Solomon: The Ultimate Testimony To Man’s Success

businessmanFor years I’ve had a problem with Solomon, King of Israel, son of David. I’ve complained about his life style and even declared his book of Ecclesiastes my least favorite book of the Bible . . . until his book of Song of Solomon edged it a few years ago.

Of all the people in the Bible, I understand him the least. I mean, this guy had it all. As a newly anointed king, he had an encounter with God. As a result, he experienced God’s faithfulness and fulfilled promises, specifically riches, honor, and wisdom.

In addition his father was “a man after God’s own heart,” so Solomon had a spiritual heritage. Unlike David, Solomon never lived in a cave, never had to run for his life, never experienced a civil war or open rebellion.

Though he stockpiled horses and chariots—the military might of his day—Israel lived in peace. Other kings paid tribute to him and allied with him.

His building projects succeeded, his trading ventures brought in incredible wealth. His influence expanded.

Solomon didn’t know defeat or failure or financial ruin. He never lost his job or went bankrupt or faced foreclosure.

I’ll say again, he had it all. He was the ultimate success. Status? He had it. Fame. Yep. Money, comfortable lifestyle, bling—he had all that too.

Oh, yeah, the guy was wise. His counsel was sought after by other rulers. He apparently amazed the Queen of Sheba when she tested him by asking him questions, to the point that she said, “How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.”

From my point of view, the guy had no excuse for what happened toward the end of his life. Solomon had it all. All. Everything people dream of. He was the ultimate testimony to human success. And here’s what he did with it:

When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. (1 Kings 11:4-8 – emphasis added)

So Solomon is a testimony to the truth that Mankind’s success means nothing when it comes to the eternal things of God.

In contrast, the Apostle Paul said, his weakness made room for God’s strength.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.(2 Cor. 12:9-10)

God lays it out clearly in Jeremiah,

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer 9:23-24)

What’s of lasting value, what matters most is that we understand and know God.

Instead, we are a people who boast in our own wisdom, riches, and might. We are not boasting in our knowledge and understanding of God. We know less and less of His lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness—the things in which He delights.

In other words, we are Solomon. And we should be Paul.

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in December 2012.

New Life And Fighting The Same Battles

Hawaii_surf_fwsA Facebook friend posted something today about a spiritual struggle she’s facing. Her conclusion was, instead of flopping around like a wounded fish simply trying to survive, she would “go down deeper.” The image is a good one, I think.

I’m not a strong swimmer, but years ago I used to spend a good amount of time at the beach during the summer. When it got hot sitting on the sand, I’d jump into the water and ride the waves for a while to cool off. I learned that when you were facing a breaker, the only way to survive was to dive down and let the wave roll over you.

One year that bit of knowledge probably saved my life. I was with a group at a beach with really big waves. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say they were eight to ten feet, maybe more. Remember, I’m not a strong swimmer. I was following a friend out past the break line where I could catch a wave and ride it in, but on the way out, an especially big set of waves came tumbling toward shore. (The waves were big and they came one right after the other with little break.) No problem, I knew to dive down deep.

Over and over I came up for a gulp of air only to see a new wave bearing down on me. Down I dove. You know the water is pretty deep when you open your eyes and everything is black. Light is not making it all the way to the bottom. And the wave was rumbling and tossing me about as it rolled over me. I was beginning to wonder how to get a lifeguard’s attention because I was getting tired and didn’t know how much longer I could dive then struggle up for air. But the set subsided and I was able to ride a normal-sized wave to shore.

I learned a scary lesson—when you’re a weak swimmer, play to who you are, not what you wish you could be. I stayed on the beach for the rest of the day.

Still, I’m glad I learned to dive deeper.

For the Christian just like the body surfer, diving deeper might seem antithetical. You want to get up and over and beyond the break line, so why would you dive into the wave instead? Because it’s not as dangerous to be under the water when the wave breaks. Water reduces the force of the water.

For the Christian that spiritual struggle can be because of suffering or temptation or some set of circumstances that pull at our spiritual underpinnings. Diving deeper is a way of living out Paul’s statement, When I am weak, then I am strong:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

Say what?

Paul made this statement in the context of what we might consider unanswered prayer. He’d asked God three times to remove a “thorn in the flesh,” some physical ailment, apparently, that Paul believed hampered his ministry or was simply difficult for him to manage. Some think it may have been poor eyesight, some the illness he mentions in Galatians 4:13-14. At any rate, God told him to live with it. Well, He said a little more than that!

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (v 9a)

And Paul’s response? He went down deeper:

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (v 9b)

A blogger I follow talked about leaning into Christ, which I think is another way of saying, Go down deeper.

Hawaii_Wave_(3274955069)You see, it is in yielding, in surrendering to the water that a swimmer can survive the breakers. (*Note: this may or may not be true of the giant thirty foot waves off Hawaii. I simply have no knowledge of how anyone survives those!) In the same way, the believer can survive life’s tumult by surrendering—not to the circumstances, but to our God who knows all about these circumstances long before we realize they’re upon us. It is He we lean into. We yield to Him.

Because He is sovereign, because He has promised to use whatever comes into our life as part of the refining process to make us like His Son, we can know that “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is no way we can lose.

It’s part of the new life we experience in Christ. We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. So while we are forgiven and God puts our sin away—as far as the east is from the west—we now have the mandate to live up to our calling, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.

Paul says it this way in his first letter to the Thessalonians:

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (4:1)

So we struggle, and often it seems as if we struggle with the same thing all over again, but each time we lean into Jesus, each time we go a little deeper, we are becoming more like the Son in whom we are to abide.

I so often wish I could say, There, I’ve got that one mastered, now we can move on to the next one. Ah, but no. God will continue to bring me back to whatever it is I need in order that I may once again yield to Him. Because in reality, when I am weak, then I am strong. The only way to handle the struggle is to give in—not to the circumstances or the temptation, but to the Sovereign Lord who is over the circumstances and will provide the way of escape from the temptation.

Published in: on July 6, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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