The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
April 10, 2016 :: 1 Kings 3:1-4:34
Last week, we started our new sermon series called, “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings” and we looked the rise of King Solomon in chapters 1 and 2.
Solomon became king of Israel after David. There was a bit of a political intrigue and potential coup, but Solomon rose above it and was crowned king, sat on the throne, received David’s instructions on what a good king would do and then shrewdly secured his throne after David died.
And the question we ended with last week was:
“What kind of a king will Solomon be?”
According to David, a king of Israel has just one job: walk with the one true God leading others to do so too.
There are other duties, of course, but whether or not you are a thumbs-up king or a thumbs-down king boil down to that one central job. Keep the covenant and lead Israel to do it, as well.
So what kind of a king will Solomon be?
In many ways, Solomon is a two-thumbs-up king. We’re going to see that this morning. He had an amazing rule and reign!
But at the risk of spoiling the story to come, Solomon also turned out to be a huge disappointment.
And I think we can a learn a lot by looking closely at his life.
The title for today’s message is on the back of your bulletin, and it’s probably no surprise if you’ve ever read this chapter before:
“The Wisdom of the King”
Because, as we’ll see, Solomon is absolutely famous for his wisdom. We’re going to see how he got, how he used it, and what difference it made for his kingdom.
But chapter 3 begins with Solomon doing something that I think is decidedly un-wise. Chapter 3, verse 1.
“Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem.”
Now, that verse tells you a lot, but it’s pretty surprising, isn’t it?
Solomon is going to build an amazing palace and an amazing temple. We’re going to learn about those amazing building projects the next time I get to preach here.
And he’s going to bring his new bride to live in the City of David until those building projects are done. And his new bride reflects how important a figure he has become as the king of Israel in the middle East.
He marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Yes, that Pharaoh. As in, the king of Egypt.
Now, I don’t think he was supposed to do that. I seriously doubt that “Pharaohina” had converted to worshiping the LORD. It seems to be a mostly political marriage. An alliance with Pharaoh which would bring Solomon prestige and power on the world stage.
But I don’t think it was probably a wise move. And we’ll see how that plays out in Solomon’s life by the time we get to chapter 11.
It doesn’t appear to be a problem yet, however. Because we’re going to find out that Solomon loves the LORD. V.2
Solomon’s temple has not yet been built, so worship is still scattered around the country. V.2
“The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”
Do you see what I mean by “complicated?”
Listen to this. Solomon is the only person that the Old Testament uses this language for as in: “Solomon loved the Lord.”
I’m sure that other people in the Old Testament loved the Lord. One of the psalmists says it of himself.
But Solomon is the only person that the Old Testament says, “‘So and so’ loved the LORD.”
That’s a thumbs-up!
He walked “according to the statutes of his father David.” He did what David said in chapter 2!
Except! “He offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”
Now, at this point in his life, he’s doing that worship to the LORD, to the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To the Great I Am. Yahweh.
And it’s kind of excusable that he did it at the high places because verse 2 says there wasn’t a temple yet.
“Complicated.” Aren’t we all?
And it’s actually at one of those high places, that Solomon asks for the wisdom that he needs. V.4
“The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. [And the LORD overlooked the place and looked at his heart. V.5] At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’”
Okay. Just stop there for a second and truthfully answer that question for yourself.
What would you have said?
“...and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’”
Blank check from God. What do you put in there?
What you ask for at that moment says a lot about who you really are.
Of course, this is also says even more about who God is. Doesn’t it?
The LORD is a generous God. He loves to give good gifts to His children.
Who took the initiative here? Did you notice that?
God comes to Solomon and not the other way around.
And Solomon answers well. He asks for wisdom. He starts by thanking God for what He’s already given him. V.6 “What do I want?”
“Solomon answered, ‘You have shown great kindness [hesed] to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness [hesed, covenant loyalty] 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?’”
That’s one good prayer!
Do you see how humble Solomon is?
He calls himself a “little child” though he’s already a man married to Pharaoh’s daughter.
He says he doesn’t know how to carry out his duties. Literally, he doesn’t know “how to go out or how to come in.”
And the work of being the king, in charge of all Israel, caring for and shepherding Israel is too big a job for him. He needs help. He needs...wisdom.
V.9 again. “So give your servant a discerning (literally, “a listening” “attentive” “obedient” “hearing”) heart to govern your people and to “do justly and to love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.”
And verse 10 is the most amazing verse.
“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.”
Good job, Solomon! That’s the right heart. That’s the right thing to ask for.
The wisdom of the king.
Wouldn’t just love to hear that about your prayers? “The Lord was pleased that you prayed for that.” “The Lord was pleased that you asked for that wisdom.” v.11
“So 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 [bonus!]–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.’ Then Solomon awoke–and he realized it had been a dream [a revelatory dream]. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord's covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.”
Here’s point number one of three.
It’s so obvious, but we can so often miss it.
#1. WISDOM IS A GIFT FROM GOD.
Sometimes, we talk about the “wisdom of Solomon” as if it was something he came up with on his own.
He did good to ask for it, but Kings stresses that his wisdom was a gracious gift from a generous God.
If God didn’t give it, he wouldn’t have it.
On his own, Solomon was needy. He was in over his head. He was going to get buried by this task of ruling Israel.
And he knew it. So he asked!
“I need wisdom.”
Do you ask for wisdom from God?
The key New Testament verse that correlates with 1 Kings 3 is James chapter 1, verse 5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
You and I may not be the Kings of Israel, but we have the same God that Solomon did.
A generous God who loves to hand out wisdom. Liberally. Bounteously. Freely.
But do we ask?
I think that I am asking for wisdom in prayer more now that I ever have been in my life.
I, so often, just don’t know what to do.
As a husband, a father, a leader in the church.
I say to my wife, “I think I have more wisdom now than I ever have and yet I feel so inadequate. I feel like the demands of today are so far beyond what I know what to do. I need wisdom so much more than I ever have.”
I feel like I should know a lot more, that I should know a lot more of what I should I do.
You know that’s what wisdom is, right?
Wisdom is skill in living rightly.
I tell the youth boys just about every Wednesday during Family Bible Nights that “Wisdom is the ability to know the right thing to do in a given situation.”
Not just a good thing but a right thing, a righteous thing.
Do you need that?
One of the reasons why I love that song we sing, W-I-S-D-O-M is not just that we get to yell in church. It’s that we sing a declaration of our neediness.
“I need it! I need it!”
I think that so often we act like we’ve got it all together. “I’m good, thanks!”
Have you ever been asked if you have any prayer requests and you’ve answered, “I think I’m good!” I sure have.
What a joke!
I’m planning from this day onward so say, if nothing else comes to mind, “Pray for wisdom for me. I need it!”
Solomon humbled himself. Called himself a child. The king of all Israel admitted that he was simple and foolish on his own.
And it became his number one prayer request.
“Give [me] a discerning heart!”
Learn to pray that.
Because wisdom is a gift from God.
And God gave it to Solomon. In spades. Verses 16 through 28 tell one story of how he used it. V.16
“Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, ‘My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. [No witnesses.]
‘During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son–and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne.’
The other woman said, ‘No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.’ But the first one insisted, ‘No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.’ And so they argued before the king.”
Have you heard this story before?
When I was a child, our family Bible had a colorful picture of this tragic story in it.
It always stood out to me.
Solomon has a hard choice to make. Which one of these ladies of the night is the true mother of this child?
Solomon has an idea to cut right through the lies to the truth. V.23
“The king said, ‘This one says, 'My son is alive and your son is dead,' while that one says, 'No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.'’ Then the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’
So they brought a sword for the king.
He then gave an order: ‘Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.’ [Just a threat? Nobody knows because it works.] The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, ‘Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!’
But the other said, ‘Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!’
Then the king gave his ruling: ‘Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.’ When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”
Wisdom is a gift from God.
If you have it, then thank God for it.
I you don’t, then ask God for it.
Because, number two:
#2. WISDOM BRINGS BLESSING.
Here wisdom restore a child to its rightful mother.
It also brings awe among the nation.
And it brings justice.
In chapter 4, Solomon’s wisdom (which is a gift) brings blessing on his entire kingdom. Verse 1.
“So King Solomon ruled over all Israel. [Not just north, not just south. King Solomon ruled over all Israel. And he did it wisely.] And these were his chief officials: Azariah son of Zadok–the priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah, sons of Shisha–secretaries; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud–recorder; Benaiah son of Jehoiada–commander in chief; Zadok and Abiathar– priests; Azariah son of Nathan–in charge of the district officers; Zabud son of Nathan–a priest and personal adviser to the king; Ahishar–in charge of the palace; Adoniram son of Abda–in charge of forced labor.”
Here’s his royal cabinet. And the point of the names is that Solomon knew whom to put where. Surprisingly verse 4 says that Abiathar still was a priest, on the same level again as Zadok. Perhaps that’s grace and mercy or maybe it’s just his official position on the list. Either way, it’s wisdom.
The point here is that Solomon knows what he’s doing. V.7
“Solomon also had twelve district governors over all Israel [twelve tribes, twelve governors], who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. These are their names: Ben-Hur [not the guy in the movie]–in the hill country of Ephraim; Ben-Deker– in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh and Elon Bethhanan; Ben-Hesed–in Arubboth (Socoh and all the land of Hepher were his); Ben-Abinadab–in Naphoth Dor (he was married to Taphath daughter of Solomon); Baana son of Ahilud–in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam; Ben-Geber–in Ramoth Gilead (the settlements of Jair son of Manasseh in Gilead were his, as well as the district of Argob in Bashan and its sixty large walled cities with bronze gate bars); Ahinadab son of Iddo–in Mahanaim; Ahimaaz–in Naphtali (he had married Basemath daughter of Solomon); Baana son of Hushai–in Asher and in Aloth; Jehoshaphat son of Paruah–in Issachar; Shimei son of Ela–Benjamin; Geber son of Uri–in Gilead (the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and the country of Og king of Bashan). He was the only governor over the district.”
Here’s the point. V.20
“The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.”
Solomon knows what he’s doing. He’s ruling in the wisdom.
These were the right guys in the right places to govern wisely.
These guys were collecting the taxes and everybody was happy.
Can you imagine? Verses 7-19 tell us who was collecting the taxes, and verse 20 says that everybody was happy!
There was prosperity everywhere, everybody had enough, and people were genuinely happy. “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy.”
What is that?
It’s a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, isn’t it?
Whenever you hear those words “as the sand on the seashore” in your Bible, your mind should go directly back to Genesis.
God always keeps His promises, right?
But it’s also an answer to Solomon’s prayer for wisdom.
Wisdom brings blessing.
If you know the right things to do and do it, then you will experience a measure of blessing.
Even in our broken world where things don’t always work the way they should (read the book of Job, read Psalm 73, read Ecclesiastes, even in our broken world) when you live out God’s wisdom, you and the people connected to you experience God’s blessing.
Or another way of saying it is that wisdom works.
The next paragraph tell us that Solomon ruled wisely, not just over Israel, but also over their neighbors. V.21
“And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon's subjects all his life.”
The kingdom of Israel had never been and has never been since as big as it was under Solomon. V.22
“Solomon's daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River [that’s the Euphrates!], from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides.
During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.”
That’s the land promise of the Abrahamic Covenant fulfilled like never before! And really, never yet since!
Think about what we learned in Genesis about the promise of Land to Abraham.
How long has it taken for that land to finally come to Abraham’s children?
This is blessing.
“During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba [top to bottom], lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree. Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses. The district officers, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king's table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.”
This is about as good as it gets. “They saw to it that nothing was lacking.”
It doesn’t get any better than that.
And it’s all the blessing of wisdom.
These are blessings Moses talked about in Deuteronomy 27 and 28.
And it’s all the blessing of wisdom.
Do you want wisdom?
There are few things more valuable in life than wisdom, but what we do?
We spurn it. We run from it. We devalue it.
It content ourselves with ignorance and foolishness.
We don’t dig for it like we’re digging for gold.
But look what comes when you pray for and practice wisdom! V.29
“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite (who wrote psalm 89)–wiser than Heman (who wrote psalm 88), Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations.
He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. [Many are here in our Bibles!] He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”
And he’s going to use his wisdom to build some amazing buildings, too.
Wisdom is a gift from God. Verse 29 said it again. And wisdom brings blessing. The blessings here of prosperity, safety, popularity, fame and flourishing.
Of course, not all of the blessings of wisdom will be temporal and earthly like that. Many of the most important blessings are spiritual and heavenly and even greater. But these are illustrations of what God can do when we pray for and practice the wisdom that He so graciously sends.
Sometimes I wish the story ended here.
We have offspring, land, and blessing.
It almost seems like the Abrahamic covenant has been fully fulfilled and the kingdom has come in all of its fullness.
But actually, this kingdom has cracks.
As good as it is, it’s not as good as it can get.
And it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
And that’s because there are cracks in the king.
As much as it seems like Solomon was just about the Messiah–and I think he’s a true picture of Him!–Solomon was definitely not the Messiah.
Did you catch it verse 26 and verse 28?
Probably not because I didn’t point it out. And I’ve never preached Deuteronomy 17. You might not know what’s in there.
And those verses, 26 and 28, just sound like blessings. Especially with verse 27 in the middle, “nothing was lacking.”
But there was something off about those verses, too.
The book of Deuteronomy says that the king of Israel “must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.”
Hmmm. And the very next verse in Deuteronomy says one more thing that the King should not accumulate very many of. Anybody know?
“He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.”
He’s good right now. But there’s storm clouds brewing on the horizon.
And you know what that means?
Solomon is not the Messiah. Solomon is not the Christ.
Somebody else is.
#3. WISDOM IS HIDDEN IN JESUS.
As wise as Solomon was, Jesus is so much more.
Colossians 2, verse 3 says, “in [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Jesus is the treasure chest of wisdom.
Solomon was just a shadow of the One to come.
Jesus is the King of Kings with all of the true Wisdom of the King hidden within Him.
If you want wisdom, then what you really want is Jesus Christ.
He will never let you down.
He will never go sour on you.
He will never repeat the mistakes of the kings of Israel.
And if you pursue Him, you will find all of the wisdom that you need for life and godliness.
Wisdom is hidden in King Jesus.
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