House of God 

MTS-3465

House of God

“He placed the cherubim inside the
innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out.”         1 King 6:27

 

Moses built the tabernacle exactly according to what the Lord had revealed to him on the
mountain; therefore everything he did in the construction, from the materials
he used to the smallest details of the design, were divinely inspired. To a
certain extent, the earthly house of the Lord was patterned after the model of
God’s heavenly dwelling, albeit in an infinitely smaller scale.

How many cherubim and seraphim are flying around above and before the throne in our
Lord’s heavenly abode? More than just two, for sure. How glorious and majestic
are the angelic beings? Obviously it’s beyond human imagination. The carved cherubim
Solomon placed in the innermost room of the temple were mere poor replicas or
images, the products of people’s imagination.

It’s indeed presumptuous that we would even make an attempt to build a house for God on
earth, as if we could erect a palace that is suited for the king of the entire
universe to dwell. "'Heaven
is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build
for me? says the Lord,” we read from the book of Acts.

Over the years we have continued to build one grand cathedral after another, and they
all turn into tourist attractions after the old worshippers die out and their
children lose their faith in God. Does the Lord still pay a visit to those
houses which were erected in his name hundreds of years ago?

I suspect some of those cathedrals might have been built to lift men’s names up, not to glorify
the name of the Lord. The small humble chapel Saint Francis of Assisi built
appears to me to be more like a house of God than the gigantic structure that
was erected to cover it. It always makes me feel a little uneasy when I drive
by the castle-like church building of a Baptist church in town which dwarfs all
the small houses in the neighborhood, and reckon it will make me feel a little
uneasy worshipping there. The ushers all had their tuxes on during Sundays
worship in my father-in-law’s church and the sight of those people made me feel
extremely self-conscious whenever I attended the service. We may try the best
we possibly can to make God’s house a more suitable place for him to dwell, but
we will always fall far short in achieving the goal.

“I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one
who is contrite and lowly in spirit,” says the Lord in the book of Isaiah.

The church isn’t a building; it’s a group of Christians
who are called out from the world and who gather together to worship the Lord. Don’t
we all need to be reminded of this from time to time? I suppose the Lord will
be more than willing to dwell among us if he finds us poor in spirit and humble
in heart. We can never erect a structure on earth grand enough for him; yet it
pleases him to visit little huts that house humble people who worship him
humbly.   

   

Thursday, March 28, 2013 6:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Obedience 

MTS-3464

Obedience

“As for this temple you are building, if
you follow my decrees…”

            1 Kings 6:12

 

While the temple of God was being built, the Israelites were all eagerly waiting for
it to be completed, as if the temple would give all of them a bit of spirituality
and they would feel a sense of closeness to the Lord that they had never
experienced before. At least they would know for sure where to find the Lord
when they needed him.

Didn’t they have any inkling that the Lord was actually omnipresent and he was present with
them, even if they dwelt in the most obscure place in the world, and there was
no need for them to travel to the holy city to meet God face to face?

I have no intention to travel to the Holy Land and to tread on the land on which the Lord
Jesus had trod, for his presence permeates every corner of the earth. He is nearer
to me than my heartbeat and closer to me than the warmth of my breath. I don’t
have to seek his presence far and wide, near and far, since I can meet him any
moment when I return to my heart where the Holy Spirit makes his abode.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

As the temple was being built, the Lord told Solomon that he would pour his abundant blessing
upon his people if they obeyed his decrees. The holy temple wouldn’t do them
any good unless they were obedient to the Lord’s commands. Therefore, the
physical presence of the temple only served as a reminder of God’s presence,
and the only way to experience God’s closeness and intimacy was their devotion
to God and their obedience to him.

The holy temple was a house of prayer, yet the Israelites had no need to travel hundreds
of miles to offer their prayers to God; they could have done it from their
field amidst their olives and corn; or from the wild when they were tending
their sheep and watching their flocks. David’s prayers expressed in many of his
psalms when he was a shepherd or composed while he was an exile, were just as
heart-felt and moving as the ones he sang to the Lord when he was residing in
Zion and the ark of the Lord was just a few steps away.

How do we maintain God’s presence in our lives? How do we keep God’s countenance shining
upon us continuously? The Israelites only made the trip to the Holy temple
three times a year, which marked the peak of their relationship with the Lord,
but they had to keep God’s presence translucent in their lives by obeying God’s
decrees and leading a life of holiness and purity. Nothing causes us to lose
the blessed sight of the Lord quicker than our disobedience and sins.    

 

   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Faithfulness 

MTS-3463

God’s Faaithfulness

“In the four hundred and eightieth year
after the Israelites came out of Egypt… he began to build the temple of the Lord.”     1 Kings 6:1

 

Egypt was just a distant memory for most Israelites at Solomon’s time and it didn’t seem real
to most of them. The miraculous events that took place long before they were
born might have already become legends and were quickly turning into myth. The
Israelites might have heard the story told and retold so many times and ceased
to be amazed by their fantastic past.

They might have forgotten the Lord, but the Lord still kept them in his heart; they might
have become unfaithful to him, but the Lord remained faithful to his people;
they might not have loved him, yet the Lord was true to himself and continued
to love. So many times when the memory of the Lord was starting to fail among
the Israelites, the Lord would surface through various ways, revealing to them
that he was still there.

Indeed there were famine and wars during the past four hundred years or so, and on so many
occasions they might have felt the Lord had utterly deserted them and they must
fend for themselves, but the Lord would suddenly appear and rescue them from
danger. Just before his divine countenance was starting to fade from his
children’s minds, he unveiled himself yet one more time to prevent it from
happening. For years the Lord seemed to be there in their midst, yet more often
than not he seemed to be absent, and his absence was felt the most when his
people needed him the most.

Four hundred years is just a number to us who only last for three score years and ten on
earth and we don’t always concern ourselves beyond the horizon of our allotted
time, but the Lord, who resides outside of time, is able to see all the moments
and events as they gradually evolve and take careful record of what is
happening. We focus our attention on time and what’s taking place here and now,
but the Lord pays attention to moments and occasions that are connected to
eternity.

God’s faithfulness to his people is eternal and has absolutely no shadow of turning
or any shade of doubt. His love for us is grounded on his eternal attribute of
love and will never change, yet we seem to base our love for him on our
feelings and it often changes with the rapid changes of our changing
circumstances.

Many things had taken place over the four hundred years and generations of God’s people had
lived and died. The Israelites had had their share of victories and defeats,
joys and sorrows under the sun, and many had led a life of godliness, yet more of
them had spent their earthly days caring nothing about the Lord and what he was
doing in their lives. Yet, the Lord remained unchanged and his faithfulness to
his chosen ones was as steadfast as ever. So when the time came, David was able
to build a kingdom in the Promised Land in which the name of the Lord was lifted
high and glorified, and even after his death a magnificent holy temple was built
by his son to house the name of the Lord. All these came to being not because
of the Israelites’ faithfulness to the Lord, but by God’s faithfulness to his
people.           

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Thirty Thousand Men 

MTS-3462

Thirty Thousand Men

“King Solomon conscripted laborers from
all Israel—thirty thousand men.”

            1 Kings 5:13

 

Thirty thousand men are exactly thirty thousand men, no more, no less. Have we ever
tried to put faces on all these men? Not really. It just a number to us and we
see them as a group, as if they weren’t individuals with unique talents and
personalities.

Thirty thousand men represented thirty thousand families, didn’t they? There were
thirty thousand men with dreams and aspirations. They were the ones who might have
been getting married when they received the conscription from Solomon; and most
of them had plans for their next days and next years. They had children to rear
and elderly parents to care for, yet they had to put everything off and do what
they were told or forced to do.

Only the rich and the powerful have options and the richer people are, the more choices they
have in life. This is the way it is now, and this was the way it was in the
past. The powerful give orders, and the poor have no choice but to submit, or
else.

I knew the next three years were gone the day I received a slip of paper, ordering me to
drop everything I was doing and report to boot camp two hours away from my
hometown. From then on I started to lead my life, not by days and months, but
my minutes and hours. It was the longest three years of my life.

Did I have any choice? Not much. Intelligent people were able to delay the inevitable by
going to college and only had to serve for two years after they graduated, but
those of us dummies who failed to get into college had no such luck.

The government might have tried her best to convince us it was an honorable thing
to serve the country, but it all sounded like empty propaganda and awfully
unconvincing. Three golden years of my youth were robed from me, which was to
me totally unnecessary and unwarranted.

Thirty thousand people had to delay what they were doing and participate in an
enterprise that had an eternal significance to it. They weren’t just doing some
meaningless chore or being trained to fight a phantom war like I was doing
during those years; they were building a holy temple for the Lord. How awesome
was that!

Some of them might have been convinced of the greatness of the project and answered the call
to duty willingly, but most of them simply treated it as necessary evil and did
what it took to survive another day in hard labor. What they were commanded to
do wasn’t optional.

Thirty thousand men had to forsake their dreams to fulfill one person’s dream, and it
would have been so worthwhile if that one person’s aspiration was truly
inspired by the Lord. I think it turned out to be the case for all of them, for
which they should be very thankful. Not many people had the privilege to build
the house of God, which only occurred but a few times in human history.     

Monday, March 25, 2013 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hiram 

MTS-3461

Hiram

“And you are to grant my wish by
providing food for my royal household.”

              1 Kings 5:9

 

Hiram, king of Tyre, had a good relationship with King David, and was pleased that Solomon
succeeded his father to be the king over Israel. Hiram’s territory was rich in
timber and the Sidonians were skillful timber men who could fell trees like no
others. When the time was ripe to build a holy temple, the Lord seemed to have
things necessary well prepared.

Had Hiram been hostile to the Jews, which was more than likely considering the long
standing warfare between Israel and its foreign neighbors, Solomon would have
had great difficulty accumulating the cedar and juniper he needed to build the
temple. Yet Hiram happened to be the late king’s friend and was willing to lend
Solomon a helping hand in his grand project. If it was the Lord’s will for the
temple to be built, the Lord himself would have moved ahead of his servants in
getting all things ready.

As far as I can tell, the king of Tyre didn’t appear to be a God-fearing man, but the Lord
could still enlist his help in accomplishing his eternal enterprise. Hiram,
however, wasn’t going to get involved in the building project for nothing; he
greatly benefited from it, for the needs of his royal household would be
provided by Solomon. What he did for Israel wasn’t motivated by love for the
Lord by any means, but the Lord didn’t seem to mind soliciting his help
nonetheless. Whether we are god-fearing people or not, the sovereign Lord can
still do whatever he pleases to bring his eternal purpose to pass.

The man who was instrumental in locating our church building wasn’t a Christian. He was a
part-time realtor who occasionally frequented our church, for he had adapted a
girl from China and wanted his daughter to get acquainted with the Chinese
culture. He happened to spot an office building that was well-suited for our
church and the asking price had just dropped one hundred thousand dollars. He
told me about it after a Sunday service and we made an offer the next day. God
is truly a Jehovah–Jireh God who has never failed to provide for our needs by
adopting whatever means he deemed necessary.  

When I was a struggling high school student, many of the people who came to my aid in times
of great need weren’t Christians. How can I ever forget my classmate who shared
his lunch box with me throughout my freshman year in high school and the landlady
who didn’t charge me any rent for an entire year? I know it was the Lord who
pitied my miserable state and moved those people to keep me from starvation.
Indeed the sovereign Lord is able to move his children by way of creation,
whether they are believers or not, to fulfill his eternal purposes. Surely the
king of Tyre was one of them.             

Friday, March 22, 2013 6:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Will 

MTS-3460

Will

“I intend, therefore, to build a temple
for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David…”       
1 Kings 5:5

 

Out of his reverence and love for the Lord, David intended to build temple for the name of
the Lord, yet for various reasons he wasn’t able to accomplish what he desired
to do. The Lord revealed to him that he had shed too much blood, and therefore
he was disqualified for the great task, which might have been one of David’s
greatest regrets in life. He felt extremely uneasy to dwell in a palace when
there wasn’t a glorious temple for the ark of the Lord. Solomon wasn’t a man
after God’s own heart like his father; he nonetheless had a sense of responsibility
and knew that he should pick up the work his late father had left undone. He probably
started the grand project more out of his love for his father than his love for
God. Of course this is just speculation on my part and could easily be wrong. Being
a young king who was a second generation “believer,” Solomon was yet to
experience God’s love first hand; his affection for the Lord would increase as
day went by and his relationship with the Lord would become more intimate and personal.

There is nothing wrong in serving the Lord out of duty. It doesn’t always excite us when
we serve the Lord by doing different things, but we do them anyway. We can
either serve the Lord begrudgingly or willingly; what we are called to do must
be done one way or another. One of the brothers in our Lord’s parable told his
father initially that he wouldn’t do what he was bidden to do, yet he ended up
doing it anyway. We are called by God to “will” to do, not to “feel” to do, for
we don’t always feel like doing the right things at all times. Besides, we do
have more control over our will than our feelings.

What I feel isn’t really me at all; what I will is. It has taken me a long while to realize
this, and know this important truth is quite liberating. I find myself doing a
lot less self-condemning when I keep this in mind. My initial feeling over
various things isn’t me at all; it’s the action that I take subsequently that reflects
who I really am.

So much of our love shouldn’t be feeling oriented; it should based on a strong will to
obey God’s command. I will never ever love my enemies and pray for the ones who
persecute me if I base my action solely on my feelings. This might be more of a
radical example, but it still rings true in other areas as well. It’s
impossible for us to lead a Godly life if we base all our conduct merely on
feelings. Our age is pretty much a feeling-oriented one and people are mostly driven
by feelings in the way they act. More than half of the babies born in the
United States of American are from unwed mothers according to recent survey.
Things such as this would never take place if people based their actions on a strong
will to obey the Almighty.

How much did the young king love the Lord? Not as much as his deceased father for sure, but he
seemed to be determined to do the right thing at the initial stage of his kingship,
which was to build the house of the Lord.        

 

   

Thursday, March 21, 2013 6:39:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Opportunity 

MTS-3459

Opportunity

“From all nations people came to listen
to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world…”            1 Kings 4:34

 

The Lord granted Solomon his prayer and endowed him with unparallel wisdom, which made
him famous among the nations and many kings sent envoys to Jerusalem to pay
respect to Solomon and to listen to his words of wisdom. Surely the king of
Israel had a rare opportunity to lift the name of the Lord up by telling all
his foreign visitors that the Lord was the sole owner and dispenser of great
wisdom.

Did the king take the precious opportunity to spread the name of the Lord far and wide?

I suppose there was no need for him to say too much, since by then most people must have
known whom the Jews worshipped and what the Lord had done for the nation of
Israel. How could they not know, since the chosen people of God were the one
and only people who practiced monotheism among the many nations which espoused
the belief of polytheism?

The Lord’s name was being glorified when his people were honored among the nations, wasn’t
it?

Even so, Solomon was still responsible to do what he could to tell people about the
awesomeness and greatness of the Lord in his dialogues with the pagans. It must
have been quite a flattering experience for him to have so many listening ears
and the king must have been repeatedly tempted to showcase his wisdom and
talent before his adoring audience and forget that the Lord was the one who
should get all the glory and honor.

We may lose ourselves when we are placed in the limelight and easily forget who we really
are when applause explodes like thunderclap after our perfect performance or
fantastic speech. Unless we guard our hearts from becoming conceited and our
minds from considering ourselves better than who we are, what we supposedly have
done in the name of the Lord will become detrimental to all involved. We must
become invisible for the Lord to become more visible in our lives.

Indeed the king must have used the opportunity to tell the nations that Israel was a
nation of great renown which should be taken seriously. This is beside the
point, however, unless the Lord’s name was named in all his discourses on biology,
astrology, or botany. The most important information that Solomon should have
conveyed to his audience was the Lord was behind his vast knowledge and great
wisdom. 

Was “Tebowing” just an empty show or was it the greatest gesture an athlete could
ever do to publically express his profound gratitude to the One who bestowed on
him such tremendous athletic talent?

There is no picture more strikingly beautiful exhibited on the football field than a grown
man who has one knee on the ground and head bowed low, supported by one’s hand.

          

  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 7:06:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Talent 

MTS-3458

Talent

“He spoke three thousand proverbs and
his songs numbered a thousand and five.”           1 Kings 4:32

 

Solomon was a poet, a moralist, a biologist, and a botanist. It was truly amazing that one
could be so many things at the same time.

Most people are either right-brained or left-brained, and rarely do they have mastery of
both spheres. It’s one thing that some people are good in both rationality and
creativity, but it’s another that they excel in both. Most genius’ intelligence
is somewhat imbalanced, from what we have observed.

I am not a genius by any stretch of the imagination, yet I am certainly better with words
than numbers, and I often hit a wall if I try to venture into the world of science
or engineering. My intellectual “comfort zone” is indeed quite small.

Contrary to what many believe, one’s intelligence does not have anything to do with how the
Lord values us. “To whom much is given, much is required.” The more talented we
are, the more we can serve people with our God-given abilities. In fact,
knowing that the Lord has endowed them with so many gifts, highly intelligent
people should become the ones who are the humblest and the most grateful.

This is not always the case from our casual observation. People are often pumped up and
puffed up by their unusual talents.

Did the young king ever recall how he had pleaded to the Lord for wisdom in a vision and God
granted what he had requested? How could he not keep this in mind when he was
showcasing his wisdom before an adoring audience? How could he not give God all
the credit for his intelligence? He was the worst kind of “traitor” and
“imposter” had he failed to do that.

There is no way for us to tell where exactly the king was standing spiritually before the
Lord and how grateful he was for what had been bestowed on him by the Almighty.
Fame and fortune must have changed the man and it would have been extremely
difficult for him to remain humble with the entire world adoring him and
drooling all over him. It might not have been such a good thing for him to be
so richly endowed, for the weight of such glory was too hefty for any human to
bear.

From what he had composed in Ecclesiastes, if it was truly written by him, we may get an
inkling that the man, after he had experienced so much glamour and glory in the
world, seemed to have become morbid and malcontent. This was something that
appeared to have occurred to many tyrants and kings in human history. If fame
and fortune are the chief ends of our earthly pursuit, they eventually will fail
us miserably at the end, for they don’t seem to have any eternal significance.
Solomon was wise beyond words, but I believe the wisest thing he ever uttered was:
“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We ought to keep this in
mind as we seek to serve the Lord with our God-given talent, lest we become
conceited and misperceive who we really are.  

       

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Fame 

MTS-3457

Fame

“And his fame spread to all the
surrounding nations.”

             1 Kings 4:31

 

Fame travelled a lot slower in Solomon’s time than it does today; therefore one
didn’t become famous that easily. People got daily news by word of mouth for
the most part. News didn’t reach far and wide unless it was truly newsworthy.

Solomon must have been a big hit in ancient times. He became the heart-throb of his age
because of his looks, intelligence, and lofty position. I guess he managed to
enter every woman’s dream and was an inspiration for every man in his age.

Solomon’s fame might not have been earned by his hard work; yet whatever reputation he
received was legitimate. He was well-endowed both physically and
intellectually. For the sake of his servant David, the Lord was gracious to Solomon.

The first daughter of President Ma, the leader of Taiwan, was able to keep her marriage a
secret until after the fact; yet her husband, who was relatively unknown,
instantly became famous. He was a Harvard-educated model who had very little
claim to fame until he hooked up with the right person. Surely his current fame
wasn’t well-deserved.

Fame isn’t as glamorous as we consider it to be. It may be exciting and intoxicating when we
bathe in the glory of the limelight; but the “side-effects” of fame may become
quiet unbearable. We are simply too lightweight to bear the heaviness of glory.
Johnny Manziel, the youngest football player who ever won the Heisman trophy,
may desire to become an ordinary person after he has experienced the thrill of
fame, yet what has been done can never be undone. People can never remain the
same after they are afflicted by the double-edged sword of fame.

It may not have been as bad as what we witness to day, but fame did the same thing to
Solomon as it does to many today. Everybody seemed to want a piece of him after
the king became known for his unparalleled intelligence and wealth. People from
all walks of life, from the Queen of Sheba to ordinary citizens from afar,
rushed to Jerusalem to meet the young king and everybody left extremely impressed.

What did the incredible fame do to the man who possessed it? To what extend did Solomon
change with so many admiring and adoring him? I think it was inevitable that
Solomon’s self-perception was altered because other people perceived him
differently. He must have adjusted the way he saw himself in accordance with
how other people saw him, which was precisely the harm fame can inflict on a
person. Instead of looking at ourselves according to how God sees us, we
perceive ourselves more than what we are supposed to be - humble creatures
created by God to fulfill God’s eternal purpose in us.

May we never be enticed by fame or overcome by it when it happens to fall our way, lest we
are crushed by its incredible weight.             

 

   

 

   

Monday, March 18, 2013 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Comparison 

MTS-3456

Comparison

“Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the
wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of
Egypt.”    1 Kings 4:30

 

Solomon was the wisest on earth by comparison, which means that there was no one more
intelligent than he at the time. If he was the only human in the world, the statement
would have been void of meaning. Most value judgments we make are made by way
of comparison. If the entire population of the world has an IQ below 100, then
I will become the wisest if I happen to possess an IQ of 101. This is quite a
simple logic, isn’t it?

I graduated in the top ten of my high school class of a couple of hundred students, but my
academic ability paled a great deal if I compared myself with the students from
the best school in Taipei. I was just a big fish in a small pond, that’s all;
therefore there was no reason for me to become conceited

The Lord could have raised someone up who was far more gifted than Solomon, had he
decided to do so. As a matter of fact, there could have been people in
Solomon’s time who were just as gifted as he was, yet for lack of opportunity
they simply weren’t able to shine. Not only was Solomon extremely gifted, he
was also born with a silver spoon in his mouth and was given every opportunity
to showcase his talent.

Both my parents were illiterate, but that doesn’t mean they were unintelligent by any
means. People could easily tell they weren’t dumb by looking at their children.
The potential was certainly there, but the opportunity to develop it wasn’t.

Solomon was deemed the wisest on earth in his generation, for all the stars were lined up
just right for him to become a success. Of course, I don’t believe in the
stars; it was rather the Lord who brought all things to pass so that the man was
able to do what he did and to procure such great fame. If this is the case, one
should become humbler the more he is endowed intelligently or physically. Was King
Solomon a humble person? I guess this is subject to debate.

“I am the greatest,” exclaimed Ali the boxer in the prime of his career, yet years later
he was brought down to earth from his incredible height by Parkinson’s disease.
It would have been much better if the great champion had no idea of his own
greatness, or better yet, if he had credited his ability to his Creator.  

Indeed Solomon’s great wisdom wasn’t without blind spots, for he seemed to have failed
miserably in some areas in his life. People’s wisdom will not do them any good if
they don’t have the fear of the Lord in their hearts. I have always loved the
Taiwanese saying that goes: “Heaven loves foolish people.”  I guess dumb people really have no reason to
become arrogant; therefore they are more treasured by God. If I were to choose
between the attributes of intelligence and humility, I would always pick the
latter, even though I do crave more for the former.   

Friday, March 8, 2013 7:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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