"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Raising the Standard: Resourcefulness Is Using My Time, Money, and Possessions To Extend The Work Of God

"Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." ~ Proverbs 3:27
Living Lessons on Resourcefulness From the Pages of Scripture:
Among the valuable resources that we tend to overlook are strength, health, friendships, and time. Each day God gives every person twenty-four hours. The joy which we experience in life is directly related to the wisdom by which we invest this valuable resource to advance the kingdom of God. What is true for time is also true for other resources, and what is true for individuals is true for kings. Two kings in Scripture provide a significant contrast in their use of the same natural resource. One invested it wisely and experienced God's blessing upon himself and his nation. The second invested it unwisely and brought total destruction to his nation. Two kings ruled the same nation at different times in history. Each king had the benefit of the same resources. One used them to promote freedom and the other to promote bondage. Who was the first king? King Hiram of Tyre.
How Is The Need To Make Wise Use Of Resources Illustrated In Scripture?
A powerful army arrived and began taking up positions around three sides of the city. The soldiers were greeted with walls one hundred and fifty feet high. The invaders were prepared for a long and difficult siege. Inside the city, the proud citizens remained confident. This was not the first time in their long history that invading armies had surrounded them. They continued trading their silver coins which pictured an eagle with a palm branch and the inscription "Under divine guidance and impregnable." Up to this point that inscription was accurate --- not because of them but because of the wisdom of a previous king. Many years earlier, a wise king surveyed the magnificent cedar forests surrounding his kingdom. He decided to send lumber from them as a special gift to a neighboring king. This act of generosity established a significant relationship between the two nations and God. This king and his nation became world famous as a trade center. Their power and prestige was remarkable since they were a small country. But under a later king, their lust for gain caused their trading to expand to that which brought God's judgment. Godly prophets had warned, "By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence." The bills of lading included iron, tin, lead, slaves, emeralds, wheat, oil, whine, spices, gold and rich apparel. Among their slaves were the people of God whom they sold to other nations. These were the very people whom that earlier king had benefited. God promised that those who blessed His people would be blessed and those who cursed His people would be cursed. The present siege was a fulfillment of God's judgment. After thirteen years, the great city of Tyre fell to the Babylonian army. The city and people were destroyed. The king who was judged had used the cedars of Lebanon to build ships which carried the people of God into slavery. This was a striking contrast to King Hiram, who years earlier had used the same cedar tree forests to furnish lumber for the temple of God. [From 2 Samuel5:11-12, 1 Kings 5:10:11, and Ezekiel 27-28:19]
How Was Hiram Used By God To Encourage David?
When David was a young man, he received some staggering promises from the Lord. While just a shepherd, he was anointed to be king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. (See 1 Samuel 16:13.) After Saul's death, David was proclaimed king by the tribe of Judah. He pursued peace with the rest of the nation and fought and defeated their enemies. Finally David was asked by the elders of Israel to be their king as well. (See 2 Samuel 5:1-3.) David conquered the Jebusite stronghold of Zion in Jerusalem and moved his headquarters there. It was there that the Lord motivated Hiram of Tyre to encourage David by building him a beautiful palace in Jerusalem. "And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake"(2 Samuel 5:12). David was in Jerusalem as the head of a unified nation, and now his most prosperous and influential neighbor had given official recognition to his kingdom. The great promises of God given in his youth were now a reality.
What Motivated Hiram To Be Generous Toward David And Solomon?
Hiram was not generous simply to placate a strong neighbor. It is true that Israel's army had become powerful under David's leadership, but the Phoenician navy and the offshore island fortress of Tyre gave Hiram a measure of immunity against Israeli attack. Hiram was generous because he recognized David and later Solomon as men of great wisdom and leadership. He was attracted to David as a person as well as a power. He had observed David's rise to leadership and knew that such a man would guide Israel to peace and prosperity for years to come. When Solomon was appointed as David's successor, Hiram pledged continued support, "...for Hiram was ever a lover of David" (1 Kings 5:1). There is no doubt that Hiram was motivated by the best interests of his own country, but he was also motivated by personal respect and a deep friendship with these two kings of Israel.
Was Hiram A Wise Ruler?
Yes, he was. Hiram knew his country's weaknesses and strengths and adapted his policies accordingly. He was renowned as a builder of magnificent edifices. He was considered brilliant in foreign and domestic policy. The Jewish historian, Josephus, records Dius the Phoenician's account of an interesting game played by Hiram and Solomon. The men exchanged riddles and offered prizes for their solutions. It is said that although Solomon proved to be superior in wisdom, Hiram found a man of Tyre who finally invented a riddle that even Solomon could not solve (Against Apion I, Section 17). Hiram was what Jesus referred to as "worldly wise" in the parable of the dishonest steward. "...For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8). There is no evidence to indicate that Hiram gave up his pagan beliefs. He did, however, have a certain amount of spiritual perception. "And it came to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, Blessed be the Lord this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people" (1 Kings 5:7). It is unfortunate that Solomon became such a poor representative of Jehovah as he grew older.
Illustrated In The World of Nature:
The egret is perhaps the most elegant and graceful of all of the herons. Standing about three feet tall with a heavy yellow bill, black feet, and long white plumes, it nests throughout the marshes and wetlands of both North and South America. It is an excellent hunter stalking its prey with slow, deliberate steps. The white plumes for which the egret is famous nearly led to its extinction in the late 1800s. The beautiful white feather plumes on the back of the egret bounced rhythmically in the air as he picked up a twig and then bowed respectfully before his mate. The graceful ceremony was repeated several times. Then both egrets sprang into the air and seemed to defy gravity as their huge wings slowly lifted them higher and higher. They had chosen their nesting site in the crotch of a tree one hundred twenty feet above the lonely marsh. Three eggs were laid in the nest, and the parents began the long vigil of incubation. One night there was a violent storm. The tall tree swayed dangerously in the wind. The thinly lined nest was unable to prevent two eggs from slipping through the loose construction and falling on the rocks below. The mother egret carefully guarded the remaining egg. Finally the day arrived for the little egret to break through the shell, totally dependent upon its parents for survival. However, a new threat faced all three of them. Food had become unusually scarce. Each day it became harder to locate fish, frogs, snakes, or crayfish. One day the egrets saw a visitor in a nearby meadow. They watched as he tossed a crust of bread into the bush. When he left, the male egret gracefully glided down, picked up the crust in its long, pointed bill, and flew back to his hungry family. His mate quickly broke off portions of the crust and gave them to her chick. While the chick was eating, its mother also devoured several pieces. In a very short time, only one piece of the crust remained. Rather than giving it to the chick or its mother, the male grabbed it and flew out of the nest. He landed at the edge of an inlet in the marsh. Slowly he walked out on the water. Then he waited. A delicious looking bass cautiously swam up to the bread and began nibbling on it. The egret slowly coiled his neck as the bass began to swim away. Then, in a flash of whiteness, the long neck struck out, piercing the water. He withdrew his beak, flipped the bass into the air, and caught it in his mouth. Then he returned to the nest. Now he was able to share a nourishing fish with his hungry family because he had made the best use of a limited resource.
The Characteristics of the American Egret in Scripture:
The egret belongs to the heron and bittern family. Both the heron and the bittern are identified in Scripture as unclean birds and therefore are not to be eaten by man. (See Leviticus 11:19.) The most striking characteristics of the American egret are its beauty and its subtlety. It is significant that these are the same two qualities that were combined by Satan and the serpent when they beguiled Eve. (See Genesis 3:1.) The witness of the egret and its flowing plumes during mating season can picture either Christ in His beauty or Satan in his deception, since he appears as an angel of light. (See 2 Corinthians 11:14.) God describes the beauty that He gave to Satan in Ezekiel 28:12, "... Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty." The long, snakelike neck of the egret and its barren appearance before maturity not only bear a striking resemblance to the cursed serpent, but to serve as a reminder that if we allow Satan to use our resources for his purposes, the glory that God gave us will also be destroyed. "When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth..." (Psalm 39:11).

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