Monday, May 22, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 1, Introduction

The book of Proverbs is written mainly by King Solomon, the man who asked the Lord for wisdom, which the Lord graciously granted, saying, "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." (1 Kings 3:12) The only one who has ever possessed more wisdom than Solomon is the one who is both God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who pointed out the foolishness of those who would not listen to Him and said, "The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now someone greater than Solomon is here." (Luke 11:31) The Lord Jesus backs up the authority of Solomon's words by using him as an example of wisdom. God further legitimizes Solomon's writings by allowing them to become part of the Holy Bible as inspired Scripture. As such, they are enormously valuable to us for godly living.

Having just concluded the book of Ecclesiastes, we know that Solomon endured a mental and spiritual crisis when he reached the latter years of his reign. He looked back on the way he had lived his life and concluded that he had spent most of it "chasing the wind". This is because he married many foreign women and not only allowed them to keep practicing their pagan religions, but was led astray by his carnal passions into idolatry himself, at least to the point of building altars for these women to their false gods. We are told that as he grew older, Solomon's heart "was not fully devoted to the Lord his God" and he "did not follow the Lord completely". (1 Kings 11:4,6) The years of looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places began to take a toll on him. As he entered the final decades of his life, he was forced to face the emptiness in his heart and to wonder why he could no longer take pleasure in the things that filled his hours when he was younger. He concluded at the end of Ecclesiastes that the root of his problems was his failure to fear God, which in a spiritual context means to honor and revere Him, to acknowledge His authority, to believe in His righteousness, and to accept on faith that He has good intentions toward mankind. If Solomon had retained this attitude at all stages of his life, it could never have been said of him that he was not fully devoted to the Lord. He could never have looked back on his life and said, "Meaningless! It's all meaningless!"

I have come across a few articles and commentaries that attempt to make the case for Solomon remaining in his state of apostasy, but I must respectfully disagree. Would God allow the writings of a reprobate to become part of the Holy Bible? Would the Lord Jesus have pointed to Solomon as an example of wisdom? Would God have given him the second name of Jedidiah on the day of his birth which means "beloved by the Lord"? Why did the Lord love him before he had done anything good or bad? Because God already knew him. Before he was even born or had spoken a word wise or unwise, God knew his heart and knew he would eventually become a man who could be inspired by the Holy Spirit. In this same way God knew Jacob and Esau before they were born, seeing what type of men they would finally become, and He knew Jacob would have a heart for Him but Esau would be a profane and irreverent man.

The Bible tells us that Solomon sinned, but it also tells us that everyone is a sinner. If someone were to pick and choose portions of my life where I've messed up and publish them in a book after my death, then people might conclude that I perished in apostasy and am not in heaven with the Lord. But that wouldn't be looking at the whole story. We can't conclude that Solomon isn't in heaven with the Lord, because when we look at the whole story of his life we get an entirely different picture. He was a man who grew up in the faith, followed the Lord at the beginning of his reign, then was seduced by the power and wealth that allowed him to obtain any worldly pleasures he desired. If we stopped right there we would shake our heads in pity over Solomon's lost soul. But the Bible doesn't stop right there. The Bible provides us with the writings of Solomon's final years as king, writings that prove to us that he regretted the years of debauchery, writings that clearly display a relationship with the Lord.

A man who does not know the Lord could never have written the book of Proverbs. He wouldn't even want to write it. The book of a man who does not know the Lord would never have been given space in the holy Scriptures. I don't believe Solomon's soul was lost at all. I believe he wandered away from the Lord for a time and became entangled in all the wrong things, but I also believe he speaks from experience when he says, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6) Solomon was started off on the way he should go by his father David, the "man after God's own heart". (1 Samuel 13:14) When he became old, Solomon returned to his spiritual roots. He remembered the truths he had been taught. He recalled the example his father set for loving the Lord. This prodigal king made his way home.

Solomon wants to help us. He'd like to prevent us from making the same mistakes he made. So he tells us the reason he wrote the book of Proverbs. "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young---let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance---for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise." (Proverbs 1:1-6)

He now makes the statement that is the theme of the whole book, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7) He says, "If you don't know the Lord, you don't know a thing. Until you form a relationship with Him, you can advise no one. Unless you commit to following Him, you will never have true wisdom."

Solomon speaks to us from the heart with words that come from a repentant and restored soul. This is why the Lord allowed the book of Proverbs to be included in the Holy Bible, so we could be counseled by the king.

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