From a sermon series on 1 Kings by See Huang Lim, a missionary at IBF.
Last month, I talked about how King Solomon built the first temple for God. Today’s sermon continues reflecting on the temple, but this time, the topic is about achievement and dependence. Let’s ask if our achievements bring glory to God or only to ourselves. Let’s also reflect on whether we remember God in our daily life and depend on Him.
Our main text today is 1 Kings 7. This chapter is full of details about the buildings Solomon constructed, including the temple. But I will only read a few verses, and you can read it fully at home.
To you help you visualize this chapter, here is one artist’s image of Solomon’s buildings and the surrounding structures. We don’t know exactly what it looked like, but maybe it was like this.
Chapter 7 mentions that Solomon built a temple, a palace, a house for himself, a house for his wife – daughter of the Egyptian King – a throne hall, and a hall of pillars. We’ll only focus on the palace and temple.
The beginning of Chapter 7 is about Solomon’s palace. Verse 1 and 2 says, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams.”
While the temple took 7 years to build, this palace took 13 years. You could say these buildings were greatest achievements of Solomon’s life.
Many Old Testament scholars write that people in the ancient Middle East considered a king’s palace as a reflection of the king’s greatness and the greatness of his god. The king’s sovereignty was not considered fully established until he had built a palace for himself.
Solomon’s palace enhanced his prestige, and it was a blessing from God to the nation of Israel. To people outside Israel, the palace was a symbol that Israel’s god has blessed the nation. Israel’s god has given Solomon authority to rule. We don’t know how the palace looked like exactly, but I’m sure it was magnificent.
Last year, I was lucky to visit the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, which only opens twice a year to the public. Some of my adult English students wanted a fun outing, and they chose Akasaka Palace, which is visited by foreign dignitaries from all over the world. We were very impressed by the high ceilings and luxurious rooms.
3,000 years after Solomon’s time, kings of this world are still building palaces. And not just kings. Many ordinary people spend years saving money to build or buy their dream house. And others may not be so concerned about their house, but they work very hard to achieve something else. They work for a promotion, or open their own business. They work for their children’s future, or to change society.
Last month, I drew this lesson from Solomon’s story: Whatever we do, let us not lose sight of God. It’s not wrong to try and achieve something. As long as our hearts are devoted to knowing God and helping the world to know Him.
This time, I want to add to that lesson: When we have finally achieved something, let’s thank God and give him the credit.
In Colossians 3:17, Paul says, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Now let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 10:31. Here, Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Whatever we do, let’s do it for the glory of God. When we achieve good things, let’s give Him the praise for enabling us. After all, everything we have is because God has either given it or allowed it.
In college, I took one class in music appreciation because we were required to take at least one arts-related class. I learned something memorable about great composers like Bach and Handel. When they wrote music, they inscribed the Latin words “Soli Deo Gloria” on their manuscripts. That means “Glory to God alone.” They were saying: only God deserves praise for this music. Many of these composers were not only devoted to music but also devoted to God. They saw music as a way to glorify God.
Likewise, do our achievements glorify God? Does the way we work glorify God?
If you are a student, how can you glorify God? Perhaps by your diligent studying. Or by telling others that God who enabled you to do well (in school). Or by trusting God’s plan for your future if you tried so hard but still didn’t do well.
For those who are older, how can you glorify God? Paul says in Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” In other words, do your best – not out of fear or selfish ambition but from joy in knowing God.
Like Solomon’s palace, our earthly achievements are supposed to draw others to Jesus and reflect God’s goodness.
Our Source of Strength
Now, let me move on to the temple. Here is an artist’s image of what the temple looked like. The temple used a lot of gold and bronze, so it probably looked amazing.
Today, I’ll only talk about one detail of the temple, its two bronze pillars.
Let’s read 1 Kings chapter 7 verse 15: “[Solomon] cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference.” The pillars were about 8 meters high, about five times my height. The next few verses say they had bronze decorations in the shape of lilies and pomegranates. Now let’s read verse 21: “He erected the pillars at the [porch] of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jachin and the one to the north Boaz.”
It’s interesting that these pillars have names. I mean, do you give special names to the individual pillars in your house? Do you name the walls in your house? No, but Solomon’s pillars had names.
Jachin and Boaz are Hebrew names. Jachin means “The Lord will establish.” Boaz means “In the Lord is strength.”
Let’s remember that the temple is the center of worship for Israel. When Israelites saw it, they would see these two bronze pillars at the front of the temple. The pillars were meant to remind them of God’s promise and God’s strength.
When the Israelites see Jachin, they remember God’s promise to Solomon’s father. I mentioned this last month: God made a promise to Solomon’s father in 2 Samuel 7:12. He said, “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.” That had just come true. Solomon’s kingdom was established.
That was Solomon’s time. But what about us? What are God’s promises to us as Christians; do you remember?
Many of God’s promises were fulfilled through the person of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’s sacrificial death, God promises to forgive us. Through Jesus, God promises to be with us and guide us forever. Only through Jesus can we have true peace.
There are so many promises that God has made, and the Bible is full of them. It’s easy to forget, in the midst of our daily work and worries. That’s why we constantly return to this book, to learn and recall what God says. The Bible is not just history; it’s also for our lives today. So I hope you will enjoy reading this book often and thinking about how it speaks to your life today.
Besides the Bible, perhaps you can create your own memorials to God. You don’t have to build bronze pillars, but surely we can find ways to remind ourselves of God’s words. Some people wear a ring, or have a painting in their bathroom, or put a note in their wallet. You can do the same for a Bible verse you want to remember.
One memorial that we have as a community of believers is the monthly communion. All over the world, Christians regularly share bread and wine to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s love. At IBF, we do this together once a month.
Finally, the second pillar Boaz, symbolizes God’s strength.
Psalm 105 says, “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” That is the Christian’s approach to daily life.
Recently, I told my best friend in Malaysia that I was worried about the month of April. I told him that most of my young students will graduate from elementary school and enter middle school. Because they will become busy in middle school, they will drop my English classes. While I agree that my kids shouldn’t overtax themselves, I was worried about the lost income.
My best friend replied, “Maybe God put this situation in your life to help you trust Him. If life always goes the way you want, then there is no need to depend on Him, right?”
I’m reminded that in, John 15:5, Jesus even says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
When we work together with God, the results can be beautiful and bring Him glory. We can witness His love and power. We can do something truly meaningful and lasting. We may not see it every day, but let’s not give up seeking to see God’s glory. Let us pray.