This is my second post in my new blog project “notes on scripture”. If you missed the first post and are curious about the purpose of this project, you can find out more here.
Last week’s post focused on King Saul, the first king of Israel. This week we jump ahead to King Solomon, the son of King David. As I have been reading his story in 1 Kings, the thing that strikes me the most about Solomon’s story is that while he starts off really well, he finishes really poorly. Shortly after he’s crowned king, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and says he will give Solomon whatever he wants. Cart blanche! No restrictions. No conditions. “Solomon, what do you want? Ask and I will give it to you.” Fame, fortune, success, long life, protection from enemies, whatever he wanted was his for the taking.
I can’t imagine that scenario, especially with God. I have no idea how I would respond if God came to me and said that he would give me whatever I asked. I can’t even begin to comprehend it. And I can only imagine that my answer would not have been as good as Solomon’s. Because what does Solomon ask for? Wisdom.
As Solomon begins his reign he has an impressive start and pleases the Lord with his request. So much so, that the Lord gives Solomon all of the things that he doesn’t ask for, fame, success, wealth, etc… But somewhere along the way, things take a real bad turn, because by the time you get to the end of his story, we read this in 1 Kings 11, “Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done (v6).”
I wonder if the reason things go bad is because Solomon forgets why he asked for wisdom and why he is called to be king in the first place. In 1 Kings 10 Solomon has amassed wealth, built an international trading enterprise, erected impressive buildings, temples and palaces, and has become one of the most powerful men in the world. Because of all of this, Solomon gets a visit from the Queen of Sheba. She has heard amazing reports about Solomon, his rule and his kingdom and she desires to see it first hand for herself. And after touring his land, seeing all of his accomplishments and feasting at the king’s table she says,
“Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness (10:9).”
Did you catch that? God placed Solomon as king so that he could rule with justice and righteousness. But as you read through his story it seems that some where along the way that gets lost. I wonder if the wisdom that the Lord gives Solomon ultimately becomes a self-serving wisdom?
And the question that I am left with is whether or not the church has done the same thing? Is the church in the west characterized by the justice and righteousness of God? Or has it become infatuated with its celebrity culture? Have we been focused on amassing wealth, building bigger buildings and growing our own power structures?
I’m left wondering, if there was contemporary scripture written today about God’s people and God’s leaders what would be written about us? Would the summary of our lives be that of Solomon’s? We have amassed wealth, founded international “christian” enterprises, built up our own power, but what will be said of us when the game is finished and all the pieces go back in the box?
May we learn from Solomon and pursue God’s wisdom, but may we stay committed to him and not get side tracked by our own kingdoms.
* The above painting is “The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon,” painted by Sir Edward John Poynter in 1890.