TODAY’S READING: I Kings 8-9 Acts 8:1-25
Remember when you had to learn the parts of speech: nouns, adverbs, conjunctions, etc? “Why do we have to learn all this?” you might have asked. I’ll never use it.”
King Solomon would have profited from taking note of a conjunction that God used to tie two sentences together. And that conjunction was but.
The entire nation had gathered together for the dedication of the temple he had built. Gold…gold…gold. How it must have shined in the bright sunlight. Solomon had used the best of materials to construct it. And God was pleased.
It takes twenty-nine verses to record Solomon’s prayer of dedication and six more to record his exuberant blessing of the people who stood in awe on that day. Fourteen days of celebration followed before the vast crowd headed home joyful that God had remembered His promise to David and had noT forgotten his peopleIsrael.
After they were gone, God made His second appearance to Solomon. God acknowledged his prayer of dedication saying, “I have consecrated this temple which you have built by putting my Name there. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” 9:3.
He again reaffirms His commitment to them. “As for you, if you will walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws. I will establish your royal throne …forever.”
Then God continues with that three-letter conjunction—but.
“But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name, Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.” I Kings 9: 6-8
It is a simple thought with two choices. “If you will walk with me in integrity…I will establish your throne forever.”
“But if you walk away from me…, then I will cut off Israel from the land…and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name.”
Who can fully evaluate the value of integrity in a man, a family, or a nation? As I write these words, the news is full of the story of a prominent sports figure in America who has been convicted of the most despicable crimes imaginable. His actions have ruined his name, his family, his university, and the lives of uncountable young children who trusted him.
This scriptural discussion comes amid the building and completion of the most opulent temple that has ever been built. This structure to which God attached the honor of his own Name, was then attached to the hopeful integrity of the people for which it was built. The blessings which you and I have been honored to enjoy, and often take for granted, have been buttressed with God’s integrity. In the waters of baptism, he autographed our lives with His very own Name.
In today’s reading Solomon is the man of the hour, God’s choice, to succeed his father, David. The building of the temple fell into the hands of the new king. David had relinquished his life long desire to be the builder of the temple to his son.
I Kings 6 and 7 describes the opulence of this magnificent building. Gold, Silver, cedar and ivory were gathered to dress the temple. Seven years were spent in the building. Solomon prayed the solemn prayer of dedication.
With the notoriety of Solomon’ wisdom and the magnificence of the temple, word reached other parts of the world as to the significance o fIsrael.
“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and the relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan…she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind’ Her assessment at the end of the day was, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true, But I did not believe these thing until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have fare exceeded the report I heard.” (I Kings 10:1-7). After all, the temple stood as a splendid gift from God. It was a symbol of the bond that existed between the Lord and His chosen people.
What a proud era this was for the nation ofIsrael! To be a Jew at the time of the dedication of Solomon’s temple had to have been a proud moment.
This momentous juncture in history began the most promising reign and in some ways the most disgraceful reign of any of the kings. I Kings 11:9 is a hard verse to read. Just two chapters later we read, “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord the God of Israel who had appeared to him twice.”
How soon Solomon had forgotten the conjunction. “But if you walk away from me…I will cut off Israel from the land. I will reject this temple…” I Kings 9:6
Disobeying God is like walking through a mine field. It’s horrible to disregard the Lord’s disclaimers.
Sadly, God kept his promise to Solomon. II Kings 25 reads like a requiem, a mass for the dead.
“Nebuchadnez commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king ofBabylon, came toJerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal place and all the houses ofJerusalem. Every important building he burned down…”
Sad isn’t it? When integrity goes, the whole house burns down. Our lesson today reveals that although God appreciates the things we do for Him, He values even more our obedience.