The first shall be last or even worse!

The Amalekites — Fifth in a series

It was time for Canaan to make way for Israel! On the brink of the Hebrew's invasion, the Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Num 13:2)

After more than a year since their troubles at Rephidim where Amalek had attacked, much had been accomplished: the law – moral, ceremonial and civil – had been given; the tabernacle had been built and all its accompanying articles and vestments for worship had been created for the Levites; a census had been taken and the people had been instructed about their role in God’s covenant. As they traveled, they would camp according to tribe in a prescribed formation around the tabernacle, and there was always plenty of manna. It was a secure life, if one will reflect on it.

The familiar was evidently more appealing than the new, for when the spies returned from their exploration, all but two expressed fear and determination NOT to enter the land. Yet, the Lord makes us secure, sure of his law and presence, so that we will go forth and conquer, not to make us comfortable in our surroundings.

Because of the discouraging reports, the people once again complained and even threatened to choose a leader to take them back to Egypt. (Num 14:4) Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and pleaded with the assembly not to rebel, but the tribes wanted to stone them. That was enough! The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Num 14:12)

However, Moses interceded so that the Lord relented; nevertheless he stated that anyone over 20 years of age who had rebelled would never enter the land but instead wander in the desert for 40 years. The men who spread the bad report were struck by a plague and died.

The Israelites mourned bitterly and wanted to make amends, so the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the LORD promised. Surely we have sinned!” (Num 14:39-40) Perhaps they sought the hill country recalling how the Lord had helped them win in Rephidim with Moses on the hill.

But Moses warned them not to proceed because the Lord was not with them. “You will be defeated by your enemies.” (Num 14:42) They were.

The Amalekites along with the Canaanites attacked the Hebrews, and won! Had God’s promise to utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven failed? (Ex 17:14) Did the Lord change his mind? No, the Glory of Israel does not change his mind like a man (1 Sam 15:29), nor was his hand unable to save, nor his ear heavy (Isa 59:1, 2), but the people sealed their own fate by their sinful moaning, lack of courage and trust in God, and verbal attacks on Moses, so that once again the Amalekites were permitted their heart’s desire.

Even though God’s people repented, there are consequences to our disobedience. Otherwise, where would be the fear of God?

The name Amalek means dweller in the valley. This attack on Israel was near, possibly within, their homeland, which was to the west of Edom and south of Canaan.

Evidently, the Lord was not in a hurry to fulfill his word in respect to Amalek. Nevertheless, they were doomed to challenge and prove Israel’s faith and obedience to God for generations to come, even though they were not named among the Canaanite nations marked for Israel to defeat. How did they gain this distinctive? We find a clue to this in the story of Balak and Balaam.

After 40 years when the Israelites traveled toward their entry point to Canaan where they crossed the Jordan River on dry land (Josh 3:17), the Moabites provoked them. Balak the Moabite king called on Balaam, a false prophet, to curse Israel, but the Lord prevented him, charging him to bless her instead. (Num 22:12) Not only did he bless Israel, he confirmed God's prophecy about Amalek: And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek [was] the first of the nations; but his latter end [shall be] that he perish for ever. (Num 24:20)

Their distinctive among the nations was being first to go up against Israel. Be very careful about any movements you initiate. Initiators who oppose God’s purposes will be doubly culpable.

The Lord is the only carefree initiator. Whatever he starts he finishes and all his works are perfect.

Born to build

Tenth in the Solomon Series

Solomon was born to build. His father charged him: Take heed now; for the LORD hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do [it]. (1 Ch 28:10)

Most importantly he built the temple that replaced the foldable tabernacle in the life of Israel's worship of God, but he also built: his own palace, a palace for his Egyptian wife, cities, fenced cities, store cities, chariot and horsemen cities (see 2 Ch 8:1-6). He built houses and their settings and surroundings — he planted vineyards, made gardens and orchards, made pools of water for his trees. (Ec 2:4-6)

His predisposition for building is seen in his writing style. In the Proverbs we see a penchant for measuring and balancing thought with thought, to display just the right insight, or to make us consider what is being taught — the Lord's angle.

Even in the Song of Solomon, he speaks about building a chariot, and the description of his beloved is ticked off in a listing, orderly even though passionately observed. One aspect, her neck, reminds Solomon of a tower: Thy neck [is] like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. (Sng 4:4). Only a builder could draw such a comparison and consider it a praise!

The beloved is brought to a banqueting house, and the couple is within in a city in some scenes, even amidst all the imagery of nature in their song. Solomon loved buildings.

The design for the construction of the temple was given by the Holy Spirit to David, and Solomon could have related these instructions to a foreman, but chose to be his own foreman. Throughout the narrative of the progress of the construction, the Bible says he was hands on:

  • Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem (2Ch 3:1a)
  • he overlaid it (the porch) within with pure gold. (vs 4b)
  • And the greater house he cieled with fir tree (vs 5a)
  • he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty (vs 6a)
  • He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold (vs 7a)

There is a continuous telling of Solomon's direct involvement:

  • And he made the vail [of] blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. (vs 14)
  • And he reared up the pillars before the temple (vs 17a)
  • he made an altar of brass (2 Ch 4:1a)
  • he made a molten sea (vs 2a)
  • He made also ten lavers (vs 6a)
  • And he made ten candlesticks of gold (vs 7a)
  • He made also ten tables (vs 8a)
  • he made the court of the priests, and the great court (vs 9a)

We understand he did not build or make these things alone or without many foremen, yet he speaks of what his hands wrought (Ecc 2:11). His oversight was personal; it was management by walking around, a popular business method; he was the builder.

Today, on the worldwide web, many references are made to the desire of the Masons, a cultish organization and religion, to rebuild Solomon's temple. As well there are many references to a visible portion of the western wall of the temple that was built to replace Solomon's temple, known as the Wailing Wall. Many Jews greatly desire their temple's restoration. And the temple holds fascination for Christians. Many believe it will be rebuilt again to accommodate the Antichrist at the end of days.

The temple is not the focus of our Solomon study. Instead, we want to know how this favored master builder and type of Christ became dark in his desires and pursuits. Without reading anything into Scripture, we want consider Solomon's ventures as they relate to our own need for warning and instruction. We will look at his trajectory to glory and follow the path of the falling star to the place where he lamented the meaninglessness of all he had built.