Fifty-two Weeks of Wisdom

What’s Your Algum Wood? #52Wisdom

Pray

Lord of my life, be glorified through me today. Let your light shine in and through me and let your love pour into and out of me in all I think, say, and do. When I am tempted to take an unholy path, help me to turn away to the path of righteousness. And as I seek to be formed by your word, anoint my reading and meditation, and teach me by your holy spirit. In Christ’s name I pray.

Read

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions, having a very great retinue and camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions. There was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, his cupbearers, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her. And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones. There were no spices such as those that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. Moreover, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones. And the king made from the algum wood supports for the house of the LORD and for the king’s house, lyres also and harps for the singers. There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah. (2 Chronicles 9:1-11 ESV)

Reflect

Sometimes, when we walk in faithfulness to our calling and God begins to work his will through our lives, people take notice and become curious, and when they take a closer look at what God is doing, they marvel. That’s what happened when the queen of Sheba came to Solomon. Solomon let his light so shine before her that she saw his wisdom (bestowed by God) and the work of his hands (performed in worship of God), and she gave glory to God.

And then she gave gifts to Solomon.

Gifts have actually been a recurring theme this week for me. I taught children’s church yesterday, and in my lesson, I talked about the fact that God gives each of us gifts so that we can offer those gifts to others. We were studying 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, a passage that deals with spiritual gifts for the common good. “The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others,” says the passage, going on to list some of the spiritual gifts we might receive from God and offer to others (wisdom being first on the list.)

Sometimes, we receive spiritual gifts. And sometimes, we just receive gifts. But the same principle applies, I think.

When we receive gifts, the very best thing we can do with them is turn them right back around and offer them to God and to those who want to worship God.

Solomon got this.

In fact, speaking of things Solomon got, Solomon got lots of gifts: gold, spices, precious stones.. and wood from the algum tree.

I don’t know what he did with the gold, spices, and stones, but I do know what he did with the algum wood. In his wisdom, Solomon turned it right back around and offered it to God and to those who want to worship God. He used that wood for construction and musical innovation, building a house of worship and creating new musical worship instruments. “There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah.”

I love this: the wisest man on earth received raw material that he converted into tangible expressions of devotion to God. It reminds me of my friend Jan, who routinely takes the raw material of flour, water, salt, and yeast and creates bread for our church’s communion feast. Her amazing, delicious, often-still-warm-from-the-oven bread reminds me every month that the invitation to Christ’s table is an invitation to a feast. For some reason the tiny, rock-hard communion cubes and dissolving disks of my childhood never had the same effect. But when Jan’s communion bread is being served, I take a large handful of it, savoring each bite as I imagine Jesus offering himself for me: this is his body—take and eat. Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

When I was in my mid-twenties, I led worship for my small church in New York City, but because I did not have a piano, I had to borrow other people’s pianos or keyboards to practice. Sometimes I even practiced at a day care center where I worked as a temp, staying after to practice on the piano in a hallway there. For my birthday one year, some friends bought me a beautiful 88-key stage piano, and it was my joy to turn that gift around week after week as I carried it to and from church in order to lead worship. This passage from 1 Chronicles 9 gripped my heart during that season, in fact, and I longed to offer the raw material of metal and plastic that comprised the Kurzweil SP-88 back to God and to those who wanted to worship God. I wrote many songs of worship on that piano over the years.

If we really begin to consider it, I think this passage indicates that everything—absolutely everything under the sun—can become an offering to God. Sometimes it takes wisdom to know what that looks like. The groceries in our refrigerators can be the raw material for a divine dinner party, where people gather—believers and unbelievers alike—and after a prayer is offered to consecrate the meal, communion takes place—passing dishes, sharing stories, building Christ’s body, brick by fleshy brick. The cars we drive, when offered to God, can become vessels of love as we offer rides to those who have a hard time getting to church or worship team practice or a doctor’s appointment. Everything we have—all we have been given by God (for all we have comes from God)—can become an offering to God and to those who want to worship God.

But will we view our possessions as Solomon seemed to?

Will we be wise when it comes to stewarding what we have been given?

Apply

Take some time to consider the raw material of your life. How could you turn your possessions—all gifts from God—right back around, offering them to God and to those who want to worship God? Seek wisdom and think outside the box. Offer it up. Whatever “it” is. It might help to meditate on the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns as you consider what the “algum wood” in your life might be:

Take My Life and Let It Be (Frances R. Havergal, 1874)

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.

Ever.

Only.

All for Thee.

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5 thoughts on “What’s Your Algum Wood? #52Wisdom

  1. Thank you for this encouraging word today, Christy. The prayer had me ‘amening’ and your stories made me smile And algum wood? I’m gonna have to look that up!

    1. Thank you, sister! As far as I know, the Bible is the only place that mentions “algum wood,” or “wood from the algum tree.” Apparently it’s similar to juniper? By some accounts, very valuable — which makes sense in the context of it being a gift from the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. Enjoy doing some digging and let me know what you find 🙂

  2. Thank you Christy! I had not read this story in many moons. And I’ve always wondered where you got the name of your company. Cheers & Amen.

  3. My two raw materials (my Algum wood) – #1 – Time. I have the time (and willingness) to sit next to people as they go through the messiness and painfulness of life. No magic there; I just sit with them while they suffer, and I pray, and listen. Sometimes I do it badly. Sometimes, I am a little better. But I think the key to being a good pastor (assuming the call from God) is not a skill set, but a willingness – be willing to be with people in the midst of their messes.

    My second raw material is the willingness to tell people’s stories (in preaching). In preaching, am committed to bring people and their stories into full engagement with God and God’s story. My goal is for the stories to synthesize into a single story.

    I think a raw material you added (or one that has taken on new meaning with Big K in your life) is the willingness to open your doors. Beautiful.

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