Friday, April 10, 2015

The Story 13 - Finishing Well - Proverbs 1.1-7

Let us talk about Solomon this morning. His story is a bit of a sad story.  Oh, like the kings before him, he started fine. Well, maybe not. As king, the first action he took that is recorded is that he wed Pharaoh’s daughter to forge an alliance with Egypt.  But still, he did have a heart after God. He knew what was right and what was wrong. God even appeared to him, asking him whatever he wished, as if the Lord Almighty was a bit of a genie.
Solomon acknowledged God and what He had done for Solomon’s father, David. He acknowledged that he was leading God’s people, a great nation, but because of his youth and lack of leadership, he sought wisdom to judge properly God’s people. Oh not just wisdom, but wisdom that comes from an obedient heart. Could it be that in marrying the daughter of Pharaoh, he already knows his weakness? 1 Kings 3.
That’s a pretty good start for a king. God was pleased with this answer. Verse 10 goes on to say that God granted him his request and because Solomon didn’t ask for long life, riches, or fame, God would make him a king unlike any other before or since Solomon. And if Solomon was to walk in the way of his father, David, then also Solomon would be given long life.
This is where we get our proverbs. Solomon collected 3,000 of them. Though we don’t know all that Solomon had, he put these together, it is held at the beginning of his reign. Yet verse 11 makes me wonder otherwise. However, let’s read the text this morning:
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man – a wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance – for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
So of the purpose of the collection that we have, is that we would develop a discipline, learn righteousness, integrity, and discernment. These are some of the characteristics that Solomon had as king. And yet, the sad part of Solomon’s story is how he finished.
1 Kings 11 records that his heart was turned from the Lord because of his many wives and lovers. He would embrace their beliefs, culture and idols.  He would collect proverbs not just from following God, but also looking at other cultures. Though I am not sure of the writing of the Song of Solomon, a.k.a. Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes seems to come from life’s reflection, looking back, and the king sharing his mistakes. Apart from a relationship with the Lord, everything under the sun is worthless, meaningless. Then Proverbs perhaps from a sense of urgency. Son! Be quick to listen. It’s not too late. Do what I say, not what I do.
Of course all of the noble characteristics that are mentioned in the first 6 verses were displayed in one hearing. 2 women come before him, fighting over a baby. Both claim to be his mom. So Solomon put out a test to determine the real mom. For the real mom would rather know that her son is alive and watch from a distance than to kill him to satisfy justice, for that really isn’t justice. So when Solomon is done with the case, mom has her son back.
Yet, Solomon gave up his discipline of learning about God. Reverence of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but a fool despises wisdom and discipline. It makes me wonder if perhaps he has passed judgment upon himself.
To start, these characteristics are not how others perceive us, but how God sees us. Without reverence of the Lord, you cannot be a righteous person. Righteousness comes from doing what is right before God. Integrity is knowing who you are before God, being honest with God. And of course, the wise would increase his knowledge, knowledge of the Lord.
 Solomon wed a woman outside the faith. This is why he asked for a faithful heart. With such a prayer before him, one might wonder how did his heart change since God gave it to him? The Bible tells us that his many wives and lovers were able to turn his heart, yet how did he get to that place where they could?
His fall came from pride, something he would write about later in this book. It is easy to see, he is famous, world renown. People come from all over just to hear some of his teachings, of creation, of love, of mathematics, of design. You name the subject, he would share his knowledge. Even though God appeared to him twice, he still took his focus from his Lord and put it upon himself. He ceased his following, he stopped his habit of looking to the Lord. The Lord’s Temple, planned by his father David, took 7 years to build. But his palace would take nearly twice as long, 13 years, to build. He was a proud king. So he lost his focus.
So let’s turn this toward home. What is your integrity before the Lord? Paul tells us that we all fall short of the mark. Jesus tells the multitude that integrity comes from having a broken spirit before God, seeking him. Apart from Christ, we cannot be honest before God. I know people who, because of their storms, not only blame God but hate him, saying, “if he truly was God, then the storm would have never happened.”
Yet we live in a fallen world. Storms happen. Bad things happen because the world is more and more selfish and sinful. I know I am a sinner. I have no problem echoing Paul’s words to the Romans, I know what is right and what is wrong. I want to do right, but oft I find myself doing what is wrong. Lord, Save me.
Praise be to God our Father! Time and again, we see in Scripture that when we call upon the Lord, he rescues us, calms us in the storm. Sure, we may still have the storm to deal with, but we have the assurance of getting through it. That is the good news.
I cannot be honest, likely won’t be honest before God, and therefore I cannot stand before God on my own. But for being clothed in Christ, in calling on Him daily, Paul tells us that we are made righteous, not a process, but a declaration by God.
Yet sometimes, we might become distracted by wants and desires of the eyes. We take our focus from God and tell ourselves, “God has done some amazing things in my life.” We tend to focus on what has happened. One church I once served I was told how great the young adult program was in the 70s. If only we were still like that. Well, why aren’t you?
Pride has us settle where we are. We forget again Paul’s words to keep pressing forward. To not consider what has happened, good or bad. Our goal is to look to Christ, a goal that is not yet obtained this side of glory, but a goal ever pursued. Are you pursuing God?
Create in me a clean heart, Father. Continue to renew a steadfast spirit that I will always look to you, to praise you, to seek you, to tell others of your wondrous love and grace. Thank you, for the gift that Jesus paid so that we might call you, the Lord God Almighty, heavenly papa. Thank you for loving us.

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