Growing up I used to hear get cleaned up, put on clean clothes and shine your shoes because you have to look your best for God…yes, often heard on Sunday morning. I think today’s passages have a theme of understanding the best we have to offer.
In 1 Kings 5-6, Solomon is the one to build the temple to honor God and he chooses the cedar of Lebanon as the primary construction material. This cedar was prized throughout the ancient Near East. Kings used cedar for royal buildings. Cedar signified royal power and wealth. Cedar symbolized growth and strength. 7 years to build…it must have been magnificent structure. We have no reason to believe that Solomon had misguided intentions in building a temple that would honor God – the temple God had approved. In reality, we can easily be led to understand the reverence Solomon had for this project…look at verse 6:7…apparently Solomon felt that the noise of construction was not appropriate for this temple in view of its purpose. So he had all the building parts cut and fitted at the quarry so that they could be assembled quietly on the site.
Job’s friends present another understanding of best…sometimes best can be skewed. Eliphaz continues where he left off yesterday by advising Job to appeal to God because He is majestic, powerful, and benevolent, sending rain for crops; God provides for the poor and those who suffer, frustrates schemers, while the poor have hope. Basically, this is very good advice…except for one thing…Eliphaz wrongly assumed that Job had sinned. Therefore, God was correcting Job so Job should be grateful for the discipline. Eliphaz maintained that if Job would have the right attitude God would bless him. Eliphaz was just another friend trying to help – we have no basis to believe he was giving Job anything but his theory on why Job had fallen on hard times…based on what Eliphaz had observed in life (yesterday’s reading).
Paul makes it to Rome – despite being imprisoned, he uses Isaiah to help state his case…the people have hard hearts, eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t understand…yet, Paul told all who would visit him of the hope found in the salvation of God through Jesus. “He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Paul gives his best…even in prison…
So, what really, is your best? Solomon commissioned the Cedars of Lebanon – the very best for the God who deserved only the best. Job trusted in the God he, too, worshipped – despite the “best” his friends portrayed. Paul, even in prison, continued to give everything he had to God. What is your best? What are you giving every day to the one who created you in his image? If it is all about image, I might suggest that a little recalibration could be necessary. What really, is your best?