Gods of Ruin and Ridicule

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 9.6-7
6 “But if you or your descendants 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, 7 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.

Reflection: Gods of Ruin and Ridicule
By Erin Newton

I don’t think humanity was made to live in perpetual uncertainty. The looming threat of another worldwide crisis hinders decision-making. Fearful, we let impulse govern our life. But these impulses lead us into pain. When threats feel imminent, determining our choices beforehand can save us from unintended disaster.

After Solomon succeeded in building a temple, God encouraged the people to decide ahead of time to stay committed to him. The Temple was now filled with the constant presence of God and he promised to hear their prayers. Peace, prosperity, and joy were all benefits from the covenant relationship. Israel’s future was bright just as long as they continued in obedience and devoted worship to God alone.

I always wondered how the Israelites could abandon God so easily and fall into idolatry. However, it is evident that Israel was not operating in a vacuum. Israel was actively involved with other people: trade, marriage, travel, etc. In the ancient world, proper religious practices were thought to ensure good harvests and fruitful wombs. In the face of adversity, trials, or suffering, seeking the favor of a god was the natural impulse.

Israel’s greatest temptation was deciding to whom they would pray. If the people around them were prospering, would they look to Baal? If their wombs were empty, would they burn incense to the image of Asherah? Foreign religious practices gave people a sense of control over life, a way to manipulate a god into action.

Our greatest temptation today is to worship the false gods of power, wealth, pleasure, and narcissism. If our friends appear happier than ourselves, do we embrace the impulses of instant pleasure? If others act in ways that we dislike, do we trade mercy for power and subdue the world around us? When our impulses take control, we attempt to bend circumstances to our will.

Like the word given to the Israelites, Jesus said, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15.6-7) We must decide every day whom we will serve. The gods of this world bring ruin and ridicule. However, if we abide in Christ, we enjoy the benefit of God’s presence. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 9 (Listen – 4:16)
Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
They rejected God and set up their own gods and a government filled with oppression and mistreatment of the poor and outcasts.

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
Those indoctrinated in the false gods of Egypt would teach all nations, showing them what the one, true God is like.

Better Temples

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 8.27, 30, 41-43
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!… 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. 

Ephesians 5.8-10, 13-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord… 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: 

“Wake up, sleeper, 
rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you.” 

Reflection: Better Temples
By John Tillman

The dedication of the Temple was a momentous occasion for Israel. It was in many ways a culmination of God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations. 

The dedication of the Temple and God’s indwelling of it was an event that later generations would look back to as part of God’s unique identity. He was the God who brought them out of Egypt and the God who sanctified his own Temple.

In many ways, Jesus is our Temple and Solomon’s prayers are better answered in Jesus than in the structure Solomon built.

Jesus’ life stands, like the Temple, as a miraculous work of God. He is the promised one who fulfills all of God’s promises.

Solomon asks the question, “Will God really dwell on Earth?” In answer, God’s Spirit fills the Temple as a cloud, but the more resounding answer was described by the apostle John, who, speaking of Jesus, said “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Solomon asked that the Temple be a channel of prayer, open to all people at all times. Regardless of location and even when being punished for their sin, he asked that God would hear from his Temple the prayers of his people. In Jesus, we become not just worshipers but family, able to cry to God as our father. God’s Holy Spirit hears us not from some distant structure, but from within our own hearts.

The most significant request Solomon repeats is that the Temple be a place of God’s forgiveness to which sinful people could cry out, cling to, and be saved. This is also answered in Jesus. The cross is an altar greater than Solomon’s. It’s sacrifice more precious. It’s forgiveness enduring forever. It is an event we look back to as a part of our God’s unique identity.

As believers, we are God’s Temple. (1 Peter 2.5; 1 Corinthians 3.16) We are God’s means of blessing for the world. We are his priests offering forgiveness to the world. 

May we be a better Temple, shining the light of truth that exposes sin but also celebrating and proclaiming forgiveness for all.

To a world asleep to sins of all kinds, both individual and collective sins, we must sound the call to wake up, return to God, and receive forgiveness and life forevermore.

“Wake up, sleeper, 
rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5.14

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. — Psalm 9.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)

Read more about Christ our Temple, River, and City
Christ himself is our temple. He is the gate, the doorway, through which we enter to worship.

Read more about Treasuring Our Temples
It is difficult to overstate how confident Judah was…It was unthinkable that the Temple would fall.

Of Temples and Gardens

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 7.51
51 When all the work King Solomon had done for the temple of the Lord was finished, he brought in the things his father David had dedicated—the silver and gold and the furnishings—and he placed them in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple.

Reflection: Of Temples and Gardens
By John Tillman

Gardens are places where nature is maximized and brought to greater, more ordered, and more beautiful potential.

Gardens and parks are places to meet with God. They are places of planting and of sacrifice. The Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, and other biblical Temples mimic and recreate the imagery of Eden’s garden. The Temple was a structure of worship, a physical liturgy that, when followed, allowed the worshiper to return to the relationship of the garden and walk with God.

The theme of gardens runs strongly throughout the scriptures.

Humanity first dwelt with God in a garden, maintaining and co-managing the garden with God. When that relationship was fractured by sin, we found ourselves excluded from the garden, unworthy to tend it or eat its fruits. The first sacrifice happened in the garden when God killed a creature to clothe humanity, covering our nakedness.

Noah began reestablishing the post-flood world by planting a vineyard, a specialized garden. In the psalms and prophets, God referred to Israel as his garden, his vineyard. Jesus amplified this imagery in his most direct (and offensive) parable against the religious leaders. He cast them as the unworthy tenants of God’s vineyard who would be cast out and killed by God the landowner.

The first drops of Christ’s propitiating blood fell in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lamb of God began to bleed there amongst the wooded garden—the first pressing of the salvific work to come.

Jesus cared deeply about the Temple (risking death by cleansing it) yet he told the woman at Sychar that soon, it would not matter whether she worshiped on her own mountain or in Jerusalem.

That time is now. We worship not in golden colonnades, with bronze basins of water, or the blood of animals. We worship, if we do so correctly, in spirit and in truth. There is a reason we use “parks” as a metaphor. We desire to walk with God in a “garden,” a “temple” of daily disciplines.

What does the garden of your worship look like? What are you planting in your garden, with faith that God will cause gospel seeds to grow?

What is your daily liturgy? What value have you placed in your temple that reminds you to value your relationship with God? How are you decorating your worship to make it attractive and remind you of God’s blessing?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s, but he entrusted the earth to its peoples. — Psalm 115.16

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 5:10)
Ephesians 4 (Listen – 2:41)

Read more about Seeking After a Seeking God
He will meet with us in a corrupted Temple, as he met with Isaiah.

Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
Cultivation leads to harvest. Harvests, when shared, lead to celebration.

Seeking After a Seeking God

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 3.3-4
3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

From John: Many have wondered over this long period of pandemic if our worship of God would suffer from fewer physical gatherings. As we look back at this post from 2019, we remember and reassure ourselves that God is a seeking God—seeking those who worship in spirit and in truth. Whether our buildings have been open physically is less important than whether our hearts have been open spiritually. Wherever we truly seek him, there we will be found by him. May he continue to give us wisdom.

Reflection: Seeking After a Seeking God
By John Tillman

People in scripture often worshiped God wherever they happened to be and God accepted them. But the “high places” in Israel were different. They were pagan sites of worship before the Israelites conquered the land. 

Israel drove out most idol worship but some still survived. Joshua warned the people of “traps and snares” saying that these practices would be “whips for your backs and thorns for your eyes.” Worship at “high places” was expressly forbidden by God, because God knew that the old, cultic practices would return to pollute and subvert true worship. 

However, people in Solomon’s day still worshiped at these places. The worship of God in Israel at this time was scattered. This was partly for convenience. People could worship near their homes rather than traveling to Jerusalem. But it also had to do with tradition and an emotional and cultural connection to these locations. 

David had taken the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and set up a tent for it there in anticipation of the Temple being built. But the tent of meeting constructed by Moses was still at Gibeon. Possibly what made Gibeon the “most important” high place was the emotional, traditional, and historical connection to Moses. This empty tent, filled only with nostalgia, remained in use as a place of worship and is where God spoke to Solomon. 

James tells us that God grants wisdom to all, without finding fault, and that includes young king Solomon who asked for wisdom even while unwisely worshiping God at a questionable place. God will do the same for us. 

God, throughout the scriptures, is a God who seeks. God, of course, desires us to seek him “while he may be found” and to seek him in his Temple. We should care deeply about worshiping in ways that are proper and biblical. But because God is a seeking God, he is always ready to meet us where we are. 

He will meet us in hiding in the wilderness, as he met with David.
He will meet us wrapped in nostalgia, as he met with Solomon.
He will meet with us singing new songs, as he met with Asaph.
He will meet with us in a corrupted Temple, as he met with Isaiah.
He will meet with us in a corrupted land, as he met with the woman at the well in Sychar.
Wherever and however we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father, so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? What I say to you I do not speak of my own accord: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his works.” — John 14.8-11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29)
Ephesians 1 (Listen – 3:10)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21), Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:10), Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

Read more about Take Up Your Mat
Jesus sought us out when we were paralyzed and deformed by sin…He still seeks us out. To warn us, to call us to continued repentance, to transform our lives.

Read more about Hope on a Limb
We can be assured as we stand on Zacchaeus’s hope-filled Sycamore limb, that the King of Glory we hope for will not pass us by.

When Grace Surrenders to Self-Protection

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 2.8-9
8 “‘When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Reflection: When Grace Surrenders to Self-Protection
By John Tillman

Many parents leave their children valuable possessions and wisdom. Some leave only bad debts and inherited controversies. David left Solomon a mix of things, including a hit list of enemies to wipe out.

David’s final instructions to Solomon show us the limits of David’s human grace. In the past few chapters, David has seemed magnanimous, humble, forgiving, and gracious, however, his deathbed speech sounds hurt, petty, vindictive. Many people forgiven by David during his lifetime would soon find out that the grace extended to them died with the king. 

There were good and practical reasons for David’s hit list. David was being protective. Solomon was young and would be seen as weak. He was not the oldest son, and by legal tradition was ineligible to inherit. He was also a child of controversy. David took Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, as his wife after the state-sanctioned murder of her husband.

Perhaps David was just being practical, reasonable, and protective of his son and God’s kingdom. However, in his attempts to protect Solomon from Joab and other dangerous men, David nudged Solomon towards becoming like Joab. Practical, reasonable, and protective Joab was meticulous about killing others before they killed him or potentially David. 

Solomon would become renowned for wisdom, but the first signs of his wisdom were his shrewd arrangements of the murders advised by his father. Where Joab made politically necessary murders without David’s explicit approval, Solomon gave Benaiah direct orders for all three of these killings. Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei all fell to Solomon’s sword. 

Practicality and self-preservation don’t automatically lead to good things. These kinds of things often earn a rebuke from Christ.
Peter striking and taking off the ear of Malchus was protective. 
The disciples’ concern about not having bread in the boat was reasonable.
The marketplace set up in the Temple was practical.

Are we more like David or like Christ? Do we have human, David-like grace? Or do we have divine, Jesus-like grace?

The grace of king David died with him. 
The grace of Christ lives on with him. It should also live on within us.

May we learn to extend Christ’s undying grace past the limits of our own.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5:6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45)
Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)

Read more about Grasping for Mercy
We reach out to grasp the edges of mercy. Through Jesus, forgiveness is at our fingertips..through Christ, we are healed by faith


Read more about Grace Displaces Retribution

The kind of humility and gracious forgiveness often shown by David is as greatly out of place today as it was in his own time.