Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CXXIII - I Kings Chapter 3-4 - Solomon's Wisdom

I've often stated that the United States of America is the second greatest nation in the History of civilization.  Second only to Solomon's Israel.  The nation Israel under Solomon's reign was the closest I've seen to "perfect".  In this post we'll find out why.

Wisdom is a priceless possession for a person to obtain and exercise.  It benefits every life it touches.  All Godly men need to sincerely ask God for wisdom.  The reason one must request it from God is because God is the ONLY true source for wisdom.  But wisdom does not come cheap.  Wisdom is discovered and achieved only by those who diligently seek it.

Solomon's father David had been a deeply loved king who possessed a powerful personality.  He inspired unheard-of loyalty in most of his subjects.  He forged a previously devided people into a united nation.  Solomon began his reign under the shadow of an extremely popular and highly successful predecessor.  To fill David's sandals would require everything that Solomon could bring to the task.  And Solomon was smart enough to know his burden.

It was apparent that three items weighed heavily on Solomon's mind when he took the throne.  One was the divine covenant that God made with David regarding David's never lacking a descendant on the throne of Israel.  The second item was the building of the Temple.  And the third item was Solomon's need for wisdom to accomplish his goals.  Solomon knew that the third one must be obtained in order to accomplish the first two.

Chapter 3:1-->  When Solomon took the throne, he hit the ground running.  Although he was only twenty years old, he set out to achieve excellence for Israel. Early in Solomon's reign, he initiated international relationships.  Economic, military, cultural, and political needs made reciprocal agreements with surrounding nations necessary.  Frequently, as was custom, these agreements were sealed through marriage.  (This practice went on for centuries throughout the entire world.)  To make an alliance (vs 1) meant to establish a reciprical agreement.  To seal the first peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Solomon married Pharaoh Siamun's daughter.  David had engaged in similar practices by arranging a marriage for Solomon to Naamah, an Ammonite pricess, about a year before Solomon took the throne.  Given Egypt's power during this time period, solomon's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter was significant.

Vs 5-->  When Solomon began his reign, no single site for worship existed.  Though David had brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent, the tabernacle was located in Gibeon, about six miles northwest of Jerusalem.  {Gibeon was spared by Joshua due to the rather cunning deception the Gibeonites played on him.}  Since the tabernacle was in Gibeon, Solomon had chosen Gibeon to be the main location for his worhip and sacrifices.  There were many other places of worship, also referred to as "high places".  During one of Solomon's visits to Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream (vs 5).  God said, "Ask for whatever you want Me to give you".  Think about that question.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  God asks what you want and He'll give it to you.  I cannot think of anywhere else in the Bible that God asks somebody want they WANTED.  Solomon poured his heart out to God as he responded to this sobering question.  As you read his very short response in vss 6-9 you can feel Solomon's humility.  He told God how overwhelmed he was at the task that lay before him and he was just not capable.  So he asked for wisdom with which to do his job.  Of all the things Solomon could have asked for, he chose that which would most serve the people of Israel.  Needless to say, his attitude and his response pleased God.  Wisdom would enable Solomon to discern between right and wrong, between good and evil.  It would enable him to understand the hearts of men, and their true intentions.  Wisdom would protect him against deceipt and would reveal the hidden meanings of men's words.  {Wouldn't it be great to have Solomon's level of wisdom?  All of the seemingly impossible situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives, dealing with family, work, neighbors, finances, classmates, and yes, even fellow church members.  To have the wisdom, not only to do the right things, say the right words, and make the right decisions, but afterwhich to KNOW you did or said the proper and wise thing.  How wonderful that would be.  Please please pray for wisdom.  God is its ONLY Source.}

Vss 11-14  -  Solomon could have asked for a long and peaceful life, wealth, or success in warfare.  Instead, he sought wisdom in order to fulfill his greater role as kin in discerning judgement and promoting justice throughout the land.  {Then and now, for a nation to be strong, true justice must prevail.  We as citizens must have confident that justice will always be administered by the government.  The opposite of justice is corruption.  Wherever there is corruption or the suspicion of corruption, there cannot exist a peaceful nation.}  God was so pleased with Solomon's request, He gave him more than wisdom.  God made two unconditional promises to the young king.  He promised to honor Solomon with some things which he could have asked for but didn't.  First, God promised him wealth.  (By the end of his reign, Solomon's treasures exceeded that of the crown jewels of England, immeasurable in monetary value.)  Second, God promises him honor.  (Very early in Solomon's reign he became famous throughout the region and beyond, mostly due to his wisdom.  He became the envy of every ruler in every nation, becoming the "gold standard" of ruling excellence.)   And one last (somewhat conditional) promise, God told solomon in vs 14 that, "if you walk in obedience to Me and keep My decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you long life".

Verses 16-28  -  A Wise Ruling

You've probably heard this account many times.  I, as a little boy back in the '50s was familiar with this story, as was all of my friends.  Two women who lived together had babies within three days of each other.  One of the women accidently sufficated her baby while the baby and her were sleeping together.  When she discovered her baby was dead, she quietly switched her baby with the baby of the other woman while they were asleep.  When the other woman awoke, she knew that the dead baby was not hers, and wanted her baby back.  The dispute made its way to the king.  Solomon, knowing there was no way to tell for certain which was the mother of the live baby, decided to discern which of the mothers really cared for the child.  He commanded that the baby be cut in half with a sword and each woman would get a half.  One woman was satisfied with that decision, but the other woman withdrew her claim to the child and asked Solomon to give the child to the other woman in order to spare the child's life.  Solomon immediately awarded the baby to that woman who showed the greatest love for the child.  Vs 28 - And all Israel heard of that judgement and declared Solomon to have wisdom that could only be given by God Himself.  And they were in awe.  God's promise of honor and fame started already.

Chapter 4  -  Solomon's Government

This chapter tells of the way Solomon set up his government.  You can see how he set up administrations for military, economy, and the justice sytem.  It tells of his military might in that he had (Vs 26) forty thousand stables for horses, which means chariots.  On level ground, chariots were far superior to foot soldiers.  That alone tells of Solomon's priorities in building a strong military defense.  As a result of Solomon's conquests and treaties, (vs 25) his kingdom enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity.  To dwell safely meant that the people were free from the threat of foreign invasion or interferance.  The major powers of that time period, Egypt and Mesopotamia, had been neutralized and posed no serious threat.  I like verse 25.  "......dwelt safely under his vine and under his fig tree......".  To dwell under one's vine and fig tree symbolized peace, security, and prosperity.  In Israel, grapes not only were grown in vineyards.  Many houses had grapevines.  They were made to grow on trellises to provide a shade on the rooftop which served as a patio.  To sit in the shade and pluck ripe grapes for eating was a picture of peace.  The fig tree also was grown in most yards and as a rule bore prolifically.  Thus it served as a symbol of plenty or prosperity.  The remaining verses of this chapter describe the extent of Solomon's wisdom.  Vs 29 - .....measureless as the sand on the seashore......  So extensive were Solomon's writings that he became the "Father of Wisdom".  He authored 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs.  Vs 34 - He became so famous that people from all nations came just to listen to Solomon impart wisdom.  You're going to enjoy this studying this man.
Next post - Solomon Builds the Temple

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