Tag Archives: Solomon

“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.

Sacred Space

Sacred Space (CaD 1 Ki 6) Wayfarer

In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.
1 Kings 6:7 (NIV)

This past week, Wendy and I were tickled as we watched a young girl in our weekly gathering of Jesus’ followers. She was laying on the floor in the front of the gathering coloring in her coloring book, kicking her legs up and down as she hummed while the morning message. When I later told her mother that Wendy and I had enjoyed watching her daughter she commented, “Only [in our gathering] could that be acceptable.”

What she was poking at was the tradition of reverence and sacredness that people have traditionally had around church buildings, sanctuaries, and places of worship. I was raised in such a tradition. When entering the church, you were to be quiet, dignified, and respectful. Children were never supposed to run. The altar area in the sanctuary was a forbidden space. Wear your best clothes, sit up straight in the pew, behave, be quiet, be reverent. You’re in a sacred space!

After becoming a follower of Jesus and reading Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the apostles for myself, I was amazed by the realization that almost everything about my experiences of church was nowhere to be found in either the teachings or examples of Jesus and His early followers. In fact, Jesus on at least two occasions speaks about the religious tradition of worshipping God at a temple being torn down and replaced. He was dismissive of His disciples’ awe and wonder at the Temple ( the same Temple we read about being built in today’s chapter) and tells them that it will ultimately be razed to rubble. In another episode, a woman from Samaria questions Jesus about one of the major differences between the Jews, whose worship was centered around the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans, whose worship was centered at Mount Gerizim. Jesus responds, “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Jesus never prescribed church buildings, cathedrals, basilicas, sanctuaries, altars, or sacred spaces. The teaching of Jesus is that when I as a follower am indwelt by the Holy Spirit then I become the Temple of God. Sacred space, therefore, is wherever I happen to be. I bring the sacred with me because God’s Spirit is in me. The Jesus movement in the first century exploded as followers and disciples met anywhere and everywhere in homes, outdoors, and in public places.

We human beings, however, love our religious traditions. I found it interesting in today’s chapter that even at the building of the Temple the work area was to remain silent in reverence. It reminded me of the plethora of rules I was taught as a child about the church building being a sacred space.

Which reminded me of our sweet little girl Wendy and I watched in worship this past Sunday. Our local gathering has taken a different stance than the historic traditions about the place of worship being sacred and thus requiring silence, reverence, and rules like the removal of headwear. In our gatherings, children are allowed to be children. For many years, we had a weekly gaggle of little girls who would literally apply Psalm 149’s call to praise God with dancing as they would jump and spin and improvise dances in the corner of the room during songs. We have people who quite literally exercise the freedom to worship God with clapping, shouting, and raising hands as prescribed in the book of Psalms and elsewhere. On a few occasions, we’ve had an individual who expresses praise by applying Psalm 20’s encouragement to “lift up banners in the name of our God” and would quite literally do a flag routine like you’d see with a marching band. And, sometimes we are silent and reverent, not because of the room or the building but because silence is a form of both individual and corporate worship, too.

It is in the quiet where I find myself each morning as I read and ponder, and write each one of these chapter-a-day posts. My home office becomes sacred space, not because of anything having to do with the room, but because of everything having to do with God’s Spirit in me and communing with me in spirit, heart, and mind.

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

Purpose and Legacy

Purpose and Legacy (CaD 1 Ki 5) Wayfarer

[Solomon wrote] “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.”
1 Kings 5:5 (NIV)

Wendy and I recently returned from a trip to Scotland where we visited our kids and grandkids living there. One afternoon we made a point of visiting a small pub in Edinburgh that had become a favorite haunt of ours on our last visit to Edinburgh. The White Hart boasts of being Edinburgh’s oldest pub, having opened for business in the year 1516 on a street below Edinburgh Castle just a stone’s throw from where official public beheadings and executions took place.

While enjoying a pint at the White Hart, we went to the internet to find out what was happening in the world in 1516. Henry VIII, who famously broke with the Roman Catholic Church and marries six different wives (two by beheadings that were not conducted down the street from the White Hart Pub), is on the throne in England. Martin Luther is a year away from nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg Door. Christopher Columbus’ cousin was doing his own bit of exploring in Asia after Chris had discovered the Americas just over a decade before. The Ottoman Empire was waging war against Syria. And, the White Hart pub was pouring pints for their first customers.

Wendy and I sat in the same pub, contemplating how much life had changed in 500 years.

In today’s chapter, the narrative switches from a focus on who Solomon was to a focus on what Solomon did. Namely, his major building projects. The major focus is on the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the text also describes the building of Solomon’s palace, as well.

The building of the Temple is a major event in the context of the Great Story that God is authoring from Genesis through Revelation. All the way back in the book of Exodus God gave instructions, through Moses, for the building of a traveling tent temple known as the Tabernacle. It could be repeatedly set up and taken down as the Hebrew people left slavery in Egypt and traveled through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The Tabernacle was always set up in the center of the Hebrew camp and their lives centered on the sacrificial system of worship that God established in the Law of Moses.

That was roughly 500 years before Solomon, the same amount of time that passed between our pub in Scotland opening its doors and our visit last month. The Hebrew tribes have been well established in the land of Canaan for about 400 years. Think about all that changes in 400-500 years. In all of that time, there’s been no central place of worship for the Hebrew people. The Tabernacle was still around, but it had moved from place to place and there’s some belief that the Ark of the Covenant (which was to be kept in the Tabernacle according to the Law of Moses) may have been removed and kept elsewhere which would have watered-down the entire system of worship. With no established Temple, sacrifices took place in different locations and the worship of God became mixed in with the practices of local pagan religions. The author of 1 Kings even mentions that Solomon was guilty of worshipping in the “high places” favored by local pagan deities (1 Ki 3:3).

Building a Temple, therefore, is a huge deal for the Hebrew people. It will be known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It will become the center of Hebrew worship for centuries. It will be destroyed and rebuilt. It will be where Jesus will drive out the moneychangers and draw crowds with His teaching. Jesus will also correctly prophesy that it will be ultimately torn down. The foundational remnants of the Temple are centrally sacred in Judaism to this very day.

In the quiet this morning, my heart and mind are pondering both purpose and legacy. The texts of Samuel and Kings make it clear that Solomon was purposed by God to build the Temple that would become an important thread of the Great Story. The legacy of Solomon’s Temple continues to resonate to this day as people gather this moment, around the clock, to worship and pray at the Western Wall, the foundation stones of the Temple that still remain on the western side of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ taught His followers to live with purpose, prioritizing God’s Kingdom above the things of this earthly life. In doing so, He spoke of a legacy of things that will remain for eternity when every earthly treasure has long since burned away.

What do I purpose to do with this day?

What legacy am I building and leaving?

Good questions to ponder over a pint, and then act on it. The oldest pub around here, however, has yet to reach its tenth birthday.

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

Solomon: Most Wise Fool

Solomon: Most Wise Fool (CaD 1 Ki 4) Wayfarer

The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.
1 Kings 4:20-21 (NIV)

In the list of Solomon’s officials are two secretaries and a recorder. I’m not sure if one of them functioned like the press secretaries that Presidents have today, but today’s chapter drips with the positive spin we’ve come to cynically expect from modern press briefings of national leaders. In today’s chapter, everything is rosy. Everyone is happy. Solomon is the perfect ruler whose wisdom is second only to the future Messiah.

Over a lifetime of observing positive spin from both sides of the political aisle, I have, perhaps, grown a little cynical. Many readers may take the information shared in today’s chapter on merit, but between the facts written through rose-colored glasses, I couldn’t help but notice a few things.

Solomon inherited everything from his father. The lands and peoples over which Solomon reigned were conquered by David. Solomon simply took over control. I can’t help but think that history is full of stories of children squandering what their parent(s) had earned. Governing and maintaining control over many tribal groups over a large area for any length of time was tricky business in that period of history. It took an amazing balance of diplomacy and military threat. The facts we are given simply point to a Solomon who lived rich, courted foreign diplomats who showered him with praise, and enjoyed every minute of being the richest and wisest man in his known world. Knowing from history that the entire kingdom implodes immediately after Solomon died, I’m left to wonder if Solomon gave any thought to preserving the kingdom that God had established and blessed for subsequent generations, or if he simply enjoyed the wild and luxurious ride he’d inherited.

Solomon’s administration was full of insiders. Solomon’s officials and advisors were largely sons of his father’s advisors and sons-in-law. David had built the Kingdom on a diverse group of supporters from different backgrounds that he developed from his decades as a mercenary. Solomon does not appear to be building bridges and political alliances with the conquered peoples over whom he’s ruling. He’s keeping his kingly power concentrated with what many in his kingdom might call “the same old cronies.”

Solomon’s great kingdom was built by forced labor. There are only seven or eight jobs listed in Solomon’s cabinet. One of them is the secretary of “forced labor.” Solomon’s lavish building projects are being accomplished on the backs of slaves and “forced labor” from his own people. This was not new. It was the way of the world back in those days. However, Solomon’s never-ending construction projects from palaces to the Temple would indicate that he likely required a level of forced labor that would have bred all sorts of anger and discontent among the masses.

Solomon’s twelve “districts” were a form of ancient gerrymandering that crossed tribal boundaries and redrew the map. There may have been a good reason for this. Perhaps Solomon was trying to ensure that every district had enough agricultural production to provide their annual monthly supply for his lavish lifestyle at court. Redrawing the map, however, meant that districts crossed ancient tribal boundaries, which in turn likely stirred up ancient tribal rivalries and resentments. The key to preserving a kingdom in those days was maintaining peace and stability, not stirring up trouble.

In the quiet this morning, I’m pondering two realities. The first reality is that Solomon was most certainly the intelligent, charismatic, and wise man described in today’s chapter. There is no doubt that he was wealthy and successful during his reign and in his lifetime. The second reality is the sobering fact that Solomon was also a flawed human being just like every other sinful human being. Solomon’s press secretary does a masterful job of diverting our attention away from Solomon’s flaws and focusing on Solomon’s greatness. History, however, reveals that it is Solomon’s flaws and blind spots that lead to his great kingdom dying with him. Those blind spots will plague subsequent generations with political strife, civil war, violence, and bloodshed for hundreds of years.

I’m reminded this morning of the word picture Jesus gives His followers at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount. I’m reminded because I just gave a message a few Sundays ago about that very word picture. It is a contrasting word picture of two people who each build their own house. One of the houses blows down when the storms of life hit. The other house remains standing through those storms. For all of his wisdom, Solomon’s kingdom will fall with the first political wind that blows after his death.

As I mentioned in my message, Jesus’ word picture begs a number of questions of me:

What am I building with this life I’m given?
What am I building it on?
What am I building it with?
What will blow away with my death? What will last for eternity?

Today’s featured image, Most Wise Fool, was created with Wonder A.I.

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

Settling the Family’s Accounts

Settling the Family Accounts (1 Ki 2) Wayfarer

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
1 Kings 2:1 (NIV)

There was a time many years ago that I was asked to serve on a team, and agreed to do so. After my first meeting, the team leader called me aside and called me out for some of the opinions I’d expressed in the meeting. It was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve had along my life journey. I was quickly informed that my services on the team were no longer required, and the whole experience made me grateful to walk away.

I thought about that experience as I pondered today’s chapter. It’s actually a very interesting conversation that begins with David on his deathbed, telling his successor, Solomon, to be obedient to God and keep the Law of Moses. David then immediately tells Solomon to “settle a few of the family accounts” Godfather style.

David tells Solomon to have two men killed:

Joab, David’s powerful military general, had committed a number of disloyal acts including killing Absalom without David’s consent and participating in Adonijah’s rebellion.

Shimei, a member of Saul’s family who had cursed David publicly during Absalom’s rebellion. David had let him live, but now wants Solomon to exact revenge.

Solomon also goes on to kill Adonijah his brother, who attempts to conspire with Bathsheba to make Abishag his wife. Abishag was the virgin who had been made part of the king’s harem so as to sleep with David and keep him warm. Adonijah’s request to marry a member of his father’s harem, was a disrespectful insult of Solomon’s authority and would have subtly established Adonijah’s right to the throne. Sleeping with one of your father’s harem in that culture established the son was his father’s successor. The request told Solomon that his older brother will not give up his desire to be king.

Solomon also removes Abiathar the priest, who had sided with Adonijah, and sends him back to his home, stripping him of his priestly power.

From a historical perspective, what Solomon did was not unusual. In the game of thrones for ancient kingdoms, being the king or queen was a precarious position and there were always rivals, even among one’s own family, who would be happy to assassinate the one on the throne in order to seize power. The elimination of known rivals was one of the ways that ancient monarchs secured their position. I mentioned earlier that what Solomon did was Godfatheresque because it’s a very apt parallel. It’s exactly what Michael Corleone does when he takes out all his rivals.

From a leadership perspective, this is also not unusual. When politicians are elected, it’s customary for people in certain key positions to tender their resignation so that the incoming elected official can appoint his or her own people. It’s sometimes the same way in churches when a new pastor is hired or appointed and the staff is expected to offer their resignations. As I look back on the experience of getting fired from the team after my first meeting, it’s clear that the team leader did not trust that I would be a loyal and supportive member. Even if I could have been, their distrust of me would likely have eventually created problems. While I still scratch my head at the way it was done, I’ve always been grateful to have walked away.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself reminded that I can scarce imagine what life and culture were like back in David and Solomon’s day. It was a violent period of history. At the same time, there are lessons that I can glean about leadership and human systems in which I interact. As I ponder it, I realize that have a great deal of autonomy to choose in to our out of most of the systems and circles of influence with which I regularly interact. Some of the wisest choices I believe I’ve made along my life journey have been choices to choose out of dysfunctional systems or systems filled with crazymakers.

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

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (CaD 1 Ki 1) Wayfarer

Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.
1 Kings 1:5 (NIV)

Over the past few years, I have been watching multiple series set in the history of England. Both The Last Kingdom (Netflix) and Vikings (Prime) are set in the period when England was divided into several kingdoms and the Vikings from Norway and Denmark were regularly raiding the island. The BBC’s Hollow Crown series (PBS) are modern productions of seven of Shakespeare’s historical plays following English monarchs Richard II through Richard III. So, I’ve quite literally been entertained by the intrigues, plots, and schemes of people trying to ascend power in the game of thrones that is English history.

What is lost on many people is that much of what is called the Old Testament is the history of another, more ancient game of thrones. It is ancient Israel’s own version of it, and it has all of the intrigues, plots, schemes, and assassinations you find in the history of any human kingdom.

Having just followed the story of Israel’s ancient monarchy from King Saul through King David in the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, this chapter-a-day journey is going to press on into the epic saga beginning with 1 Kings. At the end of the 2 Samuel, David has barely survived a coup d’èta by his son, Prince Absalom. Absalom was seeking revenge because his half-brother Prince Amnon (the favored oldest son) raped his half-sister (and Absalom’s full sister) Princess Tamar, and King David did nothing about it.

Picking up the story in today’s chapter, David is old and bed-ridden. The number of his days is waning and everyone knows it. Prince Solomon, the first-born son of the scandalous marriage between David and Bathsheba, has become David’s favorite whom David had promised would succeed him.

Enter Prince Adonijah, likely the eldest remaining son after Absalom murdered his brothers and potential rivals during his failed rebellion. With David bed-ridden, his power diminished, Adonijah decides to attempt a bloodless coup. He gets the backing of a high-priest and a couple of David’s most powerful right-hand men, then arranges to have the high-priest anoint him king at a sacred place just outside of Jerusalem. They then begin a feast to celebrate.

Hearing of this, Bathsheba and the prophet, Nathan go to King David to explain what has happened. David gives orders for another priest and those loyal to him to quickly anoint Solomon and place Solomon on David’s throne as David’s chosen successor. The crowds inside Jerusalem gather and hail their new king, Solomon.

Outside the city, the self-crowned Adonijah and his followers are wrapping up their coronation party when news arrives that King David has placed Solomon on his throne. Adonijah and his followers scatter in fear that King Solomon will exact quick revenge and have them all killed. Prince Adonijah himself flees to the temple where he takes hold of the altar, hoping that King Solomon will not kill him in such a holy place. Solomon in his first recorded act as King, promises not to kill his brother as long as Adonijah remains loyal, and sends him home.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that almost every human system (families, committees, churches, councils, school administrations, community groups, businesses, and etc.) is a “game of thrones.” Wherever leaders have power and/or authority over others, members within that system will challenge it, criticize it, undermine it, usurp it, and rebel against it. It’s why the founding fathers of the United States divided governing power so widely. They knew from history that the game of thrones is inherently human. By spreading out the power across three different branches and two legislative houses, they sought to ensure that power was not concentrated on a single throne, but many for which there were checks and balances to make necessary corrections and hold individuals accountable for any misuse of power.

So where do I stand in the various human systems in which I operate? How well do I do with the authority and power I have in family, business, church, and community? How well do I submit to those who are in authority over me in those same systems? Where do my loyalties lie? What does it mean to live, speak, think, act, and relate in those systems as a disciple of Jesus? Are the fruits of God’s Spirit evident in the way I conduct myself in each system?

If Jesus is my Lord, as I profess Him to be, then I acknowledge Him as the one sitting on the throne of my heart and life. How well do I submit to His authority in every area of my own life?

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

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

Gift, not Reward

Gift, not Reward (CaD Ps 127) Wayfarer

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1 (NIV)

Family is messy. It just is.

When I was a young man, I embarked on a fact-finding mission to better understand my families of origin. What I discovered was that underneath the veneer of stories that I’d been told (the good, polite, and acceptable ones) there was a whole lot of mess.

The Great Story is full of wisdom that reads like simple binary formulas. A+B=C.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.

I like simple formulas, and I’ve observed that most other human beings do too. That’s why name-it-and-claim-it televangelists get people to send them millions (“Give and you will receive!“). It’s how we get suckered into all sorts of things (“Just five minutes a day with the Ab Monster and you’ll have a six-pack like this dude!“). I’ve also observed and experienced that it’s how many institutional churches approach life. “Do this and you’ll experience God’s blessings; Don’t do that or you’ll suffer God’s punishment.” It’s no wonder the world is rejecting the church and screaming “It doesn’t work!”

Along my spiritual journey, I’ve come to the realization that the spiritual path, the path of wisdom, and following Jesus is not a simple math equation as it may appear on the surface and/or how it’s often presented. It’s more like actuarial science based on general rules, complex principles, earthly probabilities, percentages, and exceptions. Simple formulas are fubar’d when imperfect human beings enter the equation with our emotions, pride, passions, appetites, desires, fears, and free will.

Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

It seems so simple that I want to name it and claim it. It appears so simple that when I witness someone’s child making poor choices it must be that his parents missed an ingredient in the good Christian, Focus-on-the-Family formula, or her behavior must reveal the proof I need that mom and dad are blowing it in the parental department. The simple train-up-a-child formula sounded so easy when my daughters were babes who were completely dependent on my absolute provision and authority. Then an adult child strikes out on her own path, making her own choices, and finding her own way. It looks nothing like the paternal expectations I anticipated as part of that simple formula when my head and heart were intoxicated with absolute authority over her life. It’s easy for me to feel cheated by what appeared to be simple math.

In my own life journey and experiences with messy family, Lady Wisdom has taught me a few things:

  • The path Jesus prescribed for His followers was never about moral perfection, an easy-life, and earthly abundance; It’s about selflessness, sacrifice, and love-in-action.
  • The only things I really control are my own thoughts, words, actions, and choices. The notion I control anything else is an illusion.
  • My family members are on their own spiritual journeys, just like me. If I want them to have grace and understanding with my shit, I have to have grace with theirs. If I want them to have patience and understanding as I navigate this stretch of life in my 50s, which I’ve never experienced before, then I have to let them navigate their 20s and 30s, which they’ve never experienced, with that same patience and understanding.
  • If I believe God is faithful and can be trusted, and I believe He is, then I can entrust others to God while I choose to let go of my personal expectations of them.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 127, is a song that the liner notes ascribe to Solomon, the son of King David. It is another one of the songs that ancient Hebrew pilgrims sang on their trek to Jerusalem. It is both a celebration of family and a reminder that all of life’s blessings and securities are gifts from God, not the In the quiet this morning, I’m making a little mental inventory of the family stories embedded in the Great Story:

  • Lot was incestuous with his daughters.
  • Abraham slept with his concubine at his wife’s insistence and the consequences are still being felt today.
  • Jacob (and his mother) deceived his father and stole his brother’s birthright.
  • Joseph was beaten and sold into slavery by his own brothers.
  • David committed adultery and refused to deal with the incestuous rape his own son committed against his half-sister.
  • David’s son, Solomon, was the offspring of his scandalous, adulterous, conspiratorial marriage to Bathsheba and murder of her husband.

And its Solomon who the wrote the lyrics of today’s Psalm. For me, reading the lyrics of today’s chapter knowing the unvarnished truth of Solomon’s family story strips away the notion of simple spiritual formulas with it comes to family.

Family is messy. It just is.

There are many spiritual principles that influence the outcomes I generally experience on this life journey, both positively and negatively. But it’s not always a simple equation. I can build a home and family, but it still won’t cure the mess. Solomon knew that as well as anyone. He reminds me this morning that life’s blessings and securities are gifts, not rewards.

The Day the Music Died

The Day the Music Died (CaD Ps 72) Wayfarer

This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
Psalm 72:20 (NIV)

I have the Don McLean classic American Pie going through my head in the quiet this morning. It’s funny how songs connect to so many thoughts and feelings. The first verse stirs so many memories of being a paperboy at the age of 12. Frigid Iowa mornings being the first person to see the headlines, and trudging in the dark before dawn hand-delivering newspapers to the doorsteps up and down the block.

McLean’s lyrics go like this…

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

I think the inspiration for those words has already been lost to most people. As Mclean’s lyric reveals, it was an event that became known as “The Day the Music Died.” A small plane crashed in an Iowa field and tragically took the lives of three of the most popular rock-and-roll musicians of their day: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 72, isn’t as meaningful to the causal reader without understanding the context of both the song and its placement in the larger work we know as the book of Psalms. As I’ve mentioned before, this anthology of ancient Hebrew song lyrics was compiled by unknown editors. They’ve been lost in the fog of history, but they probably did their compilation sometime around the time the Hebrews were in Exile in Babylon about 500-600 B.C.

The editors didn’t just throw the songs together willy-nilly. There was tremendous thought put into themes, authorship, chronology, and how the individual songs fit into the larger whole. The Psalms are actually broken up into five sections we call “Books.” As I mentioned in yesterday’s post/podcast, we’ve come to the end of Book II with Psalm 72. Most all of the songs lyrics in the anthology, thus far, have been penned by King David. Yesterday’s lyrics revealed David’s thoughts and expressions near the end of his life.

The final song of Book II is an abrupt transition. The liner notes reveal that it is “of” Solomon or “for” Solomon (perhaps both/and), the youngest son of David and the offspring of Bethsheba (yep, the woman with whom he had a scandalous affair). Psalm 72 is a coronation song, meant to be used during the public rituals when a new king is crowned. As if the meaning of this song coming immediately after David’s aged reflections in Psalm 71, and the fact that we’re at the end of Book II, wasn’t clear enough, the anonymous editors of the anthology added a line at the end of the lyrics:

This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.

Old things pass away. New things come.

David, the warrior-king, God’s minstrel, has passed on.

It was “the day the music died” for the Hebrew people.

Psalm 72 reads like an idyllic vision of monarchy. Like an inauguration speech from a new President, it is full of hope for a new leader who will rule with justice, end poverty, end violence, provide for those in need, be esteemed by world leaders, and be forever established as God’s person for the job. The vision is so idyllic that both Hebrew scholars and early followers of Jesus viewed the metaphors as layered with meaning both as a national anthem for the newly crowned Solomon, and a prophetic vision of the coming and reigning Messiah.

In the quiet this morning, my Enneagram Four-ness can’t shake the melancholy (go figure). A little boy delivering newspapers in the cold, inspired in the grief of a terrible tragedy. In tragics deaths of an Iowa winter, a seed is planted in that little boy which will one day creatively spring to life in a new song that will mesmerize the music world for generations.

What a beautiful image of creation, of life, death, and new life. That’s the theme. That’s the theme of the Great Story.

Creation, Garden, Fall, Salvation.

Birth, life, death, new life.

A time and a season for all things under the sun.

Old things pass away. New things come.

As the Mandalorians in Star Wars would say: “This is the way.”

So, no matter where the journey finds you today, in joy or grief, in melancholy or happiness, take courage, my friend. The best is yet to come.

I have spoken. 😉

Beginner’s Guide to the Great Story (Part 5)

[WW] Beginner’s Guide to the Great Story (Part 5) Wayfarer

With this episode, we’re going to continue our journey through the major sections of the Great Story. We pick it up at the end of Moses’ story and overview the continuation of the overall narrative through the “Historical Books” of the Old Testament.

This episode if brought to us by the letter “C”:

  • Conquest
  • Cycle of broken humanity
  • Crying for a king
  • Civil War
    • Chaos of power (in the Northern Kingdom)
    • Continuation of David’s line (in the Southern Kingdom)
  • Conquered
  • Captivity
  • Constructing the past

The Adult Version

A ruler who oppresses the poor
    is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

Proverbs 28:3 (NIV)

One of the great, untaught lessons in the entirety of the Great Story is a sad one. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve heard it mentioned even once in any lecture or message in my entire lifetime. It is the story of wise King Solomon’s foolishness.

As a little boy growing up in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School I learned a lot about the Bible through simple stories taught in simple ways. I remember learning them with cheesy paper cut-out images of characters placed on a “flannelgraph.” In fact, if you look up “flannelgraph” on Wikipedia, the image they use is of a Bible Story. Today we do the same thing with colorful, bright cartoons that offer children’s versions of ancient stories.

As a young man, I became a genuine follower of Jesus and began reading the Bible for myself. I studied it in college and seminary classes. I’ve been perpetually reading and studying it for forty-years. Along my journey, I’ve worshiped, served, and taught in many different churches from diverse doctrinal backgrounds. I’ve made a couple of observations along the way.

First, I have observed individuals who never moved beyond the stories of the Bible being broad and simple morality tales for children taught in bright colors and cartoonish characters. Then, as young adults, they became easily dismissed along with the rest of the cartoon characters they grew up with. Second, I have known and observed sincerely faithful, adult believers who made a conscious, cognitive decision to accept the doctrinal beliefs of their childhood church or denomination. Still, they have little or no experiential knowledge of the faith they profess to follow, and their faith is based on a combination of Bible tales told to them as a child and a life-long habit of traditions and rituals.

So, now we come back to King Solomon, the son of King David who has been known for almost 3,000 years as the “wise” and extravagantly rich king. The simple Bible story goes like this: as a child, God offered Solomon either wisdom or great riches. Solomon chose wisdom and God blessed him with both wisdom and great riches. It’s a tale with a simple moral to teach our children. Solomon then went on to have three books of “wisdom literature” traditionally attributed to his authorship: Proverbs, Song of Songs, and the book of Ecclesiastes. And, I have observed that this is about all most people remember.

The extended, adult version of Solomon’s story is (much like my own story, btw) much messier and far more complicated than the simple, story-book version. Solomon was the offspring of David’s adulterous marriage to Bathsheba, the woman whose husband David had murdered. Being the last of David’s children, Solomon should have been last in the line of male children (from multiple women) to ascend the throne. Bathsheba maneuvered events to make sure David named Solomon king. Solomon conscripted labor to build all of his great visionary projects (Solomon’s Temple being chief among them), and even his fellow Hebrew tribes complained of being treated like slaves. Solomon also appears not to have passed his wisdom along to his own son, Rehoboam, who succeeded him. Rehoboam followed his father’s example, not his wise words, in ignoring the wisdom of the proverb pasted at the top of this post. Rather than easing the oppression Solomon had placed on his own people, Rehoboam promised more oppression and irreparably fractured the kingdom into bloody and contentious civil war.

In the quiet this morning I find myself reading Solomon’s wise words knowing that he, himself, foolishly failed to follow them. And, that is the lesson for me today. As I contemplate this fact, my thinking goes to two places. One, that it’s too easy for me to be critical of Solomon for his hypocrisy of famously saying one thing while doing another. The truth is that there are plenty of examples of the same types of hypocrisy in my own life and story. Second, I’m mindful of the fact that Solomon’s human failings don’t alter the wisdom of his proverbs in the same way my own human failings don’t alter Jesus’ message. Come to think of it, it only makes His message more relevant to me. After 40 years, I’m still just an imperfect human in need of both grace and mercy as I try to follow Jesus each day. I’ve left behind a lot of foolishness, but I have by no means attained all that Lady Wisdom is still trying to teach me.