~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
1 Kings 5:1-6:38 ~ Acts 7:1-29
Psalm 127:1-5 ~ Proverbs 16:28-30
Old Testament - Wow. Big readings today in First Kings. Solomon builds the Temple of the Lord! Below is "King Solomon praying before the Temple" by Bonito, c. 1750:
It is great to read about Solomon & King Hiram of Tyre's dialogue and agreement to send cedars and cypress from Lebanon to Jerusalem for the Temple. You'll recall in our readings from 2 Samuel chapter 5 verse 11 that Hiram indeed was a loyal friend of David just after David conquered Jerusalem - "Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David." Below is a beautiful stain glassed image of King Hiram of Tyre in the forests of Lebanon:
So why were cedars and cypress from Lebanon used for the temple and not wood from Israel? Well, because these precious woods from Lebanon were very close-grained, rot-resistant, and very hard. They were also beautiful and had a fragrant scent. Below is an image of Cedar of Lebanon - also known as Cedrus Libanotica.
1 Kings 6 verse 7 tells us - "The stones used in the construction of the Temple were prefinished at the quarry, so the entire structure was built without the sound of hammer, ax, or any other iron tool at the building site." This shows how reverent the workers were in building the temple of the Lord. They felt it was honoring to build on the temple site without the sound of an iron tool. In 1 Kings 5 verses 13 & 14 I thought Solomon's wisdom was incredible - "Then King Solomon enlisted 30,000 laborers from all Israel. He sent them to Lebanon in shifts, 10,000 every month, so that each man would be one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of this labor force." He wisely cared for his workforce! Below is an image of the workers building the temple -
New Testament - Today we read the beginning of Stephen's amazing sermon to the Sanhedrin in the Temple. You'll recall from yesterday's readings in Acts 6 verses 8 through 10 - "Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them was able to stand against the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke."
So, men began to lie about Stephen, and then we get into the sermon Stephen gives to the council today. It is clearly a great sermon today from Stephen! Today he is beginning to set the stage for his zinger closing statements. He's like a lawyer today laying out his opening arguments for the case. Unfortunately, things will not proceed well in the coming days readings for Stephen. After he concludes this speech, Stephen will soon be the first Christian martyr...
A great look at the characteristics of Stephen's sermon today is at Bible.org at this link.
Psalms - It is interesting to note that Psalm 127 today is written by Solomon. Think he might have written this around the time of building the temple? It would be very fitting! Psalm 127 verse 1 I think I heard for the first time verbally a couple of years ago on a Habitat for Humanity job site. Each morning the volunteers would take turns leading devotions before the day’s build. One morning a volunteer read Psalm 127 verse 1 to all of us, which was absolutely fitting for working on a Habitat house - "Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good." Great stuff and I believe this verse is not only applicable to working on Habitat houses, but is very applicable in our own lives as well. Are there things we are building or creating in our life that might be outside of God's will for our life? Are we building these things on our own? If so, should we be building these things? Will we take to prayer all that we build in our lives and seek God's guidance and blessing upon our work? Is God building our life or are we attempting to build with our own power? Is God protecting our life or are we attempting to protect ourselves with our own power?
Speaking of work, I also love verse 2 in this Psalm: "It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones." Great verse to combat our workaholic tendencies, no? :) Do you overwork yourself these days? What for? Is this pleasing to God? Are you taking a Sabbath day of rest once a week to simply be in relationship with God? To enjoy God's rest? Bible.org's commentary on Psalm 127 titled "A Word for Workaholics" is at this link.
Proverbs - Proverbs 16:28 today teaches us: "A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends." I do have to admit here that I have been guilty of gossip all too frequently. I think it's one of the easiest sins for many of us to fall into. Everyone else is doing it, we might think, so why shouldn't we? Well, we know why we shouldn't. It's a sin. And it's a sin that I'm afraid sometimes can be found all too often in churches. I would take this Proverb a step further and say that gossip separates not only the best of friends, but separates the best of churches. Let us stop the gossip in our lives and realize it is a sin!
Comments from You & Questions of the Day: Like me, have you ever struggled with gossip? How have you been able to stop yourself from gossiping about others? Have you ever stopped gossip from happening within a church? Or have you ever just let it happen and fester? Should we be more vigilant about stopping gossip within our churches and within our hearts and minds and on our own tongues? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!