Psalm 127; 1 Kings 11:1-25; John 15:18-16:4

Psalm 127: The psalm is dedicated to Solomon probably because of the reference in the first verse: “If the LORD does not build a house, / in vain do its builders labor on it.” We have seen how much effort and materials were expended on the Temple. (Alter tells us that the Hebrew word for “house” also means “temple.”) But the lesson is clear: if God is not involved, our labors are in vain. So, too, watching over a town or even those of us who are dedicated and get up early and work hard: “In vain you who rise early, sit late, / eaters of misery’s bread.”

All of us who worked long hours, attempting to build our careers and putting aside other things that interfere with our job, become “misery’s bread.” Just ask any father who has skipped his children’s school plays and sports events because he was not there–and suddenly they have grown and left home. But when we undertake life’s activities with God at the center, we build, we watch, we work in a balanced way and God restores our energy: “So much He gives to His loved ones in sleep.” (2)

The second half of this psalm is the joys of progeny that arise when God is at the center of our lives: “Look, the estate of the LORD is sons,/ reward is the fruit of the womb.” (3) In that patriarchal society, sons were the best, but I think it is completely fair to believe that God rewards us with sons and daughters. And now, as I am older and looking back, it is clear that the psalmist os absolutely right: “Happy is the man who fills his quiver” with children. In the end, it is relationships that matter most.

1 Kings 11:1-25: But not all was glory and honor and wealth for Solomon for he strays from God. Israel has reached its political apogee under this king, and allows sexual love to trump God’s command not to intermarry. Because as soon as that happens, Solomon starts to follow other gods. One of the saddest verses is this book is, “So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done.” (6)

God appears to Solomon, not once but twice, but Solomon pays no heed. Finally the punishment is meted out: “I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime.” (11,12) Notice that God is granting Solomon grace “for the sake of your father David.” The sins of the father will be visited on his son. But troubles begin and Hadad and others become Solomon’s adversary. The glorious kingdom that Solomon built begins its long descent.

As the psalmist above told us, when we do not follow God, we become eater’s of misery’s bread. And Like Solomon we reap misery not just because of bad things that happen to us, but that we have failed to keep God at the center of our lives. And some 3000 years later, we continue to fail to learn that simple lesson. Pride and false love lay at the bottom of all of it.

John 15:18-16:4: Jesus has hard words for his disciples–and for us. We have a choice: we place Jesus at the center of our lives or the world. But when we place Jesus at the center we have excluded the world. And the world will hate us for it. And by extension, the world that hates Jesus hates the Father as well.

These must have been incredibly hard words for the disciples to hear. As they are hard words for us to hear. We’d really like to have it both ways: Love Jesus. Love the world. And that’s pretty much how I behave most of the time.

Jesus promises the gift of “the Advocate,” which in that pre-Pentecost time must have been especially puzzling. But I’m particularly struck by verse 27: “You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.” Jesus gives a very specific command to the disciples in that room: they are to testify.

John was in the room and he knew at that moment that he was to testify about Jesus and writes the most theologically profound book ever written. Yes, Paul expounds, but John testifies. And he writes the most profound section of his gospel–the Upper Room discourse–which forms the core, the essential basis of our understanding of the relationship among Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

And not just the Trinity, but the essentials of our own relationship with Jesus and through Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us. Human imagination could not have made this up. And that is why I know it has come from Jesus himself.

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