What does wisdom look like? It is grey hair that proves someone to be wise? Perhaps it is someone with their nose in a book. It is often depicted as an owl in cartoons. Wisdom is not an amount of knowledge, nor does it always come with age. It isn’t hiding in the pages of books and it doesn’t hoot from the trees at night. (Although, I’m not sure about that last one. If you know anyone who speaks “owl,” let me know). A true measure of wisdom is the ability to set ourselves on the sidelines of any given situation. Wisdom is not knowing much but realizing how little we know.
David in his time as king was wise enough to realize this great truth: the less of me there is, the more room there is for God. David relied on his weaknesses to free him from the trappings of pride. Even in the saddest moments of his story, when his weakness crept from the darkness and stood full as a shadow to dampen his royal glory, David basked in his emptiness. While running from his own son who sought his crown and his life, David let God fill the empty parts of his story with new life, trusting in God’s way above all else.
Now has come the time for David to pass his crown onto another. His hair is grey with the wisdom of age, death drawing closer by the hour. David knew what it was like to not walk according to God’s ways, and how devastating it could be, yet the bulk of his heart was filled with a desire to serve God, knowing the blessing of being weak in the presence of the Great One of Glory. In the final days of a father and a king, he passes on this wisdom.
1 Kings 2:1-4
As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. 3 Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
Solomon is handed a scepter and a crown. The crown sits cock-eyed on his head, the scepter almost too heavy to lift. What is a young man to do with such a heavy charge? He saw his father walk through the good and the bad of life, praising God all the way. So, knowing nothing but what his father taught by example and spoke in those final days, Solomon goes to spend time with God. He goes up to the high places and sacrifices to God, sends a pleasing aroma up to the only Father he has left.
1 Kings 3:7-9
7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
“Who can possibly lead these people but you, God? Saul couldn’t in all his might. David, my father, couldn’t in all his humility. Surely, I have nothing to offer these people. They are not my people, but yours. This is not my kingdom, but yours. You have brought freedom to these great people, as only one as great as You could do. Maintain your greatness through me. Fill all of the nothing that I have to offer with your everything. Stir my heart in the right direction. Cause my tongue to only speak what comes from you. LORD, grant me wisdom beyond my years.”
Solomon could have asked for anything. God came to him like a genie in a bottle granting him not three wishes but one. If you could ask for anything in the world, what would it be? Enough money to pay off all your debts and then some? To life forever without any pain? A marriage without strife? A country without taxes? A car without rust? Repair to all your broken relationships? Relief from some secret, habitual sin that you can’t seem to kick? Whatever it might be, chances are that what comes to mind will be something to do with ourselves. If I could have whatever I want, what would it be? God asked me! Solomon’s natural reaction, however, was not to think of himself but others. His heart ached for the weight of the responsibility his father gave him. The last thing he wanted to do was fail God, misrepresent him to the world.
Imagine given the charge of representing God to the world. When people looked at the king of Isreal, that is what they expected. So, when they saw Saul serving only himself, they thought “God is selfish.” When David killed Goliath they said, “God is Almighty!” and when he slept with Bathsheba and killed Uriah… “God is abusive.”
Solomon had an incredible weight to carry, not much different than our own today. How often do we think of ourselves as God to the people around us? When our neighbours see us going out of our way to help them they think, “that’s what this God they speak of is like.” When we give to the needy and provide our shoulder to those who need to shed some tears they see the love of Christ through us. But, when we fail to live out the love of God and become self-serving, this is not ignored. When we yell at our kids, complain about our spouse, sleep with the neighbour’s wife, lie to the police, judge people with hate in our eyes, they think, “Oh, so that is what God is like… What’s so good about this God they talk about? Their lives are no better than mine.”
In these times of trouble, of failing, of falling we need to come to God and say, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do this; I keep messing us! God, how can I serve you better? How can I know what to say when, what to do when, and how to live? Father, grant me your wisdom.” How often do we pray for wisdom? Even our prayers are filled with desires for ourselves. Fix my car, heal my sickness, reconcile me with me family. Are these things important? Absolutely. Can God do them? Yes. Should we ask for them out of faith? Yes, but first we should seek out what God wants to do through us.
God was so impressed with Solomon’s heart, his desire for wisdom, that he granted him so much more. He didn’t just grant Solmon’s wish, but also those unspoken desires of his heart (those not far from any human)—riches, fame, and long life.
1 Kings 3:10-14
10 It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. 13 I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. 14 If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
God gives him riches and promises long life, and grants honour. Were these things that Solomon desired? Sure, but God knew that without him ever asking. God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows what breaks us and what lifts us up. He will surely bless us beyond what we could think or imagine, but it all starts with desiring to serve him: thirsting for wisdom.
So, if we are to desire wisdom above all else, where is it found? Do we have to read more books or wait til we get older? Do we, perhaps, have to learn from the school of hard-Knox? The book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, is filled with wisdom for all areas of life. If you want to know how to live, go to this book. Before we get too far into the book, Solomon shares the secret of his wisdom. He says, “if you are seeking wisdom, you have come to the right place… but before I share with you my wisdom, you need to know the key behind it.”
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
4 If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
If you are looking for wisdom, in whatever your situation, do like I did. Cry for it, lift your voice, and you will discover not just the knowledge of man, but wisdom so much greater: wisdom of God. Vs. 5 says it best – “then you will discern the fear of the Lord…” and in case you don’t know what that is, it is the knowledge of God. Or as Solomon puts it in our theme verse this morning Proverbs 9:10 – “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of understanding.” That’s where wisdom starts: with God. Reverence for God, knowledge that God is so much smarter than you.
Fear of God is Recognition of his power, Reverence for his name, and Honour of his ways. Fear, revere, and honour: this is the beginning of wisdom—to realize how much greater God is than us, and that we can’t do it alone.
Solomon builds a Temple
If God granted you one wish, what would it be? You may think it wise to wish for a million wishes, but there is one wish that is almost the same, yet far less self seeking: wish to spend time with God. Solomon knew this was the only way to receive the wisdom needed to face whatever comes your way. He solved many of Israel’s problems in his day. His name became famous throughout the land. People came from the farthest reaches of the world to hear what Solomon had to say. The kingdom was finally at peace. Life was good.
But Solomon knew that he would not live forever. He knew that even in all his wisdom, he could not solve all of the world’s problems in his lifetime. He followed in the heart of his father, desiring to build a house for God, a place where the people could come and spend time with the great Wisdom Keeper. Solomon’s wisdom was only as perfect as the one who gave it to him, and as permanent as its keeper.
He built a temple to showcase the glory of this great God who had brought the people to this place of freedom and promised David, his father, a never-ending kingdom. Solomon showed reverence to God is the perfect materials he chose for the Temple’s construction, expressed his desire to bring glory to the LORD through the gold and fine-linens adorning the place. Still, despite all this, Solomon felt like the place was inadequate to house the great glory of God.
1 Kings 8:27-30
27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; 29 that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. 30 Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive.
God expresses his pleasure with Solomon and desire to continue to meet with the people. The full glory of that shadow of Moses’ tabernacle is now revealed. No longer did God move from one place to another in a tent, but he would be with his people forever! He actualizes Solomon’s desires by accepting the Temple as fit for his presence and providing a space for the whole nation to enter in and receive what only he can give.
2 Chronicles 7:15-22
Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.’
19 “But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.21 As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.’”
God’s ultimate desire is for Solomon to continue in the wisdom of heaven. He has provided a way for the people to start their journey of understanding, show their reverence to him, offer themselves in service to their spiritual king, but doesn’t want to see Solomon grow lazy. He says, “just because the people can now come into my house to receive my wisdom doesn’t mean that you should gain folly. Continue to seek out my name, trust, and serve me. Continue to grow in wisdom.”
Unfortunately, just like his father before him, once he felt like his work was done, Solomon neglected to put God first. For David it was adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, but never did David begin to worship foreign gods. For his son it started much the same, with the love of women, but soon he considered their wisdom greater than God’s.
1 Kings 11:1-4
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. 4 For 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.
Solomon stopped fearing God. He no longer revered the name of the LORD as he once had. Solomon thought it was all about his name. We build mighty houses and manicure our grass to show our glory to our neighbours. How you dress, what you eat, where you live, how expensive your car is, how straight that white-picket fence is—all these, today, speak of our importance, how we are perceived in the community. In ancient Israel a primary measure of status is how many wives you have. Solomon had so many women that it would have taken him 3 years to see them all, If he visited one a day!
Solomon’s love of women was greater than his love of God. He surrounded himself by such a great harem so that people would be impressed with him. When they looked at Solomon the people no longer saw a man who walked in the ways of the LORD with great wisdom. Instead he was a man who sought to raise himself up in the community, a king who would look good for all the other nations.
He loved these women so much that he slipped further than his father ever did. Solomon began to worship foreign gods, leaving the heart of his wisdom at the doors of his finely crafted temple. If “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” then disrespecting God is the end of understanding.
We all need wisdom in this life. We need to know how to get along with difficult people, how to love our spouse, kids, grandkids. Perhaps we need understanding at our workplace, or in our finances. No matter what area of life we find ourselves engaged in, we find a lack of wisdom.
In these times we need to turn to God and realize that he has the answers. Yes, we could rely on our own understanding or engage in library perusal or google prowling. Perhaps we could phone a friend, but what do we do when we’re all out of life lines? If we come to God and recognize his power in and sovereignty over all things, consider his will and ways above our own, then he equips us with the wisdom we need for this life.
Let us begin like Solomon, realizing how little we have to offer and how much God has. Let us fear God, respect his authority, walk in his ways, and live the kind of life filled with wisdom that comes at the side of our LORD. Let us not end like Solomon did, turning to other gods for wisdom—to the gods of Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Web M.D. Let us not be sucked in by the allures of this world, but cling onto the coattails of our King as he drops scraps of wisdom and crumbs of grace—such that does not run out or grow stale. Let us revere God, respect his ways, and live.