The Shack Out Back

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Heeding the call to stop concentrating exclusively on their own interests and start looking after God’s, the tide begins to change beneficially for the returning Hebrew exiles.  But there must have been a discouraging note for some of the old-timers who remembered the good ole’ days of their beloved Solomon’s Temple, now summarily destroyed.  As always, God realized this bent in our human psyche:

“Does anyone remember this house— this Temple— in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all!  

But now the LORD says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.  My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.”

All this began to happen when the people obeyed God in the very tangible way of laying the foundation to the new temple.   Here’s what I glean from it:

  1. God still speaks to me, and tells me to be strong.
  2. I am not the only one “left in the land”, and I am not alone in this struggle. Granted, I may have to work to see who else is under the rock and rubble with me, but I am most certainly not alone.
  3. I have a directive—get to work.
  4. I can do this because God is with me, and He is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, a formidable ally indeed.
  5. I have the power of God’s Spirit.
  6. God is the same God—He’s brought me “out of Egypt” before, and He’ll do it again. His character and calling do not change.  (Yessss!)

In this life, things tend to crumble, and not merely bank accounts.  Relationships and families, dreams and plans, health and vitality,…and churches.  There’s just no sense sitting around pining over the dust of Solomon’s Temple when God’s calling me to build something new.  Stop comparing.  Stop waiting.  And above all, stop whining.

jackhammerAnd get to work.

Haggai 2:3-5  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Hardhats required

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280My friend Linda works as a church secretary.  The church a beautiful old red brick building, but as old goes, it needs occasional repair.   When I talked with her this summer, the blessed old place was going through another face lift, this time with concrete.  That meant her office was anything but quiet.  I can only imagine the pleasant sound of jackhammers outside her office walls…

Which makes this phrase from the building of the Lord’s temple during the reign of King Solomon even Continue reading “Hardhats required”

Passing the plate…again??

sacre-coeur-614738_1280

“It took Solomon twenty years to build the LORD’s Temple and his own royal palace. At the end of that time,  he gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre. (Hiram had previously provided all the cedar and cypress timber and gold that Solomon had requested.)   But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the towns Solomon had given him, he was not at all pleased with them. ‘What kind of towns are these, my brother?’ he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today.   Nevertheless, Hiram paid Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold.”*

Huh??

Why would Solomon give away part of Israel’s inheritance from God (which was not allowed by the Law) to a non-Israelite monarch? It seems that this magnificent temple was the reason for a magnificent debt, as well as a conscripted labor force (alas, no unions).  And the debt was to a heathen king that seemingly didn’t even appreciate the cites that were given to him. Hmmm….

Various commentaries are in disagreement (fancy that) about the legality of those gifted cities, which, BTW, were eventually returned to Solomon, the reasons of which are, again, in dispute.  But a few possible thoughts emerge:

  1. Going into debt, even for what we consider a “cause from God” is generally not a good idea, especially as it pertains to worldly entanglements. We sometimes expose ourselves (and thereby God’s honor) to dispute when our “good ideas” are actually an excuse for extravagant indulgence.  God Himself said He doesn’t really live in a temple made of human hands. 
  2. If the villages that Solomon gave/levied to the gentile king were actually part of the Promised Land, then they were not Solomon’s to give; they belonged to God, even if they were yet populated by non-Israelites. Every Christian, by definition, is a work in progress; we have under- or undeveloped parts of our character and talents and personality that nevertheless belong to God.  To separate that from its intended use is to distain and show contempt for what God plans to do in that part of “me” for His kingdom.
  3. Interestingly, the foreign king did not see the potential in these cities that King Solomon did (as when the towns were returned, they were built up and used properly for Israel.) The world tends to glean what they can from those portions we unwisely give away, and then discard them as “worthless”.  God, on the other hand, graciously receives that part of us back, and builds it up for its intended productivity. (Part of that amazing grace we sing about…)

Then, like Paul Harvey used to say, there’s the rest of the story, hundreds of years later, when a baby was born in that spurned back-forty and became known as (you guessed it) the Man from Galilee.

*1 Kings 9: 10-14  Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) (Kindle Locations 19170-19176). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.