King Solomon’s Wisdom / Herod’s Death / Saul blinds Elymas the Sorcerer: June 18th 2021

1 Kings 3:16-5:18

Solomon famously demonstrated his wisdom by ruling over a baby custody case (1 Kings 3:28). A prostitute’s child had died and she allegedly stole another baby to replace it. Solomon threatened to cut the disputed baby in two and the woman who had kidnapped the child was prepared to let this happen. Solomon gave the child to the other woman, the rightful mother, who was prepared to give her child up rather than to see him harmed. Of course, this could have gone badly wrong if the kidnapper had thought she had gone too far when the child’s life was threatened and backed down from her claim. Solomon probably assessed the kidnapper’s character and realised she was evil.

Solomon ruled over all Israel and appointed chief officials and twelve district officials. Each district had to provide supplies for the king’s household for one month each year. Kings are costly. Samuel had warned the Israelites that a king had would cost them dearly and enslave them (1 Sam.8:14-17). Solomon was very well provisioned and built-up enormous numbers of horses including chariot horses (1 Kings 4:26). His father David had never been interested in chariot warfare but Solomon was determined to keep up with military technology.

‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight’ (1 Kings 4:29). He wrote proverbs and songs. He studied and taught about plants and animals. Men of all nations came to listen to him (1 Kings 4:34).

The people of Judah and Israel were now prosperous, numerous and happy (1 Kings 4:20). They lived in safety. Satan (the adversary) was not active in the kingdom (1 Kings 5:4). God had arranged peace and prosperity so that Solomon could complete an important project.

Solomon came to an arrangement with Hiram, king of Tyre. Hiram provided timber from the legendary cedars of Lebanon with which to build the first temple and, in exchange, Solomon supplied food for Hiram’s royal household.

Solomon conscripted labourers from all Israel and sent ten thousand men to help gather the timber. He sent an enormous number of workers to the hills to provide the stone foundation for the temple. The craftsmen of both Solomon and Hiram and the Gebalites prepared the timber and stone. It was a massive joint project between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Solomon used the finest dressed stone for the foundation of the temple – which no-one could see once it was constructed. Solomon intended the temple to stand forever and for there to be nothing false or shoddy about it – even the hidden sections. Jesus told us to build on the strongest possible foundations – the word of God. The secular world cares more for outward appearances. When we carry out work for God, we want to build it on solid, quality foundations.

Solomon was building the temple for the ‘Name of the Lord my God’ (1 Kings 5:5). Solomon knew in his wisdom that God would not come and live solely in the new temple. God’s presence would still be everywhere and in everything. When Jesus was preaching, the Chief Priests and Pharisees wanted to confine God to the temple in Jerusalem, even though the ark of the covenant was missing. They refused to acknowledge Jesus’s signs and wonders that demonstrated that God is mobile, meeting people’s desperate needs out in the community and is not confined within man-made walls.

Acts 12:19b-13:12

God will always serve justice on corrupt leaders. Herod had killed John the Baptist, failed to save Jesus, executed James the apostle and attempted to kill Peter. God was watching him closely. When he was praised as a god by the desperate people of Tyre and Sidon, he did not give praise to God and so he was struck down (Acts 12:23).  

The Holy Spirit specified that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart for a mission (Acts 13:2-3). This was while the church members in Antioch were worshipping and fasting. Fasting is a helpful spiritual discipline that can help us relate to people who lack food, curb our obsession with food and clear our mind helping us to communicate with God. God likes it when we make an effort and earnestly praying while fasting can help our conversations with Him to be more productive.

The church ‘sent them off’ (Acts 13:3). The two most able and gifted apostles in the church were dispatched as missionary ambassadors for the Holy Spirit with the full backing of a specific church congregation. One of the church members was Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod. He showed that our spiritual brothers and sisters are our true family; in their presence we can be truly loved and at home. We don’t have to be corrupted by our past, our family and former associates.

Barnabas and Saul were directed by the Holy Spirit to Cyprus. They travelled with John Mark (who would later write the second Gospel). They proclaimed the word in Jewish synagogues (sowing seeds of belief in Jesus) until they encountered the evil sorcerer Bar-Jesus / Elymas in Paphos who tried to turn the Roman governor (proconsul) from the faith. Paphos was renowned for its immorality and the influence of Elymas might have had something to do with that.

The governor had sent for Barnabas and Saul because he ‘wanted to hear the word of God’ (Acts 13:7). Thus, their preaching in the synagogues had born fruit as it had attracted this important man’s attention and aroused his curiosity.

Saul now metamorphosed into Saint ‘Paul’ as he made Elymas go blind through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Saul had earlier encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had gone blind for three days symbolising his spiritual blindness during the days he had persecuted Christians. As a sorcerer, Elymas was spiritually blind and belonged to the devil. The darkness before his eyes prefigured his eternal life separated from God and matched his dark heart. Jesus is the light of the world and will illuminate our soul if we repent, believe in him and are baptized. .

Paul’s analysis of Elymas’ character may well have applied to us before we were born-again. Many of us have been children of the devil, enemies of all that is right, full of deceit and trickery and constantly perverting the ways of God.   

The blind Elymas groped around ‘seeking someone to lead him by the hand’ (Acts 13:11). This could have been his chance to repent and come to Jesus just as Paul did when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. We don’t know Elymas’ fate but this demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power convinced the proconsul to believe. The most productive strategy is always to convert the leaders at the top of society first.

Prior to this miracle, Paul had always been a less prominent disciple than Barnabas. Barnabas was always named first (Acts 13:7). Now, after the Holy Spirit had acted so powerfully through him, Paul was the leader and would be named first going forward (Acts 13:13).  

Psalm 74:18-23

I have reached a low ebb at a few points in my life and at all those times God rose up to defend me (Psalm 74:18-23). The Holy Spirit prompted me where to go and what to do and God placed people in my path who could help my cause with guidance, help, healing prayers and prophecies.

God will save us from fools who cause clamour and uproar, people who revile His name.

When the needy stop relying on their own resources and trust in God, He will give them reason to praise him (Psalm 74:21). Persistent, earnest prayer and fasting will be noticed by God and he will give attention to our cause.

God will engineer a way out for us so we can escape dire circumstances in our private or work lives. We won’t have to retreat in disgrace. Our lives will improve victoriously (Psalm 74:21).

Image: By PMRMaeyaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92424726

Amnon and Tamar / Ananias and Sapphira: June 8th 2021

2 Samuel 13:1-39

Amnon, the eldest son of King David, fell in love with one of his half-sisters: Tamar. They both had different mothers.

Amnon desired Tamar even though sexual relations between half-siblings was strictly banned under Jewish law (Lev.18:9).

Following the advice of his cunning uncle / friend, Jonadab, Amnon pretended to be sick and asked King David if Tamar could make him some food and feed it to him. David instructed her to do this. Tamar made Amnon bread but he did not eat it, he forcibly raped her. Once this had happened, Amnon’s love changed to hate and he kicked Tamar out. She put ashes on her head and tore her ornamental robe (2 Sam.13:19). She went to live with her brother Absalom as ‘a desolate woman’. King David was furious but did not discipline Amnon. Absalom said nothing but hated Amnon because of what he had done to his sister. Yesterday, we read about David’s adulterous affair that resulted in murder. Sexual sin and violence were running in the family.

King David should have ensured that justice was served. Rulers cannot afford to let serious crimes go unpunished.

Two years later, Absalom invited King David and his officials to a party. David blessed him and sent all of his sons instead. Absalom ordered his men to kill the rapist, Amnon. All of the other king’s sons fled. David received a false news report that all of his sons had been murdered by Absalom, not just Amnon. David did not take this news well (2 Sam.13:31).

Absalom fled and stayed in Geshur for three years. King David mourned for Amnon everyday but still missed Absalom (2 Sam.13:37). If David had acted justly at the time of Amnon’s crime he might not have lost two sons. Rulers cannot neglect discipline even when the guilty person is their own child.

God had disciplined David for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. David had not disciplined his own son for a different sexual crime and was now suffering for his weak leadership.

Acts 4:23-5:11

Peter and John went back to their fellow disciples and reported how they had been treated by the chief priests and elders. The disciples raised their voices in prayer, praising God for his creation. Many people get their minds tangled up by the theory of evolution thinking that creatures made themselves over billions of years, yet the disciples stated the evident truth: ‘Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them’ (Acts 4:24).

It amazed the disciples as to why people try to combat God. Why do people rage / plot in vain and gather together against God? Why bother. He is all powerful, loves us and has our best interests at heart. Why not worship him and be happy? It’s because people have self-will and a rebellious, selfish streak inside them. It is still amazing that people today still worship and work for demons – an evil, totally defeated army that can only ultimately offer eternal death to their followers (Acts 4:25-26).

The disciples prayed that miraculous healing, signs and wonders would be carried out through the name of Jesus. The place where their meeting was held was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to speak the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).

‘All the believers were one in heart and mind’ (Acts 4:32). This is God’s vision for the church. That we all act in total unity, not fracture into different denominations. We should always mix with as many different congregations as we can to promote unity, friendship and peace. The disciples shared all their belongings and sold land or houses, bringing the money to the apostles so that it could be distributed for people’s needs (Acts 4:35). Modern economists preach that there is a shortage of resources in the world resulting in haves and have-nots. However, there is just a lack of fair distribution due to selfish greed. It is engrained in us to hand down property and finances to our own family, rather than share with our church family, trusting God that when we need things, they will be provided.

A couple called Ananias and Sapphira were inspired to sell their property by other believers such as Barnabas (the Son of Encouragement) to donate money to the fledgling church. However, they were only lukewarm about it. They kept back some of the money. Compared to many modern Christians – who may only give a bare minimum donation – they were extremely generous but they must have boasted and lied about giving all the money from the sale of their to the church. Peter, through a supernatural word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, told Ananias that he had kept back some of the money. Ananias heard this, fell down and died. Later, his wife also lied to the disciples that they had given all the money from selling the land to the church and she fell down dead too. Then, ‘great fear seized the whole church’ (Acts 5:11).

If we promise our Pastor a certain sum of money or the proceeds from a certain transaction we should never be dishonest about it. God doesn’t want us to be lukewarm towards the church (Revelation 3:15-16). We should never swindle the church due to our love of money. The best way to cure ourselves from a love of money is to be generous. We should start by tithing at least ten percent of our income to the church. That is the bare minimum, after that will come gifts to charities. How else will we build a thriving community for worship and evangelisation if no-one provides adequate financial resources? We shouldn’t ask ourselves what we can get from the church, we should consider what we can give in terms of time, talent and resources.

Psalm 71:9-18

We should always have hope in God no matter how old and grey we are (Psalm 71:18).

As we look back on a long life, we will be able to proclaim God’s righteousness and the marvellous, mighty deeds he has done in our lives.

God will always come quickly to help us particularly when our enemies think we are past it and our strength is gone. He will renew our strength like that of an eagle.

God will always be our rock and our salvation. With Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside us, we are never away from his awesome presence.

Image: By Raphael – Victoria and Albert Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1718099

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