Kings

Recap of Chapter 13-

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 forgive their sin and heal their land. (p. 154)  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.

The Wisdom of the Proverbs

At Forth Slocum, New York, Private Solomon of Brooklyn was being questioned by the sergeant. The top sergeant asked: “Private Solomon, what’s your first name?”

“Solomon,” replied Solomon.

“Oh, a wise guy,” barked the sergeant, “What’s your middle name?”

“Solomon,” replied Solomon.

“Say, listen, wise guy … ” the sergeant was exploding. The rookie was dead serious about it all. His full name was Solomon Solomon Solomon. He should have been a wise guy indeed—with three times the wisdom of Solomon.

We know that a name does not make one wise.  Perhaps we will not be 3x wiser than Solomon, but we can certainly glean his wisdom by studying the Proverbs that Solomon wrote and God preserved as Scripture.

I.       The Purpose of the Proverbs

A. Theme: The theme of the book of Proverbs is Prov. 1:7 and 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”

What is the “fear of the LORD?”

  1. Reverential awe that requires a personal knowledge and relationship with Him
  2. Outward evidence of an inward faith
    a. Life of obedience
    b. Confession and shunning of sin
    c. A teachable spirit to grow toward spiritual maturity that manifests itself in pragmatic ways

B. Structure: The book of Proverbs is an anthology of proverbial sayings that are loosely organized into sections and 31 chapters.  Many have noted that the 31 chapters lend themselves nicely to a chapter-a-day monthly study.  The majority of these are attributed to King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.  His wisdom came as a divine gift from the LORD.

C. Audience: The primary audience of the Proverbs is the people (individuals) of Israel as shown by the emphasis on the fear of YHWH, the personal name of God.  The proverbs must be interpreted in light of the historical context during the era of their composition.  Israel was living under the covenant of the Law which carried with it material blessings for obedience and physical consequences for disobedience (Deut. 28).  But the principles in the Proverbs are timeless and generally true for all because they always tie the reader back to the LORD and the morality that grows out of a right relationship with Him.

D. Purpose: The purpose of the Proverbs is spelled out in Prov. 1:2-4, 6, or p. 146 of The Story.  They are for attaining wisdom and instruction; understanding and insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life; gaining prudence for the naïve youth.  These focus on helping people to live wisely and skillfully.  Proverbs were used by parents and teachers in Israel to impart wise living to the next generation in a way that was memorable.  The goal of parents today should be the same.

E. Wisdom: Several synonyms for wisdom are used in the book, but the most common Hebrew word for wisdom is hokmah.  It is used in other places to refer to the skill and experience of a craftsman, sailor, singer, or administrator.  They were considered skillful and therefore “wise.”

F. Foolishness: By contrast, those who reject the wisdom of the Proverbs become like the “fool” or the “wicked man”   whose characteristics and consequences are also laid out.

II.       Principles of Interpretation

A. Beware of the mistaken assumption that the proverbs are unconditional promises.  They are not.

  1. Proverbial wisdom is based on observation and practical principles, not promises.
  2. They are, by definition, worded to be memorable—they were used as teaching devices—rather than to be technically correct.

B. They employ cultural experiences and figures of speech that may seem confusing or strange to the contemporary reader.  But with a little work and guidance, we can properly understand the truth that the writer wanted to communicate.  For example, wisdom is often personified as a woman.

C. Be alert and sensitive to wisdom themes and terminology; there are many contrasts that help to make the practical point; i.e. the fool vs. the wise man (the fool rejects the LORD and is self-centered while a wise man responds obediently to the will of God)

D. Similar to the Psalms, the parallelisms help us understand the meanings.

III.    Practicing Personal Wisdom of the Proverbs

A. At this point, you may want to explore various proverbs listed on pages 146-150 and their practical application for skillful living. 

B. Although single proverbs provide wisdom to readers, pooling the many proverbs that center on a single theme or two give us a fuller picture of a topic to guide our daily living.  When we do this, we find out just how much God has to say about everyday matters.

C. One example follows.  It includes some references from Ecclesiastes since it too is wisdom literature from Solomon:

Am I greedy?

The Bible does not condemn the wealthy for being wealthy.  Many great Bible characters had great wealth including Job, Solomon and Abraham.  Greed is more than holding tightly what one has.  Greed is often pictured as using illegal or dishonest means to acquire wealth or it is oppressing others—especially the vulnerable–so that the poor cannot improve their condition.

A.    What causes someone to be greedy?

    1. Someone who is discontent with what he has will always feel like he needs more. (Pr. 13:25, 22:16, 27:20, 30:15-16)
    2. The one who forgets that God created every person in His image will oppress the poor. (Pr. 14:31, 22:2)
    3. Need becomes greed. (Pr. 30:7-9)
    4. Pride and arrogance distort one’s view of those “beneath” him. (Pr. 30:11-14, 18:23)
    5. Lazy people who could work take from others but produce nothing. (i.e. take resources that could go to the poor who cannot work; (Pr. 14:23, 20:13, 6:6-11)
    6. Money and wealth enhance one’s social standing.  (Pr. 14:20)

B.    How do greedy people behave?

    1. Greedy people cheat others for lawless gain. (Pr. 20:23)
    2. Wicked people have no regard for those they hurt for their personal gain. (Ecc. 5:8-9)
    3. Selfish people pretend to be generous to get favors. (Pr. 23:6-8, 22:16)
    4. Greed can result in adultery and sexual immorality. (Pr. 6:24-29, 5:10)
    5. Ravenous people price gouge. (Pr. 11:26)
    6. Stingy people postpone help in hopes the need will go away. (Pr. 3:27-28)
    7. Covetous people accept bribes to act unjustly. (Pr. 28:21)

C.    What happens to greedy people in this life?

    1. People who are driven to acquire more stuff often end up alone. (Ecc. 4:7-8)
    2. Covetous people do not enjoy their wealth because they worry about losing it.  (Ecc. 5:10-12)
    3. Greedy people never experience satisfaction and joy from their work (Ecc. 5:13-17, 6:1-7).
    4. Selfish people are hated by those around them. (Pr. 11:26)
    5. Foolish people squander their money on frivolous things. (Pr. 21:17)

D.    Are there Divine consequences for greedy people?

    1. It is sin to have no regard for the needy. (Pr. 14:21)
    2. God will condemn those who conspire to act evilly. (Pr. 12:2)
    3. The one who has disdain for the poor really is showing hate for God. (Pr. 14:31)

Other topical studies in Prov, Ecc, and Song of Songs:

Being Wise in Marriage

Prov. 5:18

12:4

19:14

30:23-24

31:10-11, 23, 28

6:34

2:12, 16

5:3-20

6:24

Song of Solomon 2:7-3:5

4:16-5:1

5:10-16

 

Being Wise as Parents

Prov. 17:6

Ecc. 6:3

Prov. 14:26

20:7

31:28

1:8

4:1, 3-9

22:6

13:24

29:15, 17

13:22

 The Wisdom of a Controlled Temper

Prov. 24:17-18

11:4

25:23

14:35, 17, 29

6:34-35

22:24-25

29:22

30:32-33

19:19, 11

15:1, 18

29:8

Being Wise About Work

Prov.  10:4-5

19:15

20:4

6:6-11

21:17

27:24, 18

25:16

30:10

31:10-31

14:35

12:24

 

Heart Trouble 

The Wisdom of Solomon is the subject in chapter 13 of THE STORY.  Two mothers needed wisdom to solve a grim problem.  The dilemma and the decision give us insights into real-life issues.  Besides marriage, the most basic human relationship is between mother and child. What is it that can make or break a society?  Solomon knew what it was.

I.  Solomon’s Wisdom.  1 Kings 3:1-15

1.  Why were the people worshipping at the high places? (3:2)

2.  How did Solomon show his love for God? (3:3)

3.  What did God offer to Solomon in a dream? (3:5)

4.  Why was God pleased at Solomon’s choice? (3:10-11)

5.  How did God bless Solomon?  (3:11-14)

II. God’s Wisdom. I Kings 3:15-28; 1 Samuel 16:7

The Israelites witnessed the establishment of Solomon’s kingdom by the military victory over Shimei (1 Kings 2:13-46).  Now Solomon’s reign would be characterized by wisdom as the Israelites marveled at his handling of a difficult situation. But his reign would only be characterized by wisdom from God, as long as he obeyed God’s commands.

1.  What dilemma did the two mothers put before him?

2.  Solomon had no evidence with which to decide the case, but he did have God-given insight into human nature.  How does God judge a person? (1 Samuel 16:7)

3. What actions gave Solomon a clue about the character of the woman whose child had died? (I Kings 3:9-20)

4.  What kind of heart did those actions reveal?

5.  What did Solomon know about the heart of the true mother?

6.  How did he reveal which woman had a mother’s heart?

III. Heart Trouble that only God can heal.  Matthew 15:1-20

God’s standard of judgment is different from man’s standard because only God can see the heart.  However, Solomon knew that the heart would be revealed by forcing the women to see what they were doing to the child.  A mother who truly loved her child would never harm him.  The one who was completely controlled by selfish desires would demand her rights.  Selfishness is the most dangerous kind of heart trouble.

1. The Pharisees judged Jesus by his actions without knowing his heart.  What did Jesus say about their hearts? (15:8)

2.  According to Jesus, what reveals a man’s (or a woman’s) heart? (15:18)

3.  When selfishness reigns in the heart, what actions result? (15:19)

Solomon used the bizarre to reveal the guilty woman.  He brought out a sword and offered to split the child in two.  The thought offends our sensibilities. The quality of a society or culture is also revealed by the actions of its members.  Similar deeds, that have become common in our culture, surely must cut God’s heart to pieces.  Sadly, we can see that broken lives that result from exactly the same self-centeredness that Solomon exposed are all around us.

4.    What selfish behavior disturbs you as you consider the direction our own culture is headed?

5.  What are some things that parallel the dilemma of the two prostitutes and put children at risk in our culture?

6.  What kind of heart trouble is causing this heartbreak?

“The timeless story of Solomon from the First Book of Kings continues to send powerful messages for divorced parents and their children.  The basic plot is reenacted hundreds and thousands of times in every city:  it is the story of two adults disputing their right to a child; the dilemma of the judge attempting to determine which adult is truly more worthy to take the child; and the baby who is being destroyed in the process.  Another motif is the woman—presumably the true mother—who was trying to balance her own right to the baby with the baby’s right to stay in one piece and survive the custody dispute” (Bernet and Ash, 6).

7.  Think about the pressure our culture puts on women and men to achieve personal goals.  What often makes this effort an ungodly, self-seeking pursuit? (See Philippians 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 7:3-5)

8.  How can we balance whole-hearted surrender to God’s calling with the demands of family and work?

9.  Jesus mentioned a sword in Matthew 10:32-39 to explain that self-denial can be painful.  Explain how we can follow this teaching and still put our children’s needs first.

10.  Hebrews 4:12 explains that the Word of God is like a sword, ”able to judge the thoughts and desires of the heart”.  What kinds of thoughts and desires on the part of parents will bless our children?

Key Question:  What personal desires and pursuits might put your children at risk?

For additional reflection:

The natural characteristics of mothering are nurturing and compassionate.  The Bible emphasizes that God also has ‘mothering’ qualities.  Study the following passages where God reveals his nurturing and compassionate nature.

Psalm 145:8-9-

Isaiah 49:15-

Isaiah 66:13-

Lamentations 3:22-

Mark 8:2-

Luke 13:34-

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