Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 25 October 2022:
1 Kings 5 — Hiram king of Tyre. David’s and later Solomon’s relationship with Hiram, as with Solomon’s relationship with Egypt, seemed wise according to the world’s wisdom and brought initial prosperity to Israel, but this union with the ungodly sowed the seeds of compromise and destruction in Israel. Tyre was an opulent kingdom built on the backs of slaves whose idolatrous religious practices eventually crept into Israel; in fact, Solomon, through Hiram, hiresd the same craftsmen who crafted pagan idols to work on the Temple of God. In some way, you could compare Solomon’s relationship with Tyre with America’s relationship with China and other nations who have great wealth, resources, and cheap labor but also terrible ethics.
1 Kings 5:13 — King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men.
According to 1 Kings 9:22, Solomon did not make forced laborers of the children of Israel in his building campaigns. However, 1 Kings 5:13 says Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel. Which one of these reports is correct? Both reports are correct. The reconciliation of these statements is found in the fact that there are different Hebrew words used of two different types of laborers in the building projects of Solomon. According to 1 Kings 5:13 (5:27 in the Hebrew text), Solomon raised up a “labor force” (mas or hammas) from all Israel. In this context, labor force was a group conscripted from the population to participate in the building project. It was apparently composed of both Israelites and non-Israelites. However, in 1 Kings 9:21 the author delineates those people from whom Solomon brought on as “slave labor.” The word used here ismas-obed which indicates forced slave labor. Then, in 9:22 the author points out that Solomon did not employ any Israelites as “slaves” (abed). There is no contradiction here, because, although Solomon did draft young men of Israel to labor in the construction of the temple, a practice which brought him great trouble later in his reign, he did not make any Israelite a slave laborer.
1 Kings 5:14-18 — Solomon’s wisdom included superior planning, organizational, leadership, and management skills along with great attention to detail. The foundation of these abilities is self-leadership, personal planning and organization, self-discipline, and personal attention to detail. You cannot lead great endeavors if you cannot first lead self. Having said that, even the most committed, focused, disciplined and skilled leader will fail if he or she disobeys God – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If a person is truly trying to love and serve the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, they will not do it haphazardly, lazily, incompetently, or inconsistency, and the results truly will be “fit for a King.”
1 John 3:1-3 — See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Children act like their parents. Your actions reveal whose child you really are. Proverbs 20 says it like this: “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20:11) John stresses that we are God’s children NOW, and we should strive to act like it, though we still have much growing up to do and will not be fully matured until Christ comes again. Our effort to act like Him, to be ‘little Christs’, reflects how much hope we have in His promise. What does your behavior reveal about what you really believe?
1 John 3:4 – Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
It is a dangerous thing to live your life without a spiritual ‘plumb line,’ or standard, by which you determine right from wrong. God’s Word is that plumb line, the only true plumb line. Many see God’s laws and commands as restrictive and limiting, but in truth living by God’s ethical laws and commands, much like living by His natural laws, allows people to experience true freedom and the fullness of life on earth for which they were created without needless pain and suffering. Living by God’s word is as essential as breathing (more so). To borrow an analogy from Tim Keller, consider a fish in the ocean: Fish were created by God to live in water; a fish’s life is in the water where the fish is free to experience the life God intended for it. What if the fish felt the ocean was just too limiting, preventing the fish from experiencing the ‘wonders, excitement, and joy of the vast world outside of the water’? Would removing the fish from the ocean so that the fish could live the life on land it imagined mean freedom and joy for the fish or painful death? God created fish to abide in life-giving water, and God created us to abide in Him, the Living Water, the Life. We abide in Him when we obey His laws and commands with love being the foundational command – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
God established absolute, unchanging ethical and spiritual laws that we are free to ignore, but we do so at our own peril. These laws are timeless. Cultural ‘morality’ does not supersede them. Circumstances do not abrogate them. God’s laws are eternal, and they bring life and freedom to those who follow them, a protection against needless pain and suffering. For example, when God said that you are not to commit adultery or have sex outside of the union of one man and one woman, He wanted to free you to experience the fullest pleasure of a marriage relationship and to free you from the pain of destructive relationships which is so pervasive in culture today. He knew the devastating heartache that would come to you, your spouse, your children, your relatives, your friends, and your church family if you broke this law. “How important the laws of God are for your life! Without them, you would be robbed of the delights God has in store for you. Sin is choosing a standard other than God’s law on which to base your life. If you are measuring your life by that of your neighbors, or society at large, then you are basing your life on lawlessness, and lawlessness is sin.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 John 3:5-10 — “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (see also, John 8:39-47)
1 John 3 closely mirrors 1 John 2. John is reiterates the essentiality of obedience, holiness, and righteousness in the life of a Christian, and points to ‘love’ as the ultimate test of obedience – he digs in deep into the heart as if he has anticipated the reader who might be tempted to start counting off his ‘good deeds’ and ‘works of service’ in his head while denying the truth of his self-centeredness, anger, bitterness, envy, greed, lust, and pride. In both chapters, John challenges the ‘desires’ that drive the outward activities, and dares us to be honest with what is in our hearts. (1 John 2:16; 1 John 3:21) In both chapters, John reminds us that we cannot walk both in selfishness and with Christ – we must die of ourselves and be selfless. From the perspective of love (rather than pride or fear) he returns to the importance of making your faith tangible in this world – “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Genuine love comes from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Those who desire a “pure heart” must “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” — two action verbs which involve running at max effort, not lightly or half-heartedly. (2 Timothy 2:22) Those who desire a good conscience must live in humility, repentance, and confession before the Lord, constantly living out 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Simultaneously they must flee from sin and pursue righteousness, imperfectly but with confidence in God’s grace, with all their might.
“You have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:26) In Christ, you have become the ‘priest’ and the Holy Spirit within you reveals truth to you, convicts you, and teaches you. (1 Peter 2:9, Rev 5:10) While others might be used by God to convict you, the issues of your heart are between you and God and must be dealt with solely between the two of you. No one else knows your heart but God. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” (Ephesians 4:30) What has the Holy Spirit revealed about the condition of your heart that must be confessed (as in 1 John 1:9) today?
“Let no one deceive you…. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” If you are living a lifestyle of careless sin, you are grieving, quenching, and getting out of step with the Holy Spirit rather than walking by the Spirit, regardless of how you might justify your sin. If you don’t hate sin the way God does, you are not in agreement with Him, not of the same mind, not in right fellowship with Him. No religious activity or good deed will nullify your disagreement with God concerning those things for which Christ paid the penalty with His blood. As John reiterates, Christians sin but reject the lifestyle of sin – they confess, repent, and make every effort to avoid repeating sin, maturing in Christ over time. If we are truly abiding in Him, we cannot keep sinning as we once did.
“The Bible makes two things clear about sin. First, living a lifestyle of sin indicates that you are not walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, regardless of what you say about your spiritual condition. You cannot regularly spend time studying and meditating on God’s word, praying and walking in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and persist in sin.
Second, if you do not hate sin the way God does, then you do not truly know Him. There are those who continue in their sin yet insist that they love God and belong to Him. John makes it clear: If you have a lifestyle of sin, you have not seen Him and do not know Him. You may have prayed a “sinner’s prayer,” or made a commitment in your church, or been baptized, but the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life is that you are defeating sin. This does not mean that you will never sin, but it does mean that you refuse to make sin a lifestyle and you immediately seek forgiveness when you sin (1 John 1:10). It means that you are opposed to sin, as God is, and you allow the Holy Spirit to eradicate every trace of sin in your life. It means that when you sin, you immediately confess it and repent of it and do whatever is necessary to avoid repeating your sin.
If you find yourself falling into sinful habits or not grieving over your sin as you once did, this indicates that you are not abiding in Christ. Return to Him in repentance; restore your fellowship with Him, and you will once again experience victory over your sin.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 October 2022: Today, pray that God will help you view sin the way He views it and give you the passion to remove it from your life that nothing winder your walk with Him and your joy in Him. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)