Almost a thousand years before Christ, Solomon inherited the throne of Israel from his father David. Let’s look for a moment at the young king’s attitude as the burden of sovereignty settled on his shoulders. We read in 1 Kings 3 that once all the dust of the coronation had cleared, Solomon went to Gibeon, a few miles north of Jerusalem, to make generous sacrifices on the great altar there. He is described as one who “. . . loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father.”
At Gibeon Solomon was given a dream in which God told him – effectively – to make a wish, any wish. It’s the kind of dream we all dream about (if you catch my drift). But this was no Disney-style Genie in the lamp experience. The administration of God’s chosen people hung in the balance. A young man, giddy with new-found authority could easily have chosen selfishly or foolishly. A boatload of money; a top-of-the-line chariot with wide wheels and lots of chrome; a supersonic jet, or even a time machine! Just imagine what any of us would have asked for.
Solomon kept his head on straight, however. When God offered anything, Solomon asked for wisdom. And God was pleased to grant it to him, since it was the best answer he could have given. The discernment to know how to govern and to work justice for the people was at the top of the new king’s list. Because he had chosen so humbly, God also promised him what he had not sought; wealth and honour.
So Solomon established his kingdom and enjoyed a long reign with comparatively few troubles. While the other nations of the region saw fit to recognise both his wisdom and wealth, he had time and resources to expand Israel’s borders and undertake some very significant building projects. In addition to this he had leisurely interests; he composed and collected works of wisdom, such as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and he was a very careful observer of both the natural world and the nature of men. I think he and Leonardo da Vinci would have gotten on well if they hadn’t lived two and a half thousand years apart.
There are three kinds of wisdom, and they are all represented in the Bible. The Proverbs kind of wisdom is suited for the young, it teaches us the cut-and-dried principles of what works and what doesn’t work; what’s wise and what’s foolish. Proverbs tell us to change the oil every three thousand miles, and it’ll run forever. Proverbs tell us a red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning. Cut-and-dried nuggets of training wisdom.
As life runs on, we come to understand that a proverb is not a watertight promise. You can change the oil religiously and still blow a gasket or break a rod. It doesn’t always rain when there’s a crimson sunrise. The Godly don’t always seem to succeed (in this life) and sometimes saints suffer for no apparent cause. That’s the wisdom of Job: wisdom for the whirlwind. When the bottom drops out of your world, proverbial wisdom doesn’t always help. That’s why Job’s friends couldn’t work out why he was in so much trouble. They kept spouting their proverbial platitudes – “you must have done something awful for God to be this angry at you” – and Job kept refuting them, adamant that their simplistic principles didn’t apply in his case. Whirlwind wisdom says “humbly hang on to God and His sovereignty, even if He seems to be treating you badly!”
Then there’s seasoned wisdom; the kind that only comes with experience and time for reflection. That’s what we read in Ecclesiastes. This is sometimes described as the hardest, most cynical book in the whole Bible. It’s not that. What it is, is Solomon’s reflection on a life lived with the benefit of God-given wisdom; and what a puzzle such a life can be! Work or leisure; which is the best to follow? Opulence or simplicity? Industry or agriculture? Wealth or poverty? As Solomon’s rule drew to a close, the last days of a United Kingdom of Israel were being played out. Remember that his son and heir, Rehoboam the fool, squandered the unity of the kingdom by listening to young, impetuous counsellors (1 Kings 12:1-20).
Solomon’s reflective wisdom still works today. Steady job or unemployment? They are both from God for your use. A steady job gives you resources like a little disposable money and good accommodations, which enable you to be hospitable and charitable. Unemployment gives you time to spend in the Word, to stay close to God and to be used for volunteer ministries. Either way you can glorify God. Leisure or work? Well, both come from God’s hand, so be totally thankful for them in equal measure, and engage them with equal diligence. Wealth or poverty? We know which we think we would prefer, but have you ever heard of a rich person being truly happy and content without God in the mix? All these beam-balance evaluations are there in Ecclesiastes.
So whatever your situation, there is a way to give thanks to God, and a way to bring Glory to Him out of it. It’s the true mark of wisdom.
Copyright © 2014 © 2016 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.