OT: I Kings 5:1-6:38
Today, Solomon starts building the temple. It strikes me that Solomon had a lot more leeway in his building project than Moses did. Unlike on Mt. Sinai, God did not provide Solomon with any kind of blueprint. I guess Solomon's inspiration for the temple came from his God-given wisdom.
In 6:11-13, we see an obvious example of how people do have free choice, according to God. Here, He tells Solomon that if he obeys God's commands, then God will fulfill the promise He gave to David. I know God says things like this all throughout Scripture, but I realized I haven't been doing a good job of pointing them out, especially in light of all my musings on God's control. This instance is a particularly good example of the paradox I've been talking about b/c God has already made promises to David (and I can't remember if they included caveats about Solomon's obedience or not), and He has already decreed that Solomon would build the temple. So, in one sense, Solomon is acting out the script written for him. But in another sense, Scripture makes clear that he does have choices.
Lastly, I thought it was noteworthy how the text repeatedly said that Solomon did all these things to build the temple. It says, for example, that "he lined its interiors with cedar boards" (15), and "he overlaid the inside with pure gold" (20), when we all realize that it was actually his conscripted laborers that did all of those things. Thinking about that made me reflect on the nature of kingship, and particularly on the idea that God is our King. He instructs us to act; we act; and He gets the glory. That's the way a monarchy works, I guess, and that's how it is supposed to be. I am glad that, unlike those conscripted laborers, we have a choice to serve the King, but what unites us and Solomon's workers is that we both were/are working for something larger than ourselves. We were/are both working for something that brings glory to our King. Solomon's workers were building a temple to the Lord, and coincidentally, we are doing the same thing. After all, in Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul says, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." By working in community to bring God glory, we are in essence building a holy temple to Him, just like Solomon's workers did.
NT: Acts 7:1-29
Stephen faces the Sanhedrin and decides--quite surprisingly, I might add--to give an impromptu rendition of Israel's history. It is quite possible that Stephen is being directed by God in this retelling, as God has told the early disciples that He will put the words in their mouths when they face the Jewish officials. If so, Stephen's speech shows how God is a God of history:). He thinks it is important that the Sanhedrin see the big picture.
Whenever I read this, I have to think, though, that my reaction must mirror what the Sanhedrin were thinking. I am baffled at why he answers a simple question about whether the charges against him were true with a really long history lesson. Since the Sanhedrin let him talk so long, uninterrupted, I am guessing that they were just as befuddled and curious as I was to see where he was going with all of this.
Psalm 127: 1-5
How fitting that today's psalm is by Solomon the temple-builder, and that it ruminates on the fact that, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (1a). I mean seriously, did the editors rig that up on purpose? How could they, really? I think that is a pretty cool coincidence.
My favorite proverb of the three today was verse 28: "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends." As someone who hates drama but who does sometimes battle the impulse to gossip, this verse is a good reminder to me of the need to rein in my tongue.