Whenever a passenger plane crashes, it makes the news. We all stay tuned to get the details, because a lot of us fly and when one of those airliners goes down, we want to know why. Specifically, we want to know what went wrong in the hope that the next time we get in one of those aluminum tubes that cruises at 500 miles per hour 30,000 feet above the earth, the same thing won’t happen to us! Statistically, flying is still the safest way to travel, but this is why when an airplane does crash, experts comb through the debris and carnage in search for one thing: the black box; that indestructible little box made out of some super metal that if they made the whole plane out of it crashes wouldn’t be a problem!
By the way, they CALL it a BLACK box, but, all the ones I Googled were ORANGE. But whatever the color, the experts search high and low for that box because it has the data inside that will tell the story of what happened. When they find it they take it to a lab and open it up, seeking the answer to two questions: “What went wrong?” and “What can be done to keep it from happening again?”
This morning, we have finished the week 13 week in our 31-week-long study of The Story. If you’re our guest, I’ll catch you up to speed by telling you that The Story is the Bible condensed into 31 chapters or stories. We’re studying the Bible in this way here at Redland so that we can better learn God’s story ourselves and therefore be better equipped to tell it to people who have never heard or understood it. By the way, it’s STILL not too late to join us in our study. We have copies of The Story for sale in our library. We’ll even give you a copy for free if money is an issue.
Today we are studying our 13th story, the story of Israel’s third King, King Solomon. I want us to look at the Biblical account of his life as if it were a black box one of those flight data recorders. I want us to study Solomon’s life in this way so we can find out what he did right in life and what he did wrong in the hopes that we can learn from his mistakes. With this information in mind, perhaps we’ll be able to avoid a crash or two.
By the way, this “black box method” is one way to profit from the study of the Bible. As 2 Timothy 3:16 puts it, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” So we can study the lives of the people who were part of God’s story to learn how we must correct our own walk so that we live more righteous lives. In essence Bible study can help us all learn how to “fly right” in life.
Three weeks ago, we studied the life of Saul from this perspective. Next, we took a look at the “black box” of King David’s life and today we examine the life of his successor and son, Solomon. In our reading this week, we learned that that his take-off was great and at first, his flight went very well. But there came a point when, as the two kings before him did, Solomon crashed.
Let’s begin our study.
When his father David grew old and feeble and it was obvious that his reign as King of Israel was about to end, another of his sons, Adonijah, saw an opportunity to replace David so he made his move. He called some friends together and essentially declared himself king. The prophet Nathan saw what was going on and knew that David had already decided that Solomon should be his successor and that this was God’s plan. So, for a second time, Nathan, had to go to King David with some bad news. He had to tell his friend that Israel had a new king and his name wasn’t Solomon. Even though David was feeble at this point, he was not timid. He went into crisis mode and declared Solomon as his choice for king. He found a priest to join Nathan in anointing Solomon; then he planned a major celebration with trumpets blasting and the people shouting, “Long live King Solomon!” Adonijah was just finishing up his own coronation celebration about this time and he heard the roar of the crowd. When he learned what had happened, he had one of those “uh-oh” moments. He realized that Solomon was the TRUE king and his first royal act might be to separate Adonijah’s head from his body. He became very afraid. When KING Solomon learned that Adonijah was hiding in fear, Solomon showed that he had potential to be a truly great king by saying:
“If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair on his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” (1 Kings 1:52)
If you did your reading, you know that Adonijah initially bowed to his new king, but it wasn’t long until he showed himself to be evil. He, along with everyone who was involved in his coup, died. Now at this point in Israel’s history, the nation was in great shape. There was no trillion-dollar debt hanging over them. The nation was strong and prosperous financially and they were at peace. There were no wars with neighbors in the Middle East going on to drag Solomon’s popularity rating down. If ever there was a good time to be king of Israel, this was it. If that weren’t enough good news, early in his reign God approached Solomon and told him he could have anything He wanted.
Can you imagine what that would be like? God, Who can literally provide ANYTHING, came to him and said, “Solomon, whatever you want is yours. No boundaries. No rules. Ask for anything and I’ll give it to you.” Think about that for a moment. If you could have anything just by asking for it, what would it be?
Many people who come into huge sums of money, who can suddenly HAVE anything they want, whether they are professional athletes who sign mega-million dollar deals or lottery winners who become rich overnight, many of these people, well, they think they need to LOOK like a millionaire, so they waste no time buying a tricked-out luxury automobile and a new bazillion-square-foot house or two.
Of course, if you found yourself in that position and could have anything, you might buy things like that too. Or you might be more compassionate and selfless. You might ask for money to build orphanages or for enough money to pay off the ROC mortgage or for funds to build a hospital in Africa. Then again, maybe you’d build yourself your own golf course, I don’t know. But Solomon made a great decision. Solomon didn’t ask God for wealth or for fame. No, Solomon asked God for WISDOM. What was astonishing was that his request was not so much for himself, but for the insight to fulfill his duties as leader of God’s people. In 1 Kings 3:6ff, Solomon said,
“God, You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to You and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, 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?”
Isn’t that a great thing to ask of God? Sure it was!
1.) At this point, the “black box” of Solomon’s life shows he did the RIGHT thing.
Asking God for wisdom to better lead His people was a wonderful thing for him to do. It was a wise request that would help insure a safe and long “flight.”
Of course, Solomon’s desire for wisdom isn’t unique. Everyone wants or NEEDS wisdom. This is why those DUMMIES books are always best-sellers. Be sure to hear me correctly. I did not say we need KNOWLEDGE, because we don’t. We have more knowledge than we know what to do with. In fact, since 1955 mankind’s accumulated knowledge has doubled every five years and as a result the shelves of libraries and book stores groan with the weight of new books. Hadden Robinson writes,
Our generation possesses more data about the universe and human personality than all previous generations put together. High school graduates today have been exposed to more information about the world than Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza or Benjamin Franklin. In terms of facts alone, neither Moses nor Paul could pass a college entrance exam today. Yet by everyone’s standards, even with all our knowledge, society today is peopled with a bumper crop of brilliant failures. Men and women educated to earn a living often don’t know anything about handling life itself. Alumni from noted universities have mastered information about a narrow slice of life, but couldn’t make it out of the first grade when it comes to living successfully with family and friends. Let’s face it. Knowledge is not enough to meet life’s problems. We need WISDOM, the ability to handle life with skill.
Robinson is correct: we all need to know how to DO life correctly. We all yearn for practical wisdom to help us know how life is supposed to work—but the sad thing is most of us look for it in the WRONG place. Instead of asking God for wisdom as Solomon did, we are usually like dummies in that we embrace the world’s way of thinking. More and more of us live our lives according to our culture’s definition of wisdom and the world’s “wisdom” comes not from God, but from our adversary. Referring to this, James 3:15 says, “Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from Heaven but is earthly, unspiritual and of the devil.” James is saying that worldly wisdom is a wisdom that IGNORES God and he is right. The world’s wisdom is a foolish way of thinking that says, “I know how life works better than the Creator Who gave me life. I can fly on my own. I don’t need His help.”
This prideful attitude has always been with us. In fact, it began way back in the Garden of Eden. Remember that part of The Story? satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God and eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree. He told them the one rule God had given them was nonsense; that the smart thing to do would be to disregard what God said and enjoy the fruit. satan said that if they ate this fruit they would know important things; their wisdom would increase. So, as it says in Genesis 3:6: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also DESIRABLE FOR GAINING WISDOM, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband and he ate it.” Because they did, the Bible says mankind FELL.
Ever since that horrible day, there have been people who have continued to live satan’s way. They have believed his lies and ignored God’s truth. Paul writes about people like this in Romans 1 when he says, “…although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Now, be sure you understand what I’m saying. I’m saying that when we ignore God’s Word, when we disobey Him, we are yielding to the same demonic influence that Adam and Eve did. We are reliving that sad chapter of The Story, which is why there is so much pain and sadness in the world today. It’s why today so many lives still come crashing down. As it says in James 3:16, when we snub God’s loving laws, the result is always, “disorder and every evil practice.”
Solomon was wise enough to realize this, so he asked GOD for wisdom. He knew before James would write his little letter that, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all…” (James 1:15) Solomon was smart enough to see that as Billy Graham once said, “Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above.” And it does! So, if you and I want real wisdom, we must humble ourselves and admit our need for God’s help and guidance. Prideful people won’t admit this, but the truth is that even our greatest wisdom pales in comparison to God’s. Do you remember how 1 Corinthians 1:25 puts it? It says: “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” So, truly wise people are like Solomon in that they trust God’s PERSPECTIVE on things. They know that He knows more than they’ll ever know, how best to live.
Years ago I was a soccer dad. Perhaps in a few more years I’ll become a soccer granddad! But when our girls were younger we spend a couple of hours each Saturday at their games. We loved watching, but many times we were frustrated, because from where we stood on the sidelines it looked like a kicked ball is heading right for the goal and then it sailed by. This is because our perspective was flawed. We were on the same level as the players. If we were up on bleachers we’d have been able to see more clearly. We could not, because we were right on the field.
Wise people know that God’s perspective on our lives is better than theirs. He is above us and sees and knows all, so we ask for His guidance when we face decisions. They know that, as Swindoll puts it, “Wisdom is the GOD-given ability to SEE life with rare objectivity and to handle life with rare stability.”
Solomon was wise enough to see that the wisdom he would need to lead Israel could only come from God, so when God told him he could have anything, wisdom was his request. God was understandably pleased. In 1 Kings 3:11ff, 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.”
God basically said He would give Solomon everything; wisdom and wealth and fame, PLUS, if he continued to look to God for guidance and wisdom, He would give Solomon a long life. Solomon would be able to “fly right”! He’d have a long life and a safe landing at the end of his reign: as long as he obeyed God’s instructions.
God granted Solomon’s request. He blessed him with wisdom, and I mean TRUE wisdom, not the silly caliber of wisdom you and I see in the world today. I’m thinking of the instructions that come with something you buy these days. I found a list of these things this week. I got a laugh from them. Perhaps you will as well. Here’s a few examples:
- Instructions that came with a hair dryer actually said, “Do not use while sleeping.”
- Instructions on a hotel-provided shower cap box, “Fits one head.”
- Packaging for a Rowena iron said: “Do not iron clothes while on the body.”
- On a box containing a bottle of children’s cough medicine it, “Do not drive a car or operate machinery.”
- On a box containing a string of Christmas lights, “For indoor or outdoor use only.” What else is there?
- Here’s my favorite. These are the instructions on a packet of nuts provided by American Airlines, “Open packet. Eat nuts.” I wonder if anyone has ever tried to eat the nuts without opening the packet?
Of course, these are extreme examples, but you know what I’m getting at. God gave Solomon REAL wisdom. We read through some of it this week in the book where Solomon shared his wisdom: Proverbs. Here are a few samples: Concerning EVIL Solomon wrote, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8) Here’s what Solomon said about MONEY. “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10) Here’s another: “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5) Here’s what Solomon said about the POOR: “Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13) Here’s something he said about the TONGUE: “A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.” (Proverbs 20:19) I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Solomon was known for his God-given wisdom, wisdom that inspired him to write three thousand proverbs and over a thousand songs, not to mention the books of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
Solomon used his wisdom to build. He guided the construction of the first temple. It took seven years and 180,000 workers, using the materials his father David had gathered. Just as He promised, God gave Solomon wealth, VAST wealth, wealth that financed the construction of great bazillion-square-foot palaces and “tricked-out chariots!”
To give you an idea of how much wealth, let’s look at the life of a rich man in our day and age, Bill Gates, founder and owner of Microsoft. Back in 2003, Money magazine listed the assets of Microsoft: furniture, buildings, real estate, a few computers and then it listed its cash on hand: FORTY BILLION DOLLARS. I don’t know about you, but my bank account never gets close to that kind of total. I mean it’s hard for me to conceive of forty billion dollars and if you have the same problem here are some facts to help.
- In 2003 forty billion dollars was enough money to buy Ford, Exxon, Mobil, and Wal-Mart combined.
- It was enough to purchase four space shuttles. Think of it, you could tell your kids, “Everyone is getting their own shuttle for Christmas!”
- Forty billion was enough to write a check for the entire U.S. airline industry-twice.
- It was enough to buy every professional football, basketball, baseball, and hockey team in America!
Well, $40 billion is obviously a lot, but Solomon’s wealth put people like Gates in a different category. In comparison to Solomon’s wealth, Gates’ was poor. Solomon had a huge fleet of ships that “shuttled” around the world, returning every three years loaded down with riches.
According to the Bible, he accumulated more than twenty-five TONS of gold. He made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone and cedar as plentiful as the sycamore.
1 Kings 10:23-26 sums it up:
“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.”
Under Solomon’s wise and wealthy leadership, Israel became a world power. His reign has rightly been called, “the peak period of Israel’s prosperity as a kingdom.” Never before or since, has Israel controlled so much territory or benefited from so much trade. Never before or since has it known such greatness.
For a while in this golden era things went according to God’s upper story plan. The lavish temple and the prosperity of the nation and the wisdom of Solomon attracted exactly the kind of attention God intended. Frazee writes, “Word traveled fast that something big was happening in Israel. People came from all over just to see these people and their temple…including a queen named Sheba…and dignitaries from all over the world who came seeking Solomon’s advice.” In short, Solomon’s wisdom and wealth, and the fame that came with it, pointed people to God. Things were going well. But then the crash came.
2.) As we read this week, the “black box” of his life shows there came a point in his life when Solomon did the WRONG thing.
Specifically, Solomon stopped ACTING on his wisdom. He stopped applying it to his own life. This is a WRONG thing indeed, because wisdom is more than knowledge. I mean, wisdom is not just something you KNOW. It’s something you DO. It’s a way you live. As James 3:13 puts it, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” You see, true wisdom is behavioral, not intellectual. It is the skill of living righteously day to day. Charles Haddon Spurgeon once put it this way, “Wisdom is the right USE of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. To know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” Spurgeon is right. Wisdom is a productive thing. It is foolish indeed to amass great knowledge without acting on it, without applying it to our lives. As James 1:22 says, wise people “Do not merely listen to the WORD…they DO what it says.”
Solomon’s problem was, he didn’t apply his wisdom to his life. More specifically, he didn’t apply it to his FAMILY life; he followed the poor example of his father. He ignored God’s law, given way back in Deuteronomy 17 where God said that a king, “…must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” (Deuteronomy 17:16). Solomon didn’t just have “many” wives. He exceeded his father’s record and the Bible tells us that this led to his “crash.” 1 Kings 11:1ff describes it:
“King Solomon 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.”
How did this happen? How did Solomon go from worshiping the one true God to worshipping all these false Gods? I mean, he was “flying so high!” He built the temple. He asked God Himself for wisdom and got it. Things were going great for a while. What happened?
Did he take a sudden nose dive? Did Solomon just wake up one day and decide to worship other Gods? No, the things that led to his fall were more gradual.
You’ve probably heard about what happens if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water. He will immediately jump out to save his life. But if you put the same frog in a pan of lukewarm water, he will sit there as happy and content as tourists in a Jacuzzi. When you gradually turn up the heat on the stove, he will only relax more. As the water gets warmer and warmer, he doesn’t realize that his warm bath has become a boiling cooker, until it’s too late. This is what happened to Solomon. He got “cooked” gradually. First, he disobeyed God and took MULTIPLE wives. To make matters worse, he took them from other nations. Please understand. This was not an ethnicity problem. It was an IDOLATRY problem. These women did not worship the one true God. They didn’t share Solomon’s faith. They worshipped false Gods. For example, the Moabites worshipped the god of Shamash, who required child sacrifices. The Sidonians worshiped the god of Ashtoreth and temple prostitutes were part of their religion. Solomon probably thought he was too wise to let any of his wives turn him away from God. At first they probably didn’t. It was a gradual thing. It didn’t happen after 20 years of his rule or 30. But eventually, the “water” got too hot and Solomon found himself worshipping at the altars of false gods. Frazee says this in his book and as a fellow pastor, I can honestly say this too: in all my years of ministry, I’ve never known anyone who “jumped into a pot of boiling water.” I’ve never known someone who woke up one morning and declared to himself, “I’m going to ruin my relationships with my family and commit adultery today.” I’ve never met someone who, out of the blue, decided to defraud their employer. I’ve never met a woman who decided on the spot to become an alcoholic. But I have known people who lost marriages and jobs and had to be committed to rehab. If you could talk to them today they would all say, “The water didn’t seem too hot at first.” They would all say their downturn in life was a gradual, almost imperceptible, one. It happened slowly, until before they knew it, they found themselves lying in the rubble of a life that had crashed.
So, as someone who has ministered to a lot of “boiled frogs”, listen when I tell you, that we would be wise to learn from Solomon’s black box. Dating someone who does not share your faith in Jesus is a dangerous thing to do. Your emotions can get you cooked before you know it. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but don’t date non-Christians because people never marry without dating first! Remember, the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked because if you are, you and your spouse operate off of two different sets of blueprints. You don’t relate according to the same instructions; you don’t parent according to the same guidelines, and this creates all kinds of conflict. Plus, you can’t share the most important part of your life: your relationship with Jesus. You can’t pray together or for one another. You can’t share insights from Bible study.
Solomon’s problem wasn’t only that his wives were idolaters. It was also the fact that he ignored God’s law and committed polygamy. God designed marriage to function as one man and one woman committed together for life, committed to ONENESS. That kind of ONENESS can’t happen with multiple wives and the Biblical record is that polygamy was a disaster on every level. Whenever it was practiced it caused lives to “crash.” Now you may “AMEN” that and say, “So, Pastor, I shouldn’t marry a thousand women. I got it and I agree. Am I free to go?” But think for a moment. Are there cultural equivalents to this sin of Solomon in our day and age? Are there ways in our society, when it comes to marriage, that we’ve decided we know better than God? I mentioned one, but I can think of a couple more. First, there is cohabitation: living together before marriage. This is against God’s law. It’s called fornication in the Bible and it has become VERY popular in my lifetime. In fact, since 1970, there has been a 700% increase in couples who live together outside of marriage. This has put me in the very uncomfortable position as a pastor of having to tell cohabiting couples who ask me to perform their wedding that their lifestyle is wrong. It forces me to tell them that they need to repent of this and ask for God’s forgiveness in order for their marriage to work.
It’s a very uncomfortable part of premarital counseling. I say this as lovingly and graciously as possible, but I do tell them because I want them to have a great marriage and so does God. The way to do that, is to follow His rules, His blueprints for marriage. One of Solomon’s Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to man…but it leads to destruction.” (Proverbs 14:12). Solomon didn’t apply this wisdom to his own life. He did what SEEMED right to him. These days, more and more couples follow suit. But the fact is, Solomon’s proverb has been proven right. Couples have learned that living together prior to marriage may seem right, but most of the time it leads to divorce. Those are what the stats say and they aren’t from studies done by Christians. These figures are the results of “secular” research. For example: the University of Wisconsin reports that people who live together before getting married and then get married have a seventy-five percent divorce rate. They have also found that only fifteen out of every one hundred cohabiting couples, couples who are living together now, will be married ten years from now. Secular researchers have wised up and concluded that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage.
Even Solomon eventually came to his senses and realized that he should have followed God’s directions. He should have done it God’s way. We see this in Ecclesiastes and in some of his Proverbs. Another example I see in our culture when it comes to ignoring God’s guidance is same-sex marriage. The Bible’s clear teaching is that the homosexual lifestyle is a sin. I preached on this a few months ago and told you a couple weeks ago how much I grieve this direction that our culture is taking, so I won’t say more about it right now. But in my mind it’s another VERY sad example of people refusing to acknowledge and apply God’s wisdom to their lives. I have thought about this issue and I’ve come to the conclusion that much of the blame for our culture’s errant ways when it comes to marriage lies at our feet as Christians. We’ve preached against sexual sin. We’ve told people that things like living together and gay marriage is wrong.
The problem is many of us haven’t done a good job of showing them what marriage LOOKS LIKE when done God’s way. We’ve told people about God’s wise laws in this area, His loving guidelines but we haven’t applied God’s guidance to our own marriages. We’ve given people God’s directions but we haven’t shown them a picture of what it looks like to follow those directions. I think it’s on us to do a better job of LIVING OUT GOD’S WISDOM in this area. As Christians, we need to do a better job of showing our friends and neighbors who are living together and couples who embrace the homosexual lifestyle what true marital joy and oneness LOOKS LIKE.
When I was a kid, I read comics. On the back of those comics, there were always ads. Some of the most popular were ads for bodybuilding equipment. Thoey always included a picture of a man with muscles popping out all over. He didn’t just have six pack abs, he had an eight pack! When he flexed his biceps, they almost touched his ears. His thighs looked like those of the Incredible Hulk. I looked at that picture and thought, “I want a body like that!” Christian husbands and wives, we need to apply God’s wisdom to our marriages so that people around us will want what we have. They’ll want a marriage that is as fulfilling and joy-filled as God designed it to be. Listen, they may ACT like doing relationships according to the world’s flawed wisdom is bringing them joy but it’s not. They are deluded. They don’t know what they are missing. Anytime we yield to sin, it leaves us wanting. It’s up to us to give them a picture of the REAL thing!