Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hand-picked by God

Solomon was hand-picked by God to build the temple.This is a greater honor than you may think.

Consider on the one hand what the temple represented: God's permanent residence. In the early days of Israel's history, upon their exodus from Egypt, God alluded to 'the place he would choose for his Name to dwell.' Not until David took Jerusalem and sought to build a sanctuary there did God again chime in on the subject.

"You are not to build a house for my Name," God told David, "because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name" (1 Ch 22.8-10).

Consider on the other hand that Solomon, neither David's firstborn nor his most fit son, had been loved by God from the time of his birth. The Lord sent word through the prophet saying as much (2 Sam 12.24-25).

David named Solomon his successor, charging him, "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be resolute. Do the work." Talk about a call to ministry. It doesn't get much clearer than that.

Furthermore, having been told ahead of time that Solomon would build it, David provided every material resource for the temple, including blue prints and interior design specs. Never was such a construction project so ready to be undertaken (1 Ch 28-29).

And Solomon got the job done. The magnificent edifice went up in seven years (1 Ki 6.37-38). That's a lot of labor, full time and overtime. It took almost twice as long to create his own palace, not because his was so much grander but because it wasn't the ready-made, build-an-ancient-property kit as David's temple.

But here's the problem, the first warning I take away from Solomon.
He did not stop with the temple. He kept his countrymen building until the day he died (1Ki 12.3-4).

Why? Well, for a number of reasons, I suppose. One has to do with being king. job was to be the nation's interface with other nations. As the practice in those days was to make international alliances through marriage, Solomon married a lot of kings' daughters. 1 Ki 11.3 gives the fantastic number of 700 wives of royal birth. This was about politics, not sex. Nevertheless, "he held fast to them in love" and "his wives led him astray." Not to offend his allies by honoring his own God over theirs, the whole middle-eastern pantheon got houses of worship during Solomon's reign.

What was the matter with him, you ask. He didn't need these alliances. Hadn't God promised him peace and rest?

I know. It makes no sense that having known David's pure devotion to Yahweh, Solomon would go crazy not only making forbidden marriages, but fostering forbidden worship as well.

But I know how it started, and it's a lesson to us all that compromise is a slippery slope.

His downfall began with that first palace for his first wife, the daughter of Pharaoh. Now, marrying her was arguably the smartest political move he made. In so doing he secured the allegiance of Egypt, his most powerful neighbor. Solomon knew he was not the warrior his father had been.

And he had the right idea. Being foreign, she was not worthy to share common space with God's chosen. Unfortunately, that backfired when he then had to do the same for his other wives.

You see, Solomon adopted his foreign policy without reference to the Lord who had chosen him to be king. Did God not say to David that he would establish Solomon's throne forever and ever? Of course he did. Read it in 1 Ch 22.10.

For all the wisdom God had granted him to govern his people, how did Solomon miss the part about his own heart? Over and over God said, and David repeated, the sticking point for God's covenant: Keep his commands. Obey his statutes. Observe his precepts. Many times in many ways. Solomon should have known better.

Why didn't he? Because culturally this marriage-alliance thing made perfect sense, whereas the wisdom of God is often foolishness to men.

So what's the warning here? Beware of culture.

For me, I am tempted to look around and see what works for others. I want all the "How to Succeed" tips I can get. Yet I dare not accept even the most simple of them if they violate God's commands. This is tricky, I know. I am called to write a certain story, no more, no less. Here's hoping I have a good army commander should the enemy invade.

I also need to rely on the call of God to be sufficient guarantee of the work he has entrusted to me.  This is difficult when I don't see in myself the strengths I believe are required. Like Solomon the non-warrior facing avaricious neighbors, I am out of my depth in the publishing milieu with authors, agents and editors who all seem to know what they're doing. And have the credentials and publications to prove it. 

My biggest takeaway is Solomon's neglect of God's word. How else to explain the substitution of worldly wisdom (make political marriages) for godly (marry no foreign women or they'll lead you astray)? In forsaking God's commands, he forfeited God's promises. He ignored David's exhortations, so he forgot David's assurances. Or maybe he thought it was up to him to make sure God's promise was keepable.

Either way, he failed, and his failure tore the kingdom apart.

In the end, I choose to trust God's call on my life. He knows what he's doing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Writers Conference: There and Back Again

I spent last weekend in Asheville, NC. What a beautiful little corner of God's green earth. If you've never been, Go. Life will be a little richer for the spectacular views, the fresh air, and the warm hearts of its denizens.

The writers conference I attended there, Writers Advance! Boot Camp (sponsored by Christian Devotions Ministries), opened many new connections in the writing world and gave me plenty of information about writing skills and the publishing industry.

Maybe my biggest "Aha!" is for Edie Melson's seminar on using social media. She showed me how to use Twitter as a networking tool rather than just, as I had previously assumed, a way to bother the universe with petty information about our daily doings. Blessings to you, Edie! May the Lord establish the work of your hands.

Now usually when I go to writers conferences, I come away overwhelmed. By other people's success (in light of my own lack thereof). By the ins-and-outs of the publishing landscape. By my lack know-how in the craft of writing. By the agents and editors and authors who tell me my story is interesting BUT they can't help me with the next step. Generally speaking, many of the people at these conferences are extroverts while I am the opposite. So I fall short of their winsomeness as well.

This time was different. Sure all that happened; how could it not?

But for some reason I've been reconciled to where my book, The Image of the Invisible, is. I am comfortable talking about it and I'm not really looking for an agent or publisher at the moment.

That said, I still want to connect with publishing professionals.

I asked the Lord to give me a Bible character whose situation compares to mine.

[This is my tried-and-true method to learn what to expect of God as I grow through whatever spiritual state I find myself. As I read about that character and meditate on God's dealing with him or her, I am able to pray for and see how he will deal with me.
For example, when God first called me to write, he gave me a picture of Peter calling out to the figure in the storm-tossed sea, "If it's really you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water."
Another example: When I wonder what God was thinking in choosing me for this whacky job, I pray like little Mary acquiescing to the messenger, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be done to me according to your words." And, perhaps like her, I take comfort from Gabriel's How: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
You get the idea.]

And what was His answer? King Solomon, of all people.

So I'm pondering this and I will fill you in as I see more of it.

But just at first, let me say that I recognize God's call to me to "Tell His story" as the equivalent of Solomon's charge from his father to build the temple. My "temple" is the Tales from Eternity epic, because it will be a place in the literary universe where people from all over the world can find the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that his glory will reside in what I write. May He be magnified through my words.

I know there is a lot more to be said about King Solomon: his early delight in and faithfulness to the God of his father, David. Yahweh's extravagant generosity to this darling son whom he had loved since birth (2 Sam 12.24-25). The splendor of his fame and the introduction of idolatry to precious Israel. The failure of his kingship that led to the division of the kingdom.

But that's for other posts.

Read about King Solomon in 2Sa 12:24 f; 1Ki 1-11; 1Ch 22-2Ch9. Comment below to let me know what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear his name.

I'll keep you posted on how his life applies to my own.