Sunday, February 7, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 8. Solomon's Kingdom

Prophets And Kings
Day 8
Solomon's Kingdom

Yesterday we learned some things about Solomon's government, who him put in charge and what theirs duties weres. Today we look at what each of the twelve districts had to provide for Solomons household, one district a month. We will also look at what the Bible haves to say about Solomons wisdom. We talk about how the prosperity of a nation often leads to its growing distance from the Lord and its eventual downfall.

1 KINGS 4:20-34
"The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy." (1 Kings 4:20) The Lord promised this to Abraham by saying, "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me." (Genesis 22:17-18) Under Solomon's reign, Israel held more territory than at any other time. She enjoyed a prosperity in those days she had never experienced before. God's blessing was to Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to us today, for through Abraham's offspring (Christ) all nations on earth are blessed. Jesus came to His own people and was largely rejected of them but the Gentiles were eager to accept the gospel. Because Israel stumbled in bewilderment over this meek and lowly Messiah when what they truly wanted was a conquering Messiah, salvation came to the Gentiles. But the Apostle Paul, an Israelite himself, promises us that salvation will still come to God's chosen people, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved." (Romans 11:25-26a)

"And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon's subjects all his life." (1 Kings 4:21) No wonder the people are happy! There's nothing like having peace on every side from our enemies, enjoying a time of prosperity and national security, with unemployment low and plenty to eat and drink. 

"Solomon's daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl." (1 Kings 4:22-23) This food is for Solomon and his wives and children, his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, his grandchildren, and all the men of his court and their families. It likely fed visitors to his court as well, such as dignitaries and leaders from the nations around him. Some Bible commentators say this would be enough food to feed at least 15,000 people, so we see Solomon is supplying food for a very large number of people in his family and in his employ.

"For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon's lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree." (1 Kings 4:24-25) In those days it was common to build trellises for vines and fig trees to grow on, creating a nice canopy to sit under in the shade. I like to picture the people of Israel sitting contentedly in the shade during the heat of the day, looking out over their prosperous fields, enjoying the knowledge that they need not fear any enemy. They should enjoy these good days while they last, before the nation falls into idolatry, before she is taken captive. Though Israel will endure some very hard centuries, the Lord promised through the prophet Micah that when the Messiah sits on the throne forever, "Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken." (Micah 4:4) 

"Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses." (1 Kings 4:26) In 2 Chronicles 9:25 we learn that some of these were stationed at Jerusalem with the king and some in various cities around the nation.

"The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king's table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses." (1 Kings 4:27-28) These men are faithful in carrying out their duties for both people and animals.

"God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite---wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations." (1 Kings 4:29-31) Egypt was a very advanced culture but all her knowledge was nothing compared to Solomon's knowledge. The Ethan and Heman mentioned here both wrote at least one of the psalms. As some of the psalms name no author, it's possible they wrote more, and it's possible some of their writings are lost. Mahol is thought to be either another name for Zerah of 1 Chronicles 2 or it could be a word which means a writer of poetry and songs. 

"He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom." (1 Kings 4:32-34) We don't have all of Solomon's writings today and some Bible scholars speculate that what we have are the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the rest of his works were perhaps not religious in nature. A song about a cedar tree might be beautiful but may not necessarily have any relevance to man's relationship with God. A song that extols the vast variety of animal life may be informational and cause us to rejoice in the creation, but it may not necessarily help us in our walk with God. We find that Solomon was an intellectual, a man with many interests, and nothing was too small to catch his attention. It's a good thing the nation enjoyed peace during his reign for otherwise I don't see how he would have had the time to pursue his thirst for knowledge. Thanks to the work of King David and thanks to the grace of God, the nation is free of conflict and there is no need for Solomon to go out with the army into battle as his father did.

Prosperity is a sneaky thing. We are more likely to fall away from our close relationship with God in the good times than in the bad times. Through most of his life, David had to depend on God for his day to day survival. We usually learn more about God in the bad times than in the good times and I think that's what happened to David. He wrote more of the psalms than Solomon because he was more spiritual than Solomon. Both men were intelligent and artistic but David's writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Many of Solomon's writings were not and that is why they are lost to us. 

In the USA we have enjoyed a long season of prosperity but there is a sense of us being on the downswing. The nation is becoming less and less Christian as time goes on. We have fallen for Satan's lie that since we lack nothing there's nothing the Lord can add to our lives. Prosperity causes us to be concerned with the here and now instead of our eternal future. It causes us to put off what we should do today: secure the fate of our souls. I've heard several wealthy and famous actors, comedians, and rappers make statements such as, "I got all this by myself. God had nothing to do with it." Is that so? God could speak the word and take the breath right out of their bodies this instant. It's nothing but His grace and mercy that holds each one of us in this life. What do we have that we got on our own? Who gave us the intelligence to accomplish what we have accomplished? Who gave us our talents? Who gave us the health and strength to get up and go about our work? We are nothing without Almighty God. He formed us from the dust of the ground and to dust we will return, and in the meantime the decision we make about Christ is what will determine the future of our eternal souls.

I worry about our nation. I think a time of chastening is coming upon us if we don't turn back to the living God. Many times I've prayed that the Lord would have mercy on us for the sake of those who are His in the United States. He still has many here who have not "bowed the knee to Baal" and for our sake I hope He will allow our nation to keep standing. But there is one way I believe we can be certain of continuing on in His grace and it's interesting that the Lord says this to believers, not to unbelievers:  "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) It's the responsibility of the people of God to humble ourselves and turn from anything wicked in our lives and seek the face of God. It's our prayers He will hear on behalf of our nation. On this Sabbath day, let's join together to pray in agreement for the safety and continuance of our nation.

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