By J.R. Miller
1 Kings 9
There is a measure of moral safety in work. While Solomon was busy with all his great plans, he was in less danger of being led away from God. At length, however, his magnificent projects were all completed and he was ready to enjoy the ease and the fame which he had earned in his twenty-four years of wonderful activity. Instead, however, of being a time of security--this was Solomon's time of danger. There is peril in popularity. It brings adulation, which ofttimes becomes almost adoration. This is apt to turn one's head. One who is honored so by the world--does not always remain humble and lowly.
Then Solomon's greater leisure since his buildings were finished, also brought danger. We are more open to temptations when we are idle--than when we are busy. Work is always a means of grace--and idleness brings peril. Luxury also has its dangers, and often saps the spiritual life of its vitality. In all these ways, Solomon found himself now in danger. He was unconscious, however, of his peril, and this made it all the worse!
We think that seasons of trouble, sorrow, and hardship--are the times when people need sympathy and help; but really they need the grace of God most--when they are in the midst of worldly favor and prosperity! A saintly man said to his friend, "If you ever see me beginning to get rich--pray for my soul."
The Lord appeared to Solomon when he was beginning his reign, when he was making his choice of objects in life. Then all was bright. He appeared to him the second time because he was in danger. He saw that the world was throwing about the king, its glittering charm, and He came with earnest warning. Warnings are always blessings, or are meant to be blessings; if we heed them--God will save us.
Not many people are afraid of prosperity. They do not think of it as dangerous. They do not pray to be kept from harm in it. Yet our Lord gave no warnings more solemn and earnest, than those which He gave against the perils of riches and prosperity. It is sad to remember that even after this divine warning, Solomon did turn away from God. Even God's appearing to him in person, and speaking to him--did not save him from going after the gods of the heathen! Warnings, too, make the sin of our failing, all the greater. Forewarning ought always to be followed by forearming.
God had accepted Solomon's work and had blessed it, accepting at his hand, the house he had built. No privilege that could be granted to anyone in this world is so great as that of being used of God--of having God accept something of ours. For example, one writes a hymn, like the Twenty-third Psalm, or "Rock of Ages," and God accepts it and uses it. Thousands sing it, putting their hearts into it, and are lifted by it nearer to God. Or one writes a book and dedicates it to Christ; Christ accepts it and allows it to carry blessing to many of His people, giving comfort in their sorrow, strength in their weakness, light in their darkness, guidance in their perplexity. To be thus honored by God--puts upon one new responsibility for living worthily.
Instead of making one proud to be thus honored and used--it should make one humble. Especially should he walk softly and carefully now, for God's seal is on him. He is Christ's, and dares not turn back to the world. That is what God meant, when He said to Solomon that He had heard his prayer and had accepted the temple which he had built, putting His name there, and taking it into His heart. He meant that the acceptance of this, Solomon's work, put the king under new obligations to be faithful, made his life sacred thenceforth forever. The Lord promised Solomon, that if he would be faithful, his kingdom would stand.
God will build true prosperity only upon one foundation: righteousness and truth. This is true of the individual, and is true also of nations. The Bible is full of promises of goodness and mercy--but every one of them, rests upon a condition of faithfulness on the part of those who claim them.
We have an example of this in Joshua, where the Lord gave His servant a clear explanation of the foundation of all true success. "Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go." Success can be reached--only in the doing of God's will. Anything else that men may call success, will only be a failure. It is built upon the sand, and the floods will sweep it away by and by.
"But if you shall turn away from following Me--then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them." Here is another "if". The first told of blessing--if they would obey God's commandments. This second showed a dark picture of those who will not go in God's way. The end of this path is destruction.
Think of the human hopes which have been lost, the innocence, the purity, the holy aspirations and desires, all the possibilities of noble spiritual life; think of the wrecks of all these precious things which lie at the bottom of the great sea of life.
When we think of the temptations, the sorrows, the trials through which we must pass in living--it is enough to alarm us. People talk much about the terrors of death--but life has far more and far greater terrors, than dying!
In the poem a child asks, "What is life, father?" and gets the answer that life is a sore battle, where many fail and yield; and then asks, "What is death, father?" We are not surprised that when she hears that death is the rest which comes at the end of the strife, she says, "Let me die, father; I fear to live!" But the wise answer is, "You must live first--and win your crown on the battlefields of life."
Life is indeed full of perils--but they need not affright us. If we pass through them safely, we are sure of the crown; and those who fight the hardest battles and get the noblest victories, are those who shall receive the highest reward. Paul gives to us the assurance that even life, with all its dangers, cannot separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. We know that if we trust in Christ and rest in His hands--nothing can snatch us out of His clasp! We see here very plainly, how we may go safely over life's wild and tempestuous sea. If we keep the commandments of God--we shall get the blessings of victory and honor. But if we disobey God and break away from His commandments, we shall wreck all our hopes upon life's ocean!