David and Solomon, Part 7

From the 1950 film version of the classic novel. It’s the best, as far as I’m concerned.

Solomon’s wisdom and riches are the things legends are made of. The secular world has long been enamored with King Solomon, and H.Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novel was all about Allan Quartermaine’s quest for King Solomon’s Mines. It’s been called the greatest adventure novel ever written, and it certainly is better than the film versions of it. In the novel, Quartermaine is part adventurer and part philosopher, and he makes an interesting observation that Solomon himself could have made. And did, as a matter of fact.

Truly wealth, which men spend all their lives in acquiring, is a valueless thing at the last.

Quartermaine knew it. Solomon knew it. And most people, after a lifetime of chasing it, find out the truth of that statement. Wealth, in the end, means nothing. Something else Quartermaine said was this:

for women bring trouble as surely as night follows day…

I’ll leave that one alone, except to say that was something else Solomon found out. Too late, as it happens.

But wealth and wisdom aren’t bad things. God can and does use those things for His glory and for the good of His people. The Lord gave Solomon a great, united Kingdom in fulfillment of the promise He made to David. But the Lord gave Solomon even more wealth and even more wisdom, as He promised at Gibeon:

“…therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” (2 Chronicles 1:12 | NIV84)

Let’s take a look at the legend of King Solomon.

Godly wisdom is attractive, 2 Chronicles 9:1 – 8

When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Arriving with a very great caravan–with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones–she came to Solomon and talked with him about all she had on her mind. (2 Chronicles 9:1 | NIV84)

The visit of the Queen of Sheba is one of the most well-known stories in the Old Testament. Scholars think that Sheba is today’s Ethiopia. It’s repeated almost word-for-word in 1 Kings 10, so it’s an important event in the history of Israel. It serves to demonstrate not only the extent of Solomon’s wealth and great wisdom, but of God’s ability to keep His word and bless His people beyond their wildest imaginings.

When the Queen of Sheba arrived to see if everything she heard about Solomon and his kingdom were true, and said this:

But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (2 Chronicles 9:6 | NIV84)

Yet Solomon isn’t the only one who was blessed beyond belief. That would be each of us. If you and I take the time to look back over the years of our lives, we’d notice how many times the Lord stepped into the flow of our personal history to alter our future for our benefit, for the benefit those close to us, but ultimately for God’s own glory.

This brief portrait of Solomon’s fame with Sheba and others coming to visit to hear him speak and bearing gifts, is also a portrait of the messianic hope Israel has, especially that of Ezra the Chronicler and of the Haggai the prophet:

I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. (Haggai 2:7 | NIV84)

Isaiah, another prophet, writing much earlier than Haggai, expressed a similar thought:

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,to the house of the God of Jacob.He will teach us his ways,so that we may walk in his paths.”The law will go out from Zion,the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3 | NIV84)

Nations will come to your light,and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:3 | NIV84)

As Biblical historians are wont to say, “the future is like the past.”

Godly wisdom is practical, Proverbs 1:1 – 23

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel… (Proverbs 1:1 | NIV84)

Solomon didn’t personally write all the proverbs, but he did write many of them. The first group of them, Proverbs 1 – 9, describes some of the attributes of a Godly man: He is the one who fears God and behaves like a godly man should behave.

for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple,knowledge and discretion to the young–let the wise listen and add to their learning,and let the discerning get guidance–for understanding proverbs and parables,the sayings and riddles of the wise. (Proverbs 1:2-6 | NIV84)

Those verses aren’t so much a sentence as they are a long (very long) subtitle to this collection of wisdom. Proverbs – godly wisdom – is what you need to become a wise person, a discerning person, and a morally upright citizen.

The key verse of the whole book of Provers is 1:7, a verse that is repeated several times throughout the whole book:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 | NIV84)

The idea of “the fear of the Lord” as it is expressed in the Bible has nothing to do with being afraid or startled or of being tormented by God, but rather it refers to the fear of reverence and awe. The Amplified Bible correctly offers this translation:

The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 | AMP)

You may wonder why this “fear of the Lord” is the “beginning of wisdom.” It makes perfect sense. He holds the future destiny of you, of all people, and of the world in His hands. No wonder you should revere Him! Your future depends on Him!

The very starting point – “the beginning” – of wisdom is God. That’s an interesting way to put it. The wise person is the one who makes God the very center of his life and the Word of God the foundation upon which he builds it. The idea here is that the wise person is the one who always defers to God’s opinion on any matter.

Does that mean that only Christians are wise? That’s a good question. The verse goes on to say that a fool is one who despises “godly wisdom, instruction, and discipline.” It is possible for a person to hold the teachings of Scripture in very high regard but not confess Christ as Lord and Savior. It is possible for a person live a Bible-centered life, but not a Christ-centered one. And God honors those who honor His Word; He will bless their endeavors.

The identity of “the fool” is important because the Biblical food isn’t a simpleton:

Fools mock at making amends for sin… (Proverbs 14:9a | NIV84)

The “fool” is simply one who is spiritually stubborn and rebellious. He the kind of person with no regard for God; he’s indifferent to the teachings of Scripture and other godly counsel. Our Lord had something to say about “the fool”:

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26, 27 | NIV84)

This single verse is profound and it’s like a seed; it’s not a big verse, but when it’s used – when it’s planted in your heart – it will grow and take over your life. In this single verse are God’s requirements for living “the good life.” Here they are: If you want to live “the good life,” there must be:

• A healthy relationship with God – “the fear of the Lord.”
• An ongoing discipleship – “the beginning of knowledge.”
• A respect for divine guidance – “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Godly wisdom seeks eternity, Ecclesiastes 12:8 – 14

The book of Ecclesiastes opens like this:

The words of the Teacher, a son of David, king in Jerusalem… (Ecclesiastes 1:1 | NIV84)

He’s “the Teacher” or “the Preacher,” which is the Hebrew word, koheleth. That word comes from a root which means, “to assemble,” so the author was one who called people to come and listen to his words, like a teacher or a preacher. Koheleth was King Solomon according to tradition, but there are good arguments against it. Regardless of whether or not Solomon wrote it (I think he did), the life lessons in the book are stark and reflect what a lot of us have found out: when you put God first, you’ll succeed, but if you leave God out your life, you’re opening yourself up to a world of hurt.

At the end of the book, after a lifetime spent chasing riches and worldly acclaim and running from God, the Teacher comes to his senses and to the right conclusion:

Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. A “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8 | NIV84)

The Teacher wants his son, and his readers, to “do as I say, not as I did.” And for that, he should be commended.

Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. (Ecclesiastes 12:9, 10 |NIV84)

The Teacher was wise. There is no doubt about that. And he shared his wisdom with others. Not only that, the Teacher was able to discern wisdom in others. Assuming Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, he sought out the wisdom of others. The book of Proverbs is a collection of smart sayings that Solomon himself wrote, but it’s also a collection of smart things other people said.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 | NIV84)

Solomon’s conclusion is nothing if not deeply profound and moving. After a lifetime of chasing the wind and trying to satisfy his every desire with anything and everything except God, Solomon came to the conclusion that anything and everything are meaningless without God. He came to the conclusion that there is a God in heaven that every man will have to answer to. That same God has given people the rules for living a good life and the kind of life He desires for us to live and it is the duty of every man simply follow those rules. It couldn’t be simpler than that!

But even more than that, God is a holy God and He is concerned about holiness in people – so much so that every act and thought of man will be judged and determined by God to either good or evil.

Solomon imparted a lot of wisdom in his writings, but Jesus, in a single sentence, gave the best piece of advice ever:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 | NIV84)

 

 

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