"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 9, 2015
For the past few weeks I've been using Ecclesiastes as my basis for my devotionals. For the next two weeks I'm going to deviate just a little. I'm not going to write from Ecclesiastes, but am going to look at the author of that book, who was King Solomon. His story is told in 1 Kings chapters 1 through 11. (All scriptures I use is from the NLT.)
Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba. As a child, he very likely lived a very privileged life in the palace as one of David's sons. He never would have wanted for anything and likely was given whatever his heart desired. He probably had servants who attended to his every need. His father was greatly loved and highly revered as the King of Israel.
When David became very old, one of his older sons decided that he should be the next king, so he tried to sneak around and get followers to help him in this endeavor. The prophet, Nathan, heard about what Adonijah was doing so went and told Bathsheba. He told her to go into David's bedchamber and tell him what was going on, then he himself would come in and confirm what she had said.
Afterward David told Bathsheba, "As surely as the Lord lives, who has rescued me from every danger, your son Solomon will be the next king and will sit on my throne this very day, just as I vowed to you before the Lord, the God of Israel." He then instructed Solomon to be anointed as the next king over Israel and Judah. Afterwards, David bowed his head in worship and said, "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who today has chosen a successor to sit on my thrown while I am still alive to see it."
Right before David died, he called Solomon in and gave him final instructions. He spoke these words to his son, "Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all His ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise He made to me. He told me, 'If your descendants live as they should and follow Me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.'" David died, and Solomon became king and sat on the throne of David, and his kingdom was firmly established.
Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David. There was no temple at that time, so Solomon offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings.
That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, "What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!" Solomon replied, "You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne. Now, O Lord my God, You have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn't know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern Your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of Yours?"
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, "Because you have asked for wisdom in governing My people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies -- I will give you what you asked for. I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or will ever have. And I will also give you what you did not ask for -- riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow Me and obey My decrees and My commands, as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life."
The first incident recorded following God granting Solomon wisdom is a story that many of us have heard. Two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. They lived in the same house and both delivered babies three days apart. The one who had the most recent baby rolled over onto her baby during the night, and he died. So she got up in the night and switched the two babies, putting the dead one in the sleeping mother's arms and keeping the live one for herself. When the sleeping woman awoke, she tried to feed her son and realized he was dead. When she looked more closely in the morning light, she saw that it wasn't her son at all. The two women argued back and forth before the king.
Solomon said, "Let's get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. All right, bring me a sword." After a sword was brought to Solomon, he said, "Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other."
The real woman of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, "Oh no, my lord! Give her the child -- please do not kill him!" But the other woman said, "All right, he will be neither yours or mine; divide him between us." Solomon knew that the real mother was the one who wanted the baby to live.
When all Israel heard of the king's decision, the people were in awe of him, for they saw the wisdom that God had given him for rendering justice.
The people of Israel and Judah at this time were very contented and had plenty to eat and drink. In fact, 1 Kings 4:25 says that during the lifetime of Solomon, all of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. Each family had it's own home and garden.
Verse 29 of that chapter says that God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else. The chapter continues to say that his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, as well as about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. Kings from every nations sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.
During the 4th year of Solomon's reign, he began building the temple. I Kings 9:10 said that it took twenty years for Solomon to build the Lord's Temple and his own royal palace.
When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame, which brought honor to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. Solomon had answers for all of her questions and nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen realized how very wise Solomon was, and she saw the place he had built, she was overwhelmed. She was also amazed at the food on his tables, the organization of his officials and their splendid clothing, the cup-bearers, and the burnt offerings Solomon made at the Temple of the Lord.
Each year Solomon received about 25 tons of gold. This did not include the additional revenue he received from the merchants and traders, all the kings of Arabia, and the governors of the land. 1 Kings chapter ten tells of his wealth and splendor. Verse 23 says, "King Solomon became richer and wiser than any other king on earth. People from every nation came to consult him. Year after year everyone who visited brought him gifts of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules."
I realize that this devotional this week is quite lengthy, and that it is mostly quoting scripture or telling the story of Solomon's first 24-plus years as king. But I wanted you to get a picture of what life was like for Solomon during the first half or so of his kingship. Early on as king, he had made an alliance with the Pharaoh of Egypt and had married his daughter. As far as what we can see up to this point in his reign, he was only married to that one woman. Solomon loved God and followed Him with his whole heart. God blessed Solomon over and above what any other king had experienced.
When Solomon's father, David, was king, there were many wars and battles fought. But during Solomon's reign, there is only peace and safety in all of Israel and Judah. There is plenty to eat and drink for all the inhabitants of the land. Solomon's wisdom had become so widespread that people from other nations made the trek to Israel to come seek him out and consult him. Travel wasn't like it is today! They didn't just jump on an airplane or on a bus or amtrak train, nor did they have a vehicle to drive. It probably took many of them several months to make the journey to the palace, then to get back home. Yet it was apparently worth the effort for them to do so.
As long as Solomon obeyed the commands and laws of God, then God poured out blessing upon blessing in abundance. Solomon had been graciously given the gift of wisdom by God. He had been gifted with more riches and wealth than he could ever spend. In fact, those blessings overflowed to the entire nation so that everyone had a house and garden and plenty to eat and drink. Solomon's obedience resulted in a blessing to everyone around him.
None of us will ever have the wealth or wisdom of Solomon, but just as Solomon was responsible to be a godly guardian over that which God had blessed him with, we have that same responsibility. If we will obey the commandments of God and be faithful to serve Him, God will take care of us and bless us. But how will we respond when He does so? Will we remain steadfast and faithful in the midst of blessing, or will we be become distracted and get our eyes off of God? Will we allow God's blessing to overflow onto those around us?
Psalm 37:4 (NLT) says, "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires." It doesn't make God a "magic genie" that will immediately give us every single thing we want or think we need. It doesn't mean that God is going to give us a new car or new house or big bank account, because that is what we think our heart desires.
David's last words to Solomon were: "Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise he made to me. He told me, 'If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.'" God keeping the promise that He had made to David regarding one of his descendants always sitting on the throne of Israel wasn't a blanket promise; but it was contingent upon whoever was sitting on the throne at the time living as they should and following God with all their heart and soul.
The same is true today. God giving us the desires of our heart is contingent upon us delighting ourselves in Him. If we truly delight or take great pleasure in the Lord, then His desires will become our desires. We will only want those things that He wants for us, and will accept what God give us, believing that they are for our good.
It feels hard to understand how someone can grow up as the son of a king, have everything you need, and practically everything you want, and not be thankful to God for it. It seems like someone in Solomon's position couldn't help but honor God in every way he could. And he did for most of his life. But eventually, there comes a time in most of our lives that we think we want something that isn't good for us--something that is forbidden by God. For Solomon's father, David, it was Solomon's mother. She was married to another man at the time.
Some people living now have become wealthy, and forgot why they believed in God, and forgot how much they owe Him for all the blessings they have received.
On the other hand, some of the wealthiest people in America never lived like they believe in God. They seem to think that everything they have is solely because they deserve it. They won't admit that they owe God for making it possible to make their wealth.
I like to think that if I were wealthy that I could spend most of my time worshiping God. But honestly, I've notice that most of the times that people (including myself) reach out to God are times they are in need, not when we are in plenty. So, if I were rich, I like to think I would worship God with all my heart, but I know I might forget, or get lazy. And it just isn't worth it.
(This was Mama's fudge recipe she used when I was a kid. It's very basic, but very good.)
3 cups sugar
2/3 cups cocoa
Dash of salt
1-1/2 cups milk
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sugar, cocoa, salt, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil until mixture forms a soft ball when put in cold water. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and cool to lukewarm. Add in vanilla. Beat until it loses the creamy look. Pour into a buttered platter.
As I'm sure you all know by now, I babysit my great-niece part-time. She will be 2 the end of December and is at a really fun and cute age. She has recently started something new where she will "hide". She seems to think as long as she can't see you, then you can't see her! When I hear the garage door open and know that my niece is home from work, I will tell Jovie, "Mama's home." She will jump up onto my lap and hide her face against my shoulder and say, "Hide, hide!" Her mama knows the routine by now. She will come in and say, "Where's Jovie? She must be hiding from me!" Sometimes when she says, "Where's Jovie?", Jovie will answer, "Here I am!"
Many observe Christ's birthday! Few observe His precepts!
Oh, tis easier to keep holidays than commandments. - Benjamin Franklin
We love you!
Loretta & Jon