A Life Companion
“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: Keep her; for she is thy life” (Proverbs 4:13 KJV).
by Timothy Davis
As a teacher, King Solomon provides the key to victory in our lives. He tells us the secret to overcoming self. He delivers the tools for us to defeat self-will and shows us the way to walk toward the shining light of truth; to demonstrate righteous fruitage.
Solomon speaks to us through the ages with pure God-given wisdom described as abundant as the “sands of the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29). What is instruction? How may we use it? What obstacles must be overcome? What or who is our enemy and what is the reward for “taking fast hold” of Solomon’s instruction?
“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee” (Proverbs 6:20-22).
King Solomon makes this matter of accepting instruction very personal by saying, “my son.” He offered advice as a father. If we are diligent, he assures us that the principles of instruction will become like muscle-memory; they will stay with us at all times.
Perhaps the most important instruction King Solomon received from his own father, King David, was given in front of all the princes and captains of the people of Israel. “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:8-9).
The power of regret in his father’s life was surely evident to King Solomon, the son of Bathsheba. “David said unto Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said unto David, ‘The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die’” (2 Samuel 12:13).
Filled with sorrow and longing, David wrote Psalm 51 in response to this grievous sin. “For thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
Solomon must have been inspired by his father’s repentance in the wake of terrible sin. Undoubtedly, as Solomon grew to adulthood he became aware of how quickly David repented and the resulting love from God that David felt from the rebuke. Perhaps this was a framework for King Solomon’s advice: “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Proverbs 9:8). King Solomon saw the love that King David showed to Nathan and to God after such a hard reproof. From his father David, Solomon learned how a righteous man accepts chastisement.
Initially, King Solomon worked hard to emulate his father’s spirit. When God asked Solomon what he desired as King, Solomon did not ask for riches, wealth, or a long life. Instead, he asked for “an understanding heart” and the ability to “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).
Solomon knew from his father’s admonition that joy and peace come from following instruction, and the effort to gain wisdom is to be prized over all other things (Proverbs 4:5- 7). God was pleased with Solomon’s answer and gave him a promise: “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days” (1 Kings 3:14). In one sentence, God both showed His approval for his father King David and outlined a clear path for King Solomon to follow. Solomon was quick to act on God’s instruction.
How to Use Instruction
Solomon taught that God is the only infallible source of instruction. He warns us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Solomon taught us to submit to the correction of God. “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
God warned Solomon about turning away from Him. He promised to cut off Israel from the land if Solomon or his sons went after other gods (1 Kings 9:7). Unfortunately, Solomon did not follow this instruction. Therefore, God punished him and said that He would tear his kingdom away from him after his death (1 Kings 11:11-13).
God punished King Solomon, but not because he hated him. God simply chastened him because He is just and loving. Even so for us, when we follow after God, our cup overflows with blessings. But if we deny God by turning away, He will correct and chastise us also, not out of His anger, but out of His abundant love. We must follow God’s instruction and not fall victim to the will of our flesh.
Solomon faced one of the same enemies we face: the flesh. The flesh is selfish, often unloving, and not always focused on what is good and right. We must continually fight against its ungodly desires in order to be pleasing to God. We cannot overcome the obstacle of our flesh on our own: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
We must seek God’s direction, wisdom, and understanding. In his early years, King Solomon was aware of his humble standing before God. He knew that his best efforts to rule God’s people with righteousness and justice would be incomplete without God’s special blessing. Therefore, King Solomon earnestly asked God for help in overcoming the limits of his own fallen humanity.
Jesus said that if we ask according to God’s will, we will receive (Matthew 7:7). How blessed we are to have the privilege of asking the Heavenly Father for our needs! In this scenario, we are in the same situation as King Solomon when God appeared to him in a dream! So, what are we asking God for? Are we asking Him for material things? Solomon could have asked for a strong army, a good harvest, or simply peace in the land, but these things were of his flesh, and he saw his flesh as an obstacle. King Solomon understood that the most difficult, time-consuming and exhausting challenges are fought inwardly. “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them” (Proverbs 12:26).
King Solomon chose to honor God in the beginning of his life but then he taught us how easily we can fall away from honoring God. Solomon had God in his sights and loved God greatly, but Solomon also had a weakness in the flesh. After finishing the temple and becoming great, powerful, and famous throughout all the surrounding land, he began to give in to his flesh: “Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, ‘Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods:’ Solomon clave unto these in love” (1 Kings 11:2, KJV).
Solomon adopted the gods and traditions of his wives and concubines, turning his heart from God. While he began walking in the right and admirable way, he was enticed by the ways of the wicked. In our own lives, we must be careful to observe God’s ways and to separate ourselves from the enticements of the flesh. We may think we are strong enough to overcome the obstacles of temptation and sin, but we learn otherwise from King Solomon and King David.
God’s judgment was sure and severe. After King Solomon began building idols for the gods of his foreign wives, God spoke to him: “Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, ‘Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant’” (1 Kings 11:11). God’s punishment was direct and irrevocable; Solomon was doomed to lose the northern portion of his kingdom to his servant instead of delivering it to his son. Perhaps King Solomon’s realization of his own sin began a struggle to leave a lasting testimony of the wisdom that God offers.
Solomon’s Proverbs and Songs became his lasting testimony of the power of the flesh. Solomon’s writings help us recognize this enemy and give us tools to rise above it.
Solomon’s warnings about the seducing power of the flesh are pointed, powerful and revealing of his own sin; “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life” (Proverbs 6:23-26). Solomon seems to put a “knowing” exclamation point on the fate of those who follow her; “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:27).
The reward for following God’s instruction is the gift of inner peace and spiritually happy life. Solomon learned by experience that accepting instruction from God is essential for a spiritually prosperous life.
When we try to follow God’s instruction, difficult and seemingly unbearable trials may also come our way. This should sober our perspective, as it did for Solomon.
The Book of James is considered the Proverbs of the New Testament and it offers some beautiful reflective encouragement when we experience trials and temptations.
“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty-and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not” (James 1:2-6, Philips).
Living in the closing years of the Gospel Age, we are called to follow Jesus’ perfect example: the personification of wisdom and of doing God’s will. In addition, we have Hebrews chapter 11 which advises us to learn from the examples of the faithful men and women of old. Let us be attentive to instruction from the whole counsel of God and be content to live a life approved by Him.