May 27, 2018
David wanted to be the one to build God’s house but God told him that it would be his son, Solomon who would actually build it. Solomon was only 12, when he became king so David decided to do what he could to set him up for success. He gathered the best materials and gave detailed instructions about how they should be used. He recruited the best, most skillful artisans to do the work, and he made alliances with neighboring nations so that more materials would be available if needed. Then he told Solomon to be bold and to act so the temple of God could be completed. Solomon acted. He built the temple according to the instructions David prepared, according to the instructions David received from God. It was the most beautiful temple, befitting the God of the universe. It was a wonderful place to house the seat of God.
But within one generation, the nation that built the temple was divided into the two nations of Israel and Judah. Two hundred years later the ten tribes of Israel were carried into exile. Within another one hundred fifty years Judah was in exile and the once beautiful temple stood in ruins. So what happened?
Solomon started out doing well, but somewhere along the way he lost his focus on the real advice that David had given him. He married many foreign wives and invited them to bring their foreign gods and traditions when they came to Jerusalem. No doubt, Solomon adopted some of these gods and traditions for his own. Solomon, and all of Israel had forsaken God. They had forgotten what David said in Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.”
Solomon failed to remember, or perhaps he didn’t know that God’s house is not in any building—something that we need to remember as well—but it is in the hearts of all who love God and desire to follow God’s ways. In other words, we can build our lives on the best alliances, the most prestigious jobs, and the best pay, but if God is not in our hearts, we will fail. We can change our attitudes so we are most tolerant people that anyone can be; if God is not in our hearts we will fail. We can study to become the most knowledgeable people in the world, but if God is not in our hearts we will fail. If we want to succeed in life, we need to invite God into our hearts.
While we know that God will make Godself known in Gods own ways, we can invite God into our hearts by being in the places where God has routinely been present. God often speaks through Bible Study and through prayer and fasting. God often speaks to us when we meet with other Christians, or when we receive communion or remember our baptism, or when we serve others by feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the sick. God often speaks to us through these and other means of grace.
But as important as these things are, none is a guarantee that God will be present in our hearts. John Wesley in his—I believe autobiographical--sermon “The Almost Christian” said that people who diligently practiced the means of grace and did so sincerely were only “almost Christians” He said our motivation—what is in our hearts is most important. Wesley said there were three things: Love for God, Love for neighbor, and faith in Christ. About faith, he said this: “But here let no man deceive his own soul. “It is diligently to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith, but a dead and devilish one.””
I believe this is important because as we look at our church and nation today I feel that sometimes we have forgotten that a city that God builds is made up of houses that God builds. As we look at ourselves we need to ask some questions like: Have we as a church kept our focus on God? Do we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength? Do we love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Even more, do we love as God loves? Do we have faith in Christ that calls us to repentance as a people, as a church, and as a nation? A faith that calls us to say, “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou are the Potter, we are the clay.” And that says, “Lord, not our will but thy will be done.”
We are only a little older than Israel was when it was destroyed. If we are to survive, we need to take to heart this psalm, especially the part that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” We need to pray, Lord, come into our hearts and build your kingdom here. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.