Forty Years 

~~MTS-4248
Forty Years
“Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.”
               2 Ch. 9:28
    Indeed, the king’s forty years on earth were far more eventful and appealing than most and, more importantly, unlike most people in human history who have graced the world, he left a resounding name on earth, and his name still remains a significant icon of human civilization.
    He was known for his wisdom and wealth and, to the man’s credit, his one thousand wives and concubines.
    Surely the man was envied by all and, I am afraid, most of us may aspire to be like him. In what aspect do we want to be like King Solomon? This is the question we ourselves may have to address, for whoever our heroes are, so are we.
    He was indeed rather admirable as a young man, for what he desired the most was wisdom from above so that he could better govern God’s people. Godly wisdom and the fear of the Lord often come hand in hand, and one can hardly possess one without the other. Being a young king who was yet to solidify his control over a great nation, Solomon must have realized that he needed to be humble and relied on the Lord to become successful as king over God’s chosen people.
    That was something worthy of our admiration and emulation. Yet there were a lot of other things about the man than just that. The king could have accomplished a lot of things for the Lord had he remained what and who he was as a young king; unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case. Solomon proved to be far too human, and he evolved gradually with time and the line separating him from other eastern monarchs of the time slowly became vague and undistinguishable. In some aspects, Solomon abused his power and did what was right in his own eyes. His large collection of foreign wives and concubines is one of the many examples.
    How could one be the wisest man on earth yet do such a foolish thing? The only answer to this is he could. We most likely would have done exactly the same thing had we been placed in a similar position. Therefore, it’s akin to self-condemnation if we dare to accuse the man for being corrupted. We can surely learn from the man in all the godly things he did and avoid making the same mistakes he committed. I guess that’s the best we can do, really, and to act as if we could have done better than he is hypocritical and disingenuous.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, August 31, 2016 8:10:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gold 

~~MTS-4247
Gold
“All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold.”        2 Ch. 9:20
    I inherited a rather large gold ring from my dad, which I placed in my drawer and only look at occasionally. I have no intention of wearing it and the only thing it reminds me of is my dad, and how he used to wear it. I don’t really mind selling it, if it becomes necessary, for what I need to know about my father is all stored in my memory, which is the only place I need to visit.
    I don’t even wear my wedding ring, which is obviously made of gold. To put it more bluntly, I am not really all that fond of gold. The gaudy yellow is one of my least favorite colors and the monetary value it represents doesn’t do a whole lot for me either. The thought of drinking something from a goblet of gold is just a bit too much to me. Surely, I don’t believe the gold goblets of Solomon enhanced the flavor of the wine he consumed in any way. Gold is to be beheld more than to be consumed, unless it turns into something more practical, such as food, money, or something else.
    Indeed, it isn’t called a precious metal for no reason. Gold is money and it’s coveted by all because of it.
    Gold can be rather practical for the poor, for it’s a necessity for them and their lives can be sustained by it; yet for King Solomon it merely became a symbol of prestige and status, and it was useless unless it was exhibited for the public to see. A goblet of wood or stone would have been sufficient if he just wanted to get a drink of wine and it would have tasted just as splendid; yet it just wasn’t sufficient if he desired to have his vanity satisfied and his giant ego stroked by his spectators’ envy.
    Because of the fact that he was the king of a great nation, wherever he resided, whoever he took for wives and concubines, and whatever articles he used had to be entirely consistent with his royal status. These things weren’t essential by any means, yet what was the use of being a king if there weren’t benefits and perks such as these?
    “All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold.” This is just a mere historical narrative, depicting the wealth and luxury the king possessed, and it seems to imply that the king’s subjects were pretty well off as well. The narrative didn’t seem to have any undertone of criticism or judgment from the Lord concerning Solomon accumulation of gold and silver, and I will just leave it that way; yet God’s silence pertaining to certain things that we commonly do doesn’t imply his approval in any way.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 30, 2016 7:01:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Lions 

~~MTS-4246
Lions
“On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them.”        2 Ch. 9:28
     I suppose lions are symbols of royalty and power, which invokes in the beholder a sense of awe and terror, for lions are ferocious and powerful, and most small animals are victimized by them. I am not very fond of cats, be they big or small, for they either eat birds for sports or zebras and deer for food, and these are some of my favorite creatures.
    Male lions are even more ferocious and cruel, for when they take over a lion pride with their brute strength, they immediately kill all the cubs in the pride, causing the female lions to go into heat so the male can mate. I simply don’t understand all the fuss about lions and why they are used as symbols of the eternal King. As far as symbols of Christ are concerned, I will take lambs or doves over lions any day. I wonder why King Solomon didn’t decorate his golden throne with sheep or lambs since his father was a shepherd and lambs were often slaughtered as sacrifices. Indeed, they are nobler and far more admirable than lions, who are known more for being killers than anything else.
    We admire lions and often carve them on the poles or sculpt them on our shields, which only goes to show that we would like to be more like them, the kings of the jungle, who have their pick of food among all the other creatures in the savannahs and forests.
    Isn’t that what we are craving and coveting in this life? We all want to be victors, not victims, conquerors, not the conquered, the powerful, not the ones overpowered. We prefer to be lions rather than lambs, don’t we? “Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forest of the night” is surely far more appealing to us than lowly lambs, meek and mild.
    “On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them.” I can hardly imagine any other beast was taken as symbol of royalty, nobility, and power except the mighty lion. Being like Solomon is probably what most of us aspired to.
    Even though the lion appears to have become a type of Christ, for in the book of Revelation we read: “The lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals,” the image of Christ still remains in my heart as the Lamb of God, not the victorious Lion of Judah.” Lions are rather ruthless, terrifying, and unapproachable, and I suppose there are good reasons why Christ was called the Lamb who was born to die on the cross on our behalf, not the victorious lion who is born to dominate and to rule.
    By the symbol carved on the armrests of the throne we come to know what Solomon the king aspired to be.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 30, 2016 7:00:00 AM

Steps 

~~MTS-4245
Steps
“The throne had six steps, and a footstool of gold was attached to it.”      2 Ch. 9:18
     In his heated pursuit of success and significance, the patriarch Jacob seemed to have left a trail of unresolved hurt and conflict behind, which continued to haunt him until his old age. The first encounter he experienced with the Lord appeared to reveal to him that on top of the ladder in his dream should have been the Lord himself, not anyone else.
    “Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more,” the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 16.
    There were six steps that ascended to the lofty throne of a king and each step might have had to be built with human flesh and paved with men’s blood. The earth might have had to be scorched and all enemies terminated before one could have stepped on the golden footstool and ascended to the throne. Even when a man was squarely seated on the throne, his seating would have continued to burn underneath him until he was removed by another one far more ruthless than he, and when he was removed, his head was chopped off as well.
    Why did people even take the first step, climbing up to the loneliest and the most perilous seat in the entire world?  No sooner did they sit on the throne, than thousands of people started to plot to take him down and get rid of him once and for all. Wouldn’t it have been far more blessed for one to plow a piece of land and to raise his young in a quaint little village and live to his ripe old age than to sit on a throne and lead his brief life in terror and fear?
    Was twenty years of toil and loneliness under a severe taskmaster worth it, Jacob must have often wondered when he was sitting alone in the wilderness tending his uncle’s sheep. Was the entitlement of being the elder son and getting his father’s blessing worth all the tears and sorrow that he suffered under the alien sky on foreign soil? Gone were the days when he could share his joy and sorrow with his mother in the tent and the time of celebration when the family gathered around a camp fire singing and dancing until daylight broke from the east.
    Why continue to climb the ladder of success? There seems to be no retreat or withdrawal after one takes the first step upward. The glorious throne seems so close, yet so very distant, so enticing, yet so distressing and depressing. 
    The Lord appeared to reveal to the young Jacob what to pursue in life and was warning him not to replace the primary thing with secondary things. If we must climb any sort of ladder, we must make sure that standing on top of the ladder is the Lord himself. What a tragedy it will be if we spend our entire life climbing the steps, only to discover there is nothing but a golden throne filled with filth and covered with human vanity and that to be sitting on it is to be burned by the unquenchable fire of other people’s jealousy and assaulted by their ravenous ambition. 
      

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 25, 2016 7:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Throne 

~~MTS-4244
The Throne
 “Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with pure gold.                    2 Ch. 9:17
     It wasn't at all an absolute necessity for the king to construct for himself a throne of gold. He could have governed from anywhere and it would have made very little difference. The throne he constructed for himself was superfluous at best, only meant it be a symbol of power and prestige. Whatever the king used, including the seat he sat on, had to be specially created for him in order to single him out as someone uniquely special.
    I suppose that was the reason why the color yellow, the color of gold by the way, was reserved for the emperor in China alone and the punishment was rather severe if commoners dare to violate the rule. The royal family of ancient times was such a special breed that they even had the monopoly of a desirable color. How pretentious and ridiculous is that! 
    The chair wasn’t necessarily designed for comfort; it was created to stand for power and position. It couldn’t be occupied except by the ones who succeeded to the kingship, either by birth of by force. In fact, after the throne was erected, it instantly became a seat coveted by all and the rich and the powerful would never cease fighting to have a legitimate claim on the golden chair.
     “Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with pure gold.”
    Solomon knew exactly who he was and what he deserved to have and he believed in order for him to govern properly, he needed to be sitting on such throne. The king felt that he needed to be set apart and to overwhelm the ones who approached him with his “otherness” by the way he dressed, spoke, and the throne where he sat.
    It’s all too human, actually, for we tend to move away from the ordinary and to set ourselves apart from commoners by the way we dress, the vehicles we drive, and by the area in which we live, if we somehow become prosperous. In fact, those are the things of which our thrones are composed. We are in essence no different from Solomon, for we have been attempting to make a throne for ourselves by our success and by the silver and gold we have managed to accumulate.
    When our Lord was tempted by Satan, he was offered the splendor and glory of this world, which obviously included a kingly throne made of diamonds and gold, yet the Lord Jesus said to the tempter: “Worship the Lord only.”
    I guess Solomon failed to see the irony and inconsistency of constructing a holy temple for the Lord and a splendid palace for himself; and of building the holy of holies for the ark of the Lord to dwell in and erecting a golden throne for himself.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, August 24, 2016 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Giving 

~~MTS-4243
Giving
“King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him.”              2 Ch. 9:12
     It wasn’t an even exchange, really, for the Queen of Sheba received much more than what she had given to Solomon. It was just natural for the greater to give more than what he had received from the lesser.
    It was out of his generosity and abundance that the king gave the queen a lot more than what he had received from her; therefore a political alliance was formed between the two and both parties seemed to have gotten what they wanted.
    “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him.” Evidently, the queen asked for something from Solomon, whatever it was, and she wasn’t disappointed. Solomon seemed to have the means to gratify all she ever wanted.
    Does this analogy work if it’s applied to our donation to God? Probably so. Even though we don’t give with the intention of getting anything in return from the Lord, we receive abundantly from him just the same.
    Why are we so foolish that we are not aware that this is common sense? Take Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, for an instance. First, he must stoop to receive our monetary offering; therefore to be in a position to make a donation to him is obviously an honor and privilege. Second, we will surely not give to him in vain, for with his abundant resources, he will be able to recompense us for our giving ten thousand fold if he so desires.
    Compared to the almighty God, the tycoon is merely a grain of sand on the seashore. Yet we have the audacity to even consider that we are doing God a favor by placing our meager tithe and offering in the offering plate, as if doing something worthy of praise.
    The loftier we deem the Lord is, the greater our offering to him will be, and our giving will always be an act of deep humility and faith. We are greatly humbled because the Lord stoops so low to receive our offering; and it’s an act of faith since we are convicted that our offerings to the Almighty will not return to us void. Although our giving is and will never be motivated by receiving a reward from our Lord, he nonetheless will do what’s appropriate by pouring his blessings upon us in any form he deems suitable, be it material, physical, or spiritual benefits.
    So, never lose out on such an enormous blessing by being reluctant to give to the Almighty, knowing that it’s absolutely impossible for anyone to out give God.
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, August 19, 2016 10:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Happiness 

~~MTS-4242
Happiness
“How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”           2 Ch. 9:7
     The people of Israel were probably the happiest if the king just left them alone and did not interfere with their lives with heavy taxation and other chores they were ordered to perform. What they desired the most from the government was to maintain peace and to provide them a peaceful environment in which they could till their land, tend their sheep, and raise their own family.
    What the Queen of Sheba was proclaiming was akin more to propaganda than anything else. Being a leader herself, she obviously perceived things from a royal family point of view, considering her subjects like little children. Such a paternal attitude toward her subjects is indeed rather repulsive.
    Was the Lord overwhelmed by Solomon’s wisdom in any way? By no means. The Queen of Sheba was amazed and overcome with awe at her encounter with Solomon because she was measuring him with men’s standard and, consequently, Solomon was deified and idolized. Of course, the conclusion she drew was quite natural:  since Solomon was such a benevolent “philosopher king,” his subjects must be greatly blessed.
    Did the people quickly forget the warnings Samuel issued when they were asking for a king to rule over them? Obviously every one of them had come true and more. Some of their beautiful daughters had been taken away to be concubines of the king and many of their sons had been drafted to guard the king in Jerusalem or to fight wars on foreign soil. Was there anything left for them over which they could rejoice?
    Why was it even such a great privilege to stand before the king to listen to his words of wisdom? “Accompanying a king is akin to being with a tiger,” goes a Chinese saying. People must tiptoe both in word and deed before a king lest they lose their heads before they know it. Indeed, that absolutely is the thing I would have chosen to do.
    The Queen of Sheba had such a loaded self-glorification and self-congratulatory attitude that I have found it hard to digest. King David was essentially a godly man and the Lord found ample reason to be gracious to the son, yet there is no reason to lift the man so high to the point that he becomes deified. Human beings have a strong inclination to do such a thing and we must strive to guard and to fight against it. All great men in human history, godly people in the Bible included, are mostly mixtures of good and evil, holy and profane, and we ought to take all the praise heaped on them with a grain of salt.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, August 18, 2016 4:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Greatness 

~~MTS-4241
Greatness
“Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.”        2 Ch. 9:6
 
    Human greatness is mostly conjured up by our own vain imagination, but God’s mightiness is real and solid. There is no authentic greatness apart from God.
   The Queen of Sheba was utterly overwhelmed by Solomon’s greatness, for she was comparing the Jewish king with other men and found no comparison. Indeed, human greatness is comparative and relative, and if the Lord is brought into the equation, human greatness vanishes.
    “You have exceeded the report I heard,” the queen exclaimed. The king’s power and wisdom far surpassed her imagination. Of course, we tend to idolize the ones who are far superior to us and possess something we crave yet are unable to obtain. King Solomon was quickly becoming the Queen of Sheba’s idol.
    The Lord is the one and only true God in the universe and he is obviously not an idol, yet do we idolize him and place him on the pedestal to “idolize” and to worship?
    It’s my passion to be more like Christ, because he possesses all the precious attributes and characters I long to have. Certainly this is not idolatry; it’s true worship that we must practice.
    We are whom we worship, and true worship demands true humility. It’s a deep realization of who we are and who God is. Hero worship will find no foothold where the Lord is worshipped as he truly is.
    Atheism is in essence the deification of men. If the Lord is sitting in his throne, we are all subjects and must bow down to him in submission and humility. Emperors throughout Chinese history all demanded to be called “sons of god” to legitimize their being worshipped. One must be deified in order to become great. If there is only one God, all deifications are in fact idolatrous.
    They may not be fully aware of it, but atheists are indeed rather arrogant. They compare men with men, and assign greatness randomly and, it goes without saying, they themselves are the greatest.
    If there is no God, how can I not be the greatest?
    The Queen of Sheba probably was humbled through the encounter with someone who was superior to her, yet the meeting likely didn’t make her a better person. An encounter with greatness found in the divine often generates true humility; but meeting with human greatness only make us envious, which creates within us grave discontentment. I think the queen left Israel dissatisfied, discontented, and disillusioned. 
     

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, August 17, 2016 9:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional

First Hand 

~~MTS-4240
First Hand 
“But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes.”             2 Ch. 9:6
     The Queen of Sheba was obviously a skeptical woman, for she herself was a queen and wasn’t easily impressed by other people’s greatness. In fact, she was in the process of making a name for herself and Solomon’s fame must have made her envious. “If there is truly such a great person, I would like to meet him and find out what the fuss is all about.”
    It must have taken a lot of time and energy for her to get ready for the long journey, for she herself evidently wanted to impress the Jewish king as well. Of course, it would have taken a whole lot to impress the wealthiest and wisest man of the then known world. The queen indeed opened up her coffers and left no table unturned as far as her gifts for Solomon were concerned.
    Whatever she did in preparation as well as her brief encounter with the Israelite king had absolutely no bearing on the people of both nations, really. The common people were just laboring to make a living and whatever royalty did wasn’t their concern at all.
    Perhaps the queen shouldn’t have been curious about something that brought no real benefit to her people. I suppose the life style of the rich and famous is just so foreign to us that we can’t possibly fathom what really makes them tick and truly excites them. What else was there for them to pursue since they had arrived at the place where everyone else would like to be.
    Was there a true craving for wisdom in the queen’s heart? Was it likely that her intellectual curiosity was what she really wanted to satisfy? Surely she must have known something about everything in order to ask intelligent questions. The bottom line is: did she show any interest in the God whom Solomon worshipped?
    I suppose that was probably the last thing she wanted to discuss with the king, since for the rich and the powerful at the time, the gods were merely entities that served their needs and not a whole lot beyond that. It might have been true in ancient times, as it is in the present, that a discussion of religion was frowned upon. Of course, we can always leave the most important question in life for another day. 
    Why have I even become interested in the encounter between two political leaders over a thousand years ago? Am I envious of them and aspire to be just like them? Of course not. I was just struggling to draw a moral and spiritual lesson from this historical incident, and have failed to come up with a good one.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, August 16, 2016 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

What She Saw 

~~MTS-4239
What she saw
“When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built…”         2 Ch. 9:3
     What she heard about the young king was just too glamorous to be true and the Queen just couldn’t resist the temptation to make a visit herself to find out what the fuss was all about. Being a queen of a nation herself, she might have been a little jealous of the notoriety Solomon was getting and wanted to make the journey to see what she could learn from the Jewish monarch.
    It mattered very little as to why the Queen took such trouble to make the journey; she was nonetheless there, facing the one whom she had heard about hundreds of times and, of course, the queen wasn’t disappointed. She was overwhelmed by what she saw.
    Surely she was greatly impressed by the young king, who was handsome and intelligent, and seemingly possessed all the desirable attributes any woman would have wanted. Did the queen have any romantic idea toward Solomon? There were rumors and legends concerning the two spreading far and wide, but most of them were wishful thinking at best. How could people have kept themselves from imagining things since it would have been so perfect and ideal had the king and queen made a royal union.
    To our great disappointment, the affair didn’t seem to take place, and the brief encounter remains pretty diplomatic and political in nature and nothing seemed to have gone beyond just that. The queen found out what she wanted to see and what she had heard was confirmed, which might have been quite enough for her. It also gave Solomon a rare opportunity to showcase his wisdom and wealth to the exotic woman, by which his ego was stroked and his vanity satisfied.
    Even so, I have often found myself wondering why the encounter between the two became such a great event and has been glamourized throughout the generations. What is the moral behind the story?
   Surely it was the golden age of the great empire during the forty years when Solomon was reigning, and his fame and fortune had reached its peak, yet everything seemed to go downhill after his passing and the kingdom was broken into two nations. The splendor and the power as a nation displayed under Solomon’s reign didn’t seem to last for a very long time and the things that overwhelmed the Queen of Sheba quickly turned into ashes with the death of the great king.
    People throughout the ages might have aspired to be Solomon or to be someone like him, since the man appeared to represent everything that humans crave and fail to possess. Perhaps it’s wise for us to read another book in the Bible purportedly composed by the same king to learn what earthly fame and fortune did to the man, and determine whether we still want to be like him or not.           

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, August 15, 2016 6:47:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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