Day 169

Three Conversions Everyone Needs

Wisdom Psalm 74:18-23
New Testament Acts 12:19b-13:12
Old Testament 1 Kings 3:16-5:18

Introduction

At an Alpha Conference, someone handed me a scrap of paper with a note describing what had happened to her friend. This is what she wrote:

‘Sue (who was not a Christian) was attending a rehab clinic for people with severe respiratory problems. She had a chronic condition (COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) that was getting progressively worse. The clinic meets at our church building. She arrived for her clinic, but there was no one there. (She had got the wrong date!) She waited around and had a look through flyers about our next Alpha.

‘Sue turned up for our course on Wednesday evening. She soaked it all up and was full of excitement and interest. She came to church on the Sunday and was back again on the Wednesday. It suddenly clicked for Sue that Jesus is God! A huge piece of the jigsaw for her. She gave her life to the Lord – dramatic. She called her sister to tell her she had become a Christian and her sister was in the middle of a meeting with a friend to pray for Sue! She had been praying for her for twenty-five years!

‘The following Sunday – Sue came to church, came forward for prayer for healing and was remarkably healed of her COPD. [She has been] running up and down stairs at home, off her medications, etc! She met with her physio at the medical clinic who was astonished at what had happened to her – remarkable difference. She has been healed and has since prayed for and seen others healed, including one of cancer!

‘On 30 April Sue was baptised and brought over 150 friends and family to celebrate with her. She is having a huge impact on people – evangelising to anyone that will stand still long enough to listen!’

John Wimber often used to say that we all need three conversions: to be converted to Christ, converted to his church and converted to his cause. Sue was obviously not only converted to Christ, but also instantly converted to his church and to his cause! Today’s passages focus especially on this third conversion.

Wisdom

Psalm 74:18-23

18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
  how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
  do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
  because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
  may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
  remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
  the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

Commentary

Passion for God’s cause

‘Rise up, O God, and defend your cause’, writes the psalmist (v.22). He is passionate about God’s cause and sees, as we see today, people mocking (v.18a) and even reviling God (v.18b). He cries out to God, ‘Don’t forget us. Remember your promises’ (vv.19b–20a, MSG).

It can be easy to become downhearted when we see people attacking God’s cause. The best way to respond is with passionate prayer. Bring your frustrations to God: ‘Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long. Do not ignore the clamour of your adversaries, the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually’ (vv.22–23).

Prayer

Lord, as we look around at our society today we see many who mock and revile your name. Rise up, O God, and defend your cause. May your name be glorified. May your kingdom come.

New Testament

Acts 12:19b-13:12

19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Herod’s Death

Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.

21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

24 But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

Barnabas and Saul Sent Off

25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark. 13 1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

On Cyprus

4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

Commentary

Pursuit of God’s cause

Ultimately, nothing can stop God’s cause.

Herod had success, popularity, power and great wealth. The people flattered him and shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a mere mortal’ (12:22). However, ‘That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died’ (v.23, MSG).

This is contrasted with the word of God, which, unlike Herod’s life, does not end: ‘But the word of God continued to increase and spread’ (v.24) – it grew in ‘leaps and bounds’ (v.24, MSG).

We see a similar situation as God’s cause flourishes despite opposition once more. Saul (‘who was also called Paul’, 13:9) and Barnabas were confronted by a charlatan called Bar-Jesus who was ‘as crooked as a corkscrew’ (v.7, MSG). He tried to stop the proconsul being converted to Christ.

Paul, ‘full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye’ (v.9, MSG), confronted him with his ‘schemes to cheat people out of God’ (v.10, MSG). Bar-Jesus was struck blind, and the proconsul ‘became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master’ (v.12, MSG). Bar-Jesus’ attempts to thwart God actually achieve precisely the opposite to what he had hoped.

The early church was determined to find out what God was doing and join in. They gathered together to worship the Lord and fast (v.2). While they were doing this, the Holy Spirit spoke to them, ‘“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off’ (vv.2–3).

Barnabas and Paul were ‘sent on their way by the Holy Spirit’ (v.4). They were pursuing his cause. They ‘proclaimed the word of God’ (v.5). They were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (v.9). Even the proconsul, an intelligent man (v.7), was amazed at Paul’s teaching ‘about the Lord’ (v.12).

It is so important that you seek God’s guidance and help – in your ministry and in your life. With God on your side you can achieve so much more than you could ever dream of in your own strength.

Prayer

Lord, please speak to me by your Holy Spirit. Help me to know what you are calling me to do. I want to proclaim the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and pursue your cause with passion.

Old Testament

1 Kings 3:16-5:18

A Wise Ruling

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

Solomon’s Officials and Governors

4So King Solomon ruled over all Israel. 2 And these were his chief officials:

  Azariah son of Zadok—the priest;

  3 Elihoreph and Ahijah, sons of Shisha—secretaries;

  Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud—recorder;

  4 Benaiah son of Jehoiada—commander in chief;

  Zadok and Abiathar—priests;

  5 Azariah son of Nathan—in charge of the district governors;

  Zabud son of Nathan—a priest and adviser to the king;

  6 Ahishar—palace administrator;

  Adoniram son of Abda—in charge of forced labor.

7 Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names:

 Ben-Hur—in the hill country of Ephraim;

  9 Ben-Deker—in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh and Elon Bethhanan;

  10 Ben-Hesed—in Arubboth (Sokoh and all the land of Hepher were his);

  11 Ben-Abinadab—in Naphoth Dor (he was married to Taphath daughter of Solomon);

  12 Baana son of Ahilud—in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam;

  13 Ben-Geber—in Ramoth Gilead (the settlements of Jair son of Manasseh in Gilead were his, as well as the region of Argob in Bashan and its sixty large walled cities with bronze gate bars);

  14 Ahinadab son of Iddo—in Mahanaim;

  15 Ahimaaz —in Naphtali (he had married Basemath daughter of Solomon);

  16 Baana son of Hushai —in Asher and in Aloth;

  17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah—in Issachar;

  18 Shimei son of Ela—in Benjamin;

  19 Geber son of Uri—in Gilead (the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and the country of Og king of Bashan). He was the only governor over the district.

Solomon’s Daily Provisions

20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21 And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.

22 Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. 24 For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.

26 Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.

27 The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. 28 They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.

Solomon’s Wisdom

29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

Preparations for Building the Temple

5When Hiram king of Tyre heard that Solomon had been anointed king to succeed his father David, he sent his envoys to Solomon, because he had always been on friendly terms with David. 2 Solomon sent back this message to Hiram:

3 “You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. 4 But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. 5 I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.’

6 “So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”

7 When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.”

8 So Hiram sent word to Solomon:

“I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and juniper logs. 9 My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea , and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.”

10 In this way Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and juniper logs he wanted, 11 and Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household, in addition to twenty thousand baths of pressed olive oil. Solomon continued to do this for Hiram year after year. 12 The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.

13 King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. 14 He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. 15 Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, 16 as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers. 17 At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of high-grade stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. 18 The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and workers from Byblos cut and prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple.

Commentary

Purpose in God’s cause

Solomon was called to serve the cause of God in a special way.

David had served God’s purpose in his own generation (Acts 13:36). However, he was not allowed to build the temple. God gave that calling to Solomon: ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name’ (1 Kings 5:5).

Solomon needed great wisdom in order to fulfil his calling. He had prayed for wisdom. God answered his prayer more than he could ever have asked or imagined. God promises to give you the same kind of wisdom if you ask for it (‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’, James 1:5). Ask for wisdom in all these areas:

  1. Wisdom in decision making
    God gave him wisdom to administer ‘justice’ (1 Kings 3:28). When given the impossible task of deciding to which mother a baby belongs, he comes up with an ingenious idea.

    The threat of the death of the surviving baby is enough to reveal who the true mother really is: ‘When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice’ (v.28).

  2. Wisdom in choosing a team
    Solomon gathered around him a leadership team for his government. This included priests, managers, friends, secretaries, historians and the commander of his army. There were eleven in all, making a team of twelve. It is a similar size to Jesus’ core team (the twelve disciples). It seems to be about the right size for a leadership team.

  3. Wisdom in delegation
    In addition to this, Solomon had another team of twelve regional managers distributed through Israel. This included two of his own sons-in-law (4:11,15). Delegation is absolutely key to avoiding burnout and carrying out a leadership role.

  4. Wisdom in peacemaking
    Under his leadership there was so much growth that the people became ‘densely populated’ (v.20a, MSG). Nevertheless, ‘All their needs were met; they ate and drank and were happy’ (v.20b, MSG) and they ‘had peace on all sides... [they] lived in safety’ (vv.24–25).

  5. Wisdom in insight and discernment
    ‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore (v.29)… his fame spread (v.31)… He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five’ (v.32). Psalm 72 and 127, Proverbs 10:1–22:16; 25:1–29:27 are attributed to him. People from all nations came to listen to his wisdom (1 Kings 4:34).

    Solomon had the wisdom to know when to accept help from those who were not part of the people of God (chapter 5). ‘The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him’ (5:12).

  6. Wisdom in pursuing God’s cause
    Solomon had the vision to build the temple in order to see God’s name honoured (vv.4–5). One of the ways in which you can pursue God’s cause today is by seeking to see the church (the new temple) built up in order to bring honour to God’s name.

Prayer

Lord, please give us wisdom in order to fulfil our calling. Help us bring honour to your name and advance the cause of Jesus on earth.

Pippa adds

1 Kings 4:24–25

‘He ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and fig-tree.’

This must be one of the few times in Israel and Judah’s history when there was peace and safety in the whole region. Wise governance really can change a nation. Peace and safety are desperately needed in many countries around the world. We need to keep on praying for wise leaders to arise.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 74:18–20, MSG

‘God… don’t forget us. Remember your promises’
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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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