Monday, May 7, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 3-4 and Ephesians 1

1 Kings 3 – Solomon takes one of the Pharaoh’s daughters in marriage.  Asimov says the 21st Dynasty in Egypt was in a state of decline. They “ruled only the Nile Delta, while upper Egypt was under the domination of the priests of Ammon, who ruled as virtual monarchs from Thebes” (323). 

People in Israel are still sacrificing “at the high places . . .because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord” (3:2). The king sacrifices in Gibeon, “the principal high place” (3:4). But one night when he is there, the Lord comes to him in a dream and asks Solomon what he should give him.  He says, “Give your servant. . .an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” (3:9) This pleases the Lord, and because he asked for something worthy, he also gives Solomon what he did not ask for—“riches and honor all [his] life; no other king shall compare with you” (3:13). When he wakes, he goes to Jerusalem before the ark of the lord and offers sacrifice there.

Two prostitutes come before the king to have him decide a case they have: they both recently gave birth to children, but one child died, and now they both claim that the surviving child is hers.  No one else was there—only they know the truth.  Exercising the wisdom he has just been promised, Solomon orders the baby cut in two so that each woman can have half.  When one of the women protests, she is awarded the child because her love for the child gives away her true identity.

1 Kings 4 – Officials of Solomon’s administration: Azariah (son of Zadok) – priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah – secretaries; Jehoshaphat – recorder; Benaiah – commander; Zadok and Abiathar – priests; Azariah (son of Nathan) – over officials; Zabud (son of Nathan) – priest and king’s friend; Ahishar  - in charge of the palace; Adoniram – in charge of forced labor.  Each of 12 officials was responsible for getting food for the king and his household for one month of the year (12 food districts). “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy” (4:20). Solomon’s kingdom extends from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, to Egypt even.
The requirements of Solomon’s household – food and other provisions. “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, a breadth of understanding as vast as the sand of the seashore” (4:29). He composed 3000 proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five.  He wrote of trees and animals. He sounds like a lover of nature. And people came from everywhere to hear him. 

Introductory Information to Ephesians: The theme of this letter, written between 61 and 63 AD, is the nature, origin and purpose of the church in its most universal sense.  Having touched in Colossians on the ascendancy of Christ over not only the church on earth but over all the principalities, dominions and powers that co-exist with God in the cosmos, he returns to the theme of how this “pleroma” concept transforms the deepest notion of the church.  It is in the increasingly “mysterious” sense of Christ’s place in the universe that Paul sees the inexhaustibility of God’s love and the glory of His redemptive work in Christ.

Ephesians 1 - The letter introduces its theme more quickly than in most of Paul’s letters – it is the eternal nature of God’s plan.  We believers were chosen in Christ from the beginning, before the foundation of the world. The “we” to whom Paul refers are called blessed because we were chosen “in Christ” to be holy and unblemished, chosen to be adopted “to Himself” and redeemed by his blood. In Christ, God has “made known to us the mystery of his will . . . a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:9-10).

What does it mean to be “chosen in him”? That the people who were to find their salvation were somehow joined in Christ’s body even from the beginning of time? The God of this letter is a God whose purposes cannot be thwarted.  What his intentions are, nothing can change or deflect, even all the sin and misunderstanding and darkness that man’s will can throw out at God.  He says too that the gift of the Holy Spirit is but the first installment of our redemption inheritance.  The word “redemption” implies being returned to God as his possession. Paul focuses his mind on the importance of “knowing” or just seeing into the mystery he describes, more than on conforming one’s behavior to a certain set of rules.  The behavior is important—that is amply clear from his words in Colossians 3:5-9 and here again in chapters 4 and 5 of Ephesians—but the root of this transformation in behavior and character is to be found in “the spirit of wisdom” here in 1:17 and 18.

The Church is Christ’s Body (1:23).  Paul asks that we who are part of the body may be given wisdom and knowledge of him through “the eyes of our hearts” (Jerusalem Bible translation) - that knowing him we may have a hope for all the riches of his inheritance.  It is the mighty power of God that raised Christ from the dead and set him at God’s right hand, giving him authority over all things spiritual in heaven and on earth.

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