Lessons from Israel

give me wisdom

While walking through the valley of Aijalon, through olive groves and beautiful landscape, we came upon a large hill with no trees on it. This is Tel Gezer. A ‘Tel’ is a large pile of hundreds and even thousands of years of building and tearing down of a city on top of itself. Each time an archaeologist digs at a Tel they can estimate the date range based on what kind of bones, pottery and building materials are found there. Like most Tels, this one is only partially excavated on only a portion, revealing some critical evidence as to what went on in this city.

Gezer in the Bible:

{Allotment for the Levite priests} In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer, Kibzaim and Beth Horon, together with their pasturelands—four towns. – Joshua 21:21-22

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. – Judges 1:28-29

Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer. He built up Lower Beth Horon, Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, within his land, as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled. There were still people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these peoples were not Israelites).  1 Kings 9:16-20

Here we stood at the city gate of a 4-5,000 year old stronghold, built up by King Solomon. Before us lay the valleys that lead up to Jerusalem, and surrounding us was untold centuries of archeology waiting to be discovered. As we turned away from the city gate and climbed the Tel to see the other side, we were met by several tall stones sticking vertically up out of the ground. In front of one of the stones was a large square stone with a trough on the top. Pastor Brian began to explain that we were looking at a ‘high place’ where ancients would worship the goddess Asherah. These were Asherah poles, and the trough was where so many had sacrificed their children in the flames.

These Asherah poles dated back past the time of Solomon, being used up until the city was burned as a gift for his wife. Wait a sec… wasn’t Solomon a good king who followed the Lord wholeheartedly like his father David before him? Why are they even still standing? Why weren’t they destroyed along with the rest of the city? Could they have been placed there after Solomon’s reign? During?? According to archeologists, the megaliths date back to 1600 BC, but there is an argument over the 1 Kings passage about when the city’s destruction actually took place – sometime around the 10th century (900-1000 BC). In any case, those stones preceded King Solomon and were never destroyed.

I say all these things to say this: no one is perfect. There is no way for us to be perfect before God because we are born as sinners. Even Solomon, who asked for wisdom over riches was imperfect. God blessed him for what he asked, but as I re-read Solomon’s plea to God for help I realized something. Solomon asked for wisdom to lead God’s people – discernment between right and wrong. What he didn’t ask for was wisdom to lead God’s people to worship God and God alone. Even as God gives him what he asks for He adds a stipulation, letting Solomon (and us) know that this discernment is for justice purposes – not on serving the One Living God. In Solomon’s seeming act of asking for what was good, he asked for something selfish.

“Now, 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?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 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. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” – 1 Kings 3

It has often plagued me that Solomon asked for wisdom, used it, and then turned from God to worship idols with his many wives. Seeing these Asherah poles still standing made me wonder if there was anything I had asked from God, thinking it was good, but in fact was just for me. You see, there is a war going on inside of me between my flesh and my spirit. I have been given new life because Christ died bearing my sin, enabling me by His Spirit to put off sin and selfishness. But my flesh on this earth (the human in me) wants to do what seems right in my own eyes – not necessarily what is right in God’s eyes. It’s that mentality that if I ask for something good like wisdom then I can lead myself to God – because I will be wise. It just so happens that it is impossible for me to lead myself to God because I am naturally prone to wander away from Him – even to turn my back and shove Him aside.

My hope is this:

Christ died so that we might die to sin. He was raised to life and lives so that we might live to Him.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 6:5-11

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