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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
1 Kings 5

 

 

Verses 1-18

1 Kings 5:1-18

Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon . . . to build the house.

The co-operation of Hiram

According to tradition, Hiram was a tributary or dependent monarch. The embassy which Hiram sent on this occasion was evidently meant to express the congratulations of the King of Tyre--in 2 Chronicles 2:14-15, we find the words, “My lord,” “My lord David thy father.” There is a notable mixture of affection and reverence in the spirit which Hiram showed to Solomon; Hiram was “ever a lover of David,” and yet he speaks of David in terms which an inferior would use to a superior. Hiram preserved the continuity of friendship, and herein showed himself an example, not only to monarchs but to other men. Although Solomon was blessed with “rest on every side,” and was enabled to look upon a future without so much as the shadow of an adversary upon it, yet he was determined not to be indolent. Suppose a man to come into the circumstances which we have described as constituting the royal position of Solomon, and suppose that man destitute of an adequate and all-controlling purpose, it is easy to see how he would become the victim of luxury, and how what little strength he had would gradually be withdrawn from him. But at all events, in the opening of Solomon’s career, we see that the purpose was always uppermost, the soul was in a regnant condition, all outward pomp and circumstance was ordered back into its right perspective, and the king pursued a course of noble constancy as he endeavoured to realise the idea and intent of heaven. The same law applies to all prosperous men. To increase in riches is to increase in temptation, to indolence and self-idolatry: to external trust and vain confidence, to misanthropy, monopoly, and oppression; the only preventive or cure is the cultivation of a noble “purpose,” so noble indeed as to throw almost into contempt everything that is merely temporal and earthly. Even the noblest purpose needs the co-operation of sympathetic and competent men. Thus the Jew seeks assistance from the Gentile in building the house of the Lord. How wonderful are the co-operations which are continually taking place in life! so subtly do they interblend, and make up that which is lacking in each other, that it is simply impossible to effect an exhaustive analysis, Nor would it be desirable that such an analysis should be completed. We should fix our minds upon the great fact that no man liveth unto himself, that no man is complete in himself, that every man needs the help of every other man, and thus we shall see how mysteriously is built the great temple of life, and is realised before the eyes of the universe the great purpose of God. Co-operation is only another word for the distributions which God has made of talent and opportunity. In vain had Hiram responded in the language of generous sympathy if Israel itself had been a divided people. This must be the condition of the Church as a great working body in the world. It will be in vain that poetry, history, literature, music, and things which apparently lie outside the line of spiritual activity, send in their offers, tributes, and contributions, each according to its own kind, if the Church to which the offer is made is a divided and self-destroying body. When all Israel is one, the contributions of Tyre will be received with thankfulness and be turned to their highest uses. A beautiful picture is given in verse 14. The picture represents the difference between cutting down and setting up; in other words, the difference between destruction and construction. It was easier to cut down than it was to build up. The two operations should always go on together. The business of the Church is to pull down, and to build up; even to use the materials of the enemy in building up the temple of the living God. The picture has aa evident relation to the ease with which men can pull down faith and darken hope and unsettle confidence. Thus the work of foreign missions should help the work of missions at home. Every idolatry that is thrown down abroad should be turned into a contribution for the upbuilding and strengthening of the Church at home. The care shown of the foundation is another instance of the wisdom of Solomon. The stones which were used in the foundation were in no sense considered insignificant or worthless. The stones which Solomon used are described as “great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones”; the terms which are used to describe the foundation which was laid in Zion are these--“A stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” We read also of the foundations of the wall of the city which John saw in vision--“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” A curious illustration of the union between the permanent and the temporary is shown in all earthly arrangements. Solomon laid foundations which might have lasted as long as the earth itself endured. Judging by the foundations alone, one would have said concerning the work of Solomon, This is meant for permanence; no thought of change or decay ever occurred to the mind of the man who laid these noble courses. It is the same with ourselves in nearly all the relations of life. We know that we may die to-day, yet we lay plans which will require years and generations to accomplish. Yet we often speak as having no obligation to the future, or as if the future would do nothing for us, not knowing that it is the future which makes the present what it is, and that but for the future all our inspiration would be lost because our hope would perish. Let us see that our foundations are strong. A beautiful illustration of contrast and harmony is to be found in the distribution which Solomon made of his workers and the labour they were required to undertake. Here we find burden-bearers, hewers in the mountains, officers, and rulers. There was no standing upon one level or claiming of one dignity. Each man did what he could according to the measure of his capacity, and each man did precisely what he was told to do by his commanding officer. It is in vain to talk about any equality that does not recognise the principle of order and the principle of obedience. Our equality must be found in our devotion, in the pureness of our purpose, in the steadfastness of our loyalty, and not in merely official status or public prominence. The unity of the Church must be found, not in its forms, emoluments, dignities, and the like, but in the simplicity of its faith and the readiness of its eager and affectionate obedience. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verses 1-18

1 Kings 5:1-18

Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon . . . to build the house.

The co-operation of Hiram

According to tradition, Hiram was a tributary or dependent monarch. The embassy which Hiram sent on this occasion was evidently meant to express the congratulations of the King of Tyre--in 2 Chronicles 2:14-15, we find the words, “My lord,” “My lord David thy father.” There is a notable mixture of affection and reverence in the spirit which Hiram showed to Solomon; Hiram was “ever a lover of David,” and yet he speaks of David in terms which an inferior would use to a superior. Hiram preserved the continuity of friendship, and herein showed himself an example, not only to monarchs but to other men. Although Solomon was blessed with “rest on every side,” and was enabled to look upon a future without so much as the shadow of an adversary upon it, yet he was determined not to be indolent. Suppose a man to come into the circumstances which we have described as constituting the royal position of Solomon, and suppose that man destitute of an adequate and all-controlling purpose, it is easy to see how he would become the victim of luxury, and how what little strength he had would gradually be withdrawn from him. But at all events, in the opening of Solomon’s career, we see that the purpose was always uppermost, the soul was in a regnant condition, all outward pomp and circumstance was ordered back into its right perspective, and the king pursued a course of noble constancy as he endeavoured to realise the idea and intent of heaven. The same law applies to all prosperous men. To increase in riches is to increase in temptation, to indolence and self-idolatry: to external trust and vain confidence, to misanthropy, monopoly, and oppression; the only preventive or cure is the cultivation of a noble “purpose,” so noble indeed as to throw almost into contempt everything that is merely temporal and earthly. Even the noblest purpose needs the co-operation of sympathetic and competent men. Thus the Jew seeks assistance from the Gentile in building the house of the Lord. How wonderful are the co-operations which are continually taking place in life! so subtly do they interblend, and make up that which is lacking in each other, that it is simply impossible to effect an exhaustive analysis, Nor would it be desirable that such an analysis should be completed. We should fix our minds upon the great fact that no man liveth unto himself, that no man is complete in himself, that every man needs the help of every other man, and thus we shall see how mysteriously is built the great temple of life, and is realised before the eyes of the universe the great purpose of God. Co-operation is only another word for the distributions which God has made of talent and opportunity. In vain had Hiram responded in the language of generous sympathy if Israel itself had been a divided people. This must be the condition of the Church as a great working body in the world. It will be in vain that poetry, history, literature, music, and things which apparently lie outside the line of spiritual activity, send in their offers, tributes, and contributions, each according to its own kind, if the Church to which the offer is made is a divided and self-destroying body. When all Israel is one, the contributions of Tyre will be received with thankfulness and be turned to their highest uses. A beautiful picture is given in verse 14. The picture represents the difference between cutting down and setting up; in other words, the difference between destruction and construction. It was easier to cut down than it was to build up. The two operations should always go on together. The business of the Church is to pull down, and to build up; even to use the materials of the enemy in building up the temple of the living God. The picture has aa evident relation to the ease with which men can pull down faith and darken hope and unsettle confidence. Thus the work of foreign missions should help the work of missions at home. Every idolatry that is thrown down abroad should be turned into a contribution for the upbuilding and strengthening of the Church at home. The care shown of the foundation is another instance of the wisdom of Solomon. The stones which were used in the foundation were in no sense considered insignificant or worthless. The stones which Solomon used are described as “great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones”; the terms which are used to describe the foundation which was laid in Zion are these--“A stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” We read also of the foundations of the wall of the city which John saw in vision--“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” A curious illustration of the union between the permanent and the temporary is shown in all earthly arrangements. Solomon laid foundations which might have lasted as long as the earth itself endured. Judging by the foundations alone, one would have said concerning the work of Solomon, This is meant for permanence; no thought of change or decay ever occurred to the mind of the man who laid these noble courses. It is the same with ourselves in nearly all the relations of life. We know that we may die to-day, yet we lay plans which will require years and generations to accomplish. Yet we often speak as having no obligation to the future, or as if the future would do nothing for us, not knowing that it is the future which makes the present what it is, and that but for the future all our inspiration would be lost because our hope would perish. Let us see that our foundations are strong. A beautiful illustration of contrast and harmony is to be found in the distribution which Solomon made of his workers and the labour they were required to undertake. Here we find burden-bearers, hewers in the mountains, officers, and rulers. There was no standing upon one level or claiming of one dignity. Each man did what he could according to the measure of his capacity, and each man did precisely what he was told to do by his commanding officer. It is in vain to talk about any equality that does not recognise the principle of order and the principle of obedience. Our equality must be found in our devotion, in the pureness of our purpose, in the steadfastness of our loyalty, and not in merely official status or public prominence. The unity of the Church must be found, not in its forms, emoluments, dignities, and the like, but in the simplicity of its faith and the readiness of its eager and affectionate obedience. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verses 7-11

1 Kings 5:7-11

When Hiram heard the words of Solomon.

Hiram and Solomon

I. Gratification. Hiram “rejoiced greatly” when he heard the words of King Solomon. This arose partly from the love he bore to his father David. The gratification of Hiram sprang also from a recognition of Solomon’s wisdom: gratification in another’s good.

II. Consideration (1 Kings 5:8). The demand of Solomon was no small one, and deserved consideration. It involved, in all probability, a great sacrifice on the part of the Tyrians.

III. Satisfaction. “All his desire” (1 Kings 5:10). There was not one thing which Solomon asked, which Hiram did not grant; it is not right to ask or expect unreasonable things. It is right to grant reasonable requests, even if they should occasion sacrifice. Unreasonable requests should not be granted, even if it should be more easy to do so than to refuse.

IV. Recognition. “Endued with understanding “ (2 Chronicles 2:13). Knowledge, genius, skill are of heavenly birth, and to despise them is to be guilty of a sin.

V. Combination. Solomon and Hiram were not independent of each other. No one can serve God properly in isolation: “two are better far than one,” etc. Query--Have Christians a right to remain detached from the Church of Christ?

VI. Distribution (2 Chronicles 2:16). Each did the part allotted to him; the result was success. (F. Wagstaff.)

Joy

Joy of sharing in a good work:--It was a saying of the late Professor Samuel Miller, of Princeton, that he loved to have “a nail in every building intended for the glory of God or the good of man.” Here and there he scattered the gifts he had, a portion to seven and also to eight--benedictions wherever he went. Few are so poor but that they can adopt this plan of continuous beneficence.


Verse 14

1 Kings 5:14

A month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home.

Church and home

The building of the temple was the distinctive glory of the reign of Solomon, the most important monument of his administration. Although its erection was not originally contemplated in the Mosaic law, it had long been evident that such a building was necessary.

I. Every great undertaking demands great and varied effort for its accomplishment. The design of the temple, originated by David, had been adopted and elaborated by Solomon. Solomon’s was the inspiring and directing mind. The results which fill us with gladness bear a direct proportion to their causes. “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” You can achieve no worthy purpose, you can rear no solid structure, either as a witness to the glory of God or a place of sanctuary and healing for men, without an expenditure of thought, of affection, and of energy. In matters temporal and spiritual alike, success is, under the blessing of God, given to unrestrained labour. There is being reared among men a grander temple than Solomon’s. Believers in Jesus Christ are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Corner-stone. It is for us to dig deep in the earth, to fashion the stones into shape, to place them row upon row, until the whole edifice is complete. We have to rear the columns, to execute the carved workmanship, and to fix in their places the richly stained windows.

II. The importance of the duties which belong to our business and our home. “A month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home.” The men whom Solomon drafted off to aid him in his momentous task were not to neglect the cultivation of their fields and their vineyards. Devotion to the duties of religion neither justifies nor requires the neglect of our “secular calling.” Business also is a Divine appointment; an essential element in our moral and spiritual education; training us to habits which can be learned in no other way so simply and effectually. So likewise of our homes. The family is the oldest of all our institutions, older even than the Church. Our first thoughts are associated with it. We should not be absent from our homes more than is really needful. Do not forget the proportion--one month at Lebanon and two at home. By no ethical or spiritual standard with which I am acquainted can negligence be justified. No husband is true to his name unless he is indeed “of house and home the band and stay.” Even religious and philanthropic meetings should not be allowed to thrust home duties into a corner. (J. Stuart.)

Homes and how to make them

Every human being ought to be a member of some household, and every household ought to have a fixed place of residence, a place of its own--in one word, both short and sweet, a home. That is the only right way of living. A home is, for every human being, the first condition of the highest happiness and the best growth. No one ought to be satisfied until he has supplied it for himself. There are among us a multitude of homeless ones. Of these there are several sorts. There are the sturdy tramps, who go wandering about from city to city and from hamlet to hamlet, stopping where night finds them. When men take up the trade of vagrancy, they are too apt to follow it as long as they live. We cannot afford to have this subdivision of our homeless class increase. Next are the gypsies, that dusky race from over the seas, who have managed for so many years to puzzle the ethnologists and frighten the children. Here is a whole race that for centuries has been homeless, and for that reason has no history, no literature, not much religion if any, and hardly any knowledge of the arts of civilisation. Such possessions and acquirements as these are scarcely within the reach of people who have no homes: Next after the gypsies there is a considerable class of persons who are too restless to stay long in any place, and whose lives are spent in constant migrations from one place to another; who tarry nowhere long enough to get wanted. Next after the floating population comes that large class of persons who have a local residence but not a local habitation; who continue to live in the same community, but do not live in homes; who make their abode in such public residences as hotels or boarding-houses. Now, as respects these, it must be said that many of them are compelled to adopt this manner of life. Young men and women whose homes have been broken up by the death of their parents, or who have been called forth from the habitation of their childhood to seek education and livelihood in distant places, cannot, of course, have homes of their own.

1. The strongest justification of the home life, is in the fact that there are certain affections of the soul that can be developed in no other manner of life. The domestic virtues and graces are not easily described or catalogued, but they form an important part of the best human character. There are sentiments, sympathies, habitudes of thought, which are native to the home, and which are essential to the best growth and highest development of human beings. Domesticity gives to every beautiful character an added charm. No man is truly good who is not good at home; and the best men are always best on the side that touches home.

2. Public spirit is fed and fostered at the fireside. The man who has a home of his own is interested that the community in which he lives should be lacking in nothing that could help to make it desirable as a place of residence. He who makes himself a householder by that act gives a hostage to society for his good behaviour and his devotion to public interests. Patriotism, too, has its foundations laid upon the hearthstones of the land. The patriot’s love for his country is rooted and grounded in his love for his home. And for the nation’s heart-beats you must listen in the nation’s homes. When the great mass of the people are not only householders but free-holders--when they own the homes they live in--the sentiment of patriotism finds its intensest development.

3. Your home must be a place of comfort and repose. That, of course. You will take delight in contriving all its appointments so that the burdens of toil shall rest as lightly as possible upon those who have the ordering of it; you will find pleasure in furnishing and arranging it, so far as you can, in such manner that gloom and cheerlessness shall be excluded, and it shall seem to be a true haven of rest and good cheer to all upon whom its hospitable doors shall open.

4. Your home must be a school of culture. I do not mean that you will fill it with pedagogic instruments and appliances; but it will be so arranged as to educate by impression those who dwell within it. Probably few of us are fully aware how sensitive we are to the influence of external objects. A minister travelling in Vermont entered a farmhouse, and fell into conversation with a farmer and his wife, persons in middle age. He inquired for their children, and learned that they had four boys, and that they were all at sea, following the hard trade of the sailor. “But how happened it,” asked the minister, “that your boys should take such a fancy? They never lived by the seashore.” The good people could offer no explanation whatever. It was simply a notion, they said, and a strange one, they had always thought, but it was a very strong one, and they had found it impossible to dissuade the boys from their purpose. But, pretty soon, the minister was invited into the little room which served the family for parlour, and there, hanging over the mantelpiece, the only picture in the room, was a magnificent engraving of a ship under full sail. The parents said it had been hanging there ever since their boys were little children. Who could doubt that the daily sight of this beautiful picture had had much to do in inflaming the passions of the farmer’s boys for the seafaring life? This is hardly an exaggerated instance of the effects produced upon our lives by the objects that surround us.

5. Your home will also be a place of enjoyment. Innocent play will often be in order. If there are young folks in the house, they will more easily be kept at home by liberal provision in this direction than in any other way. The grown people should not only tolerate the children’s pastimes, they should participate in them for their own sakes, as well as for the children’s.

6. Finally, your home, when it is builded, will be, I trust, a sanctuary of religion. There will be an altar there on which, every day, the sacrifices of prayer and praise will be laid. The children of your household will remember, when they are grown up, that their first impressions of the Christian life, and their strongest impulses to enter upon it, were furnished them in their earliest years at home. (W. Gladden.)

The conduct of life

I.

The wisdom of regulated time.--In the days in which kings could command the labour of their people, sometimes without regard to their people’s convenience, the wisdom of Solomon was shown in this, that he did not press over-harshly upon the people under his command. He gave them labour to do, but tempered it with the opportunity of following their own avocations. When he wanted wood hewn down from Lebanon, he arranged that those who were to be the labourers in this behalf were to work in what we call relays or shifts; they were to spend one month in Lebanon doing that work which was needful for the temple of the Lord, but two months they were to spend at home. It is this division of work, time, and labour, which constitutes one of the suggestions of wisdom. Every man was brought face to face with two sides of life’s own affairs, which were constantly pressing upon him, and the larger affairs and interests of the nation. Every man was brought face to face with two aspects of life--the aspect of life in which he had to labour for the support of his own family, and the aspect of his life in which he had to be contributing his share towards the work, as it were, of God in the world. They were to recognise two things--the Divine side and the human side, the heavenly side and the home side of their careers, and therefore they were given that opportunity which contributed to the enlargement of their thoughts. You see, then, the principle which comes here in the conduct of life. What principle then shall I adopt? This, that whatever else my life shall be it shall not be wanting in the capacity of living on the slopes of Lebanon and facing the Divine thought and the Divine meaning of life, neither shall it be so much the life of an indolent recluse, that it cannot minister amidst the neighbours and the friends of my own old home.

II. The right synthesis of life. Is not this the combination.of exactly the two principles--the recognition of the great Divine, the aspiring aspect of life, the recognition also of its serious and solemn duties; the recognition of God, and the recognition also of self as a labourer in the midst of the world. A man who lives upon the slopes of Lebanon all the year round, and is acquainted with the cedars of Lebanon, and knows something of the sky, over his head, and the shifting scenes of the beauty of that sky, may be absolutely without any knowledge whatever about the big world and the home and the children that he has left there, and the man in the home. Why, what destroys our judgment, what makes us full of pride, but this, that we live so much in our own little affairs, that we arc not capable of taking a dispassionate view at all. This man, so eager in business, so devoted to it, measures an event entirely by the influence it will have upon his opportunity, industry, or vocation, as the man who merely measures the legislation which is proposed in the Houses of Parliament by its effect upon his own trade. This makes it impossible for him to judge dispassionately. In order to escape from the egotism which thrusts aside and perverts your judgment you should live somewhat in the Lebanon, that you may come back to the world, and judge somewhat impartially concerning the affairs and the propositions for the improvement of life.

III. How to grow character. Not only does all this improve and strengthen the powers and faculties of your minds, delivering you from one-sidedness, delivering you from a dreamy, unreal idea of life, and from that careworn egotism which distorts men from the larger outlook, but it also tends to strengthen character. Over and over again it has been said thought ripens in solitude, character in the busy world. So true it is. Like the artist who wishes to paint his picture truly, you must sometimes go to a distance from your easel to judge of it in its due proportion. Character loses its proportion from being continually in one atmosphere. So, to come down from your Lebanon into the busy world, and test your theories in life, is to find that your character grows by the strenuous necessity of exerting your judgment and exercising your will. Live amongst your fellow-men that you may exercise that, and that you may test judgment, live also upon the sunny heights where the sunlight of God falls, in order that you may have the warm affectionate, glowing interest in things that take away from you the meanness and selfishness in your lives.

IV. Life without reserves. The man who lives--and that is the great temptation in the present day--so much in the busy world that he becomes an eager and constant citizen, following his avocation with keenness, and also public affairs, if you will, with a certain amount of attention, but has no quiet garden, as it were, within his life, Is a man without what I call the reserves of life. As in military matters the strength of a position is guarded by reserves, so the strength of your influence will be in proportion to the possession of some reserve in your being, something which is yours and God’s and nobody else’s. Like the difference between one man and another is the difference often between the fact that you feel as one speaks he is putting all his wares upon the counter immediately before you, but as another man speaks you know that he is like the prudent shopkeeper who has a large storehouse behind and plenty to bring forth. Also the power that the man is wielding when he is driving the nail into the wall, is not to be measured by the sharpness of the nail, not even the surface of the hammer, but the weight of the hammer which “drives the nail home”. And so it is that.men have been, thought to be strong and great in their influence. Emerson, in his essay on Character, calls attention to the fact that Lord Chatham and Mirabeau and Washington, when their achievements are examined, strike you as having left upon the record less reason for their reputation than their reputations seemed, as it were, to lead you to expect; they were bigger in their reputation than in their actual achievement. Is this to their discredit? Nay, nay. Washington lives, you will say, less upon the result of achievement than his great reputation would have led you to expect. But it was precisely because these men carried a weight behind them that they were able to achieve what they did. You are poising the hammer in your hand, and you say it has driven but a few inches home; yes, but what a weight of iron there was in the hammer, and how many inches it could have driven home! This is the possession of reserves. Men knew that there was force behind these men. So I would have it with you. Cultivate, therefore, this habit--the accumulation of the reserves of knowledge, the accumulation of reserves of will, the accumulation of reserves of noble and lofty thoughts, the accumulation of reserves of deep and magnanimous ambitions. Live somewhat on the side of God’s Lebanon, whatever else you do. Is this selfish that I should say thus prepare yourselves to be strong and worthy in the world? Nay, nay. Just as it is the highest hills that catch the sunshine first, and they are the pledges that by and by every valley shall be filled with sunshine, so is it true that there are men in a nation that are making these accumulations of sunny knowledge, they are the harbingers, the omens, that knowledge will be widely diffused. And you who have made these reserves, lived somewhat upon Lebanon and caught the diviner ideas, will be centres of influence for good, because, wherever you may be placed in the world, you will have reserves and accumulations which you can use in helping on and in forming and inspiring the minds and the lives of others. There is a reserve which you need more than all else--the reserve of the Divine help. You must live upon the Lebanon which means communion with God. Jesus Christ, your Master and mine, gave that counsel, that there should be a little Lebanon height of prayer in each man’s life, when he could be away from the care and the fret and the fevered ambitious of life. (W. Boyd Carpenter.)


Verse 15

1 Kings 5:15

And Solomon had . . . hewers in the mountains.

The pioneers of civilisation

Alike in its building and furniture the temple of Solomon had an evangelical and a spiritual signification. Our Lord institutes analogies between Himself and the temple, and the apostles constantly refer to it as an image and a foreshadowing of the Church of Christ. There are many “hewers in the mountains” to-day--servants of Christ working in wild places, difficult places, distant places, so that the temple of humanity may be built up for the indwelling of God.

I. The immense importance of the initial work of the Church of Christ. These “hewers in the mountains” did the initial work of the temple building. They came before all masons and carpenters; in fact, the building of the glorious shrine was out of the question without the toil of these humble workers. It was so with the old civilisations with Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome, they all emerged out of, were vitalised by, a spiritual faith. And it is still more clear that the modern civilisations were inspired by a spiritual faith, the faith of Christ. Out of the Gospel of God s love in Jesus Christ preached in Italy, in Greece, in Spain, in the forests of Germany, in the forests of Britain, arose the rich civilisation in which we rejoice, and in which is the hope of mankind. And as our civilisation originated in the Christian faith so it is still sustained, invigorated, and developed by spiritual life. Edgar Quinet says: “Any political revolution to be permanent, must be preceded by a religious one, and here is the secret of the comparative failure of the French Revolution.” And may we not add, that the success of the modern Reform movement in this country is largely owing to the fact that it was preceded by the Evangelical Revival?

II. The initial work of the Church is attended by much that appears violent and objectionable. The “hewers in the mountains” had rough work to do--their instruments like the axe and the crowbar, were rough, their methods were rough, and their work was announced by the thunder of the riven rock, the crash of the falling tree. Their action meant noise, dislocation, disruption, destruction. And the superfine critic of the period would turn impatiently from this scene of violence to admire the cunning work in gold, the lily work of the pillars when the temple reached a more advanced stage. So it is still. In certain stages the work of God is almost necessarily attended by much that offends the philosophic mind, the critical taste. When Christ came, He who is the Adoniram, who is over the levy of all the “hewers in the mountains,” what disturbances He made! He disturbed Church and State. When the apostles commenced their mission it was the same. They were aggressive, they disturbed the existing order, they troubled cities and empires, and soon awoke the protest, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” Luther made much noise, which has exasperated the tranquil critics--he fiercely wielded axe and hammer, and tremendous cleavages and crashes followed his blows. It was the same with Wesley; his critics objected to an enthusiasm which often meant ecclesiastical, social, and political rendings. And the evangelical worker in heathen lands has been open to the same criticism. Again and again have the missionaries been accused of violence and imprudence in one form or another. Sometimes they are accused and attacked in the interests of antiquity. The missionary is attempting ruthlessly to destroy creeds and systems, which have existed for thousands of years, and critics with a eructation for antiquity are indignant. No sooner does God’s forester lift his axe to smite some hoary error than they raise the cry, “O! woodman spare that tree.” But, this is the normal course of the development of the purposes of God Bring together certain chemicals and an explosion is inevitable; bring the truths of God into contact with systems of superstition and idolatry, and terrible consequences ensue--not unlikely, many even perish. In the Book of the Revelation the development of the kingdom of God is dramatised, and it expresses the fact that that kingdom comes largely through antagonisms and martyrdoms. Trumpets peal, lightnings flash, thunders boom; trees are burnt up, rivers become worm-wood, seas turn into blood, and suns and moons are darkened; the redeeming purpose of God unfolds amid battles, earthquakes, plagues, and voices. The regeneration of the earth is not to be worked out in a serene atmosphere. The time comes when civilisations grow silently, as the temple was built without hammer or axe or any tool of iron being heard in the house; but there must be the preliminary stages, when the “hewers in the mountains” startle and trouble by their blows and cries.

III. The initial work of the church of christ implies tremendous sacrifice. These “hewers in the mountains “ made certain sacrifices and encountered great difficulties that Solomon might be put in possession of the stone and timber essential for his projected house. And so the temple of humanity built on the grandest pattern is possible because certain pioneers are willing deeply to deny themselves.

IV. The splendid hopefulness of this pioneer service. Out of the wild mountain these devoted hewers brought the wonderful temple. Rough, violent, forbidding as their work might seem, it at last took shape as the palace of God. The Papuans, the Polynesians, the Malays, the Amazonian Indians, the aboriginals of Africa, and other uncivilised tribes have distinct and precious powers, although mainly undeveloped. Some excel in poetry, song and music, some in the artistic sense. Richard Semon says: “I dare to maintain that the love of artistic ornament is deeper and more general in the poor and naked savages of New Guinea than in ourselves.” Now can we believe that all these endowments are in vain? That these peoples will be the curse of the future? If we believe in the rationality of the universe we cannot believe in anything of the kind; it is much more sane to believe that the fulness of the Gentiles will enrich and raise civilisation gloriously. “The light and power of the Gospel” will work the miracle and develop, uplift, and perfect all nations and tribes. Christ can see the glorious possibilities of men even when they are at their worst. Anybody knows a Rembrandt when he sees it in a sumptuous frame in the National Gallery--even if it isn’t one!--but we need a fine eye to detect an immortal masterpiece on a blackened canvas, amid the dirt and lumber of a cellar. But this is the very genius of Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. When we were without strength, down in a gulf of dark despair, He recognised our essential glory and stooped from heaven to lift us to the throne. And Christ has opened the eyes of His people and caused His Church to recognise the intrinsic greatness of the savage and the slave, whatever the cynic may have to say. A sculptor can see in the rough marble quarries of Carrara a world of glorious imagery, an architect can see in the wild forest of Lebanon palaces and temples, and since Christ has opened our eyes we can see in the forlorn and lapsed classes, in the outlandish and savage nations of the earth, the most splendid possibilities of life and destiny. We hear from critics of a certain sort a great deal about failure in our work, but in all directions we judge of the worth of men’s efforts by their triumphs, not by their failures. Just outside Rome there is an ancient artificial mound, formed through long years by the pile of earthenware vessels in which various wares were brought to the great market of Rome, and whose fragments the peasants threw into this rubbish heap. Now if I wished to judge of the art of antiquity I should not waste my time turning over these miserable, worthless potsherds; I should study the vases, wonderful in amplitude, grace and colour, which are the jewels of museums and palaces. So we do not judge the efficacy of missions by what our critics may consider as rubbish cast into the void, but by tens of thousands of noble souls gathered into the Church of Christ, by myriads of glorified saints who are the pride of the palace of the King. (W. L. Watkinson.)

Partakers in the process share in the honour of the result

Imagine how Solomon s temple was built, that went up in Jerusalem without sound of the hammer. In the umbrageous forest of old Lebanon, many and many a day-labourer worked, cleaving and sweating, cleaving and sweating in obscurity, and wondering of what consequence all his work could be. As they toiled, day after day, at the large butt of some century-crowned cedar, with the rude instruments of their time, till at last it came down with a crash; and as they lopped off the limbs, and sawed up the vast trunk into various forms, they said to themselves, “We are slaves, labouring here among the mountains unrewarded.” And not far from them, in the gorge, were men that wrought in stone. In another place were workers in metal. Some did one thing, and some another; but none knew the plan of the temple, none knew what they wrought, till on a certain day, when they all trooped to Jerusalem. It was the day on which the dedication was to take place. And when they gathered there; when the hewer of wood, the carver of stone, and the worker in metal, from the various seclusions where they had wrought, each on his separate part, came together to see what had been made with all the different parts, they saw in the columns, in the cornices, in the decorations, in all the paraphernalia of the wonderful temple, the result of their toil. They stood entranced, and wondered that out of things so insignificant in the mountains, there should come such glory in Jerusalem. God has sent some to the cedar forest, some to the stone quarry, some to the dark and dank places of this world; but He is collecting materials which will glow with untold splendour in the temple that He is building for the New Jerusalem. What the issue of life is to be you cannot tell now; but you are working for God, and with God, and according to God’s plans; and ere long you will be summoned to see the result of all your work. Before that time, you cannot tell what that result is to be. (H. W. Beecher.)

Scope for every faculty in Christ’s service

It is impossible to find in one man a summary of all qualifications; take each one in his own sphere and you will discover a vast variety of gifts--there is the polished scholar, the eagle-eyed critic, the eloquent orator, and we ought to recognise and appreciate the ability of each. Do you depreciate the sun because he is destitute of fragrance? Do you undervalue the rose because no light flashes from its leaf of beauty. So each man has his own style of working, and is never so effective as when he is natural. A recognition of this fact will save us from passing adverse criticism upon any individual if he is diligent in cultivating the different gifts God has given into his possession. (R. Venting.)

Men of many types used in the work of God

How many have aided in the erection of Christ’s spiritual temple? Keenest intellects have toiled, noblest hearts have planned, sweetest, purest lives have been lived in this sublime effort. O varied workers! Paul, with his relentless, flaming logic. John, with eagle eye, scanning and then writing of the future and the past. Augustine, with his pauseless, countless toffs of pen and speech. Chrysostom consecrating his golden eloquence to themes of transcendent and golden worth. Bede labouring on our own northern shore, and in making the blessed Gospel accessible to the Saxon people, finding “the last dear service of his parting breath.” Luther, with his strong human tenderness and unquailing knowledge. Calvin, with his severe purity and indomitable industry. Latimer, with his home-siren, ready, and racy heart-compelling speech. Bunyan, that true Greatheart of countless pilgrims. Wesley, that statesman. Whitefield, that captain of preachers. And what more shall I say? Time would fail me to tell of the great preachers and teachers with voice and pen who have lived to win souls to Christ. If His service can be ennobled by human associations, it is ennobled by such names as these. Let us be worthy of them. (G. T. Coster.)


Verse 17

1 Kings 5:17

The foundation of the house.

Foundation work

“The king commanded”: that is the beginning of all Holy zeal waits for the king’s orders. But as soon as the command was given there was neither pause nor hesitation; “the king commanded, and they brought.” Solomon began to build the temple at the foundation. Begin with the foundation. The foundation, in his case, had to be carried to a great height, because the area upon which the temple stood was on high above the valley. Very much of foundation work is out of sight, and the temptation is to pay but small attention to its finish. It was not so with Solomon. I want to urge that all our work for God should be done thoroughly, and especially that part of it which lies lowest, and is least observed of men.

I. This is God’s method.

1. Observe the work of creation. God took care that even in the material universe there should be a grand foundation for His noble edifice.

2. The same is true of God’s work called Providence. No event happens but He has planned it, and ordained that a multitude of other events should precede or follow it. The doings of Providence are threaded together, like pearls upon a string; there is a relation of this to that, and of that to another. Events dovetail the one into the other. Every fact is fitted and adapted to take its place in the design of the Great Architect.

3. But we come into clearer light when we look at the Lord’s greatest work of redemption. You and I are not saved haphazard. It is not as though God had saved us on the spur of the moment, as an after-thought which was not in His first intent. No; redemption plays an essential part in the purposes of the Lord.

II. This must be our method. We must build after this fashion, and make sure of our foundations.

1. Let it be so in the building up of our own life.

2. So it must be, next, in the building up of a church. Is that a church of God which is not founded on everlasting truth? There are numbers of hasty builders with wood, hay, and stubble; but these neither attend to foundation nor to material laid thereon.

3. In the building up of character in others we must mind that we do the foundation work well. Sunday-school teachers are those who do the foundation work; for they begin first with young hearts, while they are tender and susceptible. It is a most important thing that we have our children and young people well instructed in Divine truth and soundly converted.

III. It is a wise method.

1. Because it is suitable for God. You build your temple for God, and not for men: you should, therefore, make that part of the building good which will be seen by him; and as he sees it all, it must be all of the best.

2. Next, look well to the foundation that is out of sight, for your own sake. No builder can afford to be negligent over the unseen part of a building; for it would involve a serious injury to his character. The very act of scamping is mean and degrading, and lowers a man’s tone.

3. Further, lay the foundation well, and look to that part which is out of sight, because in this way you will secure the superstructure. There was a bit of a flaw in the foundation, but nobody saw it; for the builder covered it up very quickly, and ran up the whole concern as quickly as possible. The walls were built, and built well. It seemed clear that the fault down below was of no consequence whatever; and as it had a little cheapened the underground construction, was it not so much the better? How long was this the case? Well, the next year nothing happened: a longer time passed away, and then an ugly crack came down the wall. Had there been an earthquake? No, there was no earthquake. Perhaps a cyclone had beaten upon the work? No, there was no cyclone: the weather was the same as usual. What was the cause of that gaping space which marred the beauty of the building, and threatened to bring it down? It was that blunder long age: that underground neglect produced the terrible mischief above, which would involve a great expense, and perhaps render it needful to take all the building down. That which was out of sight did not always remain out of mind; it only needed time to produce a dangerous settlement.

4. Besides, to lay a good foundation, on Solomon’s hart was the way to save himself from future fears. Buildings which have to hold a crowd endure seasons of test and trial. Years ago, I was preaching in a building which was exceedingly crowded, and, to my apprehension, there was a continuous tremor. I grew so anxious that I said to a friend, who understood such matters, “ Go downstairs and see whether this building is really safe; for it seems hardly able to bear the weight of this crowd.” When he returned he looked anxious, but gave me no answer. The service ended quietly, and then he said, “I am so glad that everything has gone off safely. I do not think you should ever preach there again; for it is a very frail affair; but I thought that if I frightened you there would be more risk in a panic than in letting the service go on.” Solomon had built with “great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones”; and therefore, when the vast multitudes came together around the temple, it never occurred to him to fear that the great weight of people might cause a subsidence of the foundation.

5. Do look well to the foundation, and to the secret part of your dealings with God, because there is a fire coming which will try all things. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith’s foundation secure

There is no kind of construction known to the modern engineer or builder which requires at all times so perfect and absolutely secure a foundation as a bridge. So, precisely, there is no faculty of the soul known to man’s keenest spiritual sense which requires so perfect and absolutely secure a foundation as faith, and since faith is the bridge between man and God over the otherwise impassible chasm of doubt and destruction, the Great Constructor, the Engineer of the Universe, has seen to it that its foundations shall rest upon nothing less secure than His own Almighty Word.

The comfort of a sure foundation

As you gaze with admiration at the wonderful tower of the cathedral of Antwerp, it looks as if it were made of lace suspended by some invisible chain from the heavens; but you know when you come to examine it, that all the exquisite lacery and tracery is built upon a most solid foundation. So the experience of the saint, which seems to pierce the very heavens, and is lit up with the light of God, rests on a firm basis. That is assurance of a personal interest in the salvation, procured by the atoning love and sacrifice of Jesus. (R. Venting.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Kings 5:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-kings-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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