Wise Counsel from an Imperfect Man
“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 28:9).
by James Mistarz
Solomon lived in a world of nearly infinite possibilities, endless growth, and continual personal advancement. There seemed no end to his ascent into wisdom, wealth, and adoration. However, this meteoric rise prevented him from seeing the inevitable conclusion of his own journey; he never acted as if he had crossed accomplishment’s finish line. Over time, as a victim of his father’s fateful warning, Solomon’s imaginations and thoughts led him away from the God of his father.
King Solomon acquired the most wealth, the greatest fame, and the grandest palaces and cities on earth. Above all, he was given the greatest wisdom. But King Solomon wanted more, as if he were never satisfied. At the end of his life, he lost everything. He was a failure in God’s eyes.
A Perfect Heart
On the day Solomon was made king, his father, King David, asked the people of Israel to give of their silver, gold, and precious gems to the temple treasury in order to help build God’s house. The people responded by giving generously. Both the people and King David rejoiced over the giving since the people gave of their substance with “a perfect heart” (1 Chronicles 29:1-9). The meaning of this phrase indicates that the people were at complete peace with their decision. They demonstrated perfect intent to give of their wealth and did not begrudge their king’s request.
On the day King David announced to the people that his son Solomon would build the house of God, he admonished Solomon to serve God with a heart that enthusiastically served God (1 Chronicles 28:9). Several years later, after King Solomon completed both the house of God and the king’s house, he tragically strayed from having a perfect heart (1 Kings 11:3-6). Solomon let the interests of his wives and concubines turn his heart away from God. His heart strayed so far away that he allowed the worship of the illicit gods of all his wives (1 Kings 11:7-8).
As humans, we “need” with our minds, but we “want” with our hearts. Did King Solomon need 700 wives, and 300 concubines, almost three for every day of the year? No, he did not “need” them at all, he simply “wanted” them. His heart was simply not content with God supplying his lot in life, even though he was given every need in such abundance!
A Willing Mind
In the area of praise and thanksgiving, the contrast between King Solomon and his father King David is striking. It is evident that King David was thankful for his success as well as humble in his losses. David’s hundreds of psalms of praise show his habit of constructive reflection in the praise of his Heavenly Father. By comparison, Solomon’s public prayers are fewer evidences of his praise to God. While King Solomon’s proverbs are powerful guides for life, they provide less praise of God or admonition for his readers to praise God. Solomon honors God as omnipotent in Proverbs 1:7, 2:5-6, 3:5,7,9, 10:22, 14:26, 20:22, 25:22, and 29:26. Perhaps this was his way of praising Him.
This lesser praise in Solomon’s life might be the key for us to understand his life as a cautionary tale. A lack of gratitude opens the door for illicit influences to come into our lives which are contrary to the Kingdom of God. Perhaps King Solomon’s lesser thankfulness allowed the interests of his wives to creep in and become a platform for committing evil before God. In his complicated relationships with his many wives, he relinquished control of his own will. He allowed his wives and concubines to dictate his actions. Solomon’s heart was divided between earthly pleasures and God.
In our day, and in our lives, a lack of demonstrated thankfulness and thoughtful contentment is a serious question we confront. It may be the first step in our walk away from God. In our “as in the days of Noah” world where we have access to so much knowledge, wealth, and recognition, how much is enough? Like King David, our minds must remain the constant regulator of our hearts.
The most important feeling in King David’s heart was his outsized desire to serve and please God. Like King David, when we submit our “feelings” to our “thinking” (our hearts to our brains), we too will be at complete peace in the inner man and serve God with a perfect heart.
King David left an enduring example (to his son and to us) of well-balanced contentment and a lovely sense of peace and happiness. He knew that God was in total control of his life; overruling every action and every consequence of his decisions (1 Chronicles 28:20).
As the wisest man in the world, King Solomon knew how to “put first things first” and how to keep life simple. But, somehow, God lost the “status” of being Solomon’s first love. Solomon forsook God who gave him so much.
When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, she was inspired by his wisdom, prosperity, and fame (1 Kings 10:3-8 NIV). It was clear to her that God made Solomon king in order to execute judgment and justice over God’s people in Israel. However, she made no comments regarding Solomon’s humility, thankfulness, or gratitude. The account simply says that she was overwhelmed by Solomon.
Jesus asks us to keep our desires simple. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The perfect peace promised to us is in “the knowing” that God will provide everything we need if we but rest in our desire for contentment in Him.
King David taught that there is not just one deciding factor, no single moment in our lives that determines our outcome. He taught that while we have moments of failure, we must repent and come back to God. In contrast, Solomon proved that if we do not repent of our failures, those failures can become the path to more devastating life consequences.
But David forsook God also. His murder of Uriah may seem like a much larger sin than that of his son. Yet Solomon’s descent into sin was a more subtle and sustained decline that became a permanent departure from God. King David repented completely and was forgiven by God.
His Psalms are replete with praise. The last eight chapters seem to be King David’s concluding thoughts, which are devoted to praising God. David understood his relative insignificance in the sight of God. He seemed to be continually amazed that God would even show an interest in him (1 Samuel 18:18, Psalms 8:4, 144:3). In contrast, Solomon seemed oblivious to his insignificance.
From the shepherd David’s foundation in humility, King David was able to deliver the praise and thankfulness to God that was actually pleasing to God. While Solomon is known for the clarity of truth and wisdom in his thousands of Proverbs, his wisdom seemed to lead him to a foundation of pride.
Humility provides the environment for sustained obedience to God. It is the mother of thankfulness and gratitude. Humility would have been the “antidote” for Solomon’s spiral toward failure. He would likely have recovered if he were but humble and content with God’s overruling for his good.
Let us make it a habit to be overwhelmed with humility and thankfulness to God for His favor toward us. Humility is the grandest of all virtues; learn it early, or, like Solomon, it will be the last lesson God teaches us.