This article is based on the theme for Sunday, August 15 and the readings and commentary in The Living Word Bible study post for August 15:
OT: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 — God appears to the young Solomon in a dream and his desire for a discerning heart pleases Him
NT gospel: John 6:51-58 — Jesus promises new and eternal life to those who believe and trust Him wholeheartedly
NT letter: Ephesians 5:15-20 — We can choose to live each day, filled and led by the Holy Spirit in an awareness of God’s purpose
And also read: Psalm 111
Theme: How to live in partnership with God
There’s God who is Almighty, Creator of the universe and of our world — and there’s us, created by Him with freewill, which easily turns to independence and self-interest. It doesn’t look like a partnership, until we remember that we are created in God’s image, and on a good day we look a little like Jesus, the Galilean man who the Bible says is the perfect representation of God in human form. Because He was God as well as being man.
So, to express this idea simply, God wants us, indeed He is pledged to help us, to be the best ‘ourselves’ we can be, and to work with Him on His mission to bring heavenly kingdom order into human disorder and selfishness.
When Jesus returns that will just happen, but there is much preparation to be done first. “When He comes, will he find faith on earth,” is the question Jesus leaves hanging (Luke 18:8).
This week’s theme is drawn as usual from the three perspectives of the Old Testament, the gospel account of the apostle John, and Paul’s letter to the churches in and around Ephesus. So that brings together a viewpoint from the time of the Old Covenant before Jesus, the transition time when Jesus is teaching about the kingdom of God and the new relationship with God, and then how the early Christian converts, in this new relationship with God, are working out how to live their lives as renewed people, empowered to live differently by the Holy Spirit.
Solomon’s need in the partnership
The first scene in this story marks the end of a great reign and the beginning of another. King David has died after a 40-year reign and is buried in the city that he made his own — the City of David, or Jerusalem. Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba, was appointed successor by David and is the third king. He is the first ruler who follows according to the new dynasty, not singled out by God beforehand — but as our story relates, he had an encounter with God early on:
The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
1 Kings 3:4-5
Gibeon was the place that hosted the tabernacle of God after the Philistines destroyed Shiloh, and that made it the most important place of worship before the temple was established. Solomon had approached the Lord in great humility and “the Lord was pleased” that Solomon had asked for discerning wisdom to help him rule well, rather than the usual requests of power and advantage over enemies.
Solomon is asking the Lord, for what the Lord is ready to give him — a partnership between all-seeing, all-knowing heaven and the conflicts and confusions of life on earth. The Lord responds with His typical generosity:
“…I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honour—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 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 3:13-14
The partnership that God desired — and still desires for each of us — started well, but it began to founder as Solomon’s godly values slipped. His intentions were good, he headed out in a good direction — but inconsistency and undue attention to others, especially his foreign wives, were his downfall.
Jesus’ gift in the partnership
The next scene takes us into the heart of one of Jesus’ more difficult teachings. It caused arguments among His hearers, especially those who struggled to see the spiritual meaning behind words which, taken at face value, were quite shocking
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world… …Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
John 6:51, 53-54, 55-57
Putting these statements of Jesus together as one saying, helps us to see the main point. Speakers of that time often introduced with a phrase, and then repeated it at the end for emphasis, and this became a kind of headline. Jesus is saying that whoever “eats this bread” and “feeds on Me” — meaning whoever trusts Him totally and makes Him their life source — will enter a new and enduring life.
Where does the partnership come in? Until we are truly His, and have Him in us, we cannot bring His presence to others. Religion, over the ages, has attempted to coerce people into submitting to its hierarchy, rules and rituals. Jesus doesn’t coerce anyone or impose anything. Instead, He asks for our hearts — He asks us to give Him our love and acceptance as we receive His.
At that point our partnership with Jesus grows organically out of that new and special relationship. We don’t have to sign up, double down or go on a course. We will just find ourselves having the conversations and doing the things that Jesus has initiated in heaven. He wants us, having invested all in Him, to be heavenly minded but, to change the popular saying a little, to be of real and strategic earthly use, partnering with Him in doing those things that, having risen, He is no longer available to do.
How the Holy Spirit enables the partnership
How do we do this partnership? The ‘how to’ comes out of the Bible’s teaching on us being made aware of God’s kingdom purposes by the Spirit — and led in them.
…Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine… Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is Paul’s teaching on how to be continuously filled by the Holy Spirit — not just a particular encounter, but a state of being continuously filled, through having a close and joyful, personal relationship with the Lord.
This is not the solemn and apologetic ‘churchianity’ that is played out in over-formal church services of all traditions — foolishly missing the point.
The joyful, confident partnership pictured in the exhortation above, was the desire in God’s heart when He made man in His own image and gave him freewill. That, we know, was lost in that blunder of independence in the garden, but the broken relationship has been restored by Jesus in His sacrificial death. It’s a relationship that comes alive for us when we ask Jesus to take over from us as Lord of our lives, and we invite His Holy Spirit to come into us.