I was privileged to be the speaker at the Class of 2000 Senior Tea the year my daughter Heidi graduated from high school. This is the lesson I presented that day–my favorite–which I have taught many times since.
“And King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. . . and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work. And the chapiters [capitals] that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work in the porch. . ..” I Kings 7:1-2 & 19
What Will You Carve?
Each is given a bag of tools, A shapeless mass, a book of rules; And each must make, ere life is flown, A stumbling-block or a stepping stone.
The Bible has its own “stumbling-block/stepping stone” analogy in the lives of two men who, by their “carving,” either turned God’s people’s hearts away from Him or toward Him.
In Exodus 32, Aaron, ordained of God (Exodus 28) to be high priest, listened to the Israelites complain because Moses, receiving the law of God, was such a long time “in the mount.” When the people asked Aaron to make them a god, he commanded them to bring their gold earrings (spoil taken from the Egyptians). He melted the gold and (v. 4) fashioned it with a graving tool into the shape of a calf. In other words, he made an idol with a skill he had learned while a slave in Egypt.
The following day, the children of Israel brought offerings and thanked this idol for bringing them out of Egypt. (v. 4 & 8). Only Moses’ intercession and God’s mercy allowed the children of Israel to live.
In I Kings 7, Hiram, who was only “half” Israelite (on his mother’s side) was summoned by King Solomon to work on the temple. Hiram’s father was a man of Tyre, whose citizens were known as skilled craftsmen. Using a skill Hiram had learned in Tyre, he completed all the “brass work” in the Temple.
The Temple consisted of three parts: the porch, the courtyard and the Holy of Holies. At the entrance to the Temple in the porch, Hiram built two pillars of brass, 27 feet high and 18 feet around. At the top of these pillars, he put two “chapiters” or tops, which were 7 1/2 feet tall and he decorated these chapiters with ornate work (checker work, chain work, pomegranates and lily work). The lily work alone measured 6 feet.
When he set up these two pillars in front of the porch and he named them Jachin–“He establishes” and Boaz–“In Him is strength.” These pillars did nothing to support the weight of the building and no one is sure what their meaning was. Some scholars believe they were to remind people of the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire which led the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land. Whatever their purpose, they were continual reminders to those who came to worship that they must depend on God only for spiritual strength and stability.
What can we learn from these two men?
- Your background is irrelevant.
Aaron had an impressive record up to his fashioning the golden calf. He had watched his parents hide Moses, he had gone with Moses to Pharaoh, he had performed miracles, he had seen the Red Sea part. He had seen what God could do and God had already used Him. But after all that, he failed at a time when his leadership was critical.
Hiram was not of a family “called of God.” He was not even a full-blooded Hebrew. Tyre was not a consecrated city–it was a city established by the Canaanites. Yet, Hiram was chosen of Solomon–and of God–to contribute to the most holy of places–the Temple. He used his gifts, skills he learned in Tyre, to honor God.
- Your choices are crucial.
Aaron could have distinguished himself when the children of Israel complained. He could have lived up to his priestly identity and directed this rebellious bunch to repentance and faith. But he caved in to the crowd and carved an idol.
- Aaron’s choice resulted in God’s displeasure. Exodus 32:35–And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made. Note: Some scholars believe that part of this “plaguing” was that the Hebrews would forever find it easy to give themselves over to the worship of idols.
- Aaron’s choice provided a poor example to his own sons. Leviticus 10: 1-2– Nadab and Abihu . . .offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out strange fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.
Hiram, on the other hand, came when Solomon called him (I Kings 7:13), followed all the king’s instructions for his work (v. 14) and finished the work (v. 40. He came to the king and carved a monument.
- Hiram’s choice resulted in God’s glory. I Kings 8:29–That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there.
- Hiram’s choice brought joy and peace to the people. I Kings 8:66–And on the eighth day, he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.
- Your influence is lasting.
Aaron went on to do more and greater things for God. He remained by Moses’ side, he wore the priestly garments, he made atonement for the children of Israel, and the children of Israel mourned him when he died. His life is evidence that God is merciful and longsuffering. The children of Israel did enter the Promised Land and God gave them a king.
However, years later, after Solomon died, the kingdom split in two. In the North, which was Israel, Jeroboam (not the heir of David) became king. He could not claim the same honor as David’s family line and did not want the people to continue to go to Jerusalem, the holy city, to worship. So, he built two other places of “worship” at the northern and southern borders of his kingdom (Dan and Bethel). There (I Kings 12: 28-30) Jeroboam made two calves of gold, and said unto [the people], It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship. Does this sound familiar?
Hiram, having done his work, is not heard of again.
However, years later, when the king of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took the children of Israel captive, the Bible (II Kings 25:13 & 17) again makes special mention of the pillars, which Hiram had made. The Bible describes them again in detail and makes special mourning of their loss. Hiram’s work had lived after him and the “lily work” had graced the entrance of the temple for many generations.
Aaron’s calf was easy to see. He put it in a place of prominence, built an altar before it and stood by as the people worshipped it.
Hiram’s lilies were almost impossible to see. They were 27 feet off the ground. The people would have had to strain their eyes to notice the work he did and yet, he went to infinite pains to decorate the house of God for His glory.
Oswald Chambers, in his sermon The Ministry of the Unnoticed, put it this way:
The lily work added nothing to the strength of the building; many would notice the strength and the majesty of the whole building, but the inspiration of it all was in the details, in the “lily work.” If we look at men and women who have been long at work for God and have been going through chastening, we notice… the most exquisite “lily work” in their lives. God will use any number of extraordinary things to chisel His “lily work” in His children. He will use people, He will use difficult circumstances; He will use anything and everything, no matter what it is, and we shall always know when God is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.