In 2 Samuel 7, God promised David that one would follow him who would be a messianic king and would establish God’s Kingdom over all the nations and fulfill God’s promises to Abraham. The book of Kings, or as we call it, 1st and 2nd Kings, is one long book dedicated to the line of kings after David and how none of them live up to that promise. Progressively, they run the nation of Israel right into the ground. The book of 1-2 Kings is designed to have five major movements but for our purposes, I just want to point to the beginning and the end of the book. The book begins and ends with a focus on Jerusalem. First, with Solomon’s reign and the construction of the Temple. It ends with the destruction of Jerusalem and the people being taken into Babylonian exile.
Solomon was an amazing man, lauded in our memory for his wisdom. He wrote the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. How can a man, who begins his reign by asking God for wisdom, become so stupid by the end of his life? Solomon’s wisdom was sought after from people all around the world. It is good to ask God for wisdom. There is no denying that. But, in his own wisdom, he began to rely on himself and lost sight of true wisdom…relying on God. More on that in a minute.
Solomon builds the Temple (1 Kings 5-8). There are a lot of details where we can quickly get lost in. On one hand, these descriptions are important for a people who do not have photographs. They communicate the beauty and grandeur of the Temple. On the other hand, these descriptions are there to point us to the imagery that points to the Garden of Eden (we should do a deeper study on this sometime). Remember, the presence of God was with His people in the Garden. The Temple is the place where Heaven and Earth come together and God’s presence is with His people. The Book(s) of Kings begins with this picture of a king who seeks wisdom from God and God’s presence coming down and being with His people. Everything is right in the world…at least in this space…for a moment or two.
In 1 Kings 9-11, we see the downfall of Solomon. He makes allegiances with other kings by marrying their daughters. He accumulates great wealth and begins to oppress people. He initiates slave labor to accomplish his vast building projects. And he brings in the gods of his wives and worships them. In the end, he takes on the image of Pharaoh more so than the image of his father David. The kings to follow him become progressively worse and eventually God’s presence leaves the Temple and the people are left without their identity as they are carried off into exile.
What can we learn from Solomon? Seek after God’s wisdom but do not mistake your wisdom for His wisdom. Is it wrong to acquire wealth? I’d say no. But, what are you doing to others for the sake of getting ahead? There are many rich people in our world who got rich by destroying their competition, not through simply having a better product, but through cutting the legs out from under others leaving families without a living. We see mass layoffs of hard working people while the executives still live lavishly. It is easy to sit back and be critical of people who are doing better financially than I am. I always want to use caution here because I am one of the richest people in the world. So, I must look inward as much or more than I look up the line of wealth. What am I doing with my wisdom? Am I seeking God’s guidance? Or, am I being confident with my abilities (albeit, abilities God has given me) and leaning on my own wisdom? Let the Spirit of God guide you! But ask yourself, does the Spirit guide you to deeper levels of comfort or to deeper levels of dependency? Being dependent on God’s wisdom will take you places you wouldn’t take yourself “naturally”. God’s wisdom bids you to take up your cross and follow Chirst.