Lessons from Solomon

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psa 119:105)

An acrostic poem

Psa 119 is by far the longest psalm in the Bible: one hundred and seventy-six verses devoted to extolling the virtues of God's Word.

If you look closely at the psalm you'll notice that it's divided into twenty-two groups of verses with eight verses in each group. The groups are called stanzas. A stanza, in poetry, is a group of verses that forms the rhythm, or style, of the poem.

Psa 119 is a special kind of poem in the fact that it's written in the style of an alphabetic acrostic. That means that each stanza begins with a successive letter of the alphabet and each verse, within each stanza, begins with the same letter.

So, for instance, the first word in v1 begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter Aleph, and the first word of each of the remaining seven verses of the stanza also begins with the letter Aleph.

Then the first word of v9 begins with the second letter of the alphabet, the letter Beth, as do the first words of v10–6, and so on. So you can see that the psalm has been very cleverly written.

There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, so there are twenty-two stanzas of eight verses each, making one hundred and seventy-six verses in all. No one knows why it was written in that style, but someone has suggested that because the Word of God is so wonderful, every letter of the alphabet should be used to describe it. I like that answer.

Born sinners

So what does our opening text tell us about God's Word? It says that it's a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. In other words, it shows us the way we should walk in this dark world. Who needs a lamp when they can see clearly? We only need a lamp when it's dark; and we do live in a spiritually dark world—very dark.

There are plenty of things that try to lead us down the wrong path in life, even from birth—our sinful nature for a start.

David said:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psa 51:5)

What he was saying was that we are born sinners. We inherit sin from our parents who, in turn, inherited it from Adam. You only have to watch a child misbehaving to realize that.

Then, when we start school, other children show us how to sin. They show us how to rebel against teachers and authority; how to lie and steal; how to swear and blaspheme God; how to be self-centred; and how to bully and hate people.

Then, when we watch television, our education continues. It shows us how to commit crime and rebel against the police; how to murder and inflict pain and suffering on others; how to make money our god; and how to commit every kind of sexual sin and perversion the censors will allow to be screened.

And, of course, the tempter is always there to tell us what to do (Mat 4:3). So what chance do we have of going the right way in this evil world? Thanks be to God for his Word!

Resisting sin

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path [manner of conduct, way of life]. (Psa 119:104)

God's Word shows us the way he wants us to live—the right way—therefore we hate every other way. The Hebrew word translated 'hate' signifies a desire to have nothing to do with the person or thing that is hated.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psa 119:11)

Because we are born sinners, and sin naturally, we need to saturate ourselves with the Word of God so we can recognize sin. Then, when the tempter tries to lead us astray, we can say, 'It is written, Satan…,' or, 'It is also written… (Mat 4:4–10).'

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1Jo 2:14b)

We cannot overcome the evil one unless the Word of God lives in us.

A Christian might say, 'I don't need God's Word to tell me what to do, I have his Spirit to guide me.' But I want to show you, through the life of Solomon in the Old Testament, that we need both the Spirit of God and the Word of God if we are to live godly lives on this earth; because Solomon was a man of the Spirit, but he was not a man of the Word.

Loved by the Lord

2Sa 12:24–5 tells us that when Solomon was born God sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah, which means loved by the Lord. That means that Solomon—like Jacob and ourselves—was elect, ie he'd been chosen by God for salvation (Rom 9:10–3). His life is therefore of particular interest to us.

Three hundred and fifty years before Israel asked for a human king to rule over them, God foresaw it and spoke about it through Moses (Deu 17:14).

That doesn't mean it was his will they should ask for a king. On the contrary, when Israel came to Samuel with the request, God said it wasn't Samuel they were rejecting, but himself (1Sa 8:4–7). However, he told him to give them what they'd asked for.

God foresaw that one day his people would reject him and ask for a king and so, in Deu 17:15–20, he gave specific instructions for the king and for every king that would succeed him:

1Ki 3:4–12 tells us that Solomon got off to a good start. He went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God and to seek his face.

God appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.' Solomon humbly replied that he was only a child and needed wisdom and discernment to govern God's people.

God was pleased with his reply and told him there would never be anyone wiser than Solomon—and God keeps his promises! Of all who have lived on earth, only Jesus had more wisdom than Solomon (Mat 12:42).

Solomon's sin

However, 1Ki 10:26,28–9 tells us that Solomon accumulated great numbers of horses, some of which he imported from Egypt. That was contrary to what God had commanded. He also had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (1Ki 11:1–3).

God had said that the king must not take many wives for himself, and that the Israelites must not marry men or women from other nations (Deu 7:1–4). Taking seven hundred wives, many of whom were from foreign nations, was a gross violation of those commands.

If Solomon had read his copy of the Law every day of his life, as God had instructed him, I'm sure he would not have done that.

I don't believe that someone who knew God as intimately as Solomon did, could regularly read that he mustn't take many wives for himself, and then marry seven hundred women. Either he was wilfully disobeying God, or he was ignorant of his Word. I believe it was the latter.

If you read the Bible every day of your life it will transform you by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2). It will change you into a different person; you will start to think and act as God wants you to think and act. Unfortunately, because Solomon didn't read and obey God's Word, he began to stray from his will; and that was a tragedy.

Let us remember that Solomon was loved by the Lord from his birth and had been shown particular favour. He was mightily anointed and gifted in wisdom more than anyone who had ever lived, but he didn't read the Word of God and obey it.

In the end it shipwrecked his faith. His wives led him to worship gods that were detestable to the Lord (1Ki 11:4–6), which is idolatry (Exo 20:4–6). Solomon died an idolater, and we know that no idolater will be in heaven (Rev 21:8; 22:14–5). Think about that.

Conclusion

1Co 10:1–11 says that the Old Testament contains warnings from Israel's history that we should pay attention to. Solomon was powerful before God, but he left the straight and narrow way that leads to life (Mat 7:13–4). It's possible for any Christian to do the same, no matter how anointed they are (1Co 10:12).

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1Pe 5:8)

We don't know when temptation will come to us, or how it will come; all we know is that it will come. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way just as we are (Heb 4:15), so let's be prepared for it.

Let us read the Word of God all the days of our lives, as God told the kings of Israel to do. The Bible keeps us in contact with God and keeps our consciences sharp. In that way we can discern every evil path and refuse to go down them.

A Christian needs both the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

Michael Graham
January 2002
Revised August 2017

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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