Bible Reading Plan – April 2-8
Bible Project Reading Plan (April 2-8):
2 Samuel 19-24; 1 Kings 1-16; Psalm 92-98
Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.
1 Kings 8:27-30 (ESV)
The dedication of the temple in 1 Kings is in many respects the pinnacle of the nation of Israel and the OT. While the most important OT passage is likely 2 Samuel 7, the above passage represents in many ways God keeping the important promises he made to his people, and to David their king.
Judges left us needing a king; David arrives on the scene to provide the king that the nation needs. David is promised an enduring kingdom; Solomon is the first step to securing that promise. Here, in 1 Kings, the kingdom and the king are both secured. God has provided what the nation needed, and now he solidifies that provision.
What’s more, with Solomon now building God a permanent temple, in stone and wood and gold, Israel seemed more secure than ever. The kingdom was solidified by the king, who was solidified through the promise of God, who dwelt securely in a magnificent temple. Israel was on track and life was good.
But 1 Kings is a wonderfully composed book, and even amidst these signs that all is well, it gives small indications that there are cracks in this secure foundation. In 1 Kings 3:1 we read that
Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem.
1 Kings 3:1 (ESV)
On its face, this is not so bad. It is debatable as to whether we should even think something is wrong here. In the words of Matthew Henry:
Here is something concerning which it may be doubted whether it was good or no. First, his marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. We will suppose she was proselyted, otherwise the marriage would not have been lawful; yet, if so, surely it was not advisable.
Perhaps the supposition that she had become an Israelite, worshiping Yahweh and taking on the customs of her adopted culture and religion is true. But, the alliance with Egypt is dropped suddenly, and the marriage to the Egyptian is developed no further. Why mention it?
Later, we see more cracks. Cracks shaped like horses. Lots of horses. Lots of horses.
Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
1 Kings 4:26 (CSB17)
This is presented matter-of-factly in 1 Kings. Yet, the intrepid reader will remember this warning in Deuteronomy:
[The king] must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:16-20 (ESV)
Several things jump out about this passage. While nothing has implied that Solomon’s princess bride from Egypt was acquired to gain the horses, it is still suspicious, especially given the fact that he did acquire a great mass of horses, something he was specifically forbidden to do. Further, it is clear that some of the horses were Egyptian, whether or not the princess played a role in their procurement:
And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
1 Kings 10:28-29 (ESV)
He further acquired a great mass of wealth, detailed without comment in 1 Kings 4. What’s more, these two back-to-back verses, unhelpfully divided into separate chapters, give an indication that something is wrong with Solomon’s priorities:
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. It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.
1 Kings 6:38-7:1 (NIV)
Lest we miss the point, 1 Kings shows where these small indications led Solomon: straight into apostasy.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.
1 Kings 11:1-6 (ESV)
It is not without reason that the daughter of Pharaoh is mentioned again. This small act was the beginning of the downfall for Solomon; the blossoming of this seed was his total and despicable apostasy from the Lord.
Friends, we don’t just wake up one morning, having been magically transported to the land of Unfaithfulness and Apostasy. We walked there, under our own power, a million small steps at a time. We just never looked down to see where our feet were taking us. The remedy is clear: know the Scriptures, for they are a light unto your feet!
This, then, returns us to the dedication prayer. What Solomon (and we!) need is not God in a temple, nor the sacrifices offered there. We need sacrifices to cleanse us from inside, not just to forgive but to remake. We need more than a God who is there, in some temple, but here, with us, indwelling. So, God sent his Son:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (ESV)
And each, in turn, sent the Spirit:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (ESV)
This is the promise of the gospel: God the Father, through the work of his Son, has cleared out our sins, forgiven and remade us, so that he might dwell with us forever. Yes, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain him; yet, with us he dwells! Praise God!