah would be all of this and more! Right?? Well... no. As we know Jesus was not a Warrior-Messiah. He did not come to set free the Jews from the Roman rule by the sword. Jesus did not come into the world with wealth - he came into the world in a stable with animals nearby. Now - in terms of wisdom, yes, obviously Jesus was wiser than David or Solomon of course. But in terms of being wealthy and being a warrior - Jesus was neither - on this earth. However - in the heavenly realm Jesus is obviously wealthy beyond all comprehension. And he is a warrior for you and for me. He is battling for the souls of men and women. He leads a legion of angels against a legion of darkness. Jesus is not meek. Nor is he eternally poor. But... what an interesting contrast of how Jesus was not a warrior nor wealthy during his time here on earth - and he warned us against both of these trappings. What to make of all of this? I'm not sure. I'm full-on going stream of consciousness writing here. :) I think the take-away for me is this - Solomon rightly sought after wisdom above all else. (He wrote many of the Proverbs!) And Jesus was of course wise beyond all measure. So, I think for you and I the key to life is first and foremost to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior - this is the wisest decision we will ever make. And after we have accepted Jesus, then we need to actually follow him. Follow his teachings. Follow his wisdom. And as we follow Jesus, we really should not be concerned about being wealthy or being a warrior. Perhaps these things will be part of our Walk in some regard. But they should not be the focus. Jesus should be the focus. Godly wisdom should be the focus. What is the focus in your life? Is it Jesus? Is it godly wisdom? Are you following Jesus with all that you are? Are taking up your cross daily? Are you following Jesus all the way up that hill?
Okay, back to today's readings. I do think map's can often give us a great overview / understanding of what we're reading about in the Bible. I think now is a good time to show a good map of Solomon's Kingdom compared to modern day Israel, below. Take a few minutes to really study this map and reflect upon places you recognize from today's readings and previous day's readings:
At the very end of First Kings chapter 9 today we read these interesting verses 26-28: "Later King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, a port near Elath in the land of Edom, along the shore of the Red Sea. Hiram sent experienced crews of sailors to sail the ships with Solomon's men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back to Solomon some sixteen tons of gold." You will see the port of Elath in the map above. Then, the big question I had today was where is Ophir? Well, it turns out that Ophir was likely in the land of "Sheba" from whence Queen Sheba comes to visit Solomon! So, it is interesting to see how these last 3 verses in chapter 9 lead us to First Kings 10 today we read about the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon. Below is about the best map I could find with the land of Sheba, and Ophir, in comparison to Israel. The Queen obviously traveled quite a distance in those days to visit Solomon! And I think we can now understand how she learned of Solomon - he built a fleet of ships and sailed them to her land!
New Testament - Wow. Acts chapter 8 verses 18 & 19 should be a warning to each of us to not lose sight of where spiritual power truly comes from - "When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given when the apostles placed their hands upon people's heads, he offered money to buy this power. "Let me have this power, too," he exclaimed, "so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!"" Scary stuff... but I have a hunch this type of thing still happens today. People want to "buy" faith or buy spiritual power. God ain't selling it. It's a free gift. Salvation is free. It ain't for sale. I pray that each of us realizes that our faith in Jesus is a free gift. We didn't buy it. We didn't earn it. And we most definitely should not exploit our free gift of faith in any way for $. That is scary to consider. And if we are blessed with what appears to be spiritual power in any way, I pray we realize that this power comes only from God, and not from ourselves. And if we ever happen to think that spiritual power comes from ourselves, then I am sure we will quickly learn the maxim - "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." Spiritual power goes bankrupt quick if we ever try to claim it as our own...
Today in Acts chapter 8 we read about Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. In verses 34 and 35, just after the eunuch has finished reading verses in Isaiah 53 about Jesus, we will read – “The eunuch asked Phillip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else? Then Phillip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” I wonder about this in our lives today – do you think there are people that you know who are trying to understand who God is and what God is saying, just like this eunuch was trying to understand? Are there people in your life who may be seeking God and Jesus? If so, will you be like Phillip was for this eunuch for these people in your life? Will you begin with wherever these people are (“that very passage”), even if they are very far from God, and begin to share with them the good news about Jesus? Yes, this story about the Ethiopian eunuch is a very quick conversion story. Not all of our stories of having conversations with others seeking God will turn out like this. In fact, I’d venture to say that many will take many months and maybe even several years. But, even if it takes a lifetime of conversations with someone about the good news of Jesus, isn’t it worth it? Who in your life is God calling you to share the good news about Jesus with? Will you begin those conversations now? And, perhaps most importantly, will you begin praying for those that God has placed in your life – praying that they will come to understand who God truly is?
Psalms - Psalm 130 is amazing today! Each verse is jam packed with good stuff to think about.... Actually - if you get a chance - please read through each of these verses again, and meditate for a moment on each one and what each verse might be speaking into your life and your heart. I think you will find tons of relevant meditations in this Psalm for your life. Today in Psalm 130 verse 5 we read - "I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word." Are you counting on God in your life? Really counting on him? Have you put your hope in his Word, the Bible? Do you believe that reading and meditating and reflecting on the Bible can transform your life and your relationship with God? What is your plan for 2007 to stay in God’s Word each and every day? Should you have a plan to be in God’s Word each and every day?
Proverbs - I love Proverbs chapter 17 verse 3 today - "Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart." I think sometimes in our lives we tend to forget to live from our hearts. We live from our minds I think so often - and we can tend to silence our hearts. But God wants our hearts. He wants our hearts to be fully his. God oftentimes will speak to us through our hearts - sometimes I find that God's "still small voice" or God's whisper can only be discerned through my heart. So, let us live from our hearts. And let us realize that God is very interested in our hearts - and will test the purity of our hearts. The heart is so critically important for our spiritual life... how is the landscape of your heart today? What would God find inside your heart right now? Is your heart pure? Is your heart for God?
Comments from You & Questions of the Day: What was your reaction today to reading about "Solomon's splendor" in First Kings? Did you view this wealth of Solomon's as a blessing from God or perhaps as excess? What's your reaction to seeing this level of wealth of Solomon's versus Jesus' lack of wealth while walking the earth? What about in today's world - is there such a thing as too much wealth? Should we seek material wealth for our lives? Or should we be seeking other things? Should we seek to be like Solomon? Or like Jesus? Or perhaps like both? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!