1 Kings 4:20-34
Solomon’s Prosperity & Wisdom

In our culture, we have an investment mentality. If you invest money in something, you expect an increase in value or a dividend or interest on what you have invested. We often have the same view of the Christian faith. For example, if we are obedient to God’s Word (and not play theological gymnastics to avoid it) and tithe, there are those who believe that God will give us riches and prosperity. For example, if we are obedient and follow God’s call on our lives, there are those who believe that there will be no hardship or trials that will come their way. We often think that if we are obedient to God in whatever way that may be made known to us that God will grant us our wishes for a wonderful life with the storybook ending.

If you have a wife or a daughter, you do realize that right now this time of year is the “Christmas movie” season on cable channels such as the Hallmark Channel. My wife spent all day this past Saturday watching a marathon of these movies on that cable outlet while I was watching college football. The typical pattern of these movies is to me often how we have to come about our understanding of God’s blessings on our obedience. The typical model in “chick-flicks” films such as these Hallmark Channel Christmas movies is one that is quite often used in film. It is “boy meets girl/boy gets girl/conflict/boy loses girl/boy realizes what is really important/boy gets girl back.” That is often how we come about our understanding of God’s blessing of our obedience.

With that idea in mind, let’s read about the prosperity of Israel during much of Solomon’s reign as we read 1 Kings 4:20-34:

20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They were very contented, with plenty to eat and drink. 21 [a]Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River[b] in the north to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt in the south. The conquered peoples of those lands sent tribute money to Solomon and continued to serve him throughout his lifetime.

22 The daily food requirements for Solomon’s palace were 150 bushels of choice flour and 300 bushels of meal[c]; 23 also 10 oxen from the fattening pens, 20 pasture-fed cattle, 100 sheep or goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roe deer, and choice poultry.[d]

24 Solomon’s dominion extended over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza. And there was peace on all his borders. 25 During the lifetime of Solomon, all of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. And from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, each family had its own home and garden.[e]

26 Solomon had 4,000[f] stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses.[g]

27 The district governors faithfully provided food for King Solomon and his court; each made sure nothing was lacking during the month assigned to him. 28 They also brought the necessary barley and straw for the royal horses in the stables.

29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. 30 In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. 33 He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. 34 And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.

In this passage, we see that throughout most of his reign, Solomon applied his wisdom well because he sought God. The fruits of this wisdom were peace, security, and prosperity for the nation. Solomon’s era is often looked upon as the ideal of what any nation can become when united its trust in and obedience to the Lord. However, we must understand that prosperity does not automatically flow from obedience to God. Sure, God will bless us for our obedience, but it does not always come in the form of material blessings or a secure life.

Earlier, we talked about the typical chick-flick movie model. Let’s go a little further with that idea now after having read this passage. Our understanding of obedience and blessing often looks like that model. We often begin obeying the Lord just as the boy begins by being smitten with the girl and she shows interest in him. We obey the Lord and things in our life seem to settle down a bit and we go “hey, this obedience thing ain’t so bad after all.” So, we continue to pursue obedience and it has its fruits just as in the movie the boy gets the girl to fall in love with him. We see tangible results of our obedience. However, just like in the movies something happens. In the movies, the boy loses the girl at this point.

In our obedience to the Lord, it often is that there is a conflict that arises with our being obedient to the Lord. It is often that our faith is being tested by the Lord to see if we will persevere in our faith or give us on what God has called us to do. Sometimes, it’s a financial crisis that challenges your blessing beliefs about tithing. Sometimes, when you have followed God’s calling on your life such as being a missionary in a foreign land or even just something simpler than that where you are doing what God has called you to do, there will be a conflict with the calling. Things don’t go the way you planned. Things get rough. Then, that’s when your faith and your commitment to your obedience come into conflict. We often think that being obedient means smooth sailing (based on our own definitions not God’s).

It is during this phase of the Hallmark movies that the boy realizes what’s important as he does some deep soul searching. He realizes that he loves the girl and can’t live without her. He then realizes that what he thought was important was not really all that important and that love is the most important thing. It is then that he works on getting the girl back. And in the final sequence of each of these movies, he gets the girl back after confessing his love and his screwed up priorities and the movies ends with them arm in arm embraced in a passionate kiss.

In our obedience to the Lord, it is during these times of trial where our formula of what our blessings should be gets changed. We realize that God does not promise us blessings in the sense that we will be made rich by our obedience or that when we follow God’s calling that everything is going to work out the way we had envisioned. It is during this time that we figure out that obedience to God means getting our perspective changed. We begin to see things from God’s perspective rather than our own. We begin to want what he wants. It is in these time of trials that we are humbled and made more useful to God. It is during these times of trial that we remove our ego and just want to do what God wants for us. It is during these times of trial that we learn that our blessings from God are defined by Him and not by us. It is during these times of trial that we learn that we must align our desires with his. We learn to persevere and depend on Him for guidance more so than we ever have. That’s when we get it. That’s the blessing.

Sure, Solomon accumulated great wealth and security for his nation but that was just window dressing. It was his desire to be a godly wise king that God was rewarding. He was rewarding Solomon not with wealth but with the security of knowing that he was in God’s will. That’s the blessing.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 4:1-19
Solomon’s Officials and Governors

Lee Corso, one of the college football personalities on the show, College GameDay, which airs on Saturday mornings during the college football season has a saying when he disagrees with one of the three other personalities on the show. That saying is “Not so fast, my friend!” That seems appropriate here in this passage. The first impression you get is, oh no! Not another list of names! However, when you dig deeper into it and think about this passage, it has much to teach us.

When you have a lot of different areas for which you are responsible, it is impossible for you to manage it all yourself. Solomon understood this concept. He was a ruler of a vast geographical area as well as over millions of Israelites. He just could not do it all himself. He had his closest advisers and then he had governors for twelve districts (these districts roughly approximated the boundaries established for the twelve tribes of Israel). His closest advisors included secretaries that were responsible for various functions of the national government. He had a historian which would be the equivalent of a secretary of state in today’s world. He had a guy in charge of managing the various and sometimes competing issues of the various district governors and several other guys who had defined responsibilities. For each region/district, there was a governor who managed the affairs of each region so as to keep all but the most important issues from having to reach the king in Jerusalem. It all sounds very modern and efficient and it most likely was.

Solomon understood that he could not be tied down with every decision with the nation and the government itself as large as it was. He needed to have people working for him that would take care of specified avenues of responsibility. We know that Solomon had the reputation in Israelite history as being the wisest of kings. So, there are certainly things that we can learn from his organization of his government that we can use in our lives whether we lead in churches or in secular organizations.

Let’s read about the organization of Solomon’s government now in 1 Kings 4:1-19:

Chapter 4
1 King Solomon now ruled over all Israel, 2 and these were his high officials:

Azariah son of Zadok was the priest.
3
Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, were court secretaries.
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the royal historian.
4
Benaiah son of Jehoiada was commander of the army.
Zadok and Abiathar were priests.
5
Azariah son of Nathan was in charge of the district governors.
Zabud son of Nathan, a priest, was a trusted adviser to the king.
6
Ahishar was manager of the palace property.
Adoniram son of Abda was in charge of forced labor.

7 Solomon also had twelve district governors who were over all Israel. They were responsible for providing food for the king’s household. Each of them arranged provisions for one month of the year. 8 These are the names of the twelve governors:

Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim.
9
Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elon-bethhanan.
10
Ben-hesed, in Arubboth, including Socoh and all the land of Hepher.
11
Ben-abinadab, in all of Naphoth-dor.[a] (He was married to Taphath, one of Solomon’s daughters.)
12
Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, all of Beth-shan[b] near Zarethan below Jezreel, and all the territory from Beth-shan to Abel-meholah and over to Jokmeam.
13
Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead, including the Towns of Jair (named for Jair of the tribe of Manasseh[c]) in Gilead, and in the Argob region of Bashan, including sixty large fortified towns with bronze bars on their gates.
14
Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Mahanaim.
15
Ahimaaz, in Naphtali. (He was married to Basemath, another of Solomon’s daughters.)
16
Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and in Aloth.
17
Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar.
18
Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin.
19
Geber son of Uri, in the land of Gilead,[d] including the territories of King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan.
There was also one governor over the land of Judah.[e]
In this passage, we see that just as the story of the mothers contending over one baby was an example of Solomon’s great wisdom, this chapter also shows Solomon’s wisdom. The wise way he selected, trained, empowered, and supervised leaders is clearly seen. Solomon was a leader of leaders. No wise leader does it all themselves. They know how to delegate responsibility and authority and get the job done. Solomon’s great wisdom enabled him to see the needs to get, train, and employ the right people to meet those needs.

Solomon’s government was structured much like that in modern nations. He had officials who served as ministers or department secretaries over their specific areas of responsibility. Jehoshaphat, who had served under David (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:24), continued as historian. As such he was more a chief of protocol than a ‘remembrancer’ or recorder of the past. His status was almost that of a Secretary of State. Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. Twelve governors were responsible for taxation in their individual districts. The districts were not strictly separated by tribal borders but often according to mountains, land, and region.

So, earlier I said that there is something that we can learn from Solomon’s organization of his government that we can use whether we are working in churches or in secular organizations. The things that I see are Solomon had defined responsibilities and boundaries for each position.

Each job had its responsibility and everybody had a supervisor. In this way, Solomon was able to keep the number of people reporting directly to him to a minimum and he allowed his supervisors to manage their people below them without interference. This freed Solomon up to deal with the big issues of the nation and to be boat captain who decides the direction of the ship rather than dealing with any and every issue. That issue I think is evidenced particularly by the fact that he had a supervisor for the 12 regional governors. Instead of having to deal directly with the region specific issues of 12 guys himself, Solomon placed a supervisor over them that could deal with their specific issues and then only pass up to the king those issues that require a national rather than a regional answer. As well, there were boundaries for each position. Each person in the chain had defined responsibilities and defined authority. They were empowered to manage their very specific responsibilities and only bubble up those things to those above them that required a more broad or even national answer.

We see in Solomon’s story how society depends on the work of myriad people, coupled with structures and systems to organize large scale production and distribution. The human capacity to organize work is evidence of our creation in the image of a God who brings order out of chaos on a universal and then earthly worldwide scale (Genesis 1). How fitting that the Bible portrays this ability this passage on the organization of Solomon’s government. Perhaps what we take away from this episode is that God is intensely interested in the art of coordinating human work and creativity to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. We see time and time again how God organizes his people to achieve his goals in the world – the organization of the Israelite tribes, the division of the tribes into legal units, the organization of the tabernacle and temple priests, the organization of the disciples (the twelve and the inner three), and ultimately the organization of the church under Paul’s supervision.

So, let us celebrate that God is a God of order and not chaos and examine what we can do to better define and organization our lives to reduce the amount of chaos in it. Whether its our personal finances by defining our budget of income sources and expenses, whether it’s the division of labor in our marriages (agreeing to what is each spouse’s responsibility), whether it’s sitting down with our kids to define their chores or to define their behavior expectations, whether it’s looking at our jobs and assessing ways to make changes that will help us better stay on top of what we are responsible for, you name it! We can all operate better when we reassess our situation and think of ways to be better organized. We can spend less time worry about little things and more time worrying about what wants us to do for Him in the world as His image bearers as the sons and daughters of God.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 3 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

At least in Western culture, even those who do have no knowledge of the Bible do know about the saying “to split the baby!” From the standpoint of the two opposing sides of a conflict, it can mean that one party is so intent on hurting another party that they are willing to “split the baby” where victory is the sole goal. In this scenario, one person is so intent on victory that it does not matter whether a solution is best for everyone but rather it is more important to inflict the highest amount of pain and suffering on the other party.

In today’s world, we often see this in divorce situations. You have probably seen it or experienced it yourself. One party sees the other as the cause for the divorce and that they have no contributing factors in it at all. In this situation, you often see one spouse try to destroy the other spouse through harassment, false accusations, large legal claims, using any children in the relationship as pawns in an ultimate power game. You often see this spouse also try to poison the minds of the young children of the relationship with spiteful and hateful information or even lies about the spouse that left. You so often see this spouse become so consumed with the destruction of the other spouse that they forget to live. The destruction of the other spouse becomes their sole purpose in life. The most famous bitter divorce that many of us have seen in the movies (which was based on a true story) was a movie called, The Betty Broderick Story: A Woman Scorned.

In this movie, Betty became so obsessed with the destruction of her spouse that she drove away her children, all of her friends, and anyone who remotely had anything nice to say about her ex-husband. She harassed him for years and years. Once she even drove her vehicle through the front of her ex-husband’s house. This was just evidence of an escalating pattern of hatred that consumed Betty. She lost focus on her own life and living it. She became obsessed to the point that destruction and whatever victory was for her over her husband was the only goal. Ultimately, she ended up murdering her husband and his new wife as they slept (after she broke into their house during the night). It was a sad, sad story with a drastic ending. Betty would rather have gone to prison for murder than release her hurt and pain and move on with life. It destroyed her. She split the baby solely to gain victory.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Are you this? That’s what I thought of this morning, when I read about the mother in this story that was willing to have the baby split into in this story. To her, the baby was not life, it was a possession. Let’s read this passage one last time before we move and look particularly at this mother who was willing to split the baby:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see the woman who was willing to split the baby as a person who was solely concerned with inflicting pain on the other mother in this case. The baby was of no consequence to her. The baby was simply a pawn in a power play. She was hurting and she wanted the other mother to hurt as much as she did. She wanted to win no matter the cost. Victory to her was to have her friend feel as bad as she did. Victory to her was to scorch the earth so there was no winner. Hurt people are the ones that most often hurt people.

In our illustration, Betty Broderick was willing to split the baby. She was so intent on destroying her ex-husband that she basically lost her mind. She became so focused on whatever her definition of winning was that she did not ultimately care about her kids, her friends, her own talents to contribute to the world, and ultimately her freedom. Even in prison, at the end of the movie, she still did not see that she had done anything wrong (murder). She was defiant and arrogant as if she was the victim and the heroine of the story. She had won. But at what cost? She had split the baby and gained nothing.

Are you so intent on destroying someone else that it has become an obsession? Release it. You have value outside of the person that you are trying to destroy. Release it to the Lord. Give your pain to Him. Ask Him to help you get on with life. He has so much more in store for you. When you become obsessed with the destruction of another person, you have made them your god. You are placing someone other than God on the throne of your life. Even if you hate them with every ounce of your body, you have made them and the hate your god. It is a false god when it is other than the one true God. There is no satisfying other gods. We think if we can just win this battle everything will be better. Then, that battle becomes another and another and another. Let it go. Let God heal your heart. Let God teach you about becoming like the true mother in this case. She was willing to let her baby go so that it might live and thrive. You’ve got to let your hate go so that you can live and thrive.

Seek counseling. Find a church with a divorce care group. Let God heal you. Don’t let hate have the ultimate victory where you are a slave to the idol of hate. Are you tired of it all? Let it go! Give it to God. He loves you and sees you as being of great value in and of yourself. He wants you to live and thrive. Quit splitting the baby and let God heal you and change you into the wonderful child of God that you can be!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 2 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

Before anyone has children, they cannot understand the love that you have for a child. It is a love that just cannot be explained until you experience it yourself. I remember when my firstborn child, my oldest daughter, was born. Prior to her birth, yes, I saw my wife at the time, my first wife, pregnant and I understood it all from a technical standpoint. Yes, we were overjoyed at the pregnancy as we had been trying for a year when she finally became pregnant. It was a joyful concept to think of a child being born to us. It was neat buying clothes for the child, setting up a nursery, and dreaming of what it would be like. But it was all very conceptual. We had no experience at being parents.

I remember after Meghan was born that first time that the nurses and staff left us alone with the baby there in the hospital room. Lisa was asleep from a long labor and it was just me and Meghan. The awesome responsibility of being a parent washed over me at that moment. I was scared to death. This was not some toy but a child. This was not somebody else’s baby, she was mine. Trying to determine what an infant wants for a first time parent is an overwhelming experience. However, at the same time, when she looked up at me with that look of utter dependence on me, this love that I had never known washed over me as well as the previously stated fears. That moment began a bond between her and me that only has grown stronger over the years. I was scared to death and madly in parental love with this child. That first few days was weird. I was scared I was going to break her. I was scared I was not going to be able to satisfy her needs (as babies do not have a digital screen on them telling you what the problem is). Yet, at the same time, I began to intuitively know what to do. Sure, at first, it was hit and miss as to figuring out what this child needed. But the love, that indescribable love guided my actions.

I remember as she grew older, she became my shadow. She thought her daddy was the most awesome man in the world. Whatever I was doing, she had to be there with me. I missed her so much when I was at work and when I got home she would wrap herself around my leg and I would walk to the bedroom with this little child wrapped around my leg as I walked to the bedroom to put down my stuff and she would be giggling hilariously all the way. These are the moments you remember of this pure love for a child and her for you. You don’t know any of this kind of love until you have your first child.

And when our second daughter, Taylor, came along when Meghan was 5 years old, we were much better prepared for the parenting but I wondered during the pregnancy as to how I could love another child as much as my shadow, my oldest daughter. However, God expands our heart to create a new love that you had never known before. Taylor, I love just as much as Meghan because it is a separate love. A love especially designed for Taylor just as my love for Meghan is especially designed for her. These girls are different as night and day but yet I love each of them in an immensity that either of them will ever know. My oldest is beginning to understand that love as she has a 2 year old daughter of her own. For each of these girls, I would give my life so that they might live. And then there is my step-daughter, Michelle. I didn’t think I could l love her the way I do but over the past decade she has made her way deep into my heart as well. Each of these girls have my love just for being who they are. A love I never knew until I became a parent and step-parent.

That’s what I thought of this morning, when I read about the true mother of the child in this passage. She loved this child so much that she was willing to give the child up so that it might live. That’s a love that you will never understand until you are a parent:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see the love that a parent has for a child. It is the same love that Jesus Christ has for us. Maybe that is why we become parents. So, that we can understand in a real way about his love for us. A parent’s love for a child is enduring and never fails. Even when we are disappointed in how they live their lives, we still love them. It is the same for us with Jesus Christ. Although it grieves Him when we stray from how He taught us to live, He still loves us. He still has hope for us. Just as we have hope, eternal hope, for our children. Even in multiple failures of our children, we still have love and hope for their future. We give them mercies anew on a daily basis. Jesus does the same for us as sinners. Jesus longs for the day when we will return home to Him and begin living lives imbued by the Holy Spirit. A parent longs for the same for their children. We disappoint God and He lets us live out the consequences of our sinful decisions but that in no way lessens His love for us.

In this passage, we see the sacrifice that a parent is willing to make for her child. In Jesus Christ, he sacrificed it all so that we would have a way to be reconciled to the Father. The true mother in this passage desires the best for her child not to be torn apart by sin. Jesus does the same on the cross for us. He was willing to give up his life, just as the mother is willing to give up her rights to the child, so that we could have a hope and a future free of the consequences of sin.

How much do you love your own kids? Would you be willing to give them up so that they would live? Our Father in heaven does the same. The love for our children is God’s way of demonstrating His own love for us. He gave up His Son so that we might live. That’s how much He loves us. So, next time, you look adoringly at your own children, remember…that is how much God loves us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Part 1 of 3)
Solomon Judges Wisely

As some of you may know, my dad passed away one week ago today on Monday, October 22, 2018. That is why I have not posted on here in a week. I had to make the trip from where we live now in Illinois back to South Carolina for his funeral. Solomon’s story here kind of reminds me about some of the things that I admired about my dad.

I always looked to him for wisdom and he was the prototypical Southern gentlemen who was born at the tail end of the Great Depression on March 12, 1939 and just a year and 9 months before Pearl Harbor pulled America into World War II. Thus, he grew up in the Southern culture with all its quippy sayings. One of my dad’s favorite sayings that he often used with me was, “such is life!” That was a saying he used quite often when there was nothing that could be done about a situation. When you explained to him about some unfair thing that had happened to you and how you were outraged by it, he would simply quip, “Such is life!” That was what he said when there was no explanation to be given, no wisdom to be dispensed on how to correct a situation. Just, “such is life!”.

In that saying, though, there was great wisdom. It may have sounded like a cop-out to me when I was in the middle of whatever situation I presented to him and he gave me that quip. However, there was great wisdom in those three words, “such is life!”. In those three words was a reminder that sometimes in life, you are going to be in no-win situations. Sometimes in life, you gotta take you lumps and just survive. Sometimes in life, unfair things happen to us and we can either be devastated by them, use them as an excuse for the future, or we can get knocked down, get up, dust our pants off, and go about the business of recovering from the unfair thing that happened to us. There is an old saying similar to my dad’s three-word saying that says “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it!”

One of the things that I admired about my dad was the fact that he always had what was best for me in his mind. He raised me with an eye toward the man that he wanted me to become in the future and never compromised that. It meant there was discipline and consequences and no negotiations about any penalties to be paid for bad behavior. He was also a very approachable dad who gave me wisdom in our conversations about things I was facing in life. I went to mom when I just needed somebody to hug me but I went to dad when I needed advice and wisdom. “Such is life” was sometimes the response which meant that I just needed to accept the wrong that was done and recover from it. Sometimes, you just gotta get over it and move on and keep living. Don’t get so caught up on what happened to you but do get busy getting over it and moving on. That’s wisdom that many people need to hear today.

I thought of my dad with his sage, Southern wisdom when I looked at how Solomon handled this situation in 1 Kings 3:16-28 today. Solomon shows great wisdom here. He cares about the most important thing and that is the child. Let us see how he handles this situation as we read:
16 Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. 17 “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. 18 Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house.

19 “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. 20 Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. 21 And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

22 Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.”

“No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

23 Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. 24 All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king.

25 Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

26 Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!”

But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

27 Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

28 When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.

In this passage, we see Solomon’s settlement of this dispute as a classic example of his wisdom. This wise ruling was verification that God had answered Solomon’s prayer and given him an understanding heart. We have God’s wisdom available to us as we pray and request it. However, we must, like Solomon, put it into action.

Just as my dad sometimes had to tell me what I needed to hear such as “such is life” so, too, does Solomon wisely discerns that the most important here is the child and its relationship with its mother. In this situation, the one who was willing to give up her own child so that it may live was the true mother. To the other mother, the child was simply a possession. To the real mother, the child was the most important thing. The wisdom of Solomon pushes this reality to the surface with the absurd notion of cutting the baby in half, which of course would have killed the baby. The true mother’s love is forced to the surface at the thought of killing her child just to win an argument. Solomon had just the right thing to say here to resolve the situation that seemed to be unresolvable at first.

My dad was the same way with me. He had a way to getting to the heart of the matter when I discussed things with him. Sometimes, the response has to be “such as life” because that is the case. Sometimes, the greatest wisdom seems so absurd at the time. Cutting a baby in half or “such is life” seems cruel in one case and uncaring in the other. However, in both cases, the truth of the matter is forced to the surface. With my dad, “such is life” was his way of saying, “ok, Mark, I know what happened to you was unfair but from what you have said, there is nothing that you can do about it other than accept it and move on.” Sometimes, we need to hear that. Sometimes, we need that truth forced to the surface.

Thanks, Dad, for telling me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:1-15 (Part 2 of 2)
Solomon Asks for Wisdom

That legendary rock and roll icon, Tom Petty, once had a song where the title and part of the chorus was “the waiting is the hardest part.” I would like to usurp that line today and change it a bit to the following: “the listening is the hardest part!” As we move through this blog, you will see why that change to Tom Petty’s lyric is appropriate.

Have you ever thought that God’s will for your life was a certain thing and you fully believed that but yet things did not turn out as you thought they would? We’ve all been there, maybe more than once or twice in our lives. You think that it’s God will for you to do this or do that. Then, you find out that it turned out to be something quite different than you had imagined as God’s will. What I am talking about kind of reminds of that old show from the 1970s that was wildly popular at the time, Fantasy Island.

In that show, guests would pay what was assumed to be significant amounts of money to come to this unnamed island resort somewhere in the Pacific Ocean owned by Mr. Roarke. They would pay Mr. Roarke for a two-week adventure where they could live out their fantasy of being this or being that. They would get to live out their dream, their fantasy of something that they wanted do all their life. There would usually be three guest stars who would play ordinary people coming to the island to live out their fantasy. The show would follow the same formula every week. The guest stars would arrive and Mr. Roarke would greet the guests and then he would tell his assistant, Tatoo, about each guest and their back story and what their fantasy was to live out while they were there on the island. Each guest would then settle in and go to their separate parts of the show and we, the audience would follow each one. With each guest, the formula would be (1) intro into the fantasy they had chosen, (2) things seemed awesome for a while (3) something would happen that would cause a moral dilemma for the guest where the fantasy seemed to backfire on them and (4) the resolution where the guest would figure out that their current life was pretty good and they learned something from the experience. The idea was kind of simple, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

Sometimes, we are that way with God. We pray for our personal desires rather than for God’s will. We sometimes wish for what we want and not for what God’s plan is for us. We sometimes confuse what our personal desires are with the will of God for our lives. Sometimes, we get so busy telling God what we want for our lives that we forget to listen for what His will is for our lives. We pray to God as if he is a vending machine. I want this so I push this button and God will vend that right then and there. We then push ahead with our desires and not realizing that it may not be what God desires for us. Then, like in Fantasy Island, something goes wrong with the desire that we have followed and we wonder why God has failed us. Haven’t you been there?

That was the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Kings 3:1-15 a second time. How we forge ahead with our personal desires and confuse those desires with God’s will and then get angry with God because what we called “his will for our lives” did not turn out like we planned. That is pretty much the opposite of what Solomon prays for in this passage and that is what makes it remarkable:
Chapter 3
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters. He brought her to live in the City of David until he could finish building his palace and the Temple of the Lord and the wall around the city. 2 At that time the people of Israel sacrificed their offerings at local places of worship, for a temple honoring the name of the Lord had not yet been built.

3 Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. 4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.

In this passage, we see that Solomon ask for wisdom, not wealth, but God gave him riches and long life as well. While God does not promise riches to those who follow him – most often it is quite the contrary, he gives us what we need if we put His kingdom, his interests, and his principles first (Matthew 6:31-33). If we put God and His interests first, we may not always find earthly riches in it but we will come to find satisfaction in the joy of the Lord and being in and doing His will. In asking for wisdom, Solomon was asking for the discernment to do God’s will. He did not ask God to do his job for him but he was asking God to shine his wisdom through him. Solomon was asking the ability to understand and know God’s will in everything that he did. When we chase after our own desires, we sometimes mistake our own ego-driven desires for the will of God. When we pray about things going on in our lives, we must pray as Solomon does here. We must seek His will and the wisdom to understand what that is.

That is the takeaway this morning as I ponder and pray upon what I have read. Wisdom is as much discernment as it is anything else. Discernment is in part listening and then considering. When we spend our prayer time bringing our petitions before God, we must take the time to listen and consider. So often, we pray to God but we do not wait and listen. We place our order and think that because we prayed what we prayed, that it is now a God’s will thing. Sure, we in our state of the flesh must grapple with things before the Lord. We should have earnest conversations with him about our highs, our lows, our problems, how we see that those problems should be fixed. We should come to our Abba Father as an open book. We should come to him and lay everything all out before him. Just as we often do with our earthly dads, we should lay out the issue before God, and tell God what we think about it and how we should be proceeding. We then wait for our earthly dads to give us their sage advice as to what to do in the situation. As we grow up, we often find that our resolution to the situation gets more similar to our dad’s way (but not always). As we grow up in Christ, we find that our resolutions to situations may become more closely aligned with His will for our lives, but not always. We are all flesh so we cannot know God’s will perfectly. However, instead of listening as we do often with our earthly dads, we often treat God like hopping in Santa Claus’ lap – this is what I want and then hop down.

What I will takeaway from Solomon’s request for wisdom today is that wisdom is knowing and understanding God’s will in the situations of our lives. Wisdom comes from making the right choices based on discerning the various options. Discernment comes from listening. And there lies the learning thing for today. Listen to God. How can we know God’s will for our lives if we do not listen for His response to our petitions? Sometimes in our prayer life, instead doing all talking, we should spend some time just being quiet and listening. That’s hard for us in this world of constant multimedia input into our lives. Be still and listen. God is not our vending machine. He is our Father. He is Lord. He is Creator. Let us gain his universal and eternal wisdom and purpose for our lives by listening in our prayers as much or more than we do the talking.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 3:1-15 (Part 1 of 2)
Solomon Asks for Wisdom

Haven’t you heard it before? “I love Jesus but I am not really a churchy kind of person!” or “Oh, I don’t go to church very often. I’d rather stay at home and listen to Christian television or radio programs, or listen to Bible-teaching tapes.” Others reluctantly admit to me, “We only go to church when we can work it into our family schedule” or “I go to church as often as I can,” which usually means not very often. While connecting with people, helping those in need, fighting injustice, and resting are all necessary things, we should not prioritize them above God himself. God alone is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). These activities should flow from life-giving connection with Christ and his people. When we make good things central we give them God’s position, and they become idols.

One of the dangers of not attending church and meeting with other believers can lead to what we find in this passage. Mixing non-scriptural beliefs with those that are scriptural. Although Solomon was a wise king and great king in the history of Israel, he over time played loose with his belief systems. We can do the same thing as those who love the Lord. God ordained in Hebrews that we should gather together as often as we can to stir each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25). And I am not saying that a church is a building with a steeple. There are churches in countries where being a Christian is a dangerous public proclamation where they meet in the night in people’s houses. So, I am not talking about brick and mortar monoliths that we construct here in the United States but the church in the sense of the gathering together of fellow Christians. And I am not saying that vocational full-time pastors are the arbiters of our faith because churches in China may have been started by vocational missionaries but there are perpetuated by part-time pastors with little formal education, if any. Certainly, the apostles that created the church as we know it were just common guys who had been exposed to Jesus Christ himself and were empowered by the Holy Spirit. So, churches are not building. Churches do not have to be led by vocational pastors. I am also not saying that it is not of great advantage to have brick and mortar buildings and to have formally trained and experienced pastors. That is great if you have those assets. What great things can be accomplished when you have those assets.

But what I am saying is that being a lone-wolf Christian can be dangerous. It can lead you to having what religious experts call syncretism. Syncretism is where you merge non-Scriptural beliefs to the doctrines that come out of the collective and cohesive source of our beliefs, The Bible. Syncretism will allow to consider, for example, that all religions are equal and that each is just a different road to God but yet at the same time read in the Bible that Jesus says blatantly that no one comes to the Father except through Him. And there are a number of false doctrines in our culture of tolerance of all beliefs that we can easily slide into when we attempt to be lone-wolf Christ followers.

So, similarly, we see the seeds of the same kind of thing in this passage as Solomon begins his reign as king of Israel. Introduction of foreign idol-based religions and modifying prescribed biblical teaching to suit the moment can be seen in the actions of Solomon as he begins his reign. These seeds ultimately lead to a fractured nation after Solomon’s death. Solomon is an interesting figure that we will begin to follow through the coming passages. In this passage alone, we see both the seeds of his downfall but also the seeds of his greatness as king. Today, we will focus on the seeds of his downfall that appear right away. In the next blog, we will look at his request for wisdom as the seeds of his greatness as king. For now, let us read this passage with the idea of mixing non-biblical with the biblical in mind:

Chapter 3
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters. He brought her to live in the City of David until he could finish building his palace and the Temple of the Lord and the wall around the city. 2 At that time the people of Israel sacrificed their offerings at local places of worship, for a temple honoring the name of the Lord had not yet been built.

3 Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. 4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.

In this passage, there are so many things to see, but two things are of interest for today are the not so wise aspects of Solomon’s behavior. First, we see that Solomon marries a daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt to solidify an alliance between the two nations and ensure peace. Marriage between royal families was a common practice in the ancient Middle East and was a common practice among nations of Europe and elsewhere right up until the early 20th century. Although Solomon’s marital alliances built friendships with surrounding nations, they were also the beginning of his downfall. Those relationships became inroads for pagan ideas and practices. Solomon’s foreign wives eventually lured him into idolatry.

Second, God’s law said the Israelites could make sacrifices only in specified place (see Deuteronomy 12:13-14). This law was to prevent the people from instituting their own methods of worship and allowing pagan practices to creep into their worship. However, many Israelites, including Solomon, made sacrifices in the surrounding hills. This condition took the offerings out of the watchful care of priests loyal to God and opened the way for false teaching to be tied to these practices.

Just as Solomon mixed and matched what he was willing to follow from God’s Word, so, too, are we in danger of doing the same thing when we do not gather together with other believers and take a lone-wolf approach to being a Christ follower.

Why then is it important for us to gather together as frequently as we can with other believers? We are at a crossroads in our nation on the importance of going to church. According to research, church attendance by most research is declining while our nation’s population has steadily grown at a rate of about 2% per year since the end of the “Baby Boom”.

The “Church” never connotes a single, individual, lone-wolf Christian just going about his Christian duties, and never gathering together to worship with other believers. The “Church” by its very nature means multiple believers, who “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

This is both the Biblical and historical pattern set forth for us by the first followers of Jesus. They would get together weekly to worship God together, and at times even daily. They would also share community together in each other’s homes. Paul and the other Apostle’s letters were actually sent to these church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud together. Church means getting together with other believers to worship Jesus Christ, and hear the Scriptures together, and encourage one another in the faith.

And part of encouragement is accountability. We may be challenged by fellow believers and leaders about non-biblical practices that we accept as normal behavior for a Christian. We may get challenged about sins in our lives that we do not even know to be sin because Satan often blinds us to our sins. Part of encouragement is learning the true doctrines of the faith that sometimes fly in the face of culture. Part of encouragement is seeing others who are more mature in faith than we are to see how they live their lives and how they apply the doctrines of the Bible to their lives. Gathering regularly with other believers becomes a refining process whereby we help each other, pray for each other and encourage each other to want to follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It is a truly beautiful thing.

Let us take heed from Solomon’s actions here. We cannot decide for ourselves as lone-wolf Christians as to what we will believe and what we will not believe. We need Christian community so as to encourage us on to become more and more like Christ daily and to hold us accountable for the unchanging doctrines of our faith that spring forth from the pages of Scripture.

Amen and Amen.