Selected Messages Book 2


Chapter 19—An Object Lesson

The beginnings of Solomon's apostasy may be traced to many seemingly slight deviations from right principles. Associations with idolatrous women was by no means the only cause of his downfall. Among the primary causes that led Solomon into extravagance and tyrannical oppression, was his course in developing and cherishing a spirit of covetousness. 2SM 173.1

In the days of ancient Israel, when at the foot of Sinai Moses told the people of the divine command, “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8), the response of the Israelites was accompanied by appropriate gifts. “They came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing” (Exodus 35:21), and brought offerings. For the building of the sanctuary, great and expensive preparations were necessary; a large amount of the most precious and costly material was required; yet the Lord accepted only freewill offerings. “Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering” (Exodus 25:2), was the divine command repeated by Moses to the congregation. Devotion to God and a spirit of sacrifice were the first requisites in preparing a dwelling place for the Most High. 2SM 173.2

A similar call to self-sacrifice was made when David turned over to Solomon the responsibility of erecting the temple. Of the assembled multitude that had brought their liberal gifts, David asked, “Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:5). This call should ever have been kept in mind by those who had to do with the construction of the temple. 2SM 174.1

Chosen men were specially endowed by God with skill and wisdom for the construction of the wilderness tabernacle. “Moses said unto the children of Israel, See, the Lord hath called by name Bezaleel ... of the tribe of Judah; and he hath filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.... And he hath put in his heart that he may teach, both he, and Aholiab ... of the tribe of Dan. Them hath he filled with wisdom of heart, to work all manner of work, of the engraver, and of the cunning workman, and of the embroiderer ... and of the weaver, even of them that do any work, and of those that devise cunning work” (Exodus 35:30-35). “Then wrought Bezaleel ... and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding” (Exodus 36:1). Heavenly intelligences cooperated with the workmen whom God Himself chose. 2SM 174.2

The descendants of these men inherited to a large degree the skill conferred upon their forefathers. In the tribes of Judah and of Dan there were men who were regarded as especially “cunning” in the finer arts. For a time these men remained humble and unselfish; but gradually, almost imperceptibly, they lost their hold upon God and His truth. They began to ask for higher wages because of their superior skill. In some instances their request was granted, but more often those asking higher wages 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 cherished a spirit of covetousness, of grasping for more and more. They served heathen kings with their God-given skill, and dishonored their Maker. 2SM 174.3

Unbelieving Workmen Employed

It was to these apostates that Solomon looked for a master workman to superintend the construction of the temple on Mount Moriah. Minute specifications, in writing, regarding every portion of the sacred structure, had been entrusted to the king, and he should have looked to God in faith for consecrated helpers, to whom would have been granted special skill for doing with exactness the work required. But Solomon lost sight of this opportunity to exercise faith in God. He sent to the king of Tyre for “a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men ... In Judah and in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 2:7). 2SM 175.1

The Phoenician king responded by sending Huram, “a cunning man, endued with understanding, ... The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre” (2 Chronicles 2:13, 14). This master workman, Huram, was a descendant, on his mother's side, of Aholiab, to whom, hundreds of years before, God had given special wisdom for the construction of the tabernacle. Thus at the head of Solomon's company of workmen there was placed an unsanctified man, who demanded large wages because of his unusual skill. 2SM 175.2

Huram's efforts were not prompted by a desire to render his highest service to God. He served the god of this world—Mammon. The very fibers of his being had been inwrought with principles of selfishness, which were revealed in his grasping for the highest wages. And gradually these wrong principles came to be cherished by his associates. As they labored with him day after day, and yielded to the inclination to compare his wages with their own, they began to lose sight of the holy character of their work, and to dwell upon the difference between their wages and his. Gradually they lost their spirit of self-denial, and fostered a spirit of covetousness. The result was a demand for higher wages, which was granted them. 2SM 175.3

The baleful influences set in operation by the employment of this man of a grasping spirit, permeated all branches of the Lord's service, and extended throughout Solomon's kingdom. The high wages demanded and received gave many an opportunity to indulge in luxury and extravagance. In the far-reaching effects of these influences, may be traced one of the principal causes of the terrible apostasy of him who once was the wisest of mortals. The king was not alone in his apostasy. Extravagance and corruption were to be seen on every hand. The poor were oppressed by the rich; the spirit of self-sacrifice in God's service was well-nigh lost. 2SM 176.1

Herein lies a most important lesson for God's people today—a lesson that many are slow to learn. The spirit of covetousness, of seeking for the highest position and the highest wage, is rife in the world. The old-time spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice is too seldom met with. But this is the only spirit that can actuate a true follower of Jesus. Our divine Master has given us an example of how we are to work. And to those whom He bade, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), He offered no stated sum as a reward for their services. They were to share with Him His self-denial and sacrifice. 2SM 176.2

Those who claim to be followers of the Master Worker, and who engage in His service as colaborers with God, are to bring into their work the exactitude and skill, the tact and wisdom, that the God of perfection required in the building of the earthly tabernacle. And now, as in that time and as in the days of Christ's earthly ministry, devotion to God and a spirit of sacrifice should be regarded as the first requisites of acceptable service. God designs that not one thread of selfishness shall be woven into His work. 2SM 176.3

An Experience in Seventh-day Adventist History

Great care should be taken in regard to the spirit pervading the Lord's institutions. These institutions were founded in self-sacrifice, and have been built up by the self-denying gifts of God's people and the unselfish labor of His servants. Everything connected with institutional service should bear the signature of Heaven. A sense of the sacredness of God's institutions should be encouraged and cultivated. The workers are to humble their hearts before the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty. All are to live in accordance with principles of self-denial. As the true, self-sacrificing laborer, with his spiritual lamp trimmed and burning, strives unselfishly to advance the interests of the institution in which he is working, he will have a precious experience, and will be able to say, “The Lord indeed is in this place.” He will feel that he is highly privileged in being permitted to give to the Lord's institution his ability, his service, and his unwearying vigilance. 2SM 176.4

In the early days of the third angel's message those who established our institutions, and those who labored in them, were actuated by high motives of unselfishness. For their arduous labors they received no more than a mere pittance—barely enough for a meager support. But their hearts were baptized with the ministry of love. The reward of whole-souled liberality was apparent in their close fellowship with the Spirit of the Master Worker. They practiced the closest economy, in order that as many other laborers as possible might be planting the standard of truth in new places. 2SM 177.1

But in time a change came. The spirit of sacrifice was not so manifest. In some of our institutions the wages of a few workers were increased beyond reason. Those who received these wages claimed that they deserved a greater sum than others, because of their superior talents. But who gave them their talents, their ability? With the increase of wages came a steady increase of covetousness, which is idolatry, and a steady decline of spirituality. Gross evils crept in, and God was dishonored. The minds of many who witnessed this grasping after higher and still higher wages, were leavened with doubt and unbelief. Strange principles, like evil leaven, permeated nearly the entire body of believers. Many ceased to deny self, and not a few withheld their tithes and offerings. 2SM 177.2

God in His providence called for a reform in His sacred work, which should begin at the heart, and work outwardly. Some who blindly continued to place a high estimate upon their services, were removed. Others received the message given to them, turned to God with full purpose of heart, and learned to abhor their covetous spirit. So far as possible, they endeavored to set a right example before the people by voluntarily reducing their wages. They realized that nothing less than complete transformation in mind and heart would save them from being swept off their feet by some masterly temptation. 2SM 177.3

A Threat to Aggressive Denominational Work

The work of God in all its wide extent is one, and the same principles should control, the same spirit be revealed, in all its branches. It must bear the stamp of missionary work. Every department of the cause is related to all parts of the gospel field, and the spirit that controls one department will be felt throughout the entire field. If a portion of the workers receive large wages, there are others, in different branches of the work, who will call for higher wages, and the spirit of self-sacrifice will gradually be lost sight of. Other institutions and conferences will catch the same spirit, and the Lord's favor will be removed from them; for He can never sanction selfishness. Thus our aggressive work would come to an end. Only by constant sacrifice can it be carried forward. 2SM 178.1

God will test the faith of every soul. Christ has purchased us at an infinite sacrifice. Although He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, that we through His poverty might come into possession of eternal riches. All that we possess of ability and intellect has been lent us in trust by the Lord, to use for Him. It is our privilege to be partakers with Christ in His sacrifice. 2SM 178.2