*July 5 - 12
The Wisdom of Solomon
MEMORY TEXT: And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days (1 Kings 3:14).
SOLOMON ON THE THRONE. Last weeks lesson ended with Solomon ascending to the throne; this week starts out with him firmly securing it. It is not always a pretty picture. Israel, in choosing to have a king, would suffer for the rest of its days from that unfortunate decision. Things in the chosen nation were not the way they should have been (What, of course, in life is?). How thankful we should all be that God is still willing to work with us, no matter how much we have messed up along the way.
This week does, however, reveal some of the most tender moments one can find between human beings and their Maker; thus, there is much here that we can learn.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What was Davids specific message to Solomon before the aged king died? What were the conditions that Solomon had to meet in order to be blessed? What unfinished business did the new king have to complete before securing his throne? What did Solomon ask for, and what did God give him? How can we, as Christians, know the difference between good and evil?
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 13.)
Sunday July 7
Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself (1 Kings 2:1-3).
Notice Davids dying words to his son: Whatever else he might have said (and one assumes he said more), the writer of Kings specified one particular aspect of Davids discourse to his son, and that is the part where David said, basically, Obey the Lord. Davids words were taken, apparently, from the book of Deuteronomy, which was, in a sense, Moses last will and testament to Israel. See Deuteronomy 4:40; 6:2; 6:17; 7:11; 12.
Notice the conditionality (see 1 Kings 2:3, 4) in Davids words. The promises of blessing were made on the condition of obedience; merely being Davids chosen son was not going to be enough for Solomon. Bloodline does not guarantee anything, not then and certainly not now.
Thus, Davids advice was not just some nice, soapy spiritual tome. It was, instead, filled with basic practicality: If you want to prosper, if you want all these wonderful blessings that God has promised, you must obey Him. Otherwise, ruin and destruction surely will come. This theme appears time and again in the books of Kings and Chronicles.
|Even though, of course, we are no longer under the Hebrew system,
in what ways does that same principle apply to us today? For those who might
think that this principle does not apply, read the following texts-all taken
from the New Testament and written for those under the New Covenant-and write
down a few notes about what they say regarding obedience to the Lord and
Matt. 7:24-27 _______________________________________________________________________
Matt. 13:41, 42 _____________________________________________________________________
Col 3:5, 6 __________________________________________________________________________
1 Pet 4:17 _________________________________________________________________________
1 John 2:4 __________________________________________________________________
Upon first reading the account in 1 Kings 2:13-25, it seems that, perhaps, Adonijah was killed in a fit of jealousy by the king, who did not want to give him Abishag. However, that is not what happened. Adonijahs request was not spurred on by any love for Abishag; instead, it was another attempt to try and usurp Solomons power. It was a custom of the times that a new king would inherit the former kings concubines and sometimes his wives; thus, Solomon saw the request for what it was--an attempt to do through palace intrigue what was not accomplished by force. Solomons words in verse 22 (Ask for him the kingdom also?) show that he knew what was going on. The real burden of his heart was probably not a romantic concern for the fair Abishag, but the kingdom he hoped to acquire by possession of her. . . . Abishag was doubtless looked upon as the last wife, or at least the last concubine, of David. For Adonijah now to ask for Abishag could be construed as asking for the throne itselfThe SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 733:17, Give me Abishag.
Perhaps what is most interesting about this story is that Adonijah, in verse 15, admits to Bathsheba that, though many people expected him to be king, Solomon took the throne instead. Indeed, Adonijah says for it was his from the Lord. Here was a confession, from his own lips, that the Lord was behind his brothers ascension to the throne. How does this help us understand Solomons actions toward him?
As human beings, we are endowed with a gift not found among other flesh-and-blood creatures, and that is reason (in fact, some say that the only thing that differentiates us from the animals is our reason). Yet, we are also creatures of emotion, of passion, of primal urges. Ideally, though our reason should be used to control our emotions and passions and urges, such is not always the paradigm. Adonijah is a good case in point. He admitted that God gave Solomon the throne, and his life, which should have been snuffed out immediately, was spared only by Solomons graciousness. Reason, no doubt, told him, Let it go; be glad you did not get your head chopped off. However, it seems that his lower passionslust for power, rebellion, jealousy, and the desire for self-exaltationoverruled what simple reason clearly showed should have been his course of action.
|How many lives have you seen ruined when someone allowed brewing, stewing passions to overcome and crush out simple logic and reason? None of us are immune to this same danger. What is our only safeguard, and how does it protect us against this danger?|
Thus the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon
Kings 2:46, NKJV).
It is interesting how the last verse of 1 Kings, chapter 2, reads: Thus the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon (vs. 46, NKJV). This pronouncement occurs in the same verse that says Shimei, who had cursed King David, according to verse 8, was struck down at Solomons command. Likewise, Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah against Solomon, had been put to death (vss. 28-34). Additionally, Abiathar, the priest, had been sent into exile for the part he played in the treason (vss. 26, 27). In short, Solomon had to take some rather drastic measures in order to establish his throne.
If God put Solomon in power, why did Solomon have to do the things he did in order to establish his throne? In other words, why did he not just trust God to take care of these matters Himself? Could the Lord not have made sure that none of these men bothered or even threatened Solomon or his reign? Without, obviously, taking the example too far (after all, we are talking here about killing people), what lesson can one draw from this story about balancing faith with practical steps?
Davids public labor was about to close. He knew that he should soon die, and he does not leave his business matters in confusion, to vex the soul of his son; but while he has sufficient physical and mental strength, he arranges the affairs of his kingdom, even to the minutest matters, not forgetting to warn Solomon in regard to the case of Shimei. He knew that the latter would cause trouble in the kingdom. He was a dangerous man, of violent temper, and was kept in control only through fear. Whenever he dared, he would cause rebellion, or, if he had a favorable opportunity, would not hesitate to take the life of Solomon.Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 389, 390.
|Many people struggle when they read stories like these in the Old Testament. Sure, Shimei disobeyed, but all he did was cross over a river in order to seek some runaway servants. Was that worthy of death? There are other stories like this in the Bible that many of us today find hard to reconcile with a loving God. What answers can you give to someone who, reading such stories, comes away skeptical about the Bible? Hint: The Ellen G. White quote above sheds light that was not specifically in the Bible account. In other words, perhaps many of these things seem so hard because we are not given all the facts regarding them.|
And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day (1 Kings 3:6).
Few chapters of Kings are more beautiful, more moving, than chapter 3. It reveals a heart surrendered to God, a heart aware of its own unworthiness, of its own fragility and need. In this chapter, Solomons attitude, the one that gave him so much potential to be used by God, is revealed.
What specifically did Solomon say that showed his humility and dependence upon the Lord? 1 Kings 3:7-9.
It is hard to understand why Solomon would be so humble and dependent. Here he is, the favored son of a rich man, the king even, one who was not known for being a strong disciplinarian with his kids. Just look at some of Solomons siblings; little there shows promise, either. Adonijah revolts, Absalom revolts, and Ammon rapes his own sister (Who knows what we are not told?).
Yet, amid all this decadence, ambition, pride, and lust for power, here is this young man, the favored son, the one promised and then given the throne-and he displays such humility and dependence upon God. Where did he learn it from? How did he get it? How easily his attitude could have been, Look at me! I must be something great that I, the favored son of the great king, would be given this throne, especially at such a young age. Compare, for example, what Solomon said here with these words of another sovereign: The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? (Dan. 4:30). What a contrast!
|In 1 Kings 3:5, the Lord says to young Solomon, Ask! What shall I give you? (NKJV). Imagine yourself being placed in that situation, in such a dramatic manner. What would you ask for? Would it be similar to that which Solomon asked for, or would it be for riches, revenge, and honor? Being honest with yourself, make a list of what you would request and then look at it carefully. What does it say about you, about where your heart is, about what things are important to you? Also, could you be trusted with the kind of power that Solomon had?|
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that! may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? (1 Kings 3:9).
How fascinating that of all the things Solomon should ask for, it would be to be able to discern between good and evil (NKJV). Centuries later, in the New Testament, the author of Hebrews could write: But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
Solomon asks God for this discernment; the writer of Hebrews says that the ability to discern right from wrong develops through the use of the senses. However one gets it (and both ways are not, necessarily, opposed), the ability to discern between good and evil is something to be sought after.
Read Matthew 6:33. In what ways did young Solomons request reflect this admonition?
Solomon desired a heart to be able to discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9, NKJV). Of course, he is making the assumption that good and evil really exist. Today, however, many people view things like good and evil as purely subjective terms that have no meaning other than what each individual or society gives it. What is good or evil in one land might be evil and good in another. John Paul Sartre, the centurys most influential atheist, stated that he found it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: The Wisdom Library, 1957), p. 22. However much we might disagree with Sartres premise that God does not exist, his point is well-taken: Without God, how can there really be any absolute good or evil?
For the next few days, make a mental note (or write down your thoughts) of the various choices you are confronted with that, to some degree, require you to be able to discern between good and evil (NKJV). When Sabbath comes, share with the class. One question you need to address, too, is this: How are you able to classify that which is good and that which is evil? See if others have different definitions of the terms. The results should show just how crucial it is to be able to define the two terms and then discern between them.
Read Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, chapters 1-5 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], pp. 25-86, for some insights into what happened during Solomons time.
Solomon was never so rich or so wise or so truly great as when he confessed, lam but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
Those who today occupy positions of trust should seek to learn the lesson taught by Solomons prayer. The higher the position a man occupies, the greater the responsibility that he has to bear, the wider will be the influence that he exerts and the greater his need of dependence on God. Ever should he remember that with the call to work comes the call to walk circumspectly before his fellow men. He is to stand before God in the attitude of a learner. Position does not give holiness of character. It is by honoring God and obeying His commands that a man is made truly great. . . . So long as he remains consecrated, the man whom God has endowed with discernment and ability will not manifest an eagerness for high position, neither will he seek to rule or control. Of necessity men must bear responsibilities; but instead of striving for the supremacy, he who is a true leader will pray for an understanding heart, to discern between good and evil.Prophets and Kings, pp. 30, 31.
J. H. Zachary
The Ukrainian Union has a special lay evangelistic program that prepares church members to visit their neighbors door-to-door. The believers offer whatever they can: a listening ear, a word of encouragement, a piece of literature, or Bible studies.
Two Adventist women were visiting their neighbors one day. They approached one home and pressed the doorbell. The women talked while they waited for someone to answer the door.
After several minutes an angry woman opened the door and shouted, Why do you keep ringing my doorbell? What do you want?
I am so sorry, the woman apologized. I must have been leaning against the bell. Please forgive me. The visitor quickly told the angry woman the reason they had come. We are visiting our neighbors and were hoping to find someone home. We have some helpful literature that you might be interested in. May we come in and pray with you?
At the visitors gentle words, the angry woman relaxed and invited the women inside.
The two women entered the home and found another woman sitting on the floor. Lying beside her were several large bottles of medicine, all opened. The visitors soon discovered that these two women had planned to commit suicide. As the visitors talked to the two women, they shared their faith in Christ and encouraged the women to give God their troubles.
Now I understand, the once-angry woman told them. It was not you who rang my doorbell; it was God. He sent you here; He rang the doorbell just at the moment when we were preparing to end our lives. Thank you for coming at this moment. We are interested in your literature, and we need your prayers. Please pray for us.
The visitors prayed with their new friends and assured them that no problem was too great for God to take care of it. As they prepared to leave, four women said Goodbye with hearts rejoicing in Gods perfect timing.
Some months later, a worker told this story at a lay-training seminar. A woman in the audience stood. I am the woman who answered the door that day. Those two missionaries saved my life.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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