1 Kings 9-10, 2 Corinthians 3
Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. – 1 Kings 10:23-25 ESV
Solomon was a rock star – an international celebrity who drew admirers from all over the world. He had a reputation that attracted attention and led to increased fame and fortune. He was wealthy, wise, and enjoying the lavish lifestyle of a powerful king. But for all his power and popularity, Solomon was blind to the consequences of his lifestyle. Yes, it appeared as if God’s hand was all over him. He seemed to be enjoying the blessing of God. After all, a big part of his reputation was based on his God-given wisdom. The visiting queen of Sheba said of Solomon, “Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard” (1 Kings 10:7 ESV). But Solomon had been warned by God that His blessing was conditional, saying, “if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father” (1 Kings 9:4-5 ESV). Notice that God was calling Solomon to live with integrity of heart. That phrase has to do with moral wholeness or completeness. The Hebrew word is tom, and it carries the idea of being fully devoted to God in every area of life, with no compartmentalization. Solomon was to live his entire life before God’s all-seeing gaze with nothing hidden or kept secret. He was to live in obedience to all of God’s commands. But Solomon was gradually ignoring what God had commanded him to do and wrongly assuming that his great wealth and unbridled success were signs of God’s blessings and satisfaction with his life.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had warned the people of Israel that when He finally gave them a king, he would be required to reign according to God’s terms. “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 ESV). It was God’s desire that the king of Israel be a man who regular time immersing himself in the law so that he might live according to it. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV). He was to be a man of the Word. He was to live obediently and humbly, not driven by pride and hungry for power. He was to recognize his role as God’s representative, ruling on His behalf, and subject to God’s divine will.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Solomon was a man, just like any other man, and was subject to the same temptations we all face. He was susceptible to the same sinful tendencies that every great leader encounters. He let his fame, power and fortune go to his head. He was surrounded by great wealth. He was constantly bombarded with flattering words and feigning admirers who told him how smart, successful and gifted he was. “This King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom…” (1 Kings 10:23-24 ESV). Solomon was living the dream life, but he didn’t realize that his dream was about to become a nightmare; all because of his subtle disobedience. He had compromised. He had rationalized. He had intermarried when he shouldn’t have. He had amassed great quantities of gold when God had told him not to. He had bought horses and chariots from Egypt, in direct violation of God’s command. He had made an alliance with Egypt, marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, also in disobedience to God’s will. Solomon grew wealthy beyond belief, personally benefiting from his God-given wisdom and enjoying the fruit of God’s favor. But he was blind to his own sin. He was ignorant of his own subtle rebellion against God. Palaces, gold, silver, chariots, horses, ornate thrones, powerful friends, and a growing reputation all blinded the eyes of Solomon, preventing him from recognizing his own disobedience and inevitable downfall. God had told Solomon that if he failed to obey, then God would be forced to end his rule, destroy his kingdom, level the temple, and cut off the people of Israel from the land. While Solomon was enjoying the blessings of God for a season, the time was coming when God would deal with his disobedience in a sobering way. Solomon had wrongly made it all about himself. In spite of his effort to build the temple, he had spent far more time and money building his own kingdom. He had placed himself at the center of his own universe and left God as an afterthought, a convenient resource to be used in times of trouble.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The apostle reminds us that our sufficiency is to be found in God. We are never to assume that we bring anything to the table that gives us worth or value. “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5 ESV). We live and breath based on the grace of God. We enjoy the promise of eternal life solely because of the grace of God. Solomon lived during the era of the law. He was part of a different dispensation in which obedience to the law was non-negotiable and undeniable. Paul calls it “the ministry of condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:9 ESV). The law, which was impossible for any man to keep perfectly, ended up condemning all. It was a constant reminder of man’s incapacity to live righteously. Yet God was constantly revealing His glory to men in an effort to remind them of His power and to create in them a holy fear. But they lived as if their eyes were veiled. They couldn’t see God’s glory or recognize His holiness. They were unable to understand that even their obedience was dependent upon God, not their own self-effort. A big part of the giving of the law was to reveal just how holy God really was. His standard was so high that no man could keep it. That insufficiency should have driven them closer and closer to God for help and hope. But they were blind. Paul says, “For to this day, when they read the old covenant that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:14-16 ESV). Unlike Solomon, I have an “unveiled face.” I am fully capable of seeing and comprehending the glory of the Lord. I am fully cognizant that it is His amazing grace that gives me the capacity to live wholly, completely in obedience to His will. I can’t do it in my own strength any more than Solomon could. Without His help, I would be in the same state as Solomon. In fact, too often, I find myself living just as Solomon lived – surrounded by the blessings of God, given access to the wisdom of God, but living as if I was my own god. My eyes have been opened, but it is so easy to live as if I was blind, ignorant of God’s grace and still trying to live the godly life in my own strength and self-sufficiency.
Father, I want to constantly remember that my sufficiency is found in You, not me. I want to live with my eyes wide open to the fact that I am incapable of living the Christian life without Your Spirit, Your Word and Your help. My sufficiency is from You. Do not let me fall back into the trap of trying to live this life in my own strength. It is impossible. But You have made my holiness a reality. You have provided for me what I could have never provided for myself. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men