Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are following “The Story”, a chronological version of the biblical books. Last week, we saw David running into trouble! A sermon “The Trials of a King” can be found here.
This week we move on to consider the life of David's son, King Solomon, who starts extremely well, but loses his way later in life. At the start of his reign Solomon is given an unimaginable privilege. He is allowed to ask God for anything that he needed to fulfill his duties.
If you could ask God for anything... absolutely anything.... what would it be? Maybe for some it would be wealth. Maybe for some of us, further down life's road, it would be health. Maybe we would smile, and answer like a beauty queen,“World Peace!”
Solomon asks for “Wisdom.” We see him using his wisdom to pass difficult judgments, to build a magnificent temple to house the Ark of the Covenant and to amass great wealth. Solomon becomes a great 'fan' of wisdom. He collects together a volume of the wisest advice that could be found in the world of his day. The book is given the title “Proverbs” and remains a much referenced resource among the 66 books of the Bible.
Unfortunately his wisdom also appeared to create some 'blind spots'. He becomes extremely self focused. He builds a palace that outshines the temple in glory. He amasses a huge collection of wives and concubines. Silver becomes so common during his reign that it is devalued.
He maintains his opulence through excessive taxation and slave labor. While he becomes rich, the people he is supposed to be caring for, suffer great oppression. He forgets, not only about the people, but also about the one true God who gave him his wisdom. He begins to worship the gods of his many wives and neighboring lands that he wanted to stay in favor with.
His wisdom becomes a form of pride that renders him unable to see the consequences that come from his excess. Dignitaries, such as the Queen of Sheba, marvel at his opulence, but the people are incited to rebellion. No sooner has Solomon died than the nation erupts in a civil war from which they would never recover and which would eventually lead to the tribes of Israel being led into exile.
Wisdom was a wonderful thing to ask for. Yet, despite all his wisdom, Solomon forgets the source of all his blessings. Affluence can do that. If you have everything you need, why do you need faith? If you are a self-made person, why bow down and worship a God beyond your self? If you have the wisdom to figure out every aspect of your life, what is the point in praying to God for guidance?
Jesus said that it was hard for the wealthy to understand what His Kingdom was all about. We read in Luke 18:25 “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." I wonder if He had Solomon in mind? Wealth can blind us to the source of our blessings. Misplaced pride seems to go hand in hand with being wise in our own eyes.
In 1 Corinthians Paul talks about “The Mind of Christ” as a source for our decision making. He suggests the guidance of the Holy Spirit transcends human wisdom. Wisdom is wonderful. Yet faithfulness appears to bring more lasting rewards.
For musical reflection a hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty - “Perfect Wisdom of Our God”
Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.