Solomon (15 Aug 2021)

Readings: Ephesians 5:15-20. 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

I have been told that the Bible is a propaganda book designed to indoctrinate people.

My understanding of propaganda is that it is totally one-sided and tells you only the good news of its heroes.  Propaganda isn’t objective and selectively presents information to encourage a single view.  You don’t get advertisements for political parties which tells you the times they went wrong, although sometimes the law requires advertisers to issue a warning of some sort but that’s usually in very small print.

The Bible, on the other hand, tells the stories of its heroes with warts and all. The Bible is no propaganda document.

You might remember stories of King David and learned how he took another man’s wife then had the man killed. And yet, we read in Acts 13:22, “After removing Saul, God made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”

On the one hand that statement means that if that’s how God deals with a sinful man there is hope for me yet.  On the other hand there is the question, “how can this be?”

About 970 years before Christ, David died and Solomon became King

The Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ 

Solomon replied “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honour – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’

What a wonderful start to Solomon’s reign, what a gracious God to make such an arrangement with a man.

If David was a man after God’s own heart, what was Solomon known for? What do you think of when you think of Solomon?

Solomon became known for his great wisdom, his great wealth and for being the builder of the first and magnificent temple in Jerusalem.  He ruled in a time of peace and prosperity.

The neighbouring kings and rulers went out of their way to be on good terms with him.

The visiting Queen of Sheba, a rich and powerful woman in her own right was really impressed by him.

He had a stable of thousands of the finest Egyptian horses and chariots.

He also had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

What could go wrong?

No one in the Bible is presented to us as being so wealthy, so wise, so successful as Solomon. But when you read his story in 1 Kings you find a range of unpleasant and disappointing actions and events.

He was, to start with, the 17th of David’s 19 sons, his mother being Bathsheba.  She asked David to nominate Solomon to become King but God had already told David that Solomon should follow him and build the Temple in Jerusalem. 

Unfortunately, sibling rivalry crept in and his step-brother Adonijah tried to jump the gun and take the throne.  Solomon fixed that by having him killed.

When David died there were a number of his enemies he hadn’t got around to dealing with so, as part of Solomon’s inheritance David told him to kill off a number those enemies.  It seems it was a great start to Solomon’s reign because at tidying up after his father helped establish his throne and sent clear signals to potential trouble-makers.

Out of his great wealth and influence and with the help of brilliant workers who were provided by and inspired by God he built the first great Temple, a huge and brilliant building that took seven years to build.

He took another 13 years to build a magnificent palace for himself and then another palace for his first wife, the daughter of Pharaoh of Egypt.

Solomon reigned as King over all the Jews in one united and peaceful kingdom but on his death this unity came to an end.  The nation was divided. 

Jereboam rebelled against Solomon and God placed him as the leader of 10 of the 12 tribes of the Jews.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam, succeeded him as king of the remaining tribes.  

The nation was thus divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

But, while we see this as a sad end to Solomon’s reign we also see how the sovereign will of God is the one that works out all along.

Before his death King David gave this charge to Solomon his son.

‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me:  “If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.” (1 Kings 2:2-4)

As God promised, King David was succeeded by other kings and, ultimately by the King of Kings, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  As determined by God and despite the actions of men, Jesus was a descendent of King David through the line of Judah

But why did the history of Solomon come to such a disastrous end?

Did I mention that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines?  Well, it’s not their fault!

Here’s how it happened as we read in 1 Kings 11:1-13

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter – Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 

The Lord’s instructions were quite clear.  Did Solomon follow them? If not, whose fault is that?

Reading on: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

It might not have been easy to insist on following the one true God when you have 1,000 wives and concubines wanting you to follow their false Gods but that is what Solomon should have done.  To blame his wives for leading him astray is to follow the example of Adam in the Garden of Eden when he tried to blame Eve for his own faithlessness.

You might please someone when you do what they want and so disobey God but you certainly don’t please God when you do.

Of course, this pressure to conform to the ideas of others is just as real to us today as it was to Solomon. From friends and relatives to the variety of media streaming onto us we are continually pressured to wander from the truth we have in Jesus, to water down the facts we know we are to hold to, to yield to temptation.  But the Bible tells us not to conform to the world but to learn from Jesus and from the Bible and so have out minds renewed and our characters more like that of Jesus.

If we do not we are warned by what happened to Solomon: “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’”

Things went wrong and it was Solomon’s fault.

How can a man who is supposed to be the wisest man on earth get it so wrong?

Last week Hey-Ja pointed out to us that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Well, it turns out that all the wisdom of Solomon is just not enough either.

We have this advice Ephesians 5:15: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,” 

Wisdom is a good thing and we are encouraged to ask God for it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “ (James 1:5)

But we must be careful where we get our wisdom from.  Look up a definition of wisdom in the dictionary if you like, but James wrote a definition for us in James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

There’s the definition of wisdom.  But what was it that Solomon missed? Submission!

Remember that God said to Solomon,  “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.”

But then he went on to say, “And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.

With the wisdom Solomon asked for came the responsibility to be faithful to God who granted it and had placed him in a position of great significance.

When you have wisdom, it shows in practical deeds and in character: ”Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

And there’s a warning in 1 Corinthians 3:18-21

Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about human leaders!

There is a wonderful amount of knowledge to be gained from the universe in which we live, the universe created by Almighty God.  I am sure God wants us to study it, to learn from it and to care for it.  It gives us something precious; knowledge.  But knowledge alone is not wisdom, not the kind of wisdom we need. Learn from the world but watch out for its wisdom because the wisdom of the world is faulty.

Don’t be surprised when people call you a fool for following Jesus; in fact, expect it, be prepared for it.  Compared to God’s infinite wisdom the wisdom of the world is foolishness.

That’s why Paul wrote, “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Amazingly, this is telling us that Solomon might have been the wisest man of his time but that you can be the wisest person of our time because wisdom comes by the Holy Spirit. As you receive the Holy Spirit you begin a new life which leads to a renewal of your mind and an ability to see things the way God sees them.  When you see things the way God sees them you see them as they really are. In other words, you have wisdom.

Solomon had so much wisdom  but what he did not have was submission to God, to trust him, to be faithful to him, to obey God who, in Jesus, is the embodiment of wisdom. To learn a lesson from Solomon is to learn to be submissive to God, to be obedient to God, to honour and serve him only.

Which means being like Jesus “who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Remember Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:17-20 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”

With that wisdom comes a better understanding of Jesus and your relationship with him. You see more clearly where your eternal future lies and you approach it with greater assurance, confidence, hope.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation”, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,”