I used to know this young, thin, athletic, super-healthy guy with long, black wavy hair who could eat anything and never gain weight or have any injurious effects of such. He looked a lot like me at that age. In fact, it was me. Struggling with health and aging issues are things that happen to other people, right? Not really. Ugh! It would be great to assume that our physical selves when in our 20s would last for a lifetime, but it doesn’t.
Nothing much stays the same. A business person has to make adjustments. Few successful businesses have managed to operate the same way they did before the advent of technological innovations like electronic banking and online marketing and the effects of internet commerce. Just because they were successful prior to such developments did not mean it would remain the same always. A business person can’t just drift along, expecting endless success.
Even a person who inherits wealth and blessing cannot assume that those resources and circumstances will always prevail through the years of a lifetime, not without being responsible and purposeful attention and the disciplines of management.
And we can’t just drift through life. We have to live intentionally. What begins well only ends well because of focused intent and attention.
Solomon was not necessarily the first or most likely choice to follow David upon the throne, but it was in accord with God’s plan and had come to fruition. The transition was bumpy, but here he is as the king in Israel over a vast land and people. And we read about the early blessings that accrued to him and of his disposition toward the Lord…
3:1 – 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. 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. 3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
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.
Hold it, aren’t there some kinky sorts of things going on here? What is Solomon doing marrying a daughter of Pharaoh? Weren’t there any sweet, cute Jewish girls? Marrying internationally into the royalty of a neighboring nation was not unusual. It was a way of leading successfully and securing neighboring boundaries and friendly relations and commerce between world powers. It was not explicitly forbidden, though of course such a person was likely to bring along with them an alien, pagan faith. This relationship is spoken of rather positively in the Scripture, and Jewish tradition holds that she became a proselyte. We don’t know that for certain.
But there’s another “but” in these verses … an “except” about Solomon having a passion for God except for worshipping on the high places. This looks rather damning, in spite of the overall positive tone about Solomon in this section. And it indeed might not be as bad as it appears on the service. Let me say it this way: Instead of Solomon being given here a report card with five “A” grades and one “F,” we might see it as five stellar grades with one “C.” There really was no centralized place of worship in Israel, as was God’s desire once the Promised Land was occupied. The ark itself was at various times in various places, with other articles of the tabernacle not always necessarily in the same place. The nation worshipped with sacrifices on “high places” here and there, too often falling into a syncretistic mingling with pagan Gods, though not necessarily always as such. We read in 1 Samuel 9 that Samuel offered sacrifices at various high places, but the “high places” were a sore spot in national history. Perhaps Solomon did not have quite the same high-level heart and passion to see a centralized place as did his father David.
And in verse 4, it is seen as a positive thing that Solomon went to a most important high place to offer sacrifices to God, and he took the entire leadership of the nation along with him (according to the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 1:2-3). This is essentially Solomon kicking off his administration as king by expressing his genuine trust in God in order to have His blessing for success in leading the chosen people.
3:5 – 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.”
6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
7 “Now, 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. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 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?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 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, 12 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. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a 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.
That God appeared to Solomon in an extraordinary way is evidence of God’s approval and affirmation of the sacrifices made and heartfelt desires of Solomon. In true humility, Solomon speaks of himself as a “little child” in terms of having the abilities to accomplish the tasks associated with the blessings he had inherited by ascending the throne. Instead of asking for the common desires of kings – riches, military might and security, “long live the king,” etc. – God was pleased to give Solomon his expressed desires, and all else added to it.
But as always, those blessing would be dependent upon Solomon upholding his responsibility to “walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did…” Does this sound at all like “Seek first of the kingdom of God and his righteous, and all else will be added to you.”? Yes it does, and the obedience and honoring thing is a part of that as well!
But in terms of application today, beyond the thought that it would be great to have some sort of presidential candidate of any sort who would have such a humble desire as the national leader, what do we take from this passage and story of Solomon’s life? It is that for us, having started well, to finish well we need to give diligence to an intentional faithfulness through all our days. In other words, and in the words of our series, we need to intently work on not “drifting” away from God.
You might argue or push back by saying, “Have I really begun well? I ain’t no Solomon.” And yes, you have begun well if you have come to know Christ as Savior. The creator God of the universe has made you his child, having sought you out and brought his gift of grace to you. That’s big! That’s something most of the people of the world have frankly not experienced. And you have great resources: God living IN YOU in the form of the Holy Spirit, and you have the resource of the complete Word of God. In spite of living yet in this sin-saturated world with its inevitable sorrows, these resources are more than sufficient for your success in navigating it through to the end – a final home with God himself. So … don’t drift.