20 July 2010

Jul 20

Reference links:
Old Testament

The content of today's reading is pretty much what we have seen before with details added to make Solomon seem better and even more dedicated to God.
Solomon son of David took firm control of his kingdom, for the Lord his God was with him and made him very powerful.
That's the nice way of saying that he killed a bunch of people to consolidate his power. Now, these may have been necessary killings, but we lose something from this story if we forget that it was not just a joyous and peaceful transition from one powerful king to another.
There in front of the Tabernacle, Solomon went up to the bronze altar in the Lord’s presence and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings on it.
That must have taken awhile. If we estimate at least half an hour of non-parallelizable time per sacrifice, that's 500 hours of sacrifice (about 21 days, 24 hours a day). That's a lot of time spent sacrificing.

After reading about how Solomon asks for and gets wisdom, we start reading about the building of the temple.
Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself.
Solomon decided to build a temple? I thought David had already told him he had to do it. It is also worth noting that this passage does not seem to mention the fact that David had already done lots of preparation and gathered lots of the materials. Also, Solomon's letter to King Hiram of Tyre was much more extensive than the first time we saw it.

We then read,
Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.
"Like the census his father had taken"? So it caused a plague on the land? Was prompted by God and/or Satan to cause punishment? Or was it just like David's census in so far as it counted people (which, you know, is what censuses do).

I also find it somewhat appalling that simply being a foreigner in the land of Israel was considered sufficient reason to conscript you as a laborer. Maybe the chronicler meant foreign slaves? Foreign prisoners of war? If it includes foreigners who voluntarily moved into the land of Israel, then the idea of forcing them to work on the Temple is pretty despicable.

And then, architectural details.

New Testament

Most of the actual content of today's reading is, once again, targeted at the believer and like unicorn grooming to the non-believer.

But I will pull out one detail which I think is interesting independent of the believing in Jesus thing:
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?
I think there is some truth to this idea, although I would not choose to express it in terms of slavery and obedience. But it is true that those things you consider most important profoundly influence how you live your life. If you consider service to others most important, you will notice and act on opportunities to serve others. If you consider influencing others most important, you will live your life in such a way as to make that happen.

Overall I think this focus is good because it can act as a guiding filter through the many directions your life can take. However, it can also be harmful.

First, if you are unaware of what is driving you or if what drives you is considered inappropriate by the norms of your community, you may experience conflict or guilt, either internal or external.

Second, if you are shaping your life due to a particular set of concerns, you may, like Paul, come to believe that your way is right and all other ways are wrong. This can lead to all sorts of bad things, not the least of which is the development of an "us verses them" attitude.

Psalms and Proverbs

Two proverbs that are good with a little substitution.
[Always continue to] get all the advice and instruction you can,
so you will be wise the rest of your life.

You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose [the rest of your life] will prevail.