Prominent among the primary causes that led Solomon into extravagance and oppression was his failure to maintain and foster the spirit of self-sacrifice.
When, at the foot of Sinai, Moses told the people of the divine command, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them,” the response of the Israelites was accompanied by the appropriate gifts. “They came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing,” and brought offerings. Exodus 25:8; 35:21.
For the building of the sanctuary, great and extensive preparations were necessary; a large amount of the most precious and costly material was required, but the Lord accepted only freewill offerings. “From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering,” was the command repeated by Moses to the congregation. Exodus 25:2. Devotion to God and a spirit of sacrifice were the first prerequisites in preparing a dwelling place for the Most High.
A similar call to self-sacrifice was made when David turned over to Solomon the responsibility of building the temple. Of the assembled multitude David asked, “Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” 1 Chronicles 29:5. This call to consecration and willing service should ever have been kept in mind by those who had to do with the erection of the temple.
For the construction of the wilderness tabernacle, chosen men were endowed by God with special skill and wisdom. “Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord has called by name Bezaleel, … of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship….
And He has put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab, … of the tribe of Dan. Them has He filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer, … and of the weaver, even of them that do any work….
Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding.” Exodus 35:30-35; 36:1. Heavenly intelligences co-operated with the workmen whom God Himself had chosen.
The descendants of these workmen inherited to a large degree the talents conferred on their forefathers. For a time, these men of Judah and Dan remained humble and unselfish; but gradually, almost imperceptibly, they lost their hold upon God and their desire to serve Him unselfishly.
They asked higher wages for their services, because of their superior skill as workmen in the finer arts. In some instances, their request was granted, but more often they found employment in the surrounding nations.
In place of the noble spirit of self-sacrifice that had filled the hearts of their illustrious ancestors, they indulged a spirit of covetousness, of grasping for more and more. That their selfish desires might be gratified, they used their God-given skill in the service of heathen kings and lent their talent to the perfecting of works which were a dishonour to their Maker.
It was among these men that I, Solomon looked for a master workman to superintend the construction of the temple on Mount Moriah. Minute specifications, in writing, regarding every portion of the sacred structure, had been entrusted to me king.
I could have looked to God in faith for consecrated helpers, to whom would have been granted special skill for doing with exactness the work required.
But I lost sight of this opportunity to exercise faith in God. I sent to the king of Tyre for a man, “cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men … in Judah and in Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 2:7.
The Phoenician king responded by sending Hiram, “the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre.” Verse 14. Hiram was a descendant, on his mother’s side, of Aholiab, to whom, hundreds of years before, God had given special wisdom for the construction of the tabernacle.
Thus, at the head of my company of workmen there was placed a man whose efforts were not prompted by an unselfish desire to render service to God. He served the god of this world, mammon. The very fibres of his being were inwrought with the principles of selfishness.
Because of his unusual skill, Hiram demanded large wages. Gradually the wrong principles that he cherished came to be accepted by his associates. As they laboured with him day after day, they yielded to the inclination to compare his wages with their own, and they began to lose sight of the holy character of their work.
The spirit of self-denial left them, and in its place came the spirit of covetousness. The result was a demand for higher wages, which was granted.
The baleful influences thus set in operation permeated all branches of the Lord’s service and extended throughout the kingdom. The high wages demanded and received gave to many an opportunity to indulge in luxury and extravagance.
The poor were oppressed by the rich; the spirit of self-sacrifice was well-nigh lost. In the far-reaching effects of these influences may be traced one of the principal causes of the terrible apostasy of him who once was numbered among the wisest of mortals.
The sharp contrast between the spirit and motives of the people building the wilderness tabernacle, and of those engaged in erecting Solomon’s temple, has a lesson of deep significance. The self-seeking that characterized the workers on the temple finds its counterpart today in the selfishness that rules in the world.
The spirit of covetousness, of seeking for the highest position and the highest wage, is rife. The willing service and joyous self-denial of the tabernacle workers is seldom met with. But this is the only spirit that should actuate the followers of Jesus.
Our divine Master has given an example of how His disciples are to work. To those whom He bade, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), He offered no stated sum as a reward for their services. They were to share with Him in self-denial and sacrifice.
Not for the wages we receive are we to labour. The motive that prompts us to work for God should have in it nothing akin to self-serving. Unselfish devotion and a spirit of sacrifice have always been and always will be the first requisite of acceptable service.
Our Lord and Master designs that not one thread of selfishness shall be woven into His work. Into our efforts we are to bring the tact and skill, the exactitude and wisdom, that the God of perfection required of the builders of the earthly tabernacle; yet in all our labours we are to remember that the greatest talents or the most splendid services are acceptable only when self is laid upon the altar, a living, consuming sacrifice.
Another of the deviations from right principles that finally led to the downfall of Israel’s king was his yielding to the temptation to take to himself the glory that belongs to God alone.
From the day that I was entrusted with the work of building the temple, to the time of its completion, my avowed purpose was “to build a house for the name of the Lord God of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 6:7. This purpose was fully recognized before the assembled hosts of Israel at the time of the dedication of the temple. In my prayer I the king acknowledged that Jehovah had said, “My name shall be there.” 1 Kings 8:29
One of the most touching portions of my dedicatory prayer was my plea to God for the strangers that should come from countries afar to learn more of Him whose fame had been spread abroad among the nations.
1Ki 8:42 (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple,
1Ki 8:43 hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.
At the close of the service, Solomon had exhorted Israel to be faithful and true to God, in order that “all the people of the earth may know,” he said, “that the Lord is God, and that there is none else.” Verse 60.
A Greater than I was the designer of the temple; the wisdom and glory of God stood there revealed. Those who were unacquainted with this fact naturally admired and praised Solomon as the architect and builder; but the king disclaimed any honour for its conception or erection.
Thus, it was when the Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon. Hearing of his wisdom and of the magnificent temple he had built, she determined “to prove him with hard questions” and to see for herself his famous works.
Attended by a retinue of servants, and with camels bearing “spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones,” she made the long journey to Jerusalem. “And when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.”
She talked with him of the mysteries of nature; and Solomon taught her of the God of nature, the great Creator, who dwells in the highest heaven and rules over all. “Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything hid from the king, which he told her not.” 1 Kings 10:1-3; 2 Chronicles 9:1, 2.
“And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, … there was no more spirit in her.” “It was a true report” she said “which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.
1Ki 10:7 However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! 1 Kings 10:4-8.
By the time of the close of her visit the queen had been so fully taught by me as to the source of my wisdom and prosperity that she was constrained, not to extol the human agent, but to exclaim,
“Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” 1 Kings 10:9. This is the impression that God designed should be made upon all peoples. And when “all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:23), Solomon for a time, honoured God by reverently pointing them to the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the Ruler of the universe, the All-wise.
Had I continued in humility of mind to turn the attention of men from myself to the One who had given me wisdom and riches and honour, what a history might have been mine! But while the pen of inspiration records my virtues, it also bears faithful witness to my downfall.
Raised to a pinnacle of greatness and surrounded with the gifts of fortune, I became dizzy, lost my balance, and fell. Constantly extolled by men of the world, I was at length unable to withstand the flattery offered me.
The wisdom entrusted to me that he might glorify the Giver, filled me with pride. I finally permitted men to speak of me as the one most worthy of praise for the matchless splendour of the building planned and erected for the honour of “the name of the Lord God of Israel.”
Thus it was that the temple of Jehovah came to be known throughout the nations as “Solomon’s temple.” The human agent had taken to himself the glory that belonged to the One “higher than the highest.” Ecclesiastes 5:8. Even to this day the temple of which Solomon declared, “This house which I have built is called by Thy name” (2 Chronicles 6:33), is oftenest spoken of, not as the temple of Jehovah, but as “Solomon’s temple.”
Man cannot show greater weakness than by allowing men to ascribe to him the honour for gifts that are Heaven-bestowed. The true Christian will make God first and last and best in everything. No ambitious motives will chill his love for God; steadily, perseveringly, will he cause honour to redound to his heavenly Father.
It is when we are faithful in exalting the name of God that our impulses are under divine supervision, and we are enabled to develop spiritual and intellectual power.
Jesus, the divine Master, ever exalted the name of His heavenly Father. He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father which are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” Matthew 6:9, A.R.V. And they were not to forget to acknowledge, “Thine is … the glory.” Verse 13.
So careful was the great Healer to direct attention from Himself to the Source of His power, that the wondering multitude, “when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see,” did not glorify Him, but “glorified the God of Israel.” Matthew 15:31.
In the wonderful prayer that Christ offered just before His crucifixion, He declared, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. John 17:4
“ Glorify Your Son,” He prayed, “ that Your Son also may glorify You, Verse 1
O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. Verse 25
And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Verse 26
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