SOAP Journal – 31 January 2018 (1 Kings 10:1-13)

Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.

1 Kings 10:9

The account of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon is another of the more famous stories concerning the king. She comes to verify the reports she has heard about Israel’s wise king. She comes with gifts in case he is, in fact, as wise as the reports say. She comes with questions to test him. And, as evidenced by this morning’s verse, she comes ready to glorify the LORD for having given such wisdom to the king.

The Queen of Sheba is a representative of the seeking world. She is looking to see if the thing she has heard is true. In her case, the question was along the lines of “Has the LORD really made the king of Israel wiser than any of his contemporaries?” But the question could be “Do God’s children love one another?” or “Does God’s presence in a life make that life any different?” There are people who are really looking and they are ready to submit themselves to God if they find the answer they are looking for. They might be looking for love or for Someone Who can change them. They might be looking for something else entirely. I am no expert on the multitude of things people seek.

But God is. And God gives gifts to His children. To some He gives wisdom (not as much as Solomon, but far more than we would otherwise have), to others prophecy, to still others teaching or encouragement or administration (anyone who has worked with a bad administrator knows what a blessing a God-gifted administrator has the potential to be). The gifts that God gives are as diverse as the needs and seeking of people.

The purpose of God’s gifting in my life and in the life of every believer is to bring glory and honor on God’s Name and to draw in those who are seeking; to lead others to the same place as the Queen of Sheba: Blessed be the LORD your God.

Let all the exercise of the gifts God has given me be for His glory and to lead others to bless His Name.

Father, thank You for the gifts that You so generously bestow and that those gifts can be used to lead others to glorify Your Name. Please let this be the way in which I use the gifts You have given me. May they result in others seeing that You love Your children and want good things for them and so supply their every need by the various gifts given in the body of Christ.

SOAP Journal – 29 January 2018 (1 Kings 9:1-9)

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”

1 Kings 9:3

After Solomon has finished all his activity — 20 years’ worth of building projects — God came to chat with him during a quiet moment. God wanted to let Solomon knows that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and that the temple would indeed be a holy place and one that God kept a close watch on. God also reaffirms His promise to David by extending the same offer to Solomon: Follow God wholeheartedly and He will establish your throne.

There is something fascinating to me in God’s offer to establish Solomon’s throne. I find myself looking at God’s Law and how the king was instructed to comport himself under that Law and find that a king following that Law would rule by love. This is not to say that he necessarily would love his subjects — though that would certainly be true — but to say that Machiavelli’s method of rule by love would come into play. Any ruler who ruled according to God’s Law would be beloved by the people. God’s Law forbade amassing wealth and unnecessary accoutrements and wives and a whole host of other things. The king, under God’s Law, was supposed to simply be a man who ruled other men. That was it.

But God (one of my favorite phrases in The Bible) had more in mind that merely Solomon’s temporal throne. God was looking down the corridors of future history and telling Solomon that he could be a part of the story of the Messiah if he chose to walk with God. And God already knew that Solomon wanted to be a part of that story

God is not handing out earthly thrones to all and sundry, but He does still extend the offer to be a part of the story of the Messiah. Jesus’ invitation was to all. Let all who are weary and heavy-laden come. John’s gospel says that whoever believes in the Son has everlasting life and goes on to say that the intent of Christ’s coming was that the world might be saved through Him.

God extends to me and everyone else to invitation to be a part of the story of the Messiah. Instead of being His forebears, we can be His brethren by redemption. And the conditions are the same. If I want to be a part of that story, then I must  walk before [God] … in integrity of heart and uprightness. I must come to God to be redeemed so that I can walk in the righteousness of Christ and I must do so with my whole heart.

Father, thank You that the conditions of the promise do not change. It has been and ever shall be that You desire those who would come to You to do so with our whole heart. Please search me and know me and see if my heart is divided. If it is, please tear down the walls I have built up so that I follow with my whole heart. Please do not allow me to compartmentalize You, but instead take over all of me.

SOAP Journal – 25 January (1 Kings 8:54-61)

“Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He spoke; not one word has failed of all His good word, which He spoke through Moses His servant.”

1 Kings 8:56

Sometimes, we all need a reminder of how faithful God is. Once the temple build was complete and when Solomon had finished praying, he turned and spoke to the people. While my Bible gives this section the heading “Solomon’s Benediction,” this could just as easily be titled “Solomon’s Exhortation” or “Solomon’s Reminder to the Israelites.” While the whole set of thoughts is worthwhile, I find myself zeroed in on the faithfulness of God.

Blessed be the LORD is a wonderful way to begin my day. There are things in my life that are cruising along at a good clip and I can heartily agree with Solomon’s Blessed be the LORD. There are other things in my life that are moving along at a snail’s pace or feel as though there is no movement at all. When I look at those things, I need to remember that not one word has failed of all His good word. God has made promises to His people. Not one has gone unfulfilled. Maybe I have not yet seen the fulfillment of a particular promise in my own life, but I can point to lives in which the promise has been fulfilled, so I know that God is still honoring that promise — not that He changes His mind, but sometimes a promise or commitment has an end date on it. The marriage vows are until death. While I realize that more than a few marriages do not make it that far, the terms of the promise made are that it will be honored until death.

Let me join with Solomon and say Blessed be the LORD. God is worthy of blessing and honor. And, though I may not yet have seen the fulfillment of a particular promise He has made, I can say that not one word has failed of all His good word. He has never failed to make good His promises. He will not fail today.

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness despite our faithlessness. Thank You that all of Your promises are sure and that not one word that has proceeded from You has gone unfulfilled.  Please incline my heart toward You that I might rest in Your words and trust that You will perform that which You have promised.

SOAP Journal – 24 January 2018 (1 Kings 8:22-53)

Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.

1 Kings 8:30

The core of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple is contained in this morning’s verse. Solomon’s desire is that the temple would serve as a focus point for prayer. He asks God to listen to the supplication of those who pray in and toward the temple; asks God to hear in Heaven; asks God to take action based on those prayers. In verse 39, Solomon prays that God would act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart [God knows], for [He] alone [knows] the hearts of all the sons of men. The core request, the thing that Solomon is actively seeking is the attention of God and God’s appropriate response to the prayers of His people.

This is a common theme throughout The Bible; the attention and response of God. Abraham speaks with God often, so much so that their relationship seems almost casual, like old friends. Moses, too, spends a great deal of time speaking with God and the LORD regularly responded to the prayers of Moses. Over and over again, the theme comes to the fore that those who would walk closely with God must approach in prayer.

Last night was the first night in a six week course of study on prayer for me. My prayer life is lackluster and I often feel as though my walk with God lacks real power. And that is not God’s fault. How can He empower and direct and do the sorts of things that He wants to do if I refuse to connect with Him through prayer? He will not force the issue. But I am convinced that Solomon has the right focus as he prays for the temple. It needs to be a place where prayers are offered up and that reminds people to pray. If I am, as Corinthians says, the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), how much more should I be offering up prayer to God?

Father, my prayers have not been what they ought. This I confess and seek Your forgiveness. Please teach me to pray.

SOAP Journal – 23 January 2018 (1 Kings 8:12-21)

Then the king turned his face about and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing.

1 Kings 8:14

After the temple was built (1 Kings 6-7) and the Ark of the Covenant brought into the temple (1 Kings 8:1-9) and God’s presence so filling the temple that the priests are unable to stand to minister any more (1 Kings 8:9-10), Solomon turns from facing God to face the people and bless them.

This is, in my experience, the pattern. First, God gives a desire to do a work. Second, I do the work that God has given me to do. Third, God places His seal on the work. Fourth, I can bless God’s people and the work can be a blessing.

I could delve into what Solomon says in his blessing of the people, but I really want to take a moment and just sit back and recognize the pattern. In every step, God is at work. He begins by giving the desire. And the desire may not even be mine. Solomon is picking up where his father left off. David had the desire to build the temple and it was Solomon who actually built the temple. It may seem that the second step is all me, but Philippians 2:13 tells me that it is God Who is at work in me both to will and to work His good pleasure. Even my wanting to do something for God or His people is a desire that comes from God and the ability to see that through also comes from God. God’s seal on the work is His presence. The Holy Spirit uses the work to move and to do things in the lives of people that the work was meant to minister to. And it is at that point that I and the work have become a blessing, because God has made me and the work a blessing.

Father, as I prepare myself to step into a new work to which I believe You have called me, please be at work in me both to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Please move my hands to do the work as You would have it done. Please move my feet so I go where You want me. Please open my ears to hear what You have to say to me and to those to whom You want to minister through the new work. Please speak through me to Your people that their needs may be met and they blessed by You. I have been preparing, please make that preparation more than enough.

SOAP Journal – 19 January 2018 (1 Kings 5:13-18)

Now King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel; and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men.

1 Kings 5:13

I found myself mentally comparing notes about how the tabernacle was built and how the temple was built. When the description of the temple build starts with King Solomon conscripting 30,000 men into service, it sounds very different. But then it occurred to me that God gave the men who made the various bits and bobs needed for the tabernacle both the ability and the desire to do it and it made me smile a bit at the difference between God’s conscription and man’s.

In addition, I found myself thinking that Solomon was making good on the prophecies made when the Israelites demanded a king and rejected having God as their King (1 Samuel 8:10-18). He takes from the people for the goals that he has in mind. Compare that to when the tabernacle was built and God stirred the hearts of the people and everyone gave freely. No conscription. No taxes. Just the people bringing offerings of time and resource.

The two events feel like a case study in the differences between how God does things and how Human Rulers do things. God invites me to be a part of what He is doing. Human Rulers compel me to participate. God allows me to bring Him resources that He, quite frankly, has no need of. Human Rulers take my resources because they have none of their own to use. God does what is needful — a place to meet with Him. Human Rulers do what they think is appropriate — an ostentatious edifice that does not conform to the dimensions of the tabernacle.

How does this apply to me? I find the apostles’ words in my mind: We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). This is not to say that I should stop paying taxes or anything like that, but rather that I should obey God’s direction when it comes to things like building projects. If God invites me to give and I have the means, then I should give as the Israelites gave to the tabernacle in the wilderness. I should, by no means, feel compelled to give to God’s work. Giving to God’s work is always by invitation.

Father, thank You for this comparison and this reminder that You invite Your children to be a part of Your work. Thank You that it is an invitation. And thank You for being at work in us both to will and to do of Your good pleasure.

SOAP Journal – 17 January 2018 (1 Kings 4:20-34)

They came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

1 Kings 4:34

I recently read about some historian or archaeologist who was trying to find King Solomon’s mine. This passage says nothing about that mine and I cannot remember reading about that mine, because the preeminent thought with which I come away from reading about King Solomon is his wisdom. It is his ability to see a way through difficult problems and his ability to apply his knowledge that I find to be his leading characteristic in scripture. There are people with twisted priorities in every age of human history, and a person looking for Solomon’s mine instead of his mind has twisted priorities.

In his time, people had their priorities straight. Solomon was wise — wiser than any of his contemporaries. And this wisdom called to people. We are all in desperate need of wisdom. One glance at social media makes that clear. Solomon was wealthy, but there were other rulers as wealthy or wealthier than him. It was his wisdom that differentiated him from his contemporaries and drew others to seek him out.

The same God Who gave Solomon wisdom gives to all generously and does not reproach (James 1:5). I will never have the same level of wisdom as Solomon — God promised Solomon that would be the case — but I can receive God’s wisdom, which is greater by far. As folks came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, so, too, are people searching for wisdom in the modern world. I need to bring people to my King, Who has the wisdom that we all seek.

Father, thank You for this reminder that it was Solomon’s wisdom that set him apart in his time and that it is Your wisdom that I can receive that can mark my life in my time. Please give me wisdom, I am one of those about whom James spoke (the ones who lack wisdom). Please show me the way in which You would have me walk so that my ways please You.

SOAP Journal – 16 January 2018 (1 Kings 4:1-19)

Now King Solomon was king over all Israel. These were his officials …

1 Kings 4:1-2

One thing I have learned in my professional life is this: The person in charge is only as successful as those they bring on to support them. I have known managers who were brilliant in surrounding themselves with competent people and letting them do their thing, but not so phenomenal in other respects. These managers were successful, because they had good support and they knew how to let those folks do their job.

Solomon had a group of men in high positions. Some of these men — like Zadok, the priest who stood beside David through thick and thin and Jehoshaphat the recorder who also served during David’s reign and Benaiah who was over the army and had been one of David’s Mighty Men — are definitively strong in their roles. Others — like Abiathar, the priest who backed Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah for the throne despite what God had said about who would succeed David — were not.

Paul wrote of the kind of people with whom God surrounds Himself in this way: there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

My God does not need my help. That is much of what is beautiful about Him. He does not need me, but I need Him. He can do things more efficiently without me — He did, after all, speak everything into existence in seven days — but He chooses to work through me, anyway. And, as Jesus said, I can do nothing good apart from Him (John 15:5). My God surrounds Himself with earthen vessels so that it will be obvious that the work was accomplished by His power and not our own (2 Corinthians 4:7). While human managers and leaders are only as good as their support, the opposite is true of my God. God’s supporting cast is only as good as our Leader. And He is Good indeed.

Father, thank You for this reminder that human leaders are only as good or successful as their support. Thank You, also, for the reminder that You are not so; that You are Good with or without me serving You. You are, in fact, Perfect. You do not need me, but allow me to serve You. Thank You for that privilege and for the blessings that come with seeing You accomplish the work.

SOAP Journal – 12 January 2018 (1 Kings 3:16-28)

When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

1 Kings 3:28

It has been a while since I last read Machiavelli’s The Prince. I do recall, though, that he wrote of three ways in which a prince could govern. One of them is fear. But the fear of Solomon experienced by the Israelites is not what Machiavelli wrote about. The fear of Solomon is the fear we experience when we are young and faced with an adult who appears to have a preternatural ability to know when we have done something wrong and what we have done wrong.

The story told in this morning’s verses is sometimes contentious. I have heard people go on about how they think it is silly that Solomon would threaten a baby in order to ascertain which woman is the real mother. More, I have heard people speculate about whether or not the method is valid. Could not, some of these people ask, the woman whose baby died have been just as good and caring a mother? Sure. But then her housemate would have found her weeping over her dead child come the morning, not switching babies in the middle of the night.

The wisdom of Solomon’s ruling is difficult for us to appreciate when we look at it through a modern lens. We have mountains of research and data from which to draw when we speculate on human nature and the wisdom of the ruling. We have decades of psychoanalysis and psychology and centuries’ worth of history to use as reference material. We have a great deal of knowledge, but often lack the ability to apply it properly. And that ability is wisdom.

The picture that I see painted is that of my King, Jesus Christ, knowing me better even than I know myself. These women came in to Solomon with a dispute over which baby belonged to whom. They walked out as an object lesson in human nature. I go in to the presence of my King thinking that I want to ask Him something or lay something down before Him — and I do — but I come away from His presence as an example. It may be that I come away as an example of His grace or His mercy; I may become an example of how He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Regardless of what I become an example of, it is more than what I went to Him for.

Both women were given justice and they both left Solomon’s presence a little more informed about who and what they were. The same is true when I go to Christ. I enter His presence looking for something and come away with insight into who and what I really am.

Father, thank You for this reminder that You give more than I ask and reveal more than I think to inquire after. Please continue to speak to me and make me an example of whatever You want to communicate to the world around me through my life.