THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

December 16, 2015

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Last week I wrote about the first several years of Solomon's 40 year reign as king of Judah and Israel. He loved and obeyed God, and God abundantly blessed him with wisdom and wealth.

We know that Solomon was king for four years when he started building the Lord's Temple and then his own personal palace, which took twenty years to build. He also built up various towns as supply centers and constructed towns where his 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses could be stationed. He build everything he desired in Jerusalem and Lebanon and throughout his entire realm. He also had a fleet of trading ships that returned to port every three years loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (1Kings 10:22). People from every nation came to consult him and to hear the wisdom God had given him.

What we don't know is exactly how many years passed between the time of the completion of the building of the temple and palace until 1 Kings chapter 11 begins, which is when Solomon begins his downfall. What we can speculate is that for the majority of his reign, Solomon was faithful in his relationship with God. The reason I believe this is because chapter 11 says that in his old age, Solomon turned from the true God to worshipping idols.

1 Kings 11:1-4 says, "Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh's daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, 'You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.' Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord."

Verse 4-6 continues: "In Solomon's old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord's sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done."

Honestly, I have never truly studied the life of Solomon; and having heard all my life of him having 700 wives and 300 concubines, I had assumed that he must have accumulated them over the entire period of his 40 year reign as king. But I tend to not think so anymore after reading his story again. I believe that it was something he began doing in his latter years.

Perhaps he had everything he could possibly want -- property, wealth, slaves, ships, etc. - yet he wanted more. 1 Kings 10:25 says, "Year after year everyone who visited brought him gifts of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules." My mind cannot even comprehend the wealth and excess that Solomon had!

I'm sure that with his wealth and prestige and wisdom, many women found him very desirable. Solomon may have had kings and wealthy tradesmen offer him their daughters as a form of alliance or as gifts. When Solomon was busy those years building the temple and his palace, as well as building up towns and fleets of ships, he had much to occupy his time and attention. But once he had all that completed, there came a time when he may have grown bored with what he had and started seeking for something that he didn't yet have - women. Flattery will often turn a man's (or woman's) head! I'm sure in his older years, it was quite flattering that kings offered him their daughters, or that women found him (or perhaps all his wealth) attractive. So he seemingly made it a quest to accumulate as many women as he possibly could! Perhaps Solomon was so used to having everything in excess, that there came a time in his life when he wanted to have more and be better than every other nation. If other kings had 100 wives and concubines, then he had to have 1,000!

I wonder what Pharaoh's daughter, who had been married to him during the construction of the temple and palace and had been his one and only wife (as far as I know) for many years, felt when her husband began accumulating all these other women? It is believed that Song of Solomon was written during the early years of his reign, so it likely may have been written with her in mind.

Solomon disobeyed the command that God had given the people of Israel to not marry women from those other nations, because God knew that they would draw the hearts of the men away from Him. Yet Solomon allowed his lust to dominate and insisted on loving them anyway. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from God. He built many pagan shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods. Not only did he allow those shrines to be built, but he began worshipping some of the other gods himself.

1 Kings 11:9-13 says that the Lord was very angry with Solomon. God had appeared to him twice, and had warned him specifically about worshipping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord's command. The Lord spoke once again to Solomon and said, "Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, My chosen city." God then began raising up adversaries against Solomon.

During Solomon's life, he wrote the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. He shows his great wisdom, especially in the book of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes also has some tidbits of wisdom in it. But there is also an underlying depressive theme, regarding how worthless all the various things in life are. He writes over and over again "this is all so meaningless -- like chasing the wind".

My Bible gives a synopsis prior to each book in the Bible and states that it is believed that the book of Proverbs was written earlier in King Solomon's reign as king -- and Ecclesiastes was written later in his life. Perhaps that is why you can tell a difference in his writings. In Proverbs, Solomon is still seeking God and reigning with great wisdom and integrity. By the time he writes Ecclesiastes, he had likely married or had begun marrying his foreign wives, as well taking in concubines, and had strayed in his faithfulness and obedience to God. Perhaps he had even built those altars to all the foreign gods and had begun worshipping them himself. His heart may have started straying away from the One True God.

When you are living in disobedience to God and doing things to please yourself, there will be that inner conflict within your heart. You may not be building pagan shrines or worshipping idols, but yet you are disregarding the commandments of God and not fully serving Him with your whole heart. Without fully placing your hope and confidence and faith in God, life is going to feel more hopeless and worthless and meaningless. There will be that air of despondency and depression in your speech and thoughts and attitude. You will lose sight of what is important and try to find happiness in whatever way you can; only to find that your search is in vain. The world can't bring you fulfillment and you can't find it within yourself; it only comes from God.

Even when life is tough, when you are living in obedience to God and are faithful in your relationship with Him, there will be hope and faith and trust in your heart. Whether you are living in abundance and blessing, or in poverty and hardship, when God is your focus and priority you will have peace in your heart.

It's easy to get distracted at times, and there may be times when we disobey and disregard God's commands. But we each have a choice on how we respond in those types of situations: we can either repent and turn our heart back to God and be forgiven, like David did when he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed; or we can continue in our rebellion and sin and one day suffer the consequences of our actions, just as Solomon did. Only we can make that choice!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

As I've done before, I'm going a different direction from Loretta.

We have a puppy. And he loves to lick us, but we don't like it. I know he does it as a way to show that he accepts us as part of his pack, that he likes us, that he is devoted to us, or something like that. But it isn't really what we want.

On the other hand, he isn't always very obedient. Usually, if he thinks we have a treat, he will do every trick he knows, hoping that he will do the one we are asking for. But he doesn't really seem to listen or watch for visual cues. And if he is sure there is no treat in it for him, he will commonly obey, but he might finish running to water the tree first, then, if he remembers, obey us. If he has nothing else to distract him, he might obey right away.

The thing is, he seems interested in pleasing us, especially if there is a treat or belly scratch for him. But he doesn't always listen to figure out what we want.

We do the same thing, though. So often, we tell God we want to please him. We may listen for a few seconds for what God would want from us, but then chase off to do something that God never asked for. Other times, we might know what God really wants us to do, but it's to hard, too uncomfortable, or too risky, so we will do something else to please God. But how pleasing can it be to ignore Him?

We are glad that Sammie can roll over, but if we ask him to sit, rolling over isn't what we want. If God is asking you to make a commitment, but you give everything you own to the poor, it isn't what he asked for.

ON THE MENEWE:

Oven Caramel Popcorn (Linda's father-in-law's recipe)

2 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup corn syrup

6 quarts popped popcorn

1 teaspoon salt

Boil brown sugar, butter, syrup, and salt for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Pour over popped popcorn and stir well to coat. Spread in a broiler pan. Place in 200 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring at each 15 minute interval. Store in tight container.

(Here is another recipe for caramel popcorn)

Candied Popcorn (Granny Schwyhart's recipe)

1 cup popcorn (un-popped) --

yields approx. 6-8 quarts popped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 stick butter

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pop corn and put in large pan; remove all hard tacks. Mix all other ingredients, except baking soda, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and put baking soda in; stir while foaming. Pour over popcorn; stir well. Pout in oven and bake at 200 for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Store in tight container.

THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER:

This past Sunday my sister's two grandkids came to church with her. Abigail is 7 and Owen is 3. They sat with me and Jon during the time between Sunday School and Children's Church. Abigail had given Owen a piece of gum, which resulted in this conversation:

Me: Owen, don't swallow your gum. When you finish chewing it, give it to me to throw away.

Owen: I don't want to throw it away! I will just swallow it!

Abigail: Owen, if you swallow your gum then when you fart, a big bubble will come out of your bottom and it will shoot you into space!

Jon: I don't think it would shoot him that far!

Abigail: Well maybe not that high, but it would shoot him pretty high into the air! Then when the bubble popped, Owen would fall to the ground and could get hurt!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

All the Christmas presents in the world are worth nothing without the presence of Christ. - unknown

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

http://www.graysheep.org