Throughout the history of the church, human agents have been chosen to carry responsibilities under the guidance and power of God. Workers for God cannot dis charge these high privileges successfully unless given divine strength. Their path is not an easy one. The heavier the responsibilities to be borne and the wider the influence exerted, the greater the need of divine wisdom, tact, and judgment. Human pride and selfishness, which have so often been manifested in the lives of men, and have always wrought havoc in God's work in former times, are still enemies to successful service, and must be shunned.
In the life of Solomon are many lessons which workers today would do well to heed. We are told by the messenger of the Lord that Solomon was never richer or wiser or as truly great as when he confessed, "I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in." Later his reign, which started with great promise, was darkened because he became proud, oppressive, and self-indulgent. Prophets and Kings reveals the chief reason that led to these unhappy conditions:
"Prominent among the primary causes that led Solomon into extravagance and oppression, was his failure to maintain and foster the spirit of self-sacrifice." —Page 61.
"From being one of the greatest kings that ever wielded a scepter, Solomon became a profligate, the tool and slave of others. His character, once noble and manly, became enervated and effeminate. His faith in the_ living God was supplanted by atheistic doubts. Unbelief marred his happiness,' weakened his principles, and degraded his life. The justice and magnanimity of his early reign were changed to despotism and tyranny. Poor, frail human nature! God can do little for men who lose their sense of dependence upon Him."—Page 58.
Opposition and privation are not desirable, but during such experiences the church has made its greatest advancement. Days of prosperity and favor have proved the most dangerous, and have often led into apostasy and defeat.
"In the midst of prosperity lurks danger. Throughout the ages, riches and honor have ever been, at tended with peril to humility and spirituality. It is not the empty cup that we have difficulty in carrying; it is the cup full to the brim that must be carefully balanced. Affliction and adversity may cause sorrow; but it is prosperity that is most dangerous to spiritual life. Unless the human subject is in constant submission to the will of God, unless he is sanctified by the truth, prosperity will surely arouse the natural inclination to presumption."—Ibid., pp. 59, 60.
Even though we may be inclined, as was Solomon, to consider prosperity and material benefits as very important and necessary, let us not make the mistake of Israel's king: "More and more the king came to regard luxury, self-indulgence, and the favor of the world as indications of greatness."—Ibid., p. 56.
A parallel is drawn between the construction of the two tabernacles—the one built in the wilderness by Moses and the other by Solomon. Moses, endowed by God with special skill, carried forward the work of building the first structure. The workers, we are told, were especially blessed of God as they went forward with their work in a humble, self-sacrificing spirit. But when we come to the second tabernacle, built by Solomon, a different spirit is manifested by the workmen:
"For a time these men of Judah and Dan remained humble and unselfish; but gradually, almost imperceptibly, they lost their hold upon God and their de sire to serve Him unselfishly. They asked higher wages for their services, because of their superior skill as workmen in the finer arts. In some instances their request was granted, but more often they found employment in the surrounding nations. In place of the noble spirit of self-sacrifice that had filled the hearts of their illustrious ancestors, they indulged a spirit of covetousness, of grasping for more and more. That their selfish desires might be gratified, they used their God-given skill in the service of heathen kings, and lent their talent to the perfecting of works which were a dishonor to their Maker."—Ibid., pp. 62, 63.
When Solomon wanted a man to supervise the work, he sent to the king of Tyre to help, and Huram was chosen.
"Thus at the head of Solomon's company of work men there was placed a man whose efforts were not prompted by an unselfish desire to render service to God. He served the god of this world,—mammon. The very fibers of his being were inwrought with the prin ciples of selfishness.
"Because of his unusual skill, Htiram demanded large wages. Gradually the wrong principles that he cherished came to be accepted by his associates. As they labored with him day after day, they yielded to the inclination to compare his wages with their own, and they began to lose sight of the holy character of their work. The spirit of self-denial left them, and in its place came the- spirit of covetousness. The result was a demand for higher wages, which was granted.
"The baleful influences thus set in operation per meated all branches of the Lord's service, and ex tended throughout the kingdom. The high wages de manded and received gave to many an opportunity to indulge in luxury and extravagance. The poor were oppressed by the rich; the spirit of self-sacrifice was well-nigh lost. In the far-reaching effects of these in fluences, may be traced one of the principal causes of the terrible apostasy of him who once was numbered among the wisest of mortals.
"The sharp contrast between the spirit and motives of the people building the wilderness tabernacle, and of those engaged in erecting Solomon's temple, has a lesson of deep significance. The self-seeking that char acterized the workers on the temple finds its counter part to-day in the selfishness that rules in the world. The spirit of covetousness, of seeking for the highest position and the highest wage, is rife. The willing service and joyous self-denial of the tabernacle work ers is seldom met with. But this is the only spirit that should actuate the followers of Jesus. . . .
"Unselfish devotion and a spirit of sacrifice have always been and always will be the first requisite of acceptable service."—Ibid., pp. 64, 65.
Is there not good counsel for the workers in God's cause today to heed th_e lessons in the experiences of Solomon and his workmen cen turies ago? Times and conditions change, but the principles of sacrifice and economy must not be forgotten in these closing days of God's work. The same willingness to sacrifice that was so abundantly manifested in the lives of the pioneers of this movement will possess the lives of the workers today.