1 Kings 7 – It takes 13 years for Solomon’s palace to be completed. In it there was a Hall of Pillars, a Hall of the Throne and a Hall of Justice. The daughter of the Pharaoh, one of his wives, has her own house the size of one of these halls.
Huram, the craftsman who helps Solomon with this palace, is son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, who married a man of Tyre. He knew how to work in bronze and was “full of skill, intelligence, and knowledge in working bronze” (7:14) He did the bronze work on Solomon’s house. Among the things made was a “molten sea” that stood on twelve oxen, 3 facing in each direction and holding 2000 baths (a measure of volume). The text describes in some detail all the bronze-work Huram did for Solomon—stands with lions, oxen, basins, pots, decorative work, etc.
Ephesians 4 - Paul begs us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (4:1). We should bear with each other with humility and gentleness, making an effort to be in unity with each other in the Spirit. We all have different measures and different gifts—some for prophecy, some for pastoring and teaching.
If we are rooted and grounded in love, this is what our lives will then look like. And this is what the Church will look like. We will not just talk about gentleness and love and then excuse ourselves by pleading the prevalence of sin in us and in the world. We can no longer “plead up sin” and excuse ourselves from the necessity of living transformed lives. We must bear the fruits of faith in our lives. The old self must be put away and the new, restored man, put on.
The Old Testament quote Paul uses in verse 8 (Psalm 68:18) is confusing because the translation Paul had is not what we now use. The reading refers to a conqueror going up to the heights and receiving men as booty of war. Paul says the one who ascended, “made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” Like Paul we all have a gift, a service to offer the world as members of His Body. And we must “strive” for unity among believers so that we are true to the calling we have to be of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Within that unity though there will be different strengths and ministries reflected in the body of believers. Some will be given leadership, some prophesy, some pastoral abilities, some the ability to teach. But like the different members that make up a body, we all in our different ministries must try to be connected with the head, Christ, who will bring unity and coordination to the body.
No other two specific callings -- the call to be reborn into the Spirit, which Christ has given us, and the call to maintain unity among those who belong to Christ -- have been more neglected by us in the modern world. We have whole philosophies and systems to defend our disobedience to these callings. For the first, we “plead up sin” as Fox said shamefully. We refuse to accept the redemption offered by our Lord and instead build theories of why we cannot do what we are plainly told we should and could do with Christ’s help. This is a “fallen world” we argue. We cannot be truly renewed in this life because of original sin. And I think we allow ourselves to fall into this kind of thinking because of a mistake in our understanding of what the fall was all about.
When we read the story so as to make ourselves believe that mortality came into the world because of our original parents’ sin, and we see that mortality is still part of the equation, we naturally assume that since the resurrection will only occur at the end of time, we have no present expectation of redemption from the effects of the fall. But if we accept that mortality was simply part of the design of nature in God’s creation and part of the limitation we have as creation, we are freer to see that the important consequence of the fall was not the coming of mortality per se but the entry into a condition of “spiritual death” that deprived us of our true selves.
God created us to “be,” to “live” in His image, to be close to Him and intimate with His voice. Our harmony together and our deepest happiness lies in coming into our true natures, and we have fallen terribly and tragically away from that.
Christ’s redemption brings us the power to begin again, to be rooted and grounded in love, to be secure in the presence and lordship of God. Now it is perhaps true that laziness, over-confidence or outright disobedience can remove us from that salvation even after it is experienced by us. But we are dealing with the dimension of eternity and our nature strives against its own redemption to a certain degree, so we are always moving in and out, some more than others, some less. But this is different from pleading as a matter of doctrine or principle that we must accept our place outside the garden, outside the Promised Land, outside the Kingdom of Heaven. Our true place is “in” that place of God’s presence, and it is the whole point of Christ’s coming and redemptive work that we should come in and sup with him in that eternal dimension.