Those High Places

Wow, it’s taken a long time to get here this morning, it’s almost afternoon. Phone calls and emails and laundry Oh my! Still I am here now and hopefully with something of worth to share.

I have left David moving onto 1 Kings and the reign of Solomon, the wisest of kings. Yesterday’s OT passage finished with 1 Kings 3:2 and so, of course, today’s started with 1 Kings 3:3 and I started thinking again about high places.

However the people were still offering sacrifices at the high places because a temple had not been constructed for the Eternal until then.

1 Kings 3:2

There was no temple, no central place for the Israelites to worship at so they went to traditional places to worship. Traditional for whom? Not for them because they had come from centuries of slavery in Egypt and were strangers in the land. These high places belonged to the previous inhabitants, to the people God had commanded the Israelites to drive out. They had done that but the remnants of those people, the altars, the sacred places remained and it made good sense for the Israelites to use them. After all, there they were, right there ready to have sacrifices laid on them – already blood stained perhaps – under that ancient tree, beside that rock that was so imposing, so high up that they must be closer to the gods – erm I mean to God.

But hadn’t God commanded sacrifices only be offered in the tent of meeting? Only be offered by His Levites, the priesthood He had appointed?

Solomon’s heart belonged to the Eternal. Solomon abided by the same laws as his father, David. The only difference was that Solomon offered sacrifices and incense at the high places.

1 Kings 3:3

The only difference between Solomon and David’s worship of God was that Solomon went to the high places. I don’t believe I read anywhere that David went to those places, burnt incense, offered sacrifices at the high places. I believe he knew better.

The voice includes a commentary after verse 4 that says Solomon was trying to convert those shrines to the worship of God. The commentator quite rightly says that though this might have been a good idea it would lead to the fall of Israel – we cannot blend human ideas with God’s commands. No matter how good that idea might be. No matter how much sense it might make to us. I have to quote that proverb again.

There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 16:25 NIV

The end of chapter 4 says that Solomon was wiser than any other man, his mind as ‘expansive as the sands’ but (and hindsight is marvellous) we can see how wrong he got this.

What can I learn? I can learn not to try and fit God’s commands into my sense – or sensibilities. Isn’t it true that sometimes God says things that I know are going to cause some ruckus? So I try and soften the words, the instructions and end up in a mess.

Abortion is murder. It just is no matter what excuse or reason we might make. I believe that totally but I umm and ahh and say well yes but in this case, or that case… Now we are looking at allowing people to be killed because they are sick, because they are old, because they are depressed… that altar that says ‘I can judge who deserves to live’ was already bloodstained so what’s the harm in a bit more blood?

Anytime I refuse to speak for fear of offending or turn a blind eye to avoid conflict or nod agreement to keep the peace when I know full well what God would have me do I am going back to those high places. My heart might be devoted to God but what am I doing to my family, my friends, my neighbours, my nation?

Tomorrow I’ll read about the first martyr, Stephen. What if he had compromised? Where would a young man called Saul have ended up then?

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