Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Cheese should not Stand Alone

Most people know a little about King Solomon. They probably know that he solved a dispute between two quarreling women by offering to divide a baby between them. They may know that he was King David's son and successor and that he built the first temple in Jerusalem. Some may remember that he married hundreds of women, most of whom did not follow his God, and that his good-intentioned love for them eventually corrupted his life and reign. Solomon, the man who reigned over a magnificent kingdom and possessed more wisdom than any other living human, ended his life having fallen into despair and cynicism. And all because he took his eye off the ball.

Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh's daughter in marriage and brought her to the city of David until he finished building his house and the House of God and the wall of Jerusalem all around. However, the people brought offerings upon high places, for a house for the Name of God had not yet been built in those days.--1Kings 3:1-2

Pharaoh's daughter was the first pagan Solomon brought home, but far from the last. Throughout his life, they came in a steady, unending stream. When he'd accumulated a few hundred, he must have been rather distracted. By the time they'd reached 700, he would have needed all his wisdom just to get out of bed in the morning. But sheer numbers did not defeat him. His defeat lay in that he had no place to bring them, no place for them to come unerringly to pray, no place that stood as a physical connection the God that governed his life and to whom they, as his wives were responsible. Lacking a mortar and stone temple, they worshiped at the only places they knew, the high places where they had once worshiped pagan gods of wood and stone. Their intentions were probably good, but they lacked firm guidance.

Solomon's wives are worth considering as we structure our own lives of worship. Whatever a personal prayer place looks like--chair, or corner or window by the sun, we have a need to be grounded in a larger place, too, a place where God visits congregations. I learned a long time ago that God shows me different things alone than He does in company with others, and I need both.

Also important, though, is for that group to be similarly grounded in a larger context. It does us no good to affiliate with a group of believers that shares no sense of responsibility to other groups, other churches. Only God stands alone. He made us to stand side-by-side in His sight, and provides the structures within which we can do it. Like the children's rhyme, Farmer in the Dell, that ends in disarray when the cheese stands alone, we need to hold each others' hands.

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