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This is my 300th post, so Yaaaay, appropriately enough it’s my sermon from last week.
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who who want to be strong in God’s wisdom said … AMEN!
We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, our reading today is about the only record we have of His childhood at all. But today’s readings are certainly a contrast in wisdom. In our Old Testament reading we see, what at least appears to be, a sort of altruistic act on the part of Solomon. The text says “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only,…” But we also see Solomon getting a little too caught up in the ways of world politics. He married a daughter of Pharoah. Now this was contrary to the Law that Yahweh gave back in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Eliezer Shemtov writes: “The primary source upon which the prohibition for a Jew to marry a non-Jew is to be found in (Deut. 7:3): “You shall not marry them (the gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.”
The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: “Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…” (“Strange gods” can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of Torah,… )1 We see Solomon getting a little caught up in the ways of the world and forgetting what Yahweh had told them to do. The Chronological Study Bible writes: “Marriage was an effective means for creating alliances among ancient nations. The hope was that one would deal more kindly with kin than with strangers. No greater evidence of Solomon’s importance among the nearby countries would be than to record his marriage to an an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter. As policy, Egypt’s pharaohs did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings.”2 The passage in 1 Kings 3: 1 tells us: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David…” (ESV) In addition the passage tells us that “…the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4) That’s quite an impressive sacrifice! But why would Solomon make an offering there? The ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle was in Jerusalem. Why not make your sacrifices there? The tradition of the pagan religions was to make sacrifices on “high places”. Later in 2 Kings, the writer notes: “ And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns,…” (2 Kings 17:9) There are 75 verses in the Old Testament about “high places” and all of them condemn the fact that Israel worshiped on “high places”. As early as Leviticus Yahweh says: “And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn’t seem to be any doubt there! It is clear that Israel is not to use “high places” for the worship of Yahweh. Yet it’s at Gibeon that Yahweh comes to Solomon in a dream and says “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon certainly says the right things. He talks about how Yahweh faithfully loved Solomon’s father David and David loved Yahweh. Solomon acknowledges that Yahweh has now made him king of Israel and so it appears that Solomon really understands why he is where he is. His words are right on message: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Solomon knows that Israel is Yahweh’s people, that only God can capably rule and Solomon seems to understand that he has been put there to faithfully rule as Yahweh has placed him there.
Solomon was definitely brilliant, Israel rose to the height of its power under Solomon. It became the most powerful kingdom in the region, was wealthy beyond imagination. It’s said that Solomon didn’t use silver to decorate any of his buildings because gold was so common. The Queen of Sheba traveled from her African kingdom to take in the wisdom of Solomon. But with all the wisdom, power and material blessing of the world, Solomon became too in love with his worldly power and did whatever was necessary in order to maintain his power and wealth. He no longer trusted in Yahweh’s wisdom to rule Israel, but trusted the wisdom of the world. He built his worldly power by marrying women from many different kingdoms: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,…He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” ( 1Kings 11: 1, 3) The writer of Kings points out: “the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” More unsettling Isho’dad writes: “The reason for that prohibition was lest [their daughters] might make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.”3 All these wives from different parts of the world, these made Solomon a big man in the neighborhood. All the nations around him understood his power because of all his wives and alliances. They saw his power as a result of these alliances and not as a result of what Yahweh had intended for him and did through him. Because Solomon trusted in the world’s power, he began to ignore Yahweh and trust in the “gods” of his wives. That would result in disaster for Israel, it would go from being the 800 pound gorilla, to divided, poor, constant in-fighting and eventually it would be overrun and it’s people killed or deported to foreign countries. We can only imagine what Israel would have been like if Solomon and subsequent kings had faithfully followed Yahweh.
While Solomon seemed to come apart because of his wisdom, we see that Jesus too started out as wise. Solomon was young when he was granted great wisdom by God and certainly, since Jesus is God, He had great wisdom from the start. He demonstrated that wisdom from the beginning. The teachers of the temple, men who spent their entire lives studying Torah “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This would be like a twelve year old today going to a meeting at the Harvard Law School and “amazing” all the professors there. It just wouldn’t happen, the teachers of the temple probably had a more profound knowledge of Torah then Harvard professors have of the law.
The difference is this. While Solomon came apart at the seams as he wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” It’s all pointless when we follow the world’s wisdom, it all just breaks down. But with Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52 ESV)
We see it all around us. People get full of themselves because of their power or wisdom or wealth. They no longer trust God’s leading, they trust what is around them. They trust in the world and their own understanding and in the end, like Solomon, they find that it was all pointless, it doesn’t do anyone any good, if anything it causes harm and destruction. On the other hand, Jesus certainly didn’t become wealthy or powerful, nor did any of His disciples. Yet what they left was a church that continues to serve, build up and encourage the people of Jesus. Jesus’ life ended at the Cross and it might appear in loss and defeat, but He defeated death. Jesus rose from the dead to give us the promise of eternal life. There can be no greater contrast, the worldliness and defeat of Solomon, so full of promise. The holiness and victory of Jesus, who came into the world with nothing, lived a life that the world would say had nothing and yet gives us the promise and hope of being His in this world and also in eternity.
Solomon failed, trusting in the world. Jesus triumphed trusting in the hope and promise of God. Since we are at the beginning of a New Year, let’s take a different twist on our New Year’s resolutions and really think about how much we have fallen away from God’s plan for our life and trusted way too much in the world’s promises.
What can we do in our lives to rededicate ourselves to God and His will for us and to start to look at the things in our life that are too much about wealth, power, comfort and too little about life in Christ, for us and for all those who the Holy Spirit guides us to witness to.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.
2Chronological Study Bible p 454
3Marco Conti Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT V p 13 quoting Isho’dad of Merv quoting Ex 34:16