14. To Solomon (3)

“God turned up” Meditations: 14 :  To Solomon (3)

1 Kings 9:1,2 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.

When I watch and listen to the affairs of the human race, I am sure that there will be those who, when they face God eventually in heaven, will say, “But I didn’t know.” Yet I am equally convinced that their excuse will not be accepted because, as I have stated before in these mediations, I am sure the Lord speaks to every person, even though they are not aware that it is actually His voice that is speaking to them. They may grudgingly concede that they ‘wondered about it’, wondered if it was their conscience speaking, but ‘another voice’ suggested, ‘take no notice!’ so they didn’t. But they will be held accountable, and accountability comes in this life as well as the next.

Solomon is a tragic case. Earlier in life he had received a remarkable dream and a remarkable promise and abundant blessing had flowed as a result. He has built the Temple and a fine palace for himself and life seems settled – and then the Lord turns up again.

As the Lord speaks again to Solomon, He first of all affirms His acceptance of the Temple: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (v.3) That is really encouraging. Solomon has done the right thing. Then comes a challenge and a promise: “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, `You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.” (v.4,5) There it is very clearly stated: obey God and blessing will flow.

But then a sharper warning is added: “But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, `Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, `Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them–that is why the LORD brought all this disaster on them.” (v.6-9)

Now the one thing that Solomon will never be able to say is, “I didn’t know.” The warning is very clear and it is against straying to worship ‘other gods’. If that happens in this nation, the nation will be ‘cut off from the land’, they will lose their inheritance and they will lose the Temple and the whole passing world will see and know and marvel at it. A disaster will come that will be seen by everyone!

Now you can’t get much clearer than that. It is a warning that there is one thing that God will not tolerate and that is apostasy in the form of idolatry – worshipping other gods or idols that are in fact no gods. If they stray from God, their ethical standards will fall and their society will fall apart and become unjust, and they will be weak so that they will not be able to withstand the approaches of neighbouring nations, and will become subservient to them. No longer will they be a nation under God. THAT is how clear it is!

To see the tragedy of Solomon we have to read the terrible detail of what happened later on. I include all of it because of the detail and the awfulness of it: King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” (1 King 11:1-8) He disobeyed God, thinking his wisdom was wiser than God’s, for why else would he do what God said not to do and, just as God had warned, he fell prey to their pagan religions. The monument to his jaded life in old age is the book of Ecclesiastes where he has clearly lost contact with God and the world seems meaningless. What a tragedy!  He knew it but didn’t do it. May that not be the epitaph on our gravestones!

12. To Solomon (1)

“God turned up” Meditations: 12 :  To Solomon (1)

1 Kings 3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

I sometimes think we have such shallow understanding of Scripture.  We read and even study Scripture but it is only when we meditate on it that some of the deeper meaning comes out.  I think I have this feeling about this famous incident in the Bible, involving Solomon.  He has recently become king of Israel after David died, and is now established.  He’s ninety per cent of the way to being a good guy (see v.3).  There’s a little bit of clearing up in his life to do yet, he’s not perfect.  He goes to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord – lots of them.  While he is there, he has this dream where the Lord comes (‘turns up’) and makes this amazing offer.

Now I wonder how most of us might respond to such an offer?  Please give me promotion at work?  Please bring peace to my family?  Please bless my children?  Well, yes, they are possibly all good things but they are small things.  Solomon has just become king after his father David and David was a hard act to follow.  Like many young people Solomon doesn’t feel very secure in himself – but that is a good thing if it is directed in the right direction, towards the Lord!

His biggest challenge in life is how to be a good king to follow David.  If he can crack that, everything else follows.  So what does he really need to achieve that?  Wisdom! O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (v.7-9). Within this there is humility – and wisdom!

His answer clearly pleases the Lord: “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 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. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for–both riches and honor–so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (v.10-14) What an amazing bunch of promises – wisdom, fame, riches, long life!  Only the last thing was conditional; the rest were unconditional promises, won by the wise and humble request.

So what does this say?  It says that Solomon already had wisdom although perhaps he didn’t recognise it.  All that is going to happen is that the Lord is going to multiply it greatly.  What did Jesus say? “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” (Mt 13:12)  Solomon had some wisdom and more was given to him.  Is it that the Lord made this incredible offer to him because He knew that with the wisdom Solomon already had, he would ask rightly?

That poses a challenge.  Would the Lord be able to put such an offer on the table infront of us?  Does He see in me a person who already has sufficient of His character, sufficient of His Spirit, that He can make such an offer?  But where, we might ask, does it start within us?  Why did Solomon have wisdom to start with?  Where do I get the grace to start from?  Is it something to do with that mysterious element of our lives that the Bible refers to when it speaks about ‘the heart’?  It certainly doesn’t mean that the muscle that pumps blood around within us is the thing that determines how we will act and feel and think?  No ‘heart’ seems to refer, as a dictionary puts it, to the hidden springs of personal life, the motivation of our mental and moral activity, rational and emotional.

And at this point we come up against a brick wall of mystery.  What is it that makes one person easily open to the Lord and another fiercely resistant? Solomon’s father had been described as a man after God’s own heart’.(1 Sam 13:14).  Why was David like that?  Was it genetic?  Was it upbringing?  Was it encounters with God?  Possibly all or none of those things!  In the Proverbs, Solomon was to write, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart.” (Prov 3:1) and yet watching his leading son after he died, it is clear that this son did not follow in his wisdom.  It isn’t something that is inherited. It seems to be more something we seek.  Somewhere Solomon had picked up some wisdom in his early years. Suddenly the Lord turns up to test it, and check it out. Is it as it seems?  Yes, so he can have some more so that the nation can be blessed and the world can see it.  James encourages us to ask for wisdom (Jas 1:5) and the promise is clearly that God will give it.  Perhaps the starting place, as with Solomon, is to see our need of it.