Sermon, Pentecost 8C, Story Week 13,
Sunday July 20, 2016.
Solomon: The King Who Had It All
Psalm 107:1-3, 21-22, Ephesians 2:14-22, Luke 6:46-49
1 Kings 2:1-4
When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, 3 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 4 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.’
Research shows that if you put a frog into boiling water it will jump out. If you put a frog in room lukewarm water, and turn the burner up, you can literally cook the frog to death (and have delicious frog legs for dinner. They taste like chicken).
Solomon’s life was a lot like that boiling frog. David’s second son by Bathsheba. Solomon was a frog who could jump over any lily pad; who had the blue-blood of royalty; who was a frog any princess would kiss and 700 of them actually did! But Solomon got himself into lukewarm water. By the end, his life is cooked.
The first king was Saul who failed to represent God faithfully. God then chose David as king. David did represent God well, and even though he sinned grievously, he repented and remained in a relationship of acceptance and love with the Lord. 1 Kings 1 begins with David as an old man anointing his son, Solomon, as Israel’s third king.
Solomon is king at a young age. He inherits a pretty ramshackle collection of tribes with not much of an organized and effective kingdom! Solomon would change all this.
Solomon must have felt the full weight of his responsibilities and enormity of the task set before him. When given the opportunity to ask one thing from the Lord with the promise that it will be given, he does not ask for money or power or never-ending youthfulness! He very wisely prays for special wisdom to fulfil his calling. He prays that prayer that was our home text 4 years ago: “Lord, give me a listening heart” (1 Kings 3:9). God is obviously very pleased with a prayer like that. Solomon is granted extraordinary wisdom for his extraordinary calling!
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. ….. 12 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.
Solomon becomes the model for wisdom among God’s people.
Solomon is the wise builder of Israel. He builds great government, buildings, a great military system and establishes his nation in international trade relations. There would never be a time when Israel was so great in world affairs.
There would never be a time other than in Solomon’s reign when the complex sacrificial system of worship at the grand Jerusalem temple was as fully functioning.
His great wisdom which came from that gift of a listening heart – an attitude or internal commitment to respect the Lord and trust in the Lord’s management of your life. This trust and openness to the Lord’s wise leadership over your life is called “fear” or “respect” for the Lord
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
Solomon writes hundreds of wise sayings, riddles and words of instructions on life in his seven little books that make up the Book of Proverbs. He writes a beautiful expression of the joy and value of intimacy between men and women in the Song of Songs – the book of the Bible teenagers quickly find and are eager to read!
Solomon writes a great work on the meaning and value of everyday working life in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Practical wisdom for our work-a-day world.
The Lord sticks true to his promises and his gift to Solomon and both blesses and also warns Solomon.
4 “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness…..5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father …6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me….and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. (I Kings 9:4-9)
But then the frog slowly cooks! Solomon, who started strong, ends poorly. In I Kings 11 we see the signs of compromise brought on by a lack of listening with that heart of his.
The Queen of Sheba turns up and highly praises the great man. It goes to his head. As Solomon grows old, his 700 wives fill, clutter and overtake his heart that was once open and responsive to the Word of the Lord above all other words.
This leads to inevitable descent into that trusting of himself, others or anything else more than the Lord for the management of his life and fulfilment of his calling
With a heart that does not listen and respond to the Lord’s voice, Solomon becomes what James calls “a double minded man who is unstable in all he does” (James 1:8) The Lord has to call it what it is.
The LORD became angry with Solomon because Solomon’s heart was now so divided. (1 Kings 11:9-13)
Friends, I don’t believe Solomon woke up one morning and said, “I’d like to wreck my life and ruin all my relationships.” These things happen slowly – like the frog in the ever warming water.
It happened because of a laziness bourn from taking for granted the blessing of the Lord. It happened because of the company he kept and his lack of discipline to keep his body and his calling and his direction in the Lord.
If the wisest man failed, then what about us? Well we had better take Jesus’ wise words on this.
Be careful, Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15)
So, watch out for hypocrisy, false pride, mere religious outward show without love in the heart or the lust for power that makes for fear upon fear.
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4).
Be careful who you keep company with and who you listen to. It is more than possible that we all can be off the mark of God’s word at times and this can lead us into dark places.
And then that great distraction that can dominate our heart and block its ears from the Lord’s way of living – greed.
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
We are called to listen mostly and most fully to the word of our God and Saviour Jesus. He is the wisdom of God for us and his world.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30)
His wisdom needs a good listening to because it is nothing like our own or the world’s wisdom. In fact it is foolishness to many.
The message of the cross of Jesus’ death and resurrection is foolishness to those who are perishing, or ‘not listening’ to him, but to us who are being saved, or who are listening to him, the cross of the crucified human king and Son of God is the very power of God for God’s desire to call all people back to him in humility, repentance and faith in his grace. (from 1 Corinthians 1:18)
Friends, Solomon got it wrong in the end. He was not wise enough and he and his people paid the price.
But there is something truly incredible here too. God’s promise outlast fools. God’s faithfulness to his own promises prevail over my foolish pride or slowness to hear. Thank him for that!
God’s promise to Saul, David and Solomon; that this kingdom will last forever, despite the dreadful sins of all three, remains.
God’s promise that one day there would come a king to complete everything and do it faithfully, freely and fully so that the masterplan of the Lord to bring all nations back to his garden of peace and life will come to be.
It has come. He has come. He is here. So we say, “Do a ‘Solomon’ today and tomorrow”. Ask for that listening heart and gain Jesus for wisdom.
I hear the Spirit affirming the gospel truth that no stupid word or action will derail God’s plan for me.
How do gain wisdom? It always begins with that prayer: “Lord, give me a listening heart”. That is the fear of the Lord that begins wisdom every day.
In your decisions, your struggle, your suffering, your joy, your wins and losses, seek and listen and do.
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)
As you seek, share.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts (Colossians 1:9)
He is bigger than your struggle, more mature than your mistakes, clearer than your confusion, saving in your suffering, wise beyond your lack of wisdom. He is your wisdom.
“Lord, give me a listening heart for all I face”.
Chapter 13, the king who had it all
Timeless Truth: complete your walk – finish faithful.
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
The “man after God’s own heart” had known seasons of triumph and tragedy, yet his legacy is marked by overall faithfulness and trust that God would keep His word. David’s story closes with instruction and warning for his son, Solomon, who was already poised to carry on the heritage. David charged the new king with the divinely appointed task of leading God’s chosen nation and urged him to “walk in His ways,” so their family would “never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel,” as God had promised.
Solomon’s reign began with a series of defining events. He married the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and ironically, the nation that had once enslaved Israel now sought the good graces of God’s people. Then God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered to grant his heart’s desire. Solomon asked for wisdom to lead and God was pleased to grant this request and gave him wealth and honor as well. His wisdom was quickly tested when two prostitute mothers fought over a son. Solomon correctly judged in favor of the true mother and his people held him in awe. Solomon’s keen wisdom became the hallmark of his reign and gave him insight into human nature. He penned thousands of proverbs that gained him an international reputation. People from around the world sought him out and Abraham’s descendants became a blessing to the whole world as Solomon demonstrated that the cornerstone of all wisdom is a holy fear of God.
During Solomon’s reign, peace prevailed in the Promised Land. The time had come to build a temple for God. The construction project was massive and followed the pattern of the tabernacle that had been used since the days of Moses. The end result was as majestic as one could imagine. With great reverence, Solomon had the ark placed in the Most Holy Place. The temple was filled with a cloud of God’s glory and Solomon humbly realized that even a magnificent temple could not sufficiently contain Him. Still, the temple would become the enduring focal point of worship and life for God’s people.
Following the dedication of the temple, God appeared to Solomon and warned him of the consequences Israel would face if they turned away from Him. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land” (p. 188). He also promised Solomon a royal dynasty in Israel if the king remained faithful. But if Israel followed other gods, God’s people would be cut off from the land.
King Solomon experienced phenomenal success. His wealth and wisdom were legendary. His reign was marked by peace and prosperity. But all of Solomon’s insight and riches could not make up for his choice to collect wives like gold. He married hundreds of women, many of them foreigners. Just like God had said, his foreign wives “turned his heart after other gods.” This single decision shaped the future of his descendants and of the nation of Israel.
Solomon’s story began with great promise, incomparable wisdom and magnificent achievement. His father and grandfather had also started out well, but the way each of them ended was disappointing. There are no final words of wisdom recorded for the wisest king of all time. Instead, his closing chapter reveals that the kingdom would be torn in two. Solomon spent his last days fighting off enemies and rebels. His splendor and his legacy were tarnished by disobedience and idolatry. What a sad ending for the king who had it all, but ultimately failed in the only thing that really mattered: finishing well.
Icebreaker Question: What is one of the smartest things you have ever done?
- How did Solomon (and other Israelites) show love for the LORD in the Old Testament? How does this differ from New Testament believers? (See John 14:15, 15:12, and 1 John 5:2-3.)
- Look at Solomon’s prayer of dedication. What does this teach you about how you should approach God?
- Solomon authored many proverbs that teach general principles of wise and practical living. Some examples are found on pages 179-183. Choose one that you particularly like or one that resonates with you. What is the main point that it communicates? How might your life be different if you applied the proverb?
- Using what you have learned about Israel’s history in previous chapters of The Story, why did Solomon make the dedication of the temple such a big event? What would it have been like to experience it first hand?
- Compare God’s promises to Solomon with His promises to David (p. 159). Which promise(s) had God faithfully fulfilled? What would Solomon and his descendants need to do to keep a successor on the throne (p. 176, 188-189)? How could Israel avoid captivity (p. 189-188)?
- Solomon accumulated unprecedented riches. Look up Deuteronomy 17:15-17 and 28:1-14. Did Solomon go too far? Is extreme wealth a good thing or a bad thing?
- As Solomon grew older, he was a rich and established ruler, but he did not apply the wisdom that defined his early career. How can you continue to seek wisdom, even after you have experienced success?
- Solomon’s failures began when he married women who served other gods. Why is it important for a husband and wife to both be committed Christians? What advice would you give someone who is considering dating a non-Christian?
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.
Chapter 14, a kingdom torn in two