June 13, 2009

Solomon’s Object Lessons

I Kings outlines the rise and fall of the great King Solomon, up through the 11th chapter. As with David, people sometimes question Solomon’s true greatness due to the foolish decisions he made. He was given incredible wisdom, riches and honor, and yet, towards the end of his life, it seems he played the fool. Solomon wrote over 1,000 songs, the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, but many of his greatest lessons are simply object lessons learned by observing his life:

1. Wisdom, Riches and honor will never satisfy our souls, only intimacy with God can. Solomon’s father David conquered Israel’s enemies and left, for the most part, a peaceful kingdom to Solomon. By God’s favor, young Solomon became the wisest, richest and most famous ruler of his time, but, apparently, that wasn’t enough for him. He began to collect multitudes of personal horses, wives and gold against God’s previous commands (Deut 17.16-17). Sometimes we think, “If only I had a bit more money, a bigger, nicer home, etc., then I’d have more happiness.” Solomon was the richest man in his time, but once God lost first place in his heart, Solomon became restless. His appetites for wealth and pleasure became insatiable, leaving only a sense of emptiness. His Book Ecclesiastes highlights this theme.

2. Knowing what is right and doing it are two different things. Solomon was aware of God’s commands written by Moses, but, apparently, Solomon’s great fame and fortune got to his head and he thought he was somehow exempt from God’s laws and principles. The book of Ecclesiastes does show a desire to follow God in its conclusion but we really don't know for sure if Solomon did change his ways at the end of his life. David is a better example because he did show a wholehearted desire to change and please God.

3. Self control is more difficult than ruling a kingdom or commanding an army. Solomon wrote a proverb regarding the importance and difficulty of self control (Prov 16.32). His own life became an example of this proverb. Solomon asked God for wisdom to govern the people of Israel but he didn’t ask for wisdom to govern himself, and this became his biggest problem. His own desires led him away from God.

4. Small compromises lead to bigger and bigger ones. The first seed of compromise is shown as Solomon takes an Egyptian wife, which seems to be mainly a political move (I Kings 3.1). No foreign, pagan or multiple wives were permitted and some of the main reasons why are shown in his life. They led him away from God and induced him to worship their pagan Gods: “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.” (I kings 3.3) The "incense in high places" refers to pagan worship. Eventually, he ended up with over a thousand wives and concubines. And as a result we read: “…his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” (I Kings 11.3-4)

5. One of the greatest tests of character is prosperity. Deut 8.11-20 shows Moses’ warning of prosperity for the Israelites. It’s easy to forget that wisdom, riches and honor are merely gifts from God. It’s easy to become proud and to disregard God and His ways. Solomon’s crown was indeed a very heavy crown. It seems only Jesus, the King of Kings, is really able to handle such knowledge, riches and honor without becoming proud and warped. (Rev 5.12) Shakespeare wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Considering that power corrupts and riches are deceitful, Solomon’s crown was quite a burden.

Though Solomon’s life became a kind object lesson in many ways, Jesus, nevertheless, implied that Solomon was a great ruler: “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” (Mat 12.42) This remark by Jesus is a testimony of God’s grace, that God forgives and forgets our sins (Ps 103.12, Heb 8.12). Solomon put a heavy yoke upon the people, through taxation, etc. (I Kings 12.4). This exemplified the fact the Solomon himself was under a heavy yoke of bondage to his many idols. His idols were like wells without water, unsatisfying (Jer 2.13) and his insatiable greed for more ate away at his life (Prov 1.19). Jesus showed that we are to come to Him as the true fount of wisdom (Mat 12.42) as well as the true source of satisfaction (Jn 4.14). As king and Lord, Jesus said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mat 11.30)

In Jesus’ eyes King Solomon is still considered great, even as King David is, all due to God’s grace and mercy. The fruit of Solomon’s sins, the division and loss of his kingdom, did not occur until after his death, for David’s sake (I Kings 11.12). Though we are not under condemnation for our sins in the New Testament life (Rom 8.1), there are results to our sins that continue on. Solomon wrote "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov 1.7). It seems that, little by little, Solomon forgot this truth. May we take heed to the lessons of his life, and guard our intimacy with God. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (I Cor 10.12 NKJV) All in all, wisdom is a good thing and we are encouraged to ask God for it (Ja 1.5). But when we do increase in wisdom and knowledge, we need to be careful it doesn't puff us up (I Cor 8.1).

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