Sunday, April 13, 2014

1 Kings 3-5 This great and steadfast love

From 1 Kings 3-5


1 Ki 3.1-15; Solomon; Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom
1 Ki 3.16-28; Solomon; Solomon’s Wisdom
1 Ki 4.1-19; Solomon; Solomon’s Officials
1 Ki 4.20-34; Solomon; Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom
1 Ki 5.1-18; Solomon; Preparations for Building the Temple

Passage and Comments
Solomon's throne is established and none of his enemies remain. The LORD appears to him in a dream where he offers him any gift he wants. This is our passage for today.
3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. (1 Ki 3:3-4)
Solomon has not built the temple yet, that is why he sacrifices at the high places. The number of sacrifices he offers is astonishing. Pragmatics suggests he was supplying the cattle and multiple priests were making the offerings simultaneously.
5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. (1 Ki 3:5-6)
David is commended highly in Kings and is regarded as a good example of a person who keeps the Jewish law (1 Ki 3:14; 9:3–5; 11:4,33–38; 14:7–9; 15:1–5,11–15; 14:1–6; 16:1–4; 18:1–8; 22:1–2). One may object to what the scripture says thinking this kind of commendation requires meticulous sinless perfection. However the concept of sinless perfection was rarely if not ever used by the authors of scripture or their audiences. They were much more pragmatic. Another objection might recall the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah which is noted in one instance (1 Ki 15.5). Other than this most of these descriptions of David assume he has been forgiven and removed from his record. Only faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness remain.

The Hebrew word rendered as steadfast love is hesed which commonly means loyalty, joint obligation and faithfulness. The LORD’s steadfast love is his covenant love towards his people. It means he will rule them in justice, care for them if they are needy and forgives them if they sin and repent.

Solomon says the LORD has shown David great and steadfast love to David because he walked before him in faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness. Hmm. David like all of Israel was elected by the LORD to be one of his holy people. I assume the LORD chose David out of love and not for anything good about him (e.g. Dt 7.6-9). But following the LORD’s choice of David, giving him the Holy Spirit (cf. Ps 51.11) and making himself known to him David responded in faithfulness and obedience. In Solomon’s mind David’s lifestyle while he knew the LORD was a good indicator the LORD would continue to bless him with his great steadfast love.
7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Ki 3:7-9)
Solomon asks for an ‘understanding mind to govern your people’ which is able to ‘discern between good and evil’. This is a noble request because it is other centred.
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. (1 Ki 3:10-12)
The LORD is pleased with Solomons other centeredness and grants his request. It is good to know some of the things the LORD’s people do actually please the LORD. It signifies a relationship with the LORD where he sees what we think and do and implies it matters.
13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. (1 Ki 3:13)
The LORD is so pleased, he gives him more than what he asked. Riches and honour.
14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (1 Ki 3:14)
The promise suggests a limited lifespan. We have seen this from Gen 6.3 ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years’. Perhaps in those times 120 years is still a bit long, its hard to tell because Jacob lived 130 years (Gen 47.8-9). I tend to assume their normal life span was shorter than that however. Regardless of my speculation provided Solomon keeps the LORD’s commands (like David) he will have a longer than normal lifespan.
15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants. (1 Ki 3.15)
Following this, Solomon like David will set up a government. The LORD gives him the ability to govern and discern and he uses it to judge cases and show off his knowledge to the surrounding peoples. Solomon then begins to build the house of the LORD. The first Temple of Jerusalem. This is what we will look at tomorrow.

Story of Israel
The kings of Judah  and Israel mostly failed to live up to David’s example. Spoiler alert. Sadly even Solomon failed to continue in the LORD’s favour. However the LORD remained faithful to his promises to David regardless. Despite the disobedience of the LORD’s people the LORD remained committed to his obligations under the covenant and kept blessing them with his steadfast love (Ps 136).

Story of Jesus
Its not exactly hesed, but God’s love is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection the apostle John liked to speak of it often.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 Jn 4:7–12)
God loved us while we were sinners. So he sent his only Son into the world that we might become his people. God did this by sending his son to be a propitiation for our sins. You see, God is also just and he was angry at our wrongdoing. But because he loves us and because he is just, he sent Jesus to take the just penalty for our sins and absorb his holy wrath so that only his love for us remains. He now commands us to love one another. The same was true of David. His heartfelt obedience to the LORD which resulted in him keeping the LORD’s commands was his response to the love of God.