Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 11: 1 Kings 8; Psalm 129; Proverbs 17:1; Acts 7:51-8:13


            1 Kings: Solomon brought together all the elders of Israel at Jerusalem. They and the priest took the Ark, the tent of meeting, the vessels in the tent of meeting out of Jerusalem and to the temple. On the way, they sacrificed many sheep and oxen. They placed the Ark under the two cherubim. When they left the holy place the glory of the Lord in a cloud filled the temple. The priests could not stand there to minister to the Lord.
            Then Solomon had a prayer before the whole assembly. He praised God who keeps his covenant with the people and David. He asked the Lord to confirm the promises to David. He also asked that the Lord to hear prayers night and day when people pray toward the temple.
            He asks the Lord to hear oaths sworn before the altar to convict the sinful and vindicate the innocent. He asks that God hear prayers to forgive when they sin and he brings enemies, drought, famine, or other disasters. Since God knows the motives of those praying, then he will forgive honest prayers. Solomon also asks that the Lord hear the prayers of foreigners who come because they hear of God’s name.
            If the people sin, everyone sins, and they are taken captive to other lands and they repent and pray toward their land and the temple, Solomon asks that God forgive them.
            After Solomon’s prayer, he blessed the assembly. He said that not one word that the Lord promised through Moses had failed. He asks that the Lord help them follow all the rules and commands. He also asks that all his prayers be close to the Lord and that he will maintain the cause of the people so that all the earth will know that the Lord is God and there is no other. He asks the people to be true to the Lord.
            Solomon then offered sacrifices. 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep to dedicate the temple. He consecrated the court before the temple and sacrificed them there because the bronze altar was too small for them all. They also had a great feast in all Israel for seven days. The people went home with joy.
            Psalm: Israel should admit that it has been afflicted from its beginnings. Yet God has protected them. May those who hate Zion be shamed and be like withered grass. May they not be blessed.
            Proverbs: It is more important to have harmony in a family than have riches.
            Acts: Stephen finishes his defense by telling his accusers that they are stiff-necked, uncircumcised in their hearts and ears and always resist the Holy Spirit. Their fathers killed prophets who announced the Messiah’s coming and now they did the same to the Messiah.
            They were enraged, but Stephen said he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. At that they stoned him. He asked Jesus to receive his spirit and not hold the sin against him. He died.
            Saul was watching the coats of those who did the stoning and approved. A great persecution against the church in Jerusalem started at that time. Believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul was doing a lot of it as he took believers to prison.
            The persecuted believers spread the gospel. Philip went to Samaria and crowds listened and saw the signs he did. Demons came out of people and people were healed. A famous magician, Simon, had influenced people until they heard Philip. He also heard, believed, and was baptized.

What Stood Out

            1 Kings: “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46).
            Psalm: “May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward” (Ps 129:5)!
            Proverbs: “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Prov 17:1).
            Acts: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).


            1 Kings: The dedication of the temple is a great climax for the nation of Israel. It is reflected in Solomon’s prayer as it shows the great mercy that the Lord extends when people pray. Solomon spent a lot of time asking the Lord to forgive when people sinned and they pray with a repentant attitude. He even admits that everyone sins. It is a good reminder to us that when we sin we can pray. We don’t have to pray toward Jerusalem or any other holy location. Because the Lord is omnipresent, we need only to humble ourselves and admit we are sinners then repent.
            Psalm: Not all Psalms fill us with joy. Some, like this one, point to reality. This reality is that from the beginning of time, Israel has been in Satan’s cross hairs. He is out to destroy Jerusalem and Israel because God has promised great things for it and there are still some that must be fulfilled. Satan uses people to accomplish his goals of destruction for Zion. If this Psalm is a prayer that the Lord will answer, then those who join in attacking Israel, in one way or another, will be put to shame and come to nothing. I don’t want to be in their company.
            Proverbs: We often think that what is important for our families is to have the best of everything. It could be food, gadgets, houses, or other things. While it isn’t evil to want good for our families, going that extra mile to satisfy every whim usually leads to strife and conflict because that isn’t what is best for us. In pursuing that, Dad, Mom, or both are not home enough to ensure proper discipline with the kids. The parents and kids are in conflict because they are absorbed in getting the stuff and not each other. These are only representatives of all the things that result in strife. It is better to pay more attention to relationships and less to stuff.
            Acts: You would think that Stephen could have been a bit kinder and gentler in the way he accused his accusers. He said everything he need to say to make sure they stoned him. He accused them of killing the prophet and the Messiah. He said he could see the Messiah and even God in heaven. The first was enough to get him stoned, but the second could probably get him accused of blasphemy. However, we must remember what Jesus said to do when dragged before accusers. He said not to worry about what to say because the Father would use the Holy Spirit to give us what to say (Matt 10:18-20).
            God set it up for them to stone Stephen. Just as he planned for them to kill Jesus, so Stephen’s stoning was no accident caused by his needlessly irritating his accusers. Jesus had already announced that the gospel was supposed to be taken to Jerusalem, all Judah, and the ends of the earth. Until now, the believers were stuck in Jerusalem. As soon as Stephen died, persecution sent the believer out two more circles away from Jerusalem. If we don’t do what God wants, he has ways of making sure it happens.
            A little caution about trying to do the same thing as Stephen. Stephen was dragged to his trial and the Jesus said anyone who is dragged into these circumstances doesn’t have to worry about what to say or how to say it. Not many of us will be dragged into courts or before government officials. We are usually witnessing to our friends, neighbors (known or strangers), or relatives. Peter tells us about how we should witness to them. In 1 Peter 3:15-16, he tells us to be prepared, gentle, and respectful. Philip is a good example as he preached in Samaria and the results were miraculous. Reserve the in-your-face-accusational style for those who are persecuting you and then only do it as the Holy Spirit prompts.


            Praying for forgiveness is something that we all need to do. We have all sinned. We don’t have to be like Stephen to share the gospel with a long biblical exposition. We should be prepared and we should be obedient when the time comes.

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