The W’s of King Solomon

The Narrative Lectionary points us to 1 Kings 3:4-9 (10-15), 16-28 this week. The gospel text is Matthew 6:9-10. The following are some initial thoughts that may or may not make it into Sunday’s sermon!

1 Kings begins with an elderly and ill King David. “David was about seventy years old (cf. 2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 2:11), which was remarkable in an age when most people, even royalty, did not live beyond their forties” (Whitworth). David’s son, Adonijah, said to be ‘very handsome’ and next in line for the throne, declared himself the heir to the throne and began to prepare by assembling his own small army and supplies. There is evidently political intrigue here because Nathan the prophet meets with Bathsheba and asks, “Have you not hard that Adonijah…has become king, and our loved David knows nothing about it?” He advises Bathsheba to ask King David to name Solomon as King. Which he did … and gave him some instructions about who to kill and who not to kill. These are brutal times and I don’t pretend to understand their thinking nor the bloodshed that secured Solomon’s place on the throne. But there it is.

Solomon was a builder. He was building the temple that the Lord refused to allow David to build. He was building his palace. Wiersbe says he spent seven years building the temple and thirteen years building his own palace (1 Kings 6:37-7:1).

Solomon was a strategist. He built alliances with the kings around him and secured those alliances by marrying daughters of the kings. 

Solomon was a worshiper. 1 Kings 3:3 says that “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David…” If the verse ended there, we would be so impressed. But it does go on to say, “…except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” More than that, he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar at Gibeon. I’ll admit there is something here I do not understand about Solomon worshiping both God and idols and at the same time God desires to bless Solomon. Perhaps it is an issue of God looking at the heart. Were Solomon’s offerings at the high places simply to placate those with whom he had alliances? I don’t know. I do know that the text says that Solomon has a love for the Lord. Weirsbe suggests that since the temple was not yet constructed that Israel worshiped Jehovah at these temporary shrines.

Solomon was a dreamer. Like some before him, God communicated with him in a dream. The sequence in 1 Kings 3:5-14 indicates to me that (in his dream state?) Solomon was already a man of some wisdom. Before his God-given wisdom was granted, he made a very wise request of God. I doubt that most people would make the request that Solomon did. If this is still when Solomon is young, I wonder if he is overwhelmed with the leadership duties placed before him at the moment? Since we know how Solomon’s story plays out, we know that he lives a lifestyle of opulence and excess toward the end of his life. Yet, Ecclesiastes indicates that at some point he realizes the pointlessness of this kind of life. There are many dreamers in the world, but few that have the power, wealth, and divinely-given wisdom to chase their dreams. 

Solomon is a man of justice. The story in vs 16-28 is iconic as we consider the wisdom of Solomon that it demonstrates. 

Wiersbe says that, “Solomon is mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Old Testament and a dozen times in the New Testament. He’s listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:6-7) and is cited as an example of splendor (Matt. 6:29; Luke 12:27) and wisdom (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31). He is identified as a builder of the temple (Acts 7:47). One of the colonnades in the temple was named after him (John 10:23; Acts 3:11, 5:12).”

Solomon’s name comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which means “peace,” and during his reign the kingdom was at peace with its neighbors. (Wiersbe)

There are two “W”s we know about King Solomon: Wisdom and Women. Ironically, he didn’t have much of one when it came to the other. 

About Solomon’s Wisdom, Whitworth makes several observations:

*Has to do with prudence or ‘common sense’.

*A wise moan is one who seeks God and thus wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

*Wisdom is not just a desire to please God. It also entails knowing what is pleasing to God in a given situation and how to do it skillfully and for his glory. 

*The wisdom that God gave Solomon was neither automatic in nature nor irrevocable. “Instead, this wisdom was a product of God’s divine presence in Solomon’s heart as long as the king sought the Lord through his word.”

*The king was free to follow or ignore the wisdom of God at any time. 

Tony Merida offers Six Interrelated Dimensions of Biblical Wisdom

*Wisdom has a worship dimension. The fear of the Lord is the starting place for wisdom.

*Wisdom has an insight dimension. Wise people have insight into spiritual truth (Prov 4:6-7).

*Wisdom has a discernment dimension (Prov 16:21)

*Wisdom has a moral dimension (Prov 14:16)

*Wisdom has a justice dimension (Prov 1:3; 2:9)

*Wisdom has a skill dimension (Prov 8:30)

No one can doubt the downfall of Solomon was his view and use (abuse?) of women. In this, he walks in his father’s footsteps. With hundreds of wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3), the excess of his reign is matched by its downfall.  “…and his wives led him astray.”

This text and the stories in it are some of the best known accounts in the life of Solomon. In my series this month I’ve been talking about living faithfully for our Faithful God. When Solomon was faithful to God, wisdom prevailed and things went well for him. It was when he failed to trust the truth that God entrusted to him that his fall began.

When we read Ecclesiastes it is easy to see that upon reflection Solomon could see how the mistakes of his past – being caught up in the meaningless things of life that had caught his attention – were his downfall. His words still ring true today as we hear so many voices and have so many attractions – listen to God and love Him above all. 

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil. 

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 

You’re welcome to join in a discussion of the text along with resources in my group Narrative Lectionarians on Facebook.

Resources:

How to Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years by Michael Whitworth

Be Responsible: Be Good Stewards of God’s Gifts by Warren Wiersbe

Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings by Tony Merida

Sermon Notes and Audio as it turned out HERE.