Tag Archives: Temple

Wisdom in a world of pragmatism, the world’s “wisdom” 1 Kings 3 Luke 2: 47 First St Johns

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This is my 300th post, so Yaaaay, appropriately enough it’s my sermon from last week.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who who want to be strong in God’s wisdom said … AMEN!

We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, our reading today is about the only record we have of His childhood at all. But today’s readings are certainly a contrast in wisdom. In our Old Testament reading we see, what at least appears to be, a sort of altruistic act on the part of Solomon. The text says “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only,…” But we also see Solomon getting a little too caught up in the ways of world politics. He married a daughter of Pharoah. Now this was contrary to the Law that Yahweh gave back in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Eliezer Shemtov writes: “The primary source upon which the prohibition for a Jew to marry a non-Jew is to be found in (Deut. 7:3): “You shall not marry them (the gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.”

The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: “Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…” (“Strange gods” can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of Torah,… )1 We see Solomon getting a little caught up in the ways of the world and forgetting what Yahweh had told them to do. The Chronological Study Bible writes: “Marriage was an effective means for creating alliances among ancient nations. The hope was that one would deal more kindly with kin than with strangers. No greater evidence of Solomon’s importance among the nearby countries would be than to record his marriage to an an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter. As policy, Egypt’s pharaohs did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings.”2 The passage in 1 Kings 3: 1 tells us: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David…” (ESV) In addition the passage tells us that “…the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4) That’s quite an impressive sacrifice! But why would Solomon make an offering there? The ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle was in Jerusalem. Why not make your sacrifices there? The tradition of the pagan religions was to make sacrifices on “high places”. Later in 2 Kings, the writer notes: “ And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns,…” (2 Kings 17:9) There are 75 verses in the Old Testament about “high places” and all of them condemn the fact that Israel worshiped on “high places”. As early as Leviticus Yahweh says: “And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn’t seem to be any doubt there! It is clear that Israel is not to use “high places” for the worship of Yahweh. Yet it’s at Gibeon that Yahweh comes to Solomon in a dream and says “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon certainly says the right things. He talks about how Yahweh faithfully loved Solomon’s father David and David loved Yahweh. Solomon acknowledges that Yahweh has now made him king of Israel and so it appears that Solomon really understands why he is where he is. His words are right on message: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Solomon knows that Israel is Yahweh’s people, that only God can capably rule and Solomon seems to understand that he has been put there to faithfully rule as Yahweh has placed him there.

Solomon was definitely brilliant, Israel rose to the height of its power under Solomon. It became the most powerful kingdom in the region, was wealthy beyond imagination. It’s said that Solomon didn’t use silver to decorate any of his buildings because gold was so common. The Queen of Sheba traveled from her African kingdom to take in the wisdom of Solomon. But with all the wisdom, power and material blessing of the world, Solomon became too in love with his worldly power and did whatever was necessary in order to maintain his power and wealth. He no longer trusted in Yahweh’s wisdom to rule Israel, but trusted the wisdom of the world. He built his worldly power by marrying women from many different kingdoms: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,…He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” ( 1Kings 11: 1, 3) The writer of Kings points out: “the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” More unsettling Isho’dad writes: “The reason for that prohibition was lest [their daughters] might make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.”3 All these wives from different parts of the world, these made Solomon a big man in the neighborhood. All the nations around him understood his power because of all his wives and alliances. They saw his power as a result of these alliances and not as a result of what Yahweh had intended for him and did through him. Because Solomon trusted in the world’s power, he began to ignore Yahweh and trust in the “gods” of his wives. That would result in disaster for Israel, it would go from being the 800 pound gorilla, to divided, poor, constant in-fighting and eventually it would be overrun and it’s people killed or deported to foreign countries. We can only imagine what Israel would have been like if Solomon and subsequent kings had faithfully followed Yahweh.

While Solomon seemed to come apart because of his wisdom, we see that Jesus too started out as wise. Solomon was young when he was granted great wisdom by God and certainly, since Jesus is God, He had great wisdom from the start. He demonstrated that wisdom from the beginning. The teachers of the temple, men who spent their entire lives studying Torah “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This would be like a twelve year old today going to a meeting at the Harvard Law School and “amazing” all the professors there. It just wouldn’t happen, the teachers of the temple probably had a more profound knowledge of Torah then Harvard professors have of the law.

The difference is this. While Solomon came apart at the seams as he wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” It’s all pointless when we follow the world’s wisdom, it all just breaks down. But with Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52 ESV)

We see it all around us. People get full of themselves because of their power or wisdom or wealth. They no longer trust God’s leading, they trust what is around them. They trust in the world and their own understanding and in the end, like Solomon, they find that it was all pointless, it doesn’t do anyone any good, if anything it causes harm and destruction. On the other hand, Jesus certainly didn’t become wealthy or powerful, nor did any of His disciples. Yet what they left was a church that continues to serve, build up and encourage the people of Jesus. Jesus’ life ended at the Cross and it might appear in loss and defeat, but He defeated death. Jesus rose from the dead to give us the promise of eternal life. There can be no greater contrast, the worldliness and defeat of Solomon, so full of promise. The holiness and victory of Jesus, who came into the world with nothing, lived a life that the world would say had nothing and yet gives us the promise and hope of being His in this world and also in eternity.

Solomon failed, trusting in the world. Jesus triumphed trusting in the hope and promise of God. Since we are at the beginning of a New Year, let’s take a different twist on our New Year’s resolutions and really think about how much we have fallen away from God’s plan for our life and trusted way too much in the world’s promises.

What can we do in our lives to rededicate ourselves to God and His will for us and to start to look at the things in our life that are too much about wealth, power, comfort and too little about life in Christ, for us and for all those who the Holy Spirit guides us to witness to.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

2Chronological Study Bible p 454

3Marco Conti Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT V p 13 quoting Isho’dad of Merv quoting Ex 34:16

In the Fullness of Time Galatians 4: 4-7 First St Johns December 28, 2014

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the perfect timing of God said … AMEN

Under the heading: “There is no such thing as “coincidences” where God is concerned, for that matter anything, since God is concerned with everything about our lives, we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Galatian’s four short verses are loaded with teaching. Paul’s quote in Galatians 4 is particularly interesting: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son … to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons … you are no longer a slave, but a son,…”(Gal 4: 4-7)

The part that of find of interest right here is “…the fullness of time…” Some think that had something to do with Mary coming to term in her pregnancy, or something that was dictated by Joseph and Mary’s situation. But most see Paul’s short expression as an appreciation and understanding of how God does things in His time and dictates the course of events and history according to His will. The Father didn’t turn to the Son one day and for just any old reason say, “yeah, think it’s about time we do the incarnation thing.” This had been the plan since the beginning, He chooses to reveal that plan to us, first, in Genesis 3:15, at the very beginning and then just before He throws the switch to make it happen, the Father reaffirms His plan, in an even plainer way in Isaiah 9:6. The Genesis passage, the proto-Evangelium, where God promises Satan that there would be a Savior, that the Messiah, anointed One of God, would come into the world to crush Satan’s head. God the Son would crush Satan’s head and by doing so, would save us from the curse of Hell. That sounds harsh, necessary, but in your face. However the Father’s promise to Isaiah is the one that is His majestic promise that He made when Judah is about to be crushed by Assyria and to disappear as a nation, most of her people killed or enslaved. Certainly a great crisis where Yahweh promises them; “A Child is born, A Son is given, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The Israelites knew that they were about to take a harsh and long-lasting beating and they needed this promise. Isaiah could have said the same thing Paul writes: “But when the fullness of time had come…”, because Israel had pushed too far for Yahweh and He was now about to let His people know what happens when they ignore Him and get too caught up in their own plans and expectations. The fullness of time had come and Israel, at least for a few generations, would cease to exist.

Paul on the other hand tells us that the “…fullness of time…” had just occurred for the Father to fulfill His promises to Adam and Eve, and to the people of Israel by Isaiah and it happened at this intersection of time. Although Paul didn’t know it, although Jesus prophesied it, this was the perfect time for God. While they were strolling away from the temple and the disciples were admiring the view of the buildings of the temple, Jesus took them to task and said “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Don’t become to fascinated by the things man, in this case King Herod, build, because there is going to be another turning point in Israel’s history and this temple that you find so fascinating will be completely destroyed in just a few years. In about 40 years Israel, as you know it now, will cease to exist along with the temple. The Judaism of Israel would no longer be focused on the temple and would be scattered again. A new world would begin and the Christians in Israel would be forced to leave and take Christianity into the world.

This time, that Jesus had been born into, was the perfect time for Him to come into the world and conduct His incarnational ministry. It was a time of peace in Israel, Jesus did not have to contend with wars or any kind of famine or drought. He could get everyone’s full attention on His ministry and drive it deep into their awareness so that they could readily understand their new relationship with the Father. They had time to absorb the Gospel and begin to live it before they had to go into the world to spread the Gospel. They had to unlearn the legalism of Judaism and the debauchery of paganism and to come to understand that they were saved solely and completely by grace. They couldn’t earn their way to Christ in this world or to eternity, they could only be brought to salvation in Him and through His actions, what Jesus does to save us.

The conditions were exactly right for the disciples to absorb Jesus’ teaching and take those teachings into the world. Not only was there peace, the conditions surrounding them enabled them to bring Jesus to the world. As Lee Strobel points out: “The time period when Jesus lived was ideally suited for the spread of Christianity. The vast reach of the Roman Empire primed the known world for the gospel. Roman roads allowed relative ease of travel and greatly increased the area to which the gospel spread. Roman authority also helped protect travelers from robbers and attackers. Throughout the Roman Empire, Greek was the common language, and allowed communication of the gospel between groups who lived hundreds or thousands of miles from each other.”1

The Pax Romana, that is the peace of Rome, which united the entire world, enabled Jesus’ disciples to teach and preach without the distraction of wars or other disruptions to those they preached to. Jesus’ disciples could travel and teach without being abused because the Roman Empire tolerated many belief systems. Any earlier or later, and the disciples would be persecuted before Christianity could take root. At this time Christians could worship and evangelize unmolested. God created the conditions through man, mostly the Romans, so that He could send His Son into the world to preach God’s Word and Will and so that His church would grow. The church of Jesus Christ might otherwise have been steamrolled or isolated to small parts of the world. Jesus’ appearance met other promises of prophecy. Strobel writes: “God fulfilled his prophesied time frame. Daniel predicted that the Anointed One would come and would be ‘cut off’ (killed) before the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple (Daniel 9: 24-26).”

From Paul’s writing we can see the sovereignty of God, that is God controls and is Lord of all that He has created. He planned and controlled human history so that at just the perfect time in that history His Son would appear and become the focus of the entire world. The world had never been brought together as it had under the Roman Empire and in a couple of hundred years it would be shattered and different peoples would be separated from each other, unable even to communicate. God controls the events of the world, which He does, although He permits man, because of His sin, to spread war and sickness and famine throughout the world. Then clearly God controls those who He has chosen to be Lord of their lives. For myself there is no doubt that God chose the perfect time for me to know Jesus as my Savior. Because you are here, baptized, listening to His Word, about to take His Body and Blood, He has chosen you at just the right time to be saved in Jesus.

Strobel writes: “ God had an appointed day when he would intersect human history with the promised redemption. The moment in history when Jesus arrived was tailored for the rapid spread of the Gospel. All human history is balanced on the fulcrum of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.”2 God gives us the understanding we need in order to know Him as our Father and Jesus as our Savior, and when we see it in human history, we can better understand how He works in our own personal lives. Take some time over the next week and think about how “..in the fullness of time…” God the Father, Abba, has made us His own sons and daughters that Paul writes about in this passage.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Lee Strobel The Case for Christ Study Bible p 1634

2Ibid p 1634