Tag Archives: Life

Humiliating Defeat

Humiliating Defeat (CaD 2 Ki 14) Wayfarer

Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
2 Kings 14:9-10 (NIV)

There are certain things that one simply experiences and knows from growing up and living in Iowa. For example, there’s the sport of wrestling. For whatever reason, the sport of wrestling is a thing in our state. Our major universities have long histories of success in the sport, and they’ve produced some of the most dominant wrestlers in history.

When I was growing up, wrestling was part of the required P.E. curriculum in the Middle School years. When you’re the youngest of four children, that means that older siblings came home and taught what they’d learned. I had never really wrestled in any official capacity, but I knew a few things from what my siblings taught me. I remember being paired up with partners in P.E. class and whoever my partner was, I had a pretty easy time of it.

Then we were allowed to challenge others in the class while the entire class looked on. I chose to challenge one of my classmates who was about my size. I figured I would at least be able to hold my own. What I didn’t know is that the guy I chose was already an accomplished wrestler and would go on to be a formidable wrestler in high school. It took less than five seconds for him to pin me. It was total humiliation.

It’s funny the things that I remember, and that still come to mind, over forty years later. There have been moments along my life journey when I experienced humiliating defeats and crashes of different kinds. Moments of shame are hard for me to forget. They have definitely served a purpose, however.

In today’s chapter, King Amaziah of Judah finds himself flying high after defeating the army of Edom. Feeling good about his victory, he challenges the Kingdom of Israel to a battle. Jehoash, King of Israel, tells Amaziah to reconsider and gives him the opportunity to withdraw the challenge, but Amaziah will have none of it. It does not go well for him. It ended up a humiliating defeat and Amaziah’s own people eventually turned on him and killed him.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the seasons of life. In the ebb-and-flow of the journey, I have experienced seasons of victory in which I felt on top of the world. It’s easy for me to think I’m going to stay there or fly even higher. Eventually, life always hands me a loss.

I also wrote yesterday that I’ve learned to embrace every season for what it is. Seasons of loss, defeat, shame, or humiliation are good soil for growing faith, humility, perseverance, and proven character. The “mountain-top” soil isn’t suited to grow those things.

In the quiet this morning, I’m praying a word of gratitude for the defeats, losses, and humiliating moments along my life journey. They’ve taught me a lot, including when to be content with life’s victories and appreciate how transient they can be. I’m also saying a prayer for my classmate who humiliated me on the wrestling mat (Yes, Wendy, I still remember his name!). I hope he’s in a good place on his own life journey.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Seasons of Life

Seasons of Life (CaD 2 Ki 13) Wayfarer

Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him.
2 Kings 13:14 (NIV)

As I have progressed in my life journey, the more aware I have become of the flow of seasons of life. From our current waypoint on the road of life, Wendy and I find ourselves in a season in which we are walking with parents and a grandparent as they walk ahead of us on life’s homestretch. We also have children on the road behind us in the busy years of establishing careers, parenting little children, and hanging on as life traverses the roller coaster peaks and valleys of adulthood.

When I was parenting our daughters, I endeavored to engage and enjoy every stage of their development. This meant embracing the ups and downs of diapers and Disney princesses, boy bands and body changes, hair days and horomones. Of course, I found some stages personally more enjoyable than others. Yet by choosing to embrace each stage of development, I learned to both love the journey in every season as well as appreciate more fully the women they’ve become.

Along the way, I’ve found that my spiritual journey also has its seasons. There have been seasons of tremendous spiritual growth when God seemed to be doing amazing things in my life all the time. There have been seasons that have felt like a trek through Death Valley when everything felt dry and I was desperate for an oasis. There have been seasons of planting, seasons of storms, seasons of wandering, seasons of change, and seasons of abundance.

Today’s chapter tells of the reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Joash of the northern tribes of Israel. In the middle of the chapter, it mentions the prophet Elisha for the first time since back in the ninth chapter. Given the dates and the lengths of the reign of Israel’s kings, Elisha has not been part of the story for some 43 years.

I meditated on this in the quiet this morning. Through the days of Ahab and Jezebel, the prophets Elijah and Elisha were central figures in the story. They called down fire from heaven, raised the dead, performed breathtaking miracles, and were central players in the highest level of politics.

Then, with the end of Ahab and Jezebel’s dynasty, Elisha exits stage right and is not heard from again for over four decades when he is called back on stage for his death scene.

I have observed both in myself and in others, the expectation that life has some sort of predictable trajectory. There certainly are general stages of this life that most people experience with some broad commonalities. Within that, however, I’ve found there to be tremendous ebb and flow.

We forget that Jesus spent only three years in ministry. He spent thirty years in obscurity growing, learning, and then plying his father’s carpentry trade.

Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of slavery.

Elisha and Elijah were raised up to be God’s mouthpiece during the reigns of Ahab, Jezebel, and their descendants. It was a period of some 36 years. Then Elisha disappears from the scene. Was God done with him? Certainly not. He simply entered a different season of life.

I’ve come to understand that part of the spiritual journey is embracing every season of that journey, just as I tried to embrace each season of our daughters’ development. There have been seasons of excitement and seasons of grind. There are seasons of mountaintop vistas and seasons of slogging through the desert. There have been seasons in the spotlight and seasons in the wings.

Two things I have done no matter the season in which I find myself:

First, I stick with my daily relational touchpoints with God and others. I spend time in the quiet. I read the Great Story. I have conversations with God. I stay connected with an inner circle of others with whom I share the journey.

Second, I constantly remind myself what the sage of Ecclesiastes wrote: “There is a season for every purpose under heaven.” If I can trust the Story and God’s purposes for me in it, then I can press on through each and every season knowing that it’s somehow preparing me for the next season.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Today’s featured image was created with Wonder AI.

The Leadership Difference

The Leadership Difference (CaD 2 Ki 9) Wayfarer

Jehu said [to his fellow officers], “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’”

They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

2 Kings 9:12b-13 (NIV)

Decades from now, mystified scientists will gather to study the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, to try to figure out what they were all about—if they existed to compete in football, or merely to psychologically torment a population of loyal, long-suffering fans.”
-Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal

Jason Gay wrote these words earlier this week after Wendy and I joined the Vikings Nation in suffering another disappointing playoff loss. It was, however, one of the most interesting and entertaining seasons in history. If you’d suggested to experts and oddsmakers that the Vikings would go 13-4 this season, they’d have laughed in your face. Add to that going 11-0 in games decided by one score or less (I have no fingernails left), including the biggest comeback in NFL history (they were down 33-0 at halftime and won).

What’s even more fascinating about this year’s Vikings team is the larger story. Last year the owners fired the coach and general manager after another disappointing year in which the team failed to meet expectations. After the firings, the proceeded a flood of comments from players regarding how terrible the atmosphere had been in the locker room, how awful the leadership team had been, and how frustrating it was to play under them.

The owners then hired two very capable young men with integrity to take the helm of leadership.

I heard one anecdote regarding a former assistant coach now working for another team. When someone mentioned that the attitude of the Vikings going into this season was really positive, he replied “Of course it is. Satan left the building.”

Today’s chapter would make a fascinating and thrilling movie if it were done right. It’s all about leadership change in dramatic fashion. The prophets anoint an army officer as King of Israel and place on him the responsibility to rid Israel of the evil House of Ahab and Jezebel.

What stood out to me was how quickly everyone joined in the rebellion. The newly anointed Jehu seemed to consider his anointing as a joke until his soldiers and fellow officers quickly pledged their allegiance to them. They were desperate for change.

When Jehu confronts Jezebel in her upper story window in Jezreel, he simply suggests to the eunuchs in her service that they throw her out the window. They are eager and happy to oblige.

A wise man once said that the only thing to which evil responds is an overpowering force. It’s all that evil understands. Evil rules and holds sway through power, fear, intimidation, violence, and oppression.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve delivered a couple of messages in which I explored how different Jesus’ example and plans were for changing the world. Instead of top-down power, He exemplified and called his followers to live out a bottom-up, humble, love-powered service towards others that would transform other individuals from the inside out. Those individuals would then pay it forward by doing the same thing.

In the quiet this morning, I’m contemplating the difference that leadership makes on a football team, in a business, in a church, in a community, and in a family. When leadership is a top-down, authoritarian power play, those in the system become anxious for a change in leadership. When leadership is a humble, love-motivated mindset of serving those within the system, there is no limit on how much that system can flourish and accomplish.

It might even go 13-4, 11-1 in close games, and stage the greatest comeback in NFL history.

I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Difference a Dinner Makes

So [the king of Israel] prepared a great feast for the [Aramean soldiers], and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
2 Kings 6:23 (NIV)

As Wendy and I sit each morning over breakfast and peruse the news of the day, we will often discuss different politicians or other individuals making headlines. Of course, there are always certain individuals for whom we have a certain affinity but we don’t always have the most glowing impressions of other individuals.

I’m not sure how and when this happened, but Wendy and I will commonly discuss the notion of having said individuals over for a meal. I think this idea began during a Presidential campaign years ago. A few months ahead of the Iowa Caucuses you can’t spit without hitting a visiting presidential candidate. One year when the number of candidates was off the charts, Wendy and I discussed the idea of how nice it would be to actually have each of the candidates (from any/all parties) over for dinner one at a time. It’s easier to really get to know a person over a good meal and good table conversation. Somehow, the idea stuck and now it comes up quite regularly in our conversations, what it would be like to have so-and-so over for dinner.

Today’s chapter is filled with extreme events from the miraculous to a horrific human tragedy. I have no recollection of this quiet little episode stuck in the middle. The kingdom of Aram shared a border with the kingdom of Israel, and bands of Aramean soldiers were constantly raiding the towns of Israel. Elisha miraculously blinds one of these raiding parties and leads them straight into Samaria, the capital city of Israel. When the king of Israel suggests killing them, Elisha instructs him to treat them to a feast instead.

So, the king of Israel treats the enemy soldiers as honored guests. They sat around the table and enjoyed a feast together. I imagine they swapped stories, laughed together, and got to know one another to a certain degree. The Arameans, knowing they could have been killed, were treated the way Jesus would later instruct His followers to treat our enemies, by blessing those who intend to persecute us. The result? The border raids stopped.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded of the conference Wendy and I attended this past week that addressed some of the most controversial and divisive topics of our day. One of the most powerful things that the conference accomplished was to share the complex and intimate stories of individuals struggling at the heart of the issue. When issues are translated into human stories, it changes both my perceptions and understanding of the issues themselves. It’s the same principle that the king of Israel and the Aramean soldiers discovered. They came to bust heads and instead broke bread. It changed their attitudes and behavior toward their enemies.

(BTW: Another Presidential election cycle begins later this year. For any candidate who happens to read this, there’s an open dinner invitation here at Vander Well manor! 😉)

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Transitions

Transitions (CaD 2 Ki 2) Wayfarer

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

2 Kings 2:9 (NIV)

Transitions are typically difficult.

Along my life journey, I’ve been part of many different transitions and have walked alongside others in their own seasons of transition. I’ve noticed that there are many different elements that make a transition easier or more difficult for those involved. It can be a matter of temperaments, as some individuals handle change differently than others. It also has to do with how long the transition has been anticipated and how well the transition has been planned. It has to do with how well those in the system experiencing the transition have been prepared. It also has to do with whether or not the transition flows in the natural progression of time or whether the transition is unforeseen and forced by sudden tragedy or change in circumstances.

Over the past few years, Wendy and I have been in a season in which we are experiencing a number of transitions in our families and in business.

Today’s chapter is about a major transition in the spiritual landscape of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The prophet Elijah appeared on the scene like Clint Eastwood wandering into town in High Plains Drifter. God uses Elijah to take on corrupt King Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal. God worked miraculously through Elijah throughout his ministry, and now it’s time for him to ride off into the sunset (or in this case, riding off in a chariot and a whirlwind). Today’s chapter is all about the transition of Spirit and prophetic authority from Elijah to his protégé Elisha.

First God leads the two of them on Elijah’s farewell tour of the three towns where companies of prophets reside: Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. In each place, it is known or made known that Elijah is going to be taken away. Elijah and Elisha then cross over the Jordan river, with Elijah striking the water with his cloak and parting the waters to cross on dry ground. This is a direct parallel to Moses striking the water with his staff so that the people of Israel could cross into the Promised Land in Exodus 14.

This is also the root of so many metaphors that we continue to use today. Elijah is “crossing over Jordan” to be taken to heaven. “Crossing Jordan” is still used in life and lyrics when referencing death and the passing of a person from earthly life to eternal life.

Elijah then asks Elisha what he wants, and Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. In modern western culture, this sounds like a consumerist request as if Elisha is asking for a spiritual BOGO coupon. What Elisha is asking is in reference to the Mosaic laws of inheritance. The first-born son gets a “double portion” of the father’s inheritance and takes on the role of patriarch in the family. Elisha is asking to receive the mantel of spiritual leadership among the prophets and the people, to be the spiritual firstborn son among the prophets of God’s people.

When Elijah is taken, he leaves his cloak behind, which Elisha picks up and strikes the water of the Jordan. The waters part and he returns to the other shore on dry land, symbolizing that he indeed received what he had asked for. And, by the way, we still use this event metaphorically in talking about transitions of power and authority. Another word for cloak is “mantel.” The “mantel of leadership” had been passed from Elijah to Elisha.

The last two stories in the chapter confirm the miraculous powers of blessing (healing the water) and curses (the curse on the jeering boys) that Elisha now possessed just as Elijah had possessed before him.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking through all of the areas of transition that Wendy and I are still navigating. How does the transition from Elijah to Elisha speak into all of these other transitions?

First, there was a process. So often in transitions, I experience the desire to jump to the end of the process. I want to skip the more difficult parts, especially the ones that are about dealing with messy relationships. But the process is necessary, and it can make a huge difference in the success of the transition.

Second, there was a nod to both the past (Moses crossing Jordan) and to the future (Elijah being taken to heaven in order to set up the “return” in the person of John the Baptist). The good transitions I’ve experienced in life and organizations both honor the past and open up new paths and future opportunities. In the transitions I’m experiencing, how can I embrace both?

Finally, there was an element of the divine mystery in the transition. Elijah didn’t grant Elisha’s request. He deferred that to God. That’s why Elisha’s three miracles (dividing Jordan, healing the water, cursing the jeering boys) confirmed that God had granted Elisha’s request. In this, I am mindful that there is, I believe, an element of the divine mystery in every earthly transition. I believe that God is at work in my story and in each person’s story. I have been a part of transitions that didn’t end the way I wanted them to, but in retrospect, I can see how it was instrumental in the directing of my steps.

So, I’m reminded of my one word this year: Trust.

Trust the Story.
Trust the plan.
Transitions are waypoints in the direction of our path.

FWIW: Several of my messages from the past five months were uploaded to the Messages page. Messages are listed in chronological order with the newest messages on top.

Featured image on today’s post is by Jan Saenrendam, from the collection of the City of Amsterdam, and is in the Public Domain.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The God Commerce

The God Commerce (CaD 1 Ki 20) Wayfarer

“I will return the cities my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad offered. “You may set up your own market areas in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”
Ahab said, “On the basis of a treaty I will set you free.” So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.

1 Kings 20:34 (NIV)

Over the years, my amateur genealogical and historic studies have led me to better understand the Dutch heritage I inherited on the paternal side of my DNA and family experience. Dutch culture is a fascinating study for a number of reasons. In the 1600s, the Dutch were arguably the wealthiest nation on earth because of Dutch trading ships dominating the seas. Amsterdam became a hub of global trade and commerce and Dutch bankers in Amsterdam became bankers to the entire world.

At this same time in history, an intense rift dominated the spiritual and political landscape. The Protestant Reformation had led to entrenched rivalries (and wars) between Roman Catholics and Protestant Reformers. The Dutch, much like other European nations, had citizens in both camps zealously holding to their beliefs.

I once read a historian who declared that the reason the humanistic Dutch Catholics and the pious Dutch Reformers got along was that both religious camps ultimately cared more about the commerce that was making both camps increasingly wealthy. When Catholics and Reformers argued, it was business and the money it generated that acted as the tiebreaker and peacemaker.

Today’s chapter deals with a dispute between the King of Aram and King Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel, somewhat like the Dutch culture of a thousand years later in history, was spiritually divided between those who clung to the God of Abraham, Moses, and David, and those who were committed to the plethora of local and regional pagan deities.

Underneath the obvious events of today’s chapter lies a political undercurrent many readers miss. It was all about trade and the subsequent wealth it generated. Israel had key strategic ports on the Mediterranean along with treaties with Tyre and Phoenecia that were incredibly lucrative. Aram was landlocked and wanted access to those trade routes. The reason that both the King of Aram and the King of Israel were so quick to surrender to one another was the same reasoning between the Dutch Catholics and Protestants. There was still a lot of money to be made and a lot of wealth to be enjoyed by both Kings if they formed an alliance.

But this arrangement is spiritually revealing. Ahab and the Kings of Israel have been operating under a spiritual policy of appeasement. The King and officials allow the prophets of God and those loyal to the God of Moses to do their thing. However, they freely ascribe to the local and regional pagan gods because doing so is good for political alliances and lucrative trade deals with other kingdoms. At the end of the chapter, God speaks through a prophet to call out Ahab regarding his complicity. Ahab cares more about trade, political aspiration, and wealth than the things of God.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but feel the resonance between my cultural heritage and the story in today’s chapter. Art historians claim that a key to Rembrandt’s rise to artistic prominence in the 1600s was his ability to create portraits of wealthy Protestants that portrayed them in all of their religious piety while hinting at their immense wealth. It reminds me of a local resident my friend knows who drives around our small Iowa town in his old Buick, but his vacation home in Arizona has a garage filled with extravagant luxury cars and motorcycles.

This leads me to ask myself about my own priorities. Jesus taught that my heart would be where my treasure is. So what is it I most treasure, and where does that treasure lie?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Blessed in the Running

Blessed in the Running (CaD 1 Ki 19) Wayfarer

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.
1 Kings 19:3a (NIV)

2022 has not been a banner year, to be perfectly honest. My one word for this year has been blessed.

“How’s that working out for you?” Wendy asked me a few weeks ago as we were discussing life.

I couldn’t help but imagine God impersonating Inigo Montoya saying to me: “‘Blessed.’ You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Indeed, it’s been a year of hard lessons.

Today’s chapter has always intrigued me, and in it, I have often found solace. The great prophet Elijah has just witnessed one of the most miraculous events recorded in the entire Great Story. He has watched God break through and win a great victory over his enemies against all odds. He should be feeling cocky and courageous despite the fact that he has stirred up his enemies’ vengeance.

But Elijah is afraid. Elijah wants to run, and run he does. Into the wilderness, he runs. Forty days and forty nights he runs.

A few months ago, I was having a cut-and-run moment amidst some stressful days . It happened to be on a Sunday morning and we were worshipping among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. I asked for prayer and I literally told the sisters praying for me that I wanted to run from the circumstances stressing me. I’ll never forget what was said to me that morning.

“God gives us the desires of our hearts. So, go ahead and run. Just make sure you’re running into God’s arms.”

That’s exactly what Elijah did in today’s chapter. Afraid, worn out, and running on empty, he runs to the mountain of God and hides in a cave. God tells Elijah to go outside the cave and prepare himself for He is about to pass by.

Then, there was a violent wind, but God wasn’t in the wind.

Next came a powerful earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake.

After that, there was a raging fire, but God wasn’t in the fire.

God finally spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice – a gentle whisper.

And, you know what? That’s why I begin my days in the quiet. I love a dramatic eucatastrophe as much as anyone. God’s flashy victory on Mount Carmel was spectacular. I often want and expect God to bless me in a mighty wind, a rumbling mountain-moving quake, or with flashy and fiery pyrotechnics. Along my spiritual journey, I’ve come to understand that God typically blesses me as I sit alone in the quiet, even on stressful days in which I am afraid and feel like running for my life. It’s in my morning pages and my contemplation that I hear His gentle whisper.

What does He say? Basically, the same thing He told Elijah.

“Keep going. Press on. Do what I’ve given you to do.”

“I have blessed you in ways you don’t comprehend.”

I am blessing you now, even if you don’t see it or perceive it.”

You will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams at the journey’s end.

And so, I leave the quiet and press forward with my day, each day, one day at a time.

Taking next week off to spend time with family. See ya next year!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Generations

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 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I had all the confidence in the world. I had an intense belief that I could do anything to which I set my mind. I didn’t even question it. The only question was what it was to which I would set my mind and heart. I was three years old when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon, and for my generation, I believe there was a certain anticipation and belief that we could shoot for the stars. Our grandparents were “the greatest generation” who grew up during the Great Depression and gave their lives to save the world from tyrannical evil in World War II. Our parents’ generation put men on the moon. There was no limit to what our generation could accomplish.

In those early years, I don’t remember having much anger or animosity toward the previous generations other than what I perceived to be their blind obedience to institutions and institutional traditions. I was an obedient and good kid for the most post, but I bucked traditions that I found silly and void of any tangible purpose.

By way of contrast, our daughters’ childhood and youth were marked by September 11, 2001, and a post-9/11 world. Taylor was 11, and Madison was not quite 10. Now in their 30s, I look at their generation and find them to have a very different mindset. My personal observation has been that they’ve largely rejected the faith and belief systems of previous generations outright. Despite being arguably the most affluent and privileged generation in the history of humanity, theirs is a pessimistic and cynical worldview of a world made perpetually evil by the previous generations and their belief systems, an assuredly apocalyptic future from any number of doomsday scenarios from climate change to capitalism, and their conviction that only they can change the world and save it for subsequent generations.

Generations are fascinating.

In today’s chapter, Solomon’s son Rehoboam takes over his father’s throne. I couldn’t help but think through the experience of the generations:

Generation #1: David
David has an incredibly difficult journey to the throne. Despite his early victory over Goliath and popular acclaim, David lives as a mercenary in the desert with a price on his head for well over a decade. He’s a middle-aged man by the time he ascends to the throne. He earned the kingdom through grit, faith, perseverance, and conquest.

Generation #2: Solomon
David’s marriage to Bathsheba and the subsequent birth of Solomon came relatively late in David’s life and reign. Solomon was born into the wealth and power of the royal family, but he was relatively young when he ascended the throne and inherited a vastly larger and wealthier nation that his father had spent a lifetime building. Solomon enjoyed the heck out of it, but his excess and extravagance came at a heavy expense to the everyday people of the nation.

Generation #3: Rehoboam
From what we can surmise, Rehoboam never knew a difficult day in his life. He great up, not only in the Royal palace like his father, but he also experienced the wealth, extravagance, and excess with which his father lived. Solomon may have known privilege, but Rehoboam knew only privilege and fortune on steroids. When he finally has his chance at the throne, he has no regard for his people or his nation. He and his entourage of similarly privileged and wealthy friends treat the throne as if it’s their golden ticket to continue their extravagant living while using their power to lord themselves over others.

In the quiet this morning, I ponder my place in the Great Story from a historical and generational perspective. On one hand, I feel humble in accepting the reality that generations are often unwitting products of the generations before them and the circumstances around them over which they have no control. On the other hand, I find myself desiring to not be fatalistic about the differences between generations but rather to help other generations with the wisdom of experience. Ultimately, you can’t control whether another generation will listen to or accept that wisdom.

The elders who tried to speak wisdom into Rehoboam learned that the hard way.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Legendary

Legendary (CaD 1 Ki 9) Wayfarer

This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’
1 Kings 9:8 (NIV)

I have recently been listening to a podcast called This is History with Dan Jones. For any fellow history geeks reading this, I highly recommend it. The first season tells the story of the “Plantagenet” kings of England, including the crusading Richard the Lionheart and his brother, Prince John, who are typically familiar to most people because of their presence in our regular, contemporary retellings of the legend of Robin Hood. The truth is that the Robin Hood legend was not originally set in the same period of time as Richard and John. Modern writers and producers have connected the two to give the story a little more pizazz.

How fascinating that most people today have better recall of the fictional Robin Hood legend than anything about the very real histories of Richard, John, and their Plantagenet family whose real stories are every bit as entertaining as that of the legendary outlaw.

In today’s chapter, Solomon receives a second appearance from God in which God acknowledges the now completed and consecrated Temple in Jerusalem and then warns Solomon and his descendants that if they are unfaithful and worship other gods the Temple will be reduced to rubble and publicly ridiculed. The rest of the chapter goes on to list other accomplishments of Solomon’s impressive 40-year reign.

As I was pondering these things in the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but mull over the reality that there is scant evidence that King Solomon ever existed. In fact, I had teachers in school who proudly boasted that the entire story of King Solomon was as legendary a fabrication as Robin Hood. It is true that compared to other historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart and Prince John, we have little actual physical evidence to corroborate the story. Of course, Solomon lived a couple thousand years before the Plantagenet kings.

Having said that, modern archaeology has unearthed actual evidence of the building of fortifications at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer that date to the time of Solomon and corroborate the text in today’s chapter. In addition, horse stables have been unearthed as described in the text (note: today’s featured photo is of unearthed horse stables at Megiddo). Recently unearthed clay seals have also provided historical evidence to prove the historicity of both David and Solomon.

What I find fascinating, however, is the spiritual lesson that lies at the heart of this modern doubt and dismissal of the great and successful Solomon. Solomon had a successful forty-year reign. He fortified the territory his father conquered. He pulled off extensive building campaigns. He established trade routes on both land and sea and established treaties and alliances with neighboring kingdoms and empires. He was, according to the text, the most successful king by earthly standards in the history of Israel.

And he’s popularly dismissed in modern times as nothing but an exaggerated religious legend.

God warned Solomon and his descendants that their lack of faithfulness would result in the destruction of the Temple. What was also destroyed was Solomon’s legacy. Everything Solomon worked for, everything he built, everything he accomplished, and all of his worldly success ended up on the scrap heap of history that is still publicly ridiculed as rubbish to this day. His legendary success is dismissed as nothing but a legend.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about Jesus telling His followers to be mindful of what I treasure on this earthly journey. It’s basically a riff on the message Solomon received. If I invest my time, energy, and resources in building God’s kingdom, the “treasure” is an eternal legacy. All of the earthly treasures I acquire in chasing worldly success will, on the other hand, end up completely forgotten on the scrap heap of history right next to Solomon’s.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“However…”

"However…" (CaD 1 Ki 7) Wayfarer

It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.
1 Kings 6:38-7:1 (NIV)

By its very nature, this chapter-a-day journey focuses on one chapter each weekday. It’s typically a quick read and allows for efficiently focusing on a limited amount of content. Those chapter numbers and verse numbers were not originally part of the text. Manuscripts as early as the fourth century reveal forms of chapter designations. The chapters we have today date back to the 12th century, introduced by a man named Stephen Langton. Verses came along in 1551, added by a translator named Robert Estienne.

The upside of chapters and verses is that they make referencing and cross-referencing simple. They also help break the text up into easily digestible chunks for purposes of planned reading like this chapter-a-day journey. The downside to chapters and verses, of course, is that it’s easy to think about each chapter in a vacuum, and sometimes the lesson is the context of the larger story being told or the larger lesson being conveyed. When the teaching team among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers was preparing a series of messages on 1 Corinthians, I made a copy of Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth on plain paper without any chapter, verse, or headings. I printed it in a handwritten font. Many of them spoke of it being a transformational experience to read the letter as it was originally written, as a personal letter. I have found it important for me to occasionally get rid of chapters and verses in order for some lessons to become clear.

Today’s chapter is a great example of this. It begins with the statement, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The word “however” is referring back to the end of the previous chapter, but I read that chapter yesterday. That blog post was written and posted; The podcast was recorded and published. It’s a different day, and we’re on to the next chapter. It’s easy to simply ignore it.

The previous sentence at the end of chapter six says:

In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.

Solomon spent seven years building God’s Temple.

He spent thirteen years building his palace.

There’s a lot of context missing, of course. It’s quite possible that Solomon invested a lot more manpower in order to make the Temple a priority and get it built in a shorter period of time. It’s easy to jump to conclusions. I couldn’t help but notice the numbers involved.

The Temple was built in seven years. Seven is associated with “completion” throughout the Great Story (e.g. seven days of creation). So, it would make sense that God’s Temple would be completed in seven years. In addition, it was completed in the eighth month. Eight is associated with “a new thing” as in “seven plus one.” Seven is completion, but add to it and we’re doing something new. This permanent Temple was a new version of the old traveling tent Tabernacle. Old things pass away and new things come.

Solomon’s palace was built in thirteen years. Now we have the number of completion (seven) and add to it six years. John’s Revelations speak very clearly that six is “man’s number” and the human anti-Christ’s number is 666 (three being the number of the Trinity, three sixes form an unholy trinity of man as God). I couldn’t help but think that Solomon’s palace stands as a lesson. As wise as Solomon was, this little “however” statement by the author, and the numbers involved, subtly point to the fact that Solomon’s human hubris was more important to him than a humble and obedient life in which he sought to make God the priority.

In the quiet this morning, I end this work week with a rather simple lesson resonating in my heart and mind. Do I give God a portion and save a larger portion for myself. Do I invest a part of my life in spiritual “treasure” while spending more time and energy chasing after earthly “treasure?” Will family and friends say at my funeral, “Tom was dedicated to the things of God, however...”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.