A Life of Experiences

A Heart to Seek Wisdom

“I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-13).

— David Wiant

Few in history can claim the gift of wisdom from Jehovah. Solomon was one of them. When he became king of Israel, he knew that he would fail without divine guidance. Unfortunately, he eventually was overcome with pride in his own power and influence. The wisdom he gained as a gift from Jehovah became secondary to his pursuit of worldly pleasure. The lessons from his own words during this transition are valuable for new creatures with the gift of wisdom endowed to us through the holy Spirit.

At the beginning of his reign, Solomon prayed: “O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in … Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great people?” (1 Kings 3:7, 9).

This request pleased God greatly (verse 10). He gave Solomon not only the ability to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, and to judge fairly, but added wealth, power, honor, and glory. Jehovah told him, “There was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee”
(1 Kings 3:12).

Likely Solomon learned from his father David that God had given a great promise to Abraham of a promised seed that would bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:22). The promise was repeated to Isaac, Jacob, and then to Jacob’s sons when the new nation inherited the land. King David probably told his young son of the bright future promised for Israel. Perhaps Solomon considered himself as part of this chain of promise when he stepped up to the throne as a young man, so unprepared to take on the task of ruling the people without divine guidance.

Solomon’s Glory

Jehovah permitted, even encouraged, Solomon to build and create. The crowning achievement of King Solomon’s reign was the erection of the magnificent temple in the capital city of ancient Israel, Jerusalem. His father, King David, had wanted to build the great temple a generation earlier, as a permanent resting place for the ark of the covenant which contained the ten commandments. A divine edict, however, had forbidden David him from doing so: “But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for my name because you are a man of war and have shed blood’” (1 Chronicles 28:3 NASB).

Solomon spared no expense for the building’s creation. He ordered vast quantities of cedar wood from King Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 5:5-10), had huge blocks of the choicest stone quarried, and commanded that the building’s foundation be laid with hewn stone. To complete the massive project, he imposed forced labor on all his subjects, drafting people for work shifts that sometimes lasted a month at a time. Some 3,300 officials were appointed to oversee the temple’s construction (verses 13-18). Solomon assumed such heavy debts in building the temple that he was forced to pay off King Hiram by handing over twenty towns in the Galilee (1 Kings 9:11).

When the temple was completed, Solomon inaugurated it with prayer and sacrifice, and even invited gentiles to come and pray there. He urged God to pay particular heed to their prayers: “Thus all the peoples of the earth will know your name and revere you, as does your people Israel; and they will recognize that your name is attached to this house that I have built” (1 Kings 8:43 paraphrased). If Solomon had stopped here, the outcome of his life may have been very different.

Jehovah allowed Solomon to delve into all that his heart desired, but with a caveat — it was not to be just for himself, but for the entire nation that had entered into covenant relationship with Jehovah. However, Solomon considered how he had personally become great and increased more than all that were before him. He enjoyed his celebrity status throughout the world of the Middle East as an extraordinary builder, gardener, organizer, and leader. Instead of giving the glory to God, Solomon took pride in what he perceived to be his own accomplishments.

“I made me great works; I built me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits; I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees; I got me servants and maidens … I had great possessions of great and small cattle … I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings … I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, musical instruments of all sorts” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-8).

Solomon delved into the decadence of man, perhaps seeking answers to questions that arose from those who had never known Jehovah. Unlike his early plea for wisdom to rule the people, Solomon sought joy and meaning in worldly goods and accomplishments but found only darkness and futility. This is the perplexing problem of mankind in general that is being learned during the permission of evil.

In The Divine Plan of the Ages, Pastor Russell wrote that this time of the permission of evil, not seen by most reformers, will prepare all mankind for a future when the practice of righteousness provides a stark contrast to their previous experience. Man’s lessons are extremely difficult but will ultimately be invaluable in conquering the problems created by sin. Governments have been permitted to adopt many proposed solutions to eradicate injustice and bring prosperity and happiness to the people, yet without success. This long period of darkness will be remembered in the next age, and the futile efforts will lead no one to claim, “If only we had this opportunity, or that opportunity to govern ourselves, then we would have succeeded” (Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 1). Solomon was permitted to choose his own path, but he eventually realized that his pursuit of prosperity and happiness was futile without Jehovah’s blessing.

Solomon’s Prosperity

The Queen of Sheba was overwhelmed by Solomon’s empire. “She was also amazed at the food on his tables, the organization of his officials and their splendid clothing, the cupbearers, and the burnt offerings Solomon made at the Temple of the LORD. She exclaimed to the king, ‘Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told. How happy your people must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! Praise the LORD your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness’” (1 Kings 10:5-9 NLT).

Those last words from the queen may one day have cut to Solomon’s heart. Instead of being thankful that Jehovah had blessed his work, Solomon eventually expressed dissatisfaction. He could have left a remarkable legacy for his people, but only thought about himself fading from history. He dwelled on the idea that all men die, regardless of what they have done, or what they own, or who they are, or what they know.

He despaired over the fact that he would die as well and that all he had done would fall into the hands of others who had no hand in the work. He might soon be forgotten. Maybe not even his memory would live on. “I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). “I hated life … the work is grievous to me … all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (verse 17).

As the alleged wisest man who ever lived, without hindrance or encumbrance that are common to most, Solomon found his life of riches to be unsatisfactory, transitory, and fleeting. “Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I [will die and] leave it unto the man that shall be after me” (Ecclesiastes 2:18).

Lessons for the New Creature

God provided Solomon with everything he needed to produce a kingdom of glory and honor to Jehovah. God also promises “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22) for those who follow Jesus. His children lack nothing in their pursuit for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14, 15).

We must cling to it. Solomon’s wisdom, and his blessing from God should have been enough. He could have built Israel to the glory of God and provided the people with great blessings as well but his pride overcame him. We see in this why the first step in building a character pleasing to God is humility (Matthew 5:3). Rejoicing in His presence in our life should satisfy our desires. Whatever else we have, whether it be poverty or riches, should pale in comparison to having the blessing of God.

Solomon saw himself as the source of the glory and splendor that his kingdom had become. At the zenith of his life, Solomon’s had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. He had 40,000 stalls with horses and 12,000 men to ride them. Yet, he had little joy. He summed up his life in just a few words: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labour is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

No worldly pleasure can bring eternal satisfaction, but it may lead to everlasting regret. Without the divine governance that began his reign, Solomon became just a part of the cycles of the world. In the resurrection, will Solomon take a role among those who will provide counsel to the people of the earth, and echo the lessons he learned? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

As we consider the shortfall of Solomon, let us remember our opportunities to reflect the blessings Jehovah has given us through the wisdom of a spirit of a sound mind. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17, 18 NIV).

%d bloggers like this: