Tuesday, July 26, 2016


张国昇牧师  7/24/16

There were two great kings in the history of Israel--David and Solomon.
The thing that we remember David with is his victory over the Philistine giant Goliath  (1Sam. 17). We remember his famous declaration of dependent, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1Sam.17:45).  With that declaration he was inaugurated to a life-long service to the Lord. To be sure, David had a rough life, he ran for his life before King Saul; he fought battles with enemies and with his family all his life. He was not a perfect man either. He committed adultery and murder, yet he never stopped depending on God for mercy and help. He was called the Man of God (2Sam 8:14), and God made a covenant with him that, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; you throne will be established forever." (2Sam 7:16) That promise was fulfilled when Jesus came, and He was called the son of David. (Matt.1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1)  Psalm 23 is the autobiography of King David--a man who found complete fulfillment in God.

 And then, there is this glamorous King Solomon, the son of David. He inherited the kingdom in its great glory and splendor. He built a temple for the Lord and palaces for himself. The Bible tells us of the luxurious life he led, "All King Solomon's goblets were gold, and all the house-hold articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon's days. The King had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver, and ivory and apes and baboons." I don't know how baboons are translated into peacocks in the Chinese Bible, anyway they are exotic animals.  Make no mistake! Solomon did not have a wealthy father, 他不是富二代、but he had a godly father. To be sure, in the beginning of his rule he loved and honor God ; and God blessed him. (1Kings 3:3) One day Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifice s to the Lord. The Lord appeared to Solomon at night in a dream and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon said, "Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" (1Kings 3:7-9) and God said, "I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings." (1Kings 3:12-13)

If Psalm 23 reflects how David sees the blessings of his life; Psalm 127 gives us an insight of how Solomon sees fulfillment of life in his God given wisdom.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
        Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain."
The first verse of the Psalm sets the tone of the importance of knowing that the outcome of everything depends on God. Unless God is involved in every aspect of human lives, human efforts in steering their own lives will lead to nowhere. Here Solomon describes two human activities towards whatever we consider as the most important area of life namely the work of building and the work of guarding or keeping. Many of us spending all our life building up wealth, building up an empire, or for that matter building up of name and fame. Solomon in his discernment from God tells us one basic truth: unless it is the Lord's doing, human effort in either building or guarding what had been built will be in vain. "In vain" does not necessarily mean not achievable; rather it carries the meaning of "pointless". It is hard work to build an empire it involve even more hard work to keep an empire. But even when you are successful in doing all that, what is the point? What would all these worldly success lead to? Some people might think that working harder is the answer to find fulfillment in life. The psalmist says, "In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:2To be sure, working hard can sometimes get to where you want to go or get, but at the expense of losing sleep and health through worries. You may achieve and guard what you built, but are they worth building? Worldly treasure will lead to nowhere! Jesus clearly teaches us not to store up treasures on earth; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matt.6:19-21

At first sight the second half of the Psalm does not seem to have anything to do with the first half of the Psalm, yet their thoughts are very much related. In Hebrew the word ‘builders’ bōnîm and the word ‘sons’ bānîm are very similar.
The Psalmist said, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:3-5)
 Sons are a heritage from the Lord. The word ‘heritage’ means more than just inherited property from one’s ancestors, the emphasis here is more of a ‘gift’, a ‘reward’ from God. A gift is given for one to enjoy; not something that one builds up for himself.  A gift is not something that we accumulate for a possession, it is a reward given as a favor. The giver of the gift is God. God gives us children as a gift not as a property for possession. Like houses or a city children is for our enjoyment and protection. The children will take care of us when we are old; they will defend us when we are accused by our enemies at the gate. Unless it is God’s doing we labor in vain to build and to guard our asset; unless God bless us with children we are left empty and unprotected. In other word the real owner of our earthly possessions including children is God; we are his steward to take care of his treasures. Children are a gift entrusted to us to enjoy and to teach. We have the responsibility and obligation of raising them properly as God intend us to do. Nothing is mentioned about money or wealth in the second half of the Psalm; a godly family with strong bond of love is wealth enough and honor enough.
Solomon in his God given wisdom understood the truth and wrote this Psalm. But in his own life he sadly lose out on the blessing because he relished worldly pleasure and success. His 3000 wives and concubines lured him to worship their idols other than the one true God his father David honored. In the end, in his old age, he found out life is pointless without God. “Vanities of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanities of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV) ‘In vain’ in Psalm 127 is not the same as ‘Vanity’ in Ecclesiastes 1:2. ‘In vain’ means even in meaningful things, if God is not involved in doing, our best efforts will still achieve nothing; ‘Vanity’ means life without God is meaningless, it will lead to nothing.
God has blessed many of us with godly children, with big houses with well landscaped spacious yards and bank accounts of large savings. God also blessed us with lives living to a good old age and decent health. There comes a point when our children are all grown up and start leaving the nest; the house becomes too big to clean and the yard too hard to care for. Are we ready to let go the things that we have spent a life time to gather? Consider Solomon’s experience ad advice. Consider everything we ever have, our heritage, as a gift and a reward from God to enjoy and care for. They are not properties for us to possess; they are entrusted to us temporarily in this world. Jesus also teaches good stewardship in parables. For the faithful and wise servants he will entrust them with more gifts and responsibilities. (Luke 12:42-44) What a blessing when we have God in our lives; knowing that whatever He builds in our lives, he will also guard. “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of the heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber…” (Psalm 121:1-3) When the time comes, we are not afraid or worried to let go things that we have because we know that God will entrusted with new gifts or rewards to enjoy and to do if we are found faithful in his sight.