Humility 

MTS-3528

Humility

“My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I
will make it even heavier.”

           1 Kings 12:11

 

Rehoboam probably didn’t think there was anything wrong with being harsh to the people
or laying heavy burdens on them, since his father had been doing it for forty
years. He might be thinking about outdoing his father in all aspects of his
reign to show that he was his own man who would do all things his own way.

The new king might have been full of gusto and hot air; he surely wasn’t all that wise, for
by insisting on doing things his own way, he would be shown the highway by his
people rather quickly. He would soon lose ten tribes out of the twelve in
Israel, and only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained intact when the dust
settled.

He should have learned the good things from his father Solomon, which were many, and forsaken
the bad, yet Rehoboam seemed to lack the good qualities his father possessed,
such as wisdom and cunning, and inherited all the undesirable attributes his
late father left behind. Surely the man was doomed to fail as a king from the outset. 

Absolute power makes people blind and causes them to believe that they can get away with
doing anything they want, without having to worry about the consequences of
their ill-conceived actions.

Up to this day, President Chen, the two-term president of Taiwan who was found guilty of
embezzlement and money laundering, still believes he is innocent and is the
victim of political persecution. The man might have lost the power he once
possessed, but he seems to consider that he still has whatever entitlement he
once had as president.

“My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier.”

By uttering this impulsive statement, the man might have felt rather manly and superior,
not knowing what a severe result his arrogance and unyielding spirit were
causing both for himself and his nation. How could a wise father such as
Solomon produce such a foolish son?

A little dose of humility goes a long way.

It was hard for a man who was born with a sense of entitlement to acquire the virtue of
humility. King David was born a shepherd and his flesh had been battered
repeatedly before he became a king; therefore the man was far more humble than
his sons, who were born and raised in comfort and luxury. Our self-perception
determines pretty much whether we are humble or not, and the ones who view
themselves as princes will never kowtow to anyone, including the Lord himself.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what
he suffered.”

If the Son had to learn how to yield to his Father in
heaven through suffering, how much more do we have to experience the same thing?
Humility is born in sweat and tears when we are buffed and battered; it’s not
made in the warm bed of comfort and laughter. Indeed there is no true humility
without the cross.

 

  

Friday, June 28, 2013 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Youth 

MTS-3527

Youth

“But Rehoboam rejected the advice the
elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were
serving him.” 1 Kings 12:8

 

How difficult is it for young people to properly handle fame and fortune. We will never know
the degree of difficulty unless we are put in such a position. Youth and self
control don’t usually go hand in hand, and youth and wisdom rarely exist at the
same time in a person.

Rehoboam, who was in his early forties, wasn’t all that young when he assumed the kingship,
yet he was relatively inexperienced as far as governing a nation was concerned.
How did he learn to be a monarch? He probably did so through observing his
father, who was hardly a perfect example to emulate. The son learned from a
distance and gleaned bits and pieces of kingship along the way.

Undoubtedly the son was drawn to the throne more by its power and glamour than anything
else.

Absolute power transforms people and may cause them to do the unthinkable. By rejecting
the wise counsel from the elders, Rehoboam appeared to have started his
kingship off on the wrong foot. As a newly minted king, Rehoboam’s burning
desire was to exercise his power as a king, not to relinquish what he was
entitled to do.

The suggestion from his peers was more to the king’s liking than what the elders
had given him. Rehoboam had been waiting for this moment for the longest time
and it would have been quite a downer had he had to submit himself to his
subjects and become their servant. The new king’s passion was to lead, not to
be led; to dominate, not to be dominated.

Had Rehoboam been a good politician, he would have listened to the polls and done what
people wanted him to do. He seemed to have believed the adage that might equals
power and, with absolute power in his hand and people under his control, the
king was well on his way to becoming a despot moments after he took over the
throne.  

What motivated the twelve apostles to follow Christ initially? Did they
really get the idea of what the Lord told them: “I will make you fishers of
men?” Weren’t they still arguing who would be sitting on the right hand of
Jesus in his kingdom when their Master was about to be arrested and be
crucified on the cross? Had they become earthly rulers and kings, would they
have been better leaders than the Pharisees or the Romans who ruled over them
at the time?

Have we ever been tempted to
become someone with mighty power so that we can rule over people? Do we believe
we will never become Rehobom-like if we had been placed in his position? May we
never under-estimate the seduction of power and over-estimate our ability to
overcome its tyranny. We are no better than Rehoboam unless we crucify our
flesh with all its desires with Christ.   

Thursday, June 27, 2013 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Servant King 

MTS-3526

Servant King

“If today you will be a servant to these
people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be
your servants.”   1 Kings 12:7

 

Rehoboam consulted the elderly first concerning how he was going to govern the nation
and the answer was simple enough. Be a servant king to the people and people
would become his servants.

Indeed the Israelites badly needed some rest after years of laboring under the government
of Solomon, who launched one construction project after another during his
forty-year reign. By this time, the people were yearning for a leader who would
be more lenient to them. They desired to have a monarch who was humble and
thoughtful and was more concerned about people’s needs than fulfilling his
personal dreams and ambitions.

The king could have rallied people around him and built a consensus as far as building
God’s temple was concerned, since it was God’s work and people would find
spiritual meaning in their labor; but spending thirteen years erecting a glamorous
palace for the king’s wife was entirely different, for it was man’s work and
people would have found the labor wearisome and intolerable. When the palace
for Pharaoh’s daughter was finally done and the laborers were ready to head
home, the king still managed to find them some more work to do, including the
adjacent terraces and other landscape projects. Without a doubt people must
have found the work tiresome and the King who ruled over them loathsome.

The thought of becoming the people’s servant likely had never entered Solomon’s mind after
he assumed the kingship. The man was born in the palace and had very few clues
how the common people lead their daily lives and the struggle and suffering
they might have endured. What occupied the king’s mind was how to implement his
aspirations and dreams for the nation and what kind of legacy he would leave
behind. The needs of common folks probably didn’t concern him all that much.
The king didn’t have to shed a drop of sweat or blood to achieve what he
desired to accomplish; therefore the decisions to declare a war or to erect a
thousand mile wall were relatively easy to make. People were willing to
sacrifice their lives for King David since he was often the one who led the
charge against the enemy line, but that wasn’t the case with Solomon, who
seemed to be doing all his wheeling and dealing from the comfort of his
throne. 

The Lord revealed all this to Samuel when the Israelites were asking for a king, and everything
seemed to have come true. What they were pleading for King Rehoboam to do,
which was for the king to humble himself and turn into a servant, was indeed
pie in the sky.

A servant king who can find?

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled
himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!”

In Christ we find the king of the entire universe humbling
himself and becoming a servant for all people, and ended his earthly life dying
for their sins on the cross. Such is the king who is worthy of our worship and
adoration.    

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 8:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Rehoboam 

MTS-3525

Rehoboam

“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all
Israel had gone there to make him king.”        
1 Kings 12:1

 

We have no idea how many children King Solomon had since he had so many wives and
concubines. How he chose one son out of so many to succeed him as a king over
Israel is another question that puzzles me. Solomon died after he reigned for
forty years and his son Rehoboam became king.

Was Rehoboam the first born of Solomon? It was likely, but perhaps not definitely. Rehoboam
would have been entitled to succeed his father had he been his father’s first
born, but this was not so in Solomon’s case since Adonijah was David’s first
born, yet he wasn’t anointed to be king.

Was Rehoboam Solomon’s favorite son? This is debatable since we get no hint from the Biblical
record. Did the king even have a favorite among his many children? The
relationship between Solomon and his children is hardly mentioned, which is
understandable since the intimacy between father and son tends to diminish if
one has too many children. It would become increasingly difficult for the king
to name all his sons when the number of his children increased.

Yet the fact remains. “Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him
king.”

The Israelites did not go to Shechem to make Rehoboam king by accident; they must
have done so by compulsion. After all the posturing and power struggling within
the court had subsided, the last one who remained standing would become the one
who wore the crown.

It must have taken the man a long time to position himself to eventually assume the position
of kingship, for there must have been many people within his circle who were
vying for the throne. Rehoboam’s position wouldn’t have been all that secure,
even if he was legally in line to succeed his father by virtue of his birth
order, for it only took one ruthless and ambitious person to put an end to all
his aspirations to be king.

Rehoboam was destined to engage in a power struggle within the court since the day he was
born and he would lead his entire life struggling to keep his position and his
kingdom. The man must have been the envy of all the people of his time, yet he
was, in fact, a man mostly to be pitied since his life and power were so
closely intertwined and he couldn’t have one without the other.  

Was it even a blessing to be born into Solomon’s family? Not necessarily so. Had Rehoboam
been born into an ordinary family, he would have been adored by his father and
would have had an opportunity to lead a life of tranquility like all his peers.
One has to be ordinary to enjoy ordinary joy in life, it appears to me.       

 

   

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Forty Years 

MTS-3524

Forty Years

“Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all
Israel forty years.”

             1 Kings 11:42

 

Forty years feel like ages if you look ahead; it feels like the blink of an eye if you look
back. Where have my last forty years gone? I ask.

I just turned twenty forty years ago and I felt my entire life was ahead of me. I was yet to
get married, start a career, and have a family, and I wasn’t concerned about
whether I could last for forty years or not. In fact, it was more of a given
that I would last to my sixties. Four academic degrees, a wife, three children,
and two ministry jobs later, I have arrived at my sixties. Officially, I am an
old man. Forty years from now, I will be one hundred, and the chances of me
getting there is very slim, for the law of averages is against me. I will be
happy if I manage to have another twenty, which is a lot more likely, I
suppose.

Twenty years feels like a long time if I look ahead, but it feels like a day when I look
back, and it matters nothing to me when I am gone, for time will become utterly
meaningless.

Solomon could have done a lot within those forty years. In fact, he might have done a lot
more than his father, who spent quite a few years during his reign fighting
against his enemies, including his own son, and did not do a whole lot else. He
was occupied by turmoil within and conflict without, and had to struggle just
to hold the nation together.

What was David’s greatest accomplishment as a king? Was it his conquering of nations?
Not so. The man is known as a man after God’s own heart and his claim to fame
wasn’t his exploits on the battlefield or his slaying of a giant; it was his
devotion to God and his repentant spirit that still resonates in our hearts
today. Indeed, what made the man great wasn’t his victories; it was his
defeat. 

What did Solomon achieve during his reign? The answer is simple enough. The king spent
seven years erecting the first temple of the Lord and thirteen years building a
palace for his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter. The man’s claim to fame was his
building projects and his unsurpassed wisdom, and some people may also find his
collection of exotic women noteworthy as well.

Which of the two kings can we better indentify with? Which one of the two great men is still
speaking to us thousands of years after their passing?

Whether we last for forty or eighty years on earth, our primary goal in life should be to
be more like the father than the son. It matters very little whether we are
princes or peasants, we should strive to follow the Lord and be more like him.
What we do for a living is secondary compared to what we strive to become as
people created in the image of God. It’s far better to be known as a man after
God’s own heart than to be recognized by the world as a person after his own
desire.

    

 

 

 

Monday, June 24, 2013 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 

MTS-3523

The End

“Then he rested with his ancestors and
was buried in the city of David his father.”              1 Kings 11:43

 

King Solomon had so much to lose; therefore losing all he possessed on earth would have been
much more difficult for him than for ordinary people.

“Bad living is better than good death (好死不如賴活.)”
I guess death is still death when it occurs to kings as well as to paupers.
It’s equally gut-wrenching for both.

Life seemed to become more and more empty and meaningless as Solomon was getting older.
Even though he was the wisest man on earth, he still couldn’t come up with an
answer to the question of death or a perfect way to deal with it.

The book of Ecclesiastes appears to give its readers more questions than answers. We often
find ourselves closing the book with a sigh and many unanswered issues.

“If life was vanity for this great king, what is it supposed to be for us ordinary people?”
we question. “If the one who seemed to have everything on earth found life
meaningless, why do we continue to seek earthly things as if they will provide
us with meaning and happiness?”

It only takes one short sentence to conclude a memorable life such as that of King Solomon;
it will take one simple statement to put a period to our lives as well.

“Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father.”  What is there to say beyond this simple
statement? No matter how long and how illustrious we make an obituary, it all
ends up the same – in death.  

How we live doesn’t seem to determine the manner of our death; but how we spend our earthly
days does decide our perception of our life beyond death.

Death isn’t anything to look forward to, since it is our mortal enemy, the most unnatural
thing that will ever occur to us. We will continue to fight it to the bitter
end, but the sinister thing may turn into “a consummation devoutly to be
wished” if we have spent our entire lifetime storing up treasure in heaven.

Solomon might have spent his entire life accumulating gold and silver for himself and
building monuments and shrines to commemorate gods and men, for if that wasn’t
the case, why did the man keep on lamenting: “vanity of vanities, all is
vanity?” 

I don’t suppose the king was aging all that well. He was preoccupied by living and
might have been caught unprepared when death arrived uninvited. The man’s life
was indeed extremely affluent; it might not have been all that abundant.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might
have it more abundantly.” King Solomon had acquired all the things he had ever
wanted and desired, yet his abundant possessions didn’t seem to make his life
more abundant than any of the paupers in Jerusalem. Death is the best equalizer
unless we strive to lead a life unequal to all others, a life that isn’t
defined and determined by the accumulation of wealth.

  

Friday, June 21, 2013 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Forsake 

MTS-3522

Forsake

“I will do this because they haveforsaken
me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians…”             1 Kings 11:33

 

Things were going relatively
well in Israel and there was no reason for the nation to turn to another God.
The Lord had been faithful to the Israelites by keeping them safe and by
showering them with many blessings, and to forsake the Lord was the ultimate
betrayal.

Life might have become a
little mundane and the people might have found themselves needing a shot of
excitement in their lives, and bringing a new deity to their community might
just do the trick. The Lord seemed to be mighty quiet at the time and his
presence was hardly felt, and the Israelites was itching for another god with a
little bit more punch and spice, someone who could set their hearts racing and
blood boiling.

Pagan gods do have more
affinity to our flesh than the Lord and are far more pleasing to our carnal
selves than the true God. So the chosen people found themselves yearning for
some new gods.

I have witnessed many
festivals honoring the gods in our village, when firecrackers were exploding
and people were shouting and yelling with excitement as they carried the shrine
of their gods shoulder high with “god-possessed” people before them, cutting
their backs with swords and blood oozing out from their sides, as they marched
up and down the large courtyard in front of the gaudy temple. That was indeed a
“hot and noisy (熱鬧)” scene, much to Chinese
people’s liking and, as little boy, I often found myself drawn to the flood of
excitement for no particular reason. Even though I didn’t practice idolatry, I
was being sucked into the flood of the carnal pleasure of the moment, and the exhilarating
scene has since been etched into my memory.

Something seemed to be lacking
in the worship of the true God.

Indeed there were lambs and
bulls sacrificed and burned on the altar and there were also priests performing
their rituals, but that was pretty much it. Although the routine and rituals
might have been beneficial to their spirits and soothing to their souls, people
might still have felt a little dissatisfied, for their carnal selves were not stroked
by the worship and they found themselves wanting more.

Solomon was yearning for
foreign women, but that wasn’t quite enough; he seemed to be hungry for exotic
foreign gods as well. He didn’t find the Lord, whom he had been worshipping for
years, wanting by any means; he merely wanted to inject new blood into his
worn-out veins and to cause his aging heart to pound a little faster.

The king didn’t just dab into
pagan worship a little bit; he fell into the practice head-on, for he started
to launch building projects, erecting shrines and temples for foreign gods. This
makes it very difficult for us to clearly define a man who built a grand temple
for the Lord in his youth and constructed many temples and high places for
idols in his old age. We may not know who the real Solomon was; but we at least
know for sure which of the two to emulate. 

    

 

Thursday, June 20, 2013 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional

An Adversary 

MTS-3521

An Adversary

Then the Lord raised up
against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of
Edom.”           1 Kings 11:14

 

Being a mild person whose desire in life is merely to be left alone to do his own thing, I
have made very few enemies along the way, if any at all. I may not be a loving
and kind person, but neither am I a mean man who is hostile to people. I tried
to emulate Lord Byron’s way of life and intended to become a “Byronic hero” as
a young man, albeit I did so by necessity, for I was afflicted by a strong
sense of inferiority. Even so, I have never intended to make any enemies and I
don’t think I have had any.

Some adversaries still managed to find me along the way, however, and treated me as if
I were their number one enemy. Some people are so arrogant and self-centered
that they perceive people who are different from them in temperament or
disregard them in any way as their mortal adversaries. 

I was pretty much a loner as a college student, and unbeknown to me, I gradually became one
who was disdained by many of my classmates, even though I didn’t do anything in
particular to cause it to happen. All I ever wanted to be was to be left alone,
yet people started to perceive me as arrogant and unfriendly. I had no intention
to create any enemies out of my peers, they just surfaced out of the blue.

Did the Lord have anything to do with it? Did the Almighty intentionally bring enemies to my
path to humble me or to mold my character? That could have been the case.

I should have been more congenial to my classmates and more willing to participate in all
campus activities, yet I seemed to consider myself too good for those things
and chose to do my own thing; therefore a wedge was drawn between us, in many
ways by my own doing.

It wasn’t altogether the Lord’s fault that many adversaries were raised up against
Solomon; the king himself should have borne much of the responsibility for what
was happening to him, for he seemed to have strayed away from walking on the
right path in both his actions and his worship. Surely we will run into one
adversary after another if we forsake the Lord and follow the gods of this
world. We may enjoy carnal pleasure for a season, but our adversaries will
eventually catch up with us and make us their prey.

The wisest thing to do when adversaries are rising up against us is to look at the mirror
and not to grumble about it as if we were entirely innocent. Even if we truly
believe we are not at fault for being attacked, we can at least accept it as coming
from the Lord to build up our character or to fulfill his purpose in our lives.

“Vengeance is mine, I shall repay.”

We should leave vengeance to the Lord if our adversaries are the instruments which the
Lord employs to mold us into his image and to make us more like his Son.         

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

For the Sake 

MTS-3520

For the sake

“Nevertheless, for the sake of David
your father, I will not do it during your lifetime.”           1 Kings 11:12

 

The Lord could have broken the kingdom apart during Solomon’s reign, yet for the sake of
David the catastrophe was postponed until the death of the king, so that
Solomon was spared from going through the pain of witnessing what he had spent
his entire life building fall to pieces. David was long dead by this time, but
the Lord was still showering his love and mercy upon his children and his
children’s children.

My dad was a
good man in many aspects, as far as I could tell. He was a loving father and a
faithful friend, yet there was one thing lacking in his life - he didn’t know
the Lord; therefore there was no spiritual benefit I could have derived from
him. Had my father known the spiritual truth that by loving the Lord he could
have left behind great spiritual and physical blessings for his children, he
would have done so.

“But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on
those who love me and obey my commands.”

I did have a godly
father-in-law who loved and obeyed the Lord, and I am convinced that we are
still harvesting the benefits grandpa left behind. Grandpa passed away a few
years ago, yet he is still speaking to us in so many ways and his spiritual
influence has permeated all our lives. I believe for the sake of my
father-in-law all of his children are blessed and will continue to be blessed.
Grandpa didn’t leave a whole lot of material things behind, but the greatest
legacy he has left for us was his love and devotion to God, which is the best
inheritance one can ever give to one’s children.

We may be trying our best to
provide for our children’s every physical need and we will do all things
possible for them so that they can enjoy their life fully and not be in want of
anything, not knowing that the best thing we can ever provide for them isn’t
material at all; it’s our love and devotion to God that will have everlasting
effect on their lives and continue to be beneficial to them after our passing.

It’s indeed short-sighted on
every father’s part if they only focus on providing for their children’s needs
in this life and have no thought of making provision for them in the life to
come by leading a godly life and setting a godly example for their children to
emulate. David for sure had set a godly example for Solomon to follow, and his
godliness was the main reason the Lord decided to be merciful to Solomon when
he failed to follow the Lord.

“Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime.”

We, as fathers or fathers-to-be, should be greatly motivated to become men after God’s
own heart, realizing what our godliness will do for our children and our
children’s children.       

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 7:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Turning Away 

MTS-3519

Turning Away

“The Lord became
angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”

                 1 Kings 11:9

 

“But by the grace of God I am
what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Paul was thoroughly
convicted that what he had become was through the grace of God. Otherwise, he
might have progressed smoothly in his career path and become a member of the
Sanhedrin as he had planned, but he would have remained a zealous Pharisee
whose knowledge of the true God was tarnished.

There was a definite reference point in his life: the
event which happened on the desert road leading to Damascus where the risen
Lord appeared to him. Paul could have doubted many things, but this particular
thing he could never have doubted - he had seen the resurrected Jesus. By
constantly thinking and meditating on the monumental event, Paul’s faith in God
was strengthened.

What he had become as a man was the direct result of what
took place on the desert road, and by that particular happening Paul’s life was
determined and defined, and the man’s life would have been entirely different
had the event not occur. Now we know why the apostle brought it up whenever he
had the opportunity.

How many times did the Lord appear to Solomon? Not once,
but twice. How could Solomon turn away from the One who twice appeared to him?
Unthinkable, isn’t it?

When did the Lord appear to you and to me? Was it the time
when our hearts were touched by his love and our minds transformed by his Spirit
and we bowed before him and committed our lives to him? Was it the time when we
were born through the Holy Spirit and we became new creatures in Christ? If
that was so, how can we turn away from the one who revealed himself to us and
made the greatest difference in our lives?

That simply isn’t possible.

Did the king turn away from the Lord for good? This is
subject to debate, but common sense tells us the king might have turned to God
at the end. Where could the man have turned when he had lost all hope in life
and where could he find meaning except from the Author of meaning? A wise man
such as King Solomon couldn’t have died without God and without hope, for God’s
appearance to him must have left a mark in his heart that could never be
erased.

“What I am is because of what you are and what I have
become is the result if what you have done; therefore I will never turn away
from you, for there is no place to turn except you.”

 May this be our
prayer forever and ever.    

Monday, June 17, 2013 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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