(1 Kings 9:1-9)
“And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he wanted to do, that the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the LORD said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the LORD has brought all this calamity on them.’”
The contents of today’s Scripture passage describe what God said to Solomon when He appeared to him the second time, after Solomon had finished building the Temple and his palace. God said here that He had especially consecrated His House, and that His eyes and His heart would be there. He then said to Solomon, “If you follow Me and walk with the same heart as your father David, then I will bless your descendants to succeed your throne. If, however, you do not worship Me but worship other gods and commit idolatry, then I will forsake even this Temple that had taken you seven years to build.”
What God said to Solomon when He appeared to him was only proper and fitting, but despite this Solomon actually ended up disregarding the Word of God and by serving the idols. In fact, he was the most idolatrous of all the kings of Israel. On account of this, Solomon’s latter days turned tragic, and because of his sins, the whole people of Israel fell into idolatry. So for us the born-again, the greatest insult is to hear someone saying to us, “You are like Solomon.” Thanks to his father David, Solomon had received tremendous blessings from God in both body and spirit, but because he lived only for his flesh, and because he also turned his own people into idolaters, he turned into a king cursed by God. As Solomon abandoned God and served idols instead, he was spiritually cursed to see his kingdom and himself perish. Even though God had already warned Solomon that He would curse him like this if he worshipped other gods apart from Jehovah God, Solomon ignored this warning, bringing God’s curse upon himself.
By worshipping idols before God, not only was King Solomon himself ruined spiritually, but he also led his descendants and his people to be ruined both physically and spiritually. What about you and me then? How are our lives of faith? Do you think that you are leading your life of faith properly? Are you unsure? You and I must remember that because we all have carnal thoughts like Solomon, it’s still possible for us to worship other gods before God, and we must hold onto our Lord steadfastly by trusting in the righteousness of God. Taking Solomon’s mistakes as a stern warning, we should believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and our Lord even more, and endeavor to follow Him even more faithfully.
So, now that we all believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, our hearts have no desire to worship any idols before God, and we have a blessed faith that’s come through this gospel of the water and the Spirit. For all these things, we are utterly grateful to God. It’s because we have been remitted from all our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit before God that we have come to receive His blessings. Moreover, the Lord has also enabled us to spread the gospel that He has entrusted to us to the entire world, and so we thank Him even more for this, by trusting in the righteousness of God. It’s because we have received the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we have been able to avoid turning into idolaters before God. Because we have now received the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of Truth, it’s been possible for us not to seek just our own carnal comfort, but instead, believe only in the righteousness of God and live our lives according to this righteousness. Those of us who now believe in the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit have become the kind of people who can continue to wage spiritual battles before God and share His blessings with everyone all over the world. Only if we continue to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit that contains the righteousness of God, can we then avoid becoming like Solomon.
The faith of King David and that of King Solomon were clearly different: David was someone who had continued to wage his spiritual battles, while Solomon was someone who had lived his life by trusting in his own wisdom and relying on the idols instead. Rather than standing on God’s side and waging spiritual battles, Solomon tried to make peace with the neighboring countries through his carnal schemes. So he permitted various idols from the neighboring Gentile tribes to be worshiped in his country, and as this led to widespread idolatry among the people of Israel, he was cursed and ruined for this. Compared to his father David, Solomon was a model case in how not to lead a life of faith, refusing to wage any spiritual battles and living only for his own flesh. He was a king who had enjoyed splendor and wealth only because of his father’s inheritance, spending it all for his own flesh. He was a king with a weak spirit. But David was not like Solomon at all. In contrast to his son, David had continued to wage spiritual battles to expand the Kingdom of God.
For us also, once we receive the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and once enough time goes by, we are bound to turn into either David or Solomon. Those who follow the faith of David take it as their food of life to spread this gospel to others. Such people of faith consider it a blessing to carry out God’s work and thank Him for this. Those of us who serve the gospel out of our own volition also believe that God’s work is the spiritual food for us. If we do not carry out God’s work, then it’s only a matter of course for us to serve the idols of our flesh just like Solomon did.
As I have led my life of faith in the Lord after being born again, I do not feel that my faith has already been made perfect before God, but far from it, I realize my insufficiencies even more as more days go by. And I realize that I can avoid turning into an idolater only if I serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit ceaselessly. I know that otherwise I will inevitably come to worship idols. So whatever it is that we do to carry out God’s work, I want us all to labor even more diligently. Whether it’s publication, working in the businesses that God’s Church runs, or spreading the gospel at each individual church, we must indeed continue to carry out God’s work. Therefore, we who now believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have our heart’s desire to carry out even more works that are pleasing to our God. This does not mean that we are determined to do anything and everything before God only on our own will. Rather, it means that we want to continue to carry out the work that fulfills the will of God. We want to wage our spiritual battles even more faithfully before God, serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit even more, and deliver the many souls that are lost to heresy. That’s because we believe that God will surely bless what we are doing if it is upright before Him.
Because of Our Present Financial Difficulties, We Are Now Unable to Send as Many Books of Spiritual Nourishment as We Would Like
Financial difficulties have forced us to limit our visitor’s book requests to only two copies each. This is very frustrating for us, as we would love to send our books without any limits if allowed by our financial conditions. It hurts my heart so much to think about our present situation. Yet when we look at our faith before God, there still is hope. I believe that God will be with us in all of our endeavors, bless us even more, and save even more sinners, for we are now preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world, and this work is the most precious work before God. I am sure that God will bless us and strengthen us even more. I have every confidence that God will give us even more blessings, so that all of us may support the gospel ministry even more. But for all this to come about, we must pray to God more.
For us not to end up worshipping idols before God, we must carry out His work with all our labor and toil. Working to save those who have fallen into heresy is in fact something that enables us to defend our own faith as well. God enabled us begin our literature ministry so that we would serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Unless we continue to carry on with our literature ministry henceforth, we cannot do God’s work, and unless the born-again carry out God’s work, they are inevitably bound to worship idols. That is why it’s so imperative for us to carry out God’s work with more diligence. Do you remember how God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Do not serve the false idols, do not obey other gods, nor worship those idols”? God had promised Solomon, “If you believe only in Me, Jehovah God, and love Me, like David, then I will guarantee the royal throne to you and your descendants forever.”
Therefore, for us not to serve idols before God, we must continue to carry out His work, and by trusting in His righteousness, we must serve this gospel even more. Once Solomon assumed the throne of Israel, he no longer carried out God’s work spiritually. At most, the only work of God that he did was just the building of the Temple. After that, he focused all his energy on building his own palace. But this was something that was done for himself and his wives.
Solomon was a wise man in worldly affairs, and so he was very popular among the kings of the neighboring countries. Hiram the king of Tyre, even called Solomon his brother (1 Kings 9:13). Other neighboring kings, including the king of Egypt, all made peace with Solomon and had friendly relationships with him. But was this really something good? Had King Solomon really feared God, then he should have waged spiritual battles against these pagan kings and defeated them all, having them worship only God. But instead, Solomon actually married Pharaoh’s daughter and gained even more material wealth from this marriage, as Pharaoh gave a city that he had captured to his daughter as his wedding gift.
For Us Not to Serve Idols before God, We Must Carry Out His Work Ceaselessly
We have to look for whatever we can do for God in His Church. Whether preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit directly to the lost souls or supporting this ministry indirectly, we must all labor to serve God’s gospel. Since all these things are meant to serve the righteousness of God, we have to bear them all by faith. Unless we set our hearts to live for the gospel of God, we will in the end come to serve our own lust, make up our own idols, and follow and serve these idols. If this happens, then we will ultimately become just like King Solomon.
Lately, Korean pop culture has been sweeping across several countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, with many people in these countries falling head over heels over Korean actors. Sometime ago, when a certain Korean actor visited Japan, there were so many fans flocking to his arrival that the airport was paralyzed. A Japanese housewife even said in an interview that she loved this actor more than her own husband. I just couldn’t understand her mindset. How can anyone have such a crush and be so crazy over someone else? When people are dazzled by an outside appearance and image, then they become so obsessed with someone else that they go mad. At a corner of my heart, I sometimes wonder and worry if I wouldn’t also somehow fall head over heels over someone else as they do. When one falls into materialism or lust, that is none other than idolatry. With the latest wave of Korean pop culture making a big splash in Japan, it’s said that many Japanese women call a certain Korean actor “Yonsama.” In the Japanese language, “sama” is a title of honor reserved for the most revered. This is akin to Solomon serving such idols as Baal, Asherah, and Milcom as his gods.
Even for us the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, it’s still possible to fall into such idol worship. If I were not doing God’s work, I would probably have fallen into something else, whether it were a movie star or some other kind of carnal lust. So to avoid becoming like them, I admonish my coworkers and myself, “Let’s do God’s work ceaselessly.” And we do actually carry out God’s work continuously, so that we wouldn’t fall into idolatry. Our work of publishing and sending our gospel books must never be ended. To find necessary financial resources for this work, it’s also imperative for us to continue to labor incessantly. We must carry out the Lord’s work until there is no more work to do.
I sometimes worry, “Our ministers should do God’s work endlessly, but what if there is no work for them to do and they all get bored?” So I look for God’s work diligently, and I try to do it myself. That’s because I myself have to carry out God’s work first to lead my coworkers to the same work. All these things are done so that I wouldn’t worship idols. I believe that King Solomon ended up serving idols precisely because he did not carry out God’s work. It’s because Solomon did not wage his spiritual war for the glory of God, nor labored to proclaim the righteousness of God, that he came to serve idols. Even though it’s possible for you and me to also serve idols before God, if we want to avoid this, then we must carry out God’s work even more diligently.
Do we the born-again have any deities other than God? This may seem quite plausible at first. After all, there are times when our minds and thoughts are lost on something else entirely irrelevant to the gospel of the water and the Spirit, instead of carrying out God’s work. However, that’s just temporary; our minds go astray only for a short while. In fact, there can be no idol for the righteous, but only God. Can there be anyone who deserves your love and mine more than God? Is there anyone apart from God who has given us such perfect love and blessings? Idols actually bring more curses than any spiritual or physical benefits to anyone. Jesus Christ came to this earth incarnated in the flesh to save you and me from the sins of the world, was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, shed His blood unto His death on the Cross while shouldering the sins of the world upon Himself, rose from the dead again, and has thereby saved you and me and freely given us eternal life. So given this, how could we ever love something else more than the Lord?
By being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ Himself bore all our sins, insufficiencies, weaknesses, and everything that’s evil and filthy in us, and His body was crucified to death on behalf of our old selves, thus turning us into new people, resurrecting us, and blessing us all. So how can there be any idols for the righteous? Many people today are obsessed with the crude culture of celebrity and its pop stars, but this is all reserved for those who are not born again, and they do this because this world is their master. For you and me, however, Jesus Christ is our Master and Savior, and therefore it is only proper for us the righteous to serve and follow the Lord and His righteousness.
I am now sharing the Word with you to explain how people come to worship idols. Right now, we are living out our faith in the righteousness of God—that is, the gospel of the water and the Spirit. At first thought, this kind of faith may seem like nothing, but in fact, it entails tremendous blessings. That we believe in God means that we believe in His love of salvation and His perfect righteousness, and in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we believe in, God’s amazing blessings are all contained. We believe fundamentally that God has created us, that Jesus Christ is our God, that this God has enabled us to be born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and that God is therefore our Master and the fountain of all our blessings. In the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we believe in, all the righteousness of God and all His blessings are held.
That’s why we never allow ourselves to have any idols in our hearts. So, while our teenagers and young people in our church may attend the same school with the youths of this world and be friends with them, they can never follow worldly trends along with their friends. If we really believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then there can be nothing that’s better than Jesus Christ for any of us. Where could we ever find anything that we should love more than God? Even though countless teenagers today are obsessed with computer games and drawn into pornographic sites on the Internet, could the born-again youths love these things more than Jesus Christ? Although we may play Internet games once in a while out of boredom, this cannot be better than Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ is indeed your Savior and mine, how could we ever lose our minds to anything else that’s not our Master? We, too, are only too human, and so we may lose our minds to something else other than the Lord for a short while; however, fundamentally speaking, we are still believers in the righteousness of God, and as those who believe in God’s righteousness, we should examine ourselves with a clear mind to see if this is really right for us. No matter how young you may be, you still must think about what is spiritually right. So ask yourself: “Does Jesus Christ love me? What blessings has Jesus Christ given me? What has the world done for me then?” All that the world has done for us is providing us with some fleeting entertainment, and so we can never allow it to lord over us as our master. Isn’t this the case?
Therefore, If You Find Yourself Losing Your Battle against Idols like Solomon, It’s All Because You Have Not Carried out God’s Work Faithfully
The reason why we lose our battle against the world, giving ourselves into its enticements of entertainment and wealth, is because our flesh is so helplessly weak. So those who are not born again cannot help but surrender to many different things of the world. However, we the born-again are able to overcome this world by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and trusting in the Lord. That’s because Jesus Christ has blotted out the sins of the world and defeated death, because He has saved us and made us perfect, and because we have become whole in Jesus Christ, no matter how insufficient we are—that’s why we can all overcome this world. Therefore, if any born-again person ends up losing his battle against this world, then this in itself is the evidence of the very fact that this person did not unite himself with God’s Church in its work to serve Jesus Christ and His gospel. There is no time for us to serve any idols if we devote ourselves to God’s work.
Those Who Believe in the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit Must Live Spiritually, and Therefore While They Are on This Earth, They Must Do Whatever They Can to Serve the Righteousness of God
Because the work that God has entrusted to us is so challenging, we can carry it out only when we dedicate all our physical strength, our minds, our hearts, our times, our possessions, and our complete effort. Since we are devoting all of our attention in this way to completely fulfill the work that God has entrusted to us then even as we are tempted, by the things of this world we cannot give in to them. That’s precisely why we cannot worship any idols.
Given how our flesh is weak by nature, we are all quite capable of loving the world and falling into idolatry as well; yet in spite of this, we do no such thing, and that’s all because we are carrying out the work of God who loves us and has saved us. In other words, if we really love and serve the righteousness of God, then we can never fall into temptation to worship idols like Solomon. If Solomon had also devoted all his attention to the work of God, then he would not have fallen into idolatry either. Yet even as Solomon claimed to be carrying out God’s work, he just ended up building the Temple of Jehovah for seven years, and he spent the next 13 years to build his lavish palace, boasting about this accomplishment for the rest of his life. And he thought that he was wiser than everyone else, which can only mean that he couldn’t help but indulge in pleasures of this world even more.
It’s more than possible for us to also worship idols before God. However, if we carry out the work of God who loves us, and if we serve this God who loves the entire human race, then we can avoid serving any idols at all. Therefore, we must do the work of God diligently, if only not to end up serving idols. So far, we have had little time to serve idols and so carried out the work of faith successfully. However, given some spare time, wouldn’t we end up serving idols? If you want to serve idols, then all that you have to do is stop doing God’s work, and this applies to me as well. What will we come to do if we are lazy at God’s work and do not unite with the Church? We will come to serve idols infallibly. No matter how you may think you are leading your life of faith properly, how pious you may be, how you may pray everyday morning and night, and how you may read the Bible constantly, unless you carry out God’s work, you will come to serve idols in the end.
Even today, there are so many Christians who are actually worshiping idols even though they claim themselves to be very pious and faithful to God. They don’t know what idolatry is and how a seemingly pious believer can become an idolater. Therefore, you have to keep it in mind that serving God’s work is to avoid serving idols. For us not to be cursed, and not to lead others to death, we must not serve any idols. If we the spiritual leaders serve idols individually, then the other saints will also come to serve idols. We will then be cursed all together. For us to ensure that God’s blessings are brought on others as well, we must not worship any idols but only God, and for us not to worship idols, we must in turn unite our hearts with the Church and carry out God’s work. It’s not because we somehow have any merits before God that we do His work, but it’s because we want to live righteously before God. And it’s to save others that we are trying so hard. Once we begin to carry out God’s work, our hearts will be at peace and pure. Once we are too busy with God’s work, we won’t have any time to do anything else or clog our minds with useless thoughts, far less serve idols. That’s why it’s good to do God’s work. And that’s why we are carrying out this work all the time no matter what.
For Us Not to Be Like Solomon, We Must Be United with God
For us not to fall into idolatry, we must unite with God’s Church, be led by God, unite our hearts with His heart, set our minds by faith, and remove the dross from our hearts. There must indeed be no idol whatsoever in our hearts. Yet we are all only too human, prone to serve idols. Since we are all flawed people who cannot avoid serving idols before God, and since we cannot free ourselves from idolatry through our own effort no matter hard we try, faith is what we need the most. We must have faith to profess, “Jesus Christ took upon my sins through His baptism, died on the Cross for me, and rose from the dead again. Through all these things, He took care of all the problems of my weaknesses, my sins, my curses, my destruction, and my agonies. And I have now been made a new person.” In our hearts there must be faith in the righteousness of God and His love; we must believe that our Master is God and Jesus Christ; and we must set our minds by faith to believe that only He is our Lord, our Shepherd, and the sole object of our worship. We must set our minds on God in our lives like Daniel, who defended his faith even though he was captured to Babylon. Young and old alike, all of us the born-again must set our hearts on God.
We are God’s people and His workers. God said that it is He who called us. You and I now belong to Jesus Christ. Christ is ours, and we are His. We are the members of the Church united with Jesus Christ. Everything that He planned for us will be fulfilled to us first, and His plan for the people of the world will also be all fulfilled through us. After fulfilling all these things, God will enjoy glory together with us. We must live by believing in this.
I will serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit no matter what happens to this world, whether it prospers or perishes. I have set my heart on God precisely because people are saved through God’s spiritually guided ministry, and when I prosper spiritually, so do others prosper as well. Our ministers and our workers have also set their hearts on God. Young and old alike, whether experienced in this world or not, they have all set their minds. Experiencing the world too much is not such a good thing. It’s better to be naïve.
I wholeheartedly admonish you not to let your heart waver back and forth, without being set on the righteousness of God. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that none of us would ever come to serve idols like Solomon, but instead, all of us would defend our faith and give glory to God.