Posted by: arieliondotcom | April 26, 2013

Reflections on Gold (1 Kings 8-10)

Reflections on Gold
(1 Kings 8-10)

We can’t imagine how wealthy, wise and powerful Solomon was. You won’t hear non-religious archaeologists talk about it. They’re blinded by the few items of gold they found in Egypt or what they imagine the savages in South America who worshipped demons as they do had. But Solomon was so wealthy it would be impossible to imagine. And from the title of this message you might think I’m going to say that having all that gold was wrong. But I’m not. GOD gave Solomon that wealth even though he hadn’t asked for it. Being rich isn’t wrong. It’s what you do with it that matters. You all have gold. Every dollar you have represents gold, at least in theory. At least it did until the government started promising money that doesn’t exist.

But gold has a quality beyond monetary value. It reflects. Even in your wedding or engagement band you can see a reflection of your face in the gold. In fact, before glass mirrors, plates of polished brass (or gold) were used as mirrors to see one’s reflection. But gold reflects more than faces. Depending on how it affects your character, gold can reflect your heart.

That is what’s going on in these chapters with Solomon. On the surface he is literally in his golden age. The Temple is complete, he is at peace with his enemies, he is the wisest, wealthiest, most powerful king ever. But if you look closely at the reflection in the gold, if you read the verses carefully, you see warning signs of trouble to come. Not from being rich, but because Solomon’s heart is a dark spot in the gold.

First we see it in the dedication of the Temple. There is a huge, 2- week long feast as the Ark of the Covenant is brought into the completed Temple. The Ark of the Covenant was the box containing the tablets of the Law from Moses that had the statues of the heavenly creatures the Cherubim on the lid facing each other toward the center of the lid with their wings inward toward each other. When hidden behind a curtain in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle tent in the wilderness, GOD would appear and speak from above the cherubim. Now the Ark of the Covenant would be in the Holy of Holies in the Temple where, hidden from the eyes of others behind the veil, only the High Priest could go once a year. Only the priests and Levites were appointed to touch or carry the Ark. The ancient Rabbis tell a story that Solomon tried to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy of Holies, which he was not permitted by Law to do and that the gates shut and wouldn’t let him in. But that’s not mentioned in Scripture. The priests and Levites placed the Ark of the Covenant in the spot where, if the kings and people of Israel remained faithful, it would remain. It was in the Holy of Holies behind an intricately woven curtain. And it was placed in front of the two, fifteen-foot high statues of the heavenly creatures, the Cherubim. They stood with their backs to the wall, their wings outstretched with the left wing of one cherubim touching the left side wall and the right wing of the Cherubim to its right touching the right side wall. So, with the cherubim on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant and the Cherubim standing in the room, they faced every direction.

Once in place, the Glory of the LORD appeared between the cherubim in a cloud so thick it drove the priests from the Temple before they could complete their duties. The Presence of GOD Himself sanctified the entire Temple.

Here and in Chronicles we’re told Solomon alternately stood and kneeled with hands raised in prayer on top of the 5-foot wide basin in front of the Temple.

Solomon blessed the people in the Name of the LORD. He praised GOD for being the only true GOD. He thanked GOD for keeping His promise to David, who was forbidden as a man of blood from building the Temple himself, to let his son build the Temple. (And to let all of the riches David had accumulated for it to be put in its treasury). But here comes that reflected shadow we talked about: now that the Temple was built, Solomon was making GOD secondary to the Temple. He was saying that He wanted GOD to be obligated that whenever anyone prayed to the Temple, GOD would honor their prayers. And what’s more, Solomon made a point that it was the Temple he built. Although the Temple was supposed to be to reverence GOD, Solomon was making it into an idol, a magic talisman to get blessed by GOD. Solomon prayed for every possible circumstance regarding the Temple except one: its destruction. And that’s the one point GOD focuses on.

GOD appears to and answers Solomon as He has before. And He says that if Solomon and his people are faithful, GOD will bless them. But it’s not about the Temple. The Temple is simply a barometer, a tool to gauge their relationship. And if they were unfaithful, GOD would destroy the Temple they were so proud of to get their attention and stop their hypocrisy. Yet we hear no response that this possibility is even considered by Solomon.

Expediency. GOD is a means to get blessing and this Temple…which he and his father had built, remember…is a means to that end.

Now that this project is done, Solomon moves toward balancing the books and cleaning up the loose ends. He had gotten material and workmen from King Hiram of Tyre who had been a friend of David’s. Hiram had everything Solomon needed and now he repays Hiram, with a second-class gift. If you’ve ever played Monopoly you know there’s a big difference between the bright blue of Boardwalk and Park Place and the dull purple of Baltic Avenue. If you are given Boardwalk or Park Place you have premium property. If you’re given Baltic Avenue you’re a slumlord. Hiram had given David the best of Boardwalk and Park Place materials and workman and was given Baltic Avenue in return. These were 20 cities that were, according to Jewish scholars, like mud pits. Hiram gives the entire region the name Cabul which means “Entanglement.” It might even be called “Money pit.” Whomever (once Solomon but now Hiram) ruled them would always be sinking in money but they’d never be worthwhile.

Expediency. David and Hiram were close friends and respected each other. For the sake of his friendship with David, Hiram had offered all the best of his kingdom to Solomon. But to Solomon, Hiram was a means to an end, to get what he wanted built. And his repayment “on the cheap” reflected that. Yet, to his credit, Hiram (though he complains) still calls Solomon “brother” and supports Solomon’s troops with his own.

With the Temple built and the Ark of the Covenant in place, and still on a “holy high” from the dedication, Solomon realizes having sex with an Egyptian wife on the other side of the wall from the Holy of Holies might upset GOD. An upset GOD won’t bless him or the people, so Solomon makes his wife move out of the Temple complex where he had built her a house as part of his own house complex beside the Temple. It’s unclear where he moved her but was probably to a palace he had built for her in the city of Gezer. Gezer had been captured by her father, King of Egypt, and given to her as a wedding present.

But soon after the Queen’s departure we read of the arrival of the Queen of Sheba. She has heard how incredibly wise and wealthy Solomon is, so she arrives loaded with gold to impress him, riddles to try to stump him with and some would say feminine wiles. She is duly impressed with his ability to solve all riddles and answer all questions. And the wealth is vast, much greater than her own. The Scripture says that he told her whatever she wanted to know and gave her gifts above and beyond what he had intended. Some scholars suggest this is a double-entendre and that she not only had sex with him but that their descendant would be Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar who would one day subjugate Israel.

Expediency. With the bad luck omen wife gone, Solomon makes political (and perhaps deeper) relationship with a foreign queen. Why? Expediency. But we know she has nothing he need. He has so much gold he has symbolic armor made of it for his soldiers though gold is useless as armor. There’s so much gold silver is worthless. But unions of any kind are something Solomon can’t resist, especially with a woman.

Solomon’s wealth wasn’t wicked but we see reflections of his character in how he uses it and of the freedom it gives to indulge himself. Expediency. We will see this theme again as it becomes sin like a shadow in the golden reflection of Solomon.

Remember the Egyptian wife, the first love when we read Song of Solomon. Remember the amount of 666 talents of gold given as tribute to an apparently all-powerful leader. But most of all, remember that it isn’t only in our times of trouble we should “check ourselves.” JESUS taught us to pray for daily bread as a reflection of an Old Testament verse that asked to have neither so little bread we’re tempted to steal nor so much we think we’re independent of GOD. Solomon’s gold wasn’t evil but it would show the reflection of his heart growing dark towards GOD.

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