The Wise Man Who Became a Foolish Father
Dads, if you had one wish . . . what would it be? May it be something like this: That we as Dads might walk in wisdom, and see God incorporate Biblical wisdom into the hearts and lives of our children. Could there be any greater treasure than that?!
“The Wise Man Who Became a Foolish Father”
Lessons Learned from Solomon and Rehoboam
Recently I read the story of first-time father Michael Bryson who surprised his wife on her very first mother’s day be bringing their 6 month old son, Jason, to the hospital where she worked as a nurse.
After the balloons and the laughing and the sharing was over, Miriam returned to her post and her two men returned to the car for the trip home. You can imagine getting all the stuff back into the car wasn’t an easy job . . . Michael balanced the baby carrier on the roof of the car while tossing candy in the front seat, arranging the flowers on the floor and wrestling the balloons out of the wind into the backseat. Finally, he got everything arranged and headed home. Suddenly, other drivers began to honk at Michael and flash their lights. He couldn’t figure out what was happening until he hit about 55 miles per hour on the highway and heard a scraping sound move across the top of his car. Then Michael watched in horror through the rearview mirror as the baby carrier – and Jason – slid off the roof, bounced on the trunk, dropped to the road and began to toboggan down the highway behind the car.
The driver in the car behind Michael’s had spotted the baby carrier and was prepared – he screeched to a halt behind the car seat to shield it from oncoming traffic. Michael slammed on his brakes, ran back to Jason, and discovered the baby had only minor scratches. Then as the waves of fear, guilt and relief hit him, this new father began to sob uncontrollably on the highway, holding his son in a tight embrace.
Citation: From Holiness By Grace by Bryan Chapell,(2001), p. 91; 2003 Preaching Today.com
I imagine most fathers would do the same thing if they had placed their child in such a dangerous position.
I wonder how many fathers are committed with great passion to strapping their children in for the ride of their lives – checking to see that they are safe – that they have what they need physically – food to eat, clothes to wear, education, plans for a good job – without ever thinking about the spiritual safety of their child and their eternal soul.
If you wanted to find, in the Word of God, an example of that kind of failure as a father, it would be very easy. In fact, you would have to look 10 times harder to find a success story than a story of failure as father.
Moses, Eli, Samuel, Saul and David could give you more information on how to do it wrong, than how to do it right.
Perhaps the classic example of them all, is the wisest man who ever lived, but a man who became perhaps the most foolish father who ever lived, as well. A man who never strapped his son in, spiritually, for the ride of his life.
I want to challenge every father this morning from the life of a man who was applauded as a very wise man, but a man who became an incredibly wayward father.
If I were to ask you, apart from Jesus Christ, who was the wisest man who ever lived? Your answer would be . . . Solomon.
In 2 Chronicles 1:7, we read that “God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”
Can you imagine being given one wish?!
I was driving through a nearby state recently with my wife and one of our girls, and I saw a billboard announcing that the state lottery had reached 113 million dollars.
Several miles later, my wife asked me, “What are you thinking about,” and I said, “Well, to be honest with you I am in the middle of imagining how I would spend 113 million dollars.”
The finished campus . . . another campus for the seminary . . . the ministry departments, the outreach possibilities, the giving to global missions . . . okay and in the driveway of my home sits a fully restored 1930’s pick-up truck with whitewalls and chrome hubcaps and shiny wooden sideboards . . . man, that would be living!
One wish! I’d be tempted to say, “Lord, 113 million just might do it.”
And you remember Solomon’s wish? “I wish for wisdom.”
God granted him wisdom . . . and with it came everything else.
You could summarize Solomon’s life with two statements:
- He was a man who had it all.
- He was a man who tried it all.
He had it all!
Wealth, fame, adoration, a powerful kingdom. His own personal house spoke volumes.
Although Solomon’s construction of the temple of God was vast and expensive, his building program for his own personal home took twice as long! In fact, there was something telling about that.
His home was called the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” after its massive pillars made from cedar trees.
Marsha and I traveled to the Biltmore estate and were wowed by the extravagance of this millionaires home built in 1895. 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces coving 4 acres of land. We went through the tour with our mouths hanging open. The indoor winter garden and the dining room with beautiful tapestries from Europe; dining room chairs replicating the splendor of Great Britain’s monarchy.
Listen, I have news for you . . . the Biltmore estate would have been just a guest room at Solomon’s house.
Solomon’s home was so lavishly furnished that everyone who came to eat in his dining room ate and drank from nothing other than solid gold settings.
Every three years, ships came bringing to his estate, gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks.
Solomon had one magnificent room called the Hall of Judgment and another called “The Hall of the Throne” from which he could adjudicate regal affairs. Remember, this is not his palace, this is his personal home.
2 Chronicles 9 reveals the wealth of King Solomon:
22. So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 23. And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. 24. And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices and horses . . . year after year.
That reminds me, when my wife and I ate lunch at the Biltmore Estate, we ate in a restaurant on the grounds that was actually the original horse stable . . . in fact, our booth was a former stall for one of the horses who were fortunate to belong to the Vanderbilts. We were amazed to note the tiled walls and the ceramic sink and the running water and the ornate tiled floor – all of it original. We thought, man, talk about spending money – these stables are nicer than homes – the Vanderbilt’s kept their 30 or 40 horses stabled in comfort and splendor.
Listen to this: Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen (or 3 trainers for every one horse), and he stationed them in the chariot cities . . . (2 Chronicles 9:25)
In other words, Solomon owned so many horses and chariots and employed so many trainers and horsemen, that he had to build a city – not a nice stable, but an entire city just to house them!
The text goes on to record in verse 27 that Solomon “made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem.”
Read his autobiography called Ecclesiastes and discover that Solomon had everything anyone could ever want.
He wrote in Ecclesiastes 2 I enlarged my works: I built houses . . . I planted vineyards . . . I made gardens and parks . . . and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; 6. I made ponds of water . . . from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem . . . I collected . . . silver and gold and the treasure of kings . . . I provided for male and female singers . . . I became great and increased more than everyone who had ever lived before me.
That’s another way of saying, “I had it all!”
The second phrase that would characterize Solomon’s incredibly blessed life would be, “Solomon tried it all.”
He held back from nothing – pleasure, business, recreation, sport . . . any thrill, you name it, Solomon did it.
There’s a company called Thrillseekers Unlimited that offers what they call an “adrenaline vacation.” The owner promises a week of skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding and rock climbing for the “not so faint of heart.”
One of his vacationers chose bungee jumping as his “adrenaline sport.” What made it so unusual was that Mr. S. L. Potter was 100 years old. He evidently lived with the same kind of adventuresome spirit as Solomon.
He celebrated his one hundredth birthday by doing something he’d always wanted to do – bungee jump. His two children strongly protested. One of them was 68 and other was 74. They said, “Dad, please don’t!” But this man wouldn’t listen and he safely jumped from 200 feet. After his jump, he said to his family members who crowded around him, “Okay, whoever I gave ‘em to, give me back my teeth!”
Man! How would you like to keep up with him? “Here, hold my teeth and my cane, I’m gonna go bungee jump.”
There was nothing that Solomon could not try . . . and it seems that he tried everything.
By the way, Solomon was the one who wrote that verse that says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Solomon had it all . . . and Solomon tried it all!
It didn’t end well however. The wise man became a foolish man . . . and saddest of all, a foolish father.
Perhaps the most fitting epitaph for Solomon would be the words of an author who said, “In this world, there are two tragedies; one is not getting what you want, and the other, is getting it.”
By the end of Solomon’s life, his failure to walk in wisdom as a middle aged and older man would eventually come to light.
The grand temple he built was overshadowed by temples to false gods he built for his pagan wives.
His son would begin his reign after Solomon’s death. Rehoboam’s reign would be simply described as Rehoboam’s reign of folly. In other words, the foolishness of Solomon now became enthroned in the folly or foolishness of his son.
His son will ascend the throne, living out nothing from the Book of Proverbs, reflecting nothing of godly wisdom, caring nothing for the ways of God.
And after a few arrogant and foolish decisions he will basically preside over the funeral ceremony of a nation that will never be united again . . . until Jesus Christ comes again!
In fact, a few years after Solomon died, the Temple of God would be destroyed, but the pagan temples and shrines and altars built for his pagan wives would stand for 300 years!
The personal legacy of Solomon is not wisdom . . . but folly.
How could it happen? How could a man tutored in his youth by the godly prophet Nathan; a young man who started with great wisdom from God that emerged in sacred writings such as Proverbs and the Song of Solomon; how could he become spiritually blind and morally comatose.
Better yet, how to do you avoid the failure of Solomon?
There are two observations I want to make and then apply.
Godly Fathers are men totally convinced of at least 2 things:
1) That shepherding in the home is better than succeeding in the world.
Let me quickly say that you have on the other hand a foolish father who considers material provision a greater priority that spiritual direction.
In fact, ask the average father in the churches of America, “Are you providing for your children,” and they would never think you were talking about spiritual leadership. They would say, “Sure, I’ve got the best car seat in town!” But have you strapped them in for the ride of their lives?!
Fatherhood is more than conceiving a child; feeding a child; putting clothes on their backs and making sure they do their homework so they can get into college. Fatherhood is more than helping them learn how to manage money as well as stay out of jail.
In the book, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom wrote these perceptive words, “Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise . . . competence and success are all that they can imagine.”
James Merritt; Friends, Foes & Fools (Holman & Broadman Publishers), 1999, p. 19
Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective and applying God’s truth into everyday life.
That simply is not the ordinary passion of the average father who attends church.
Solomon, in his earlier years when he walked with God wrote to his son, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will also be glad – and my inmost being will rejoice.” (Proverbs 23:15)
He wrote further, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.” (23:24)
I want to be a doctor – that’s great, but will you be a wise doctor?
I want to be an artist – that’s great, but will you be a wise artist?
I want to be a mechanic – that’s great, but will you be wise?
Will you, in whatever endeavor you pursue, fulfill your duty and your calling with God’s perspective?
Solomon challenged his son by telling him in chapter 24 of Proverbs, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, yes the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.” I like that – he’s telling his son what sweet things there are to eat – I would translate this by saying, “My son, eat the chocolate covered ones, they’re the best.” Then he adds, “But know that wisdom is thus for your soul. . .” In other words, just as your taste buds love sweet things to eat, so your soul longs for wisdom. “The mouth of the soul waters for sweet wisdom.” Solomon adds, if you find wisdom, then there will be a future.”
How many fathers tell their sons and daughters, “Listen, you need to know how to handle money and repair cars and purchase clothes and handle a credit card and a bank account – you get all this stuff down and you’ll have a future.”
Solomon says, “Find wisdom and then you’ll have a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” (24:13-14)
The average parent today is convinced that a good education is the foundation for life that matters.
Ladies and Gentlemen, and especially fathers, an education without godly wisdom will only make your sons and daughters intelligent failures in life.
Listen to this: “Since 1955 knowledge has doubled every five years; libraries groan with the weight of new books . . . in fact, our generation possesses more data about the universe and human personality than all previous generations put together. High school graduates today have been exposed to more information about the world than Plato, Aristotle and Benjamin Franklin. In terms of facts alone, neither Moses nor the Apostle Paul could pass a college entrance exam today. But by everyone’s standards, even with all our knowledge, society today is populated with a bumper crop of brilliant failures . . . men and women educated to earn a living who do not know anything about handling life itself. Let’s face it, knowledge is not enough to meet life’s problems.” We need wisdom, which helps us encounter life with godly skill.
James Merritt; Friends, Foes & Fools (Holman & Broadman Publishers), 1999, p. 27
If wisdom can be simply learned from a book, Jeroboam needed nothing more than to read his father’s book of Proverbs.
Perhaps Solomon, like many fathers today, pat themselves on the back because they have the same address as their children.
You might be tempted to think that coming home every night from work means you’re the shepherd dispensing wisdom.
The problem is that even while the home address may be the same – and for 40% of the children in America today, it is not the same address, by the way – even if it is, the Family Research Council reported that the average father spends only 8 minutes a day talking with his children; if the mother works too, the number drops to four minutes a day.
Ibid, p. 14
One author summarized that the absent father (whether in the home or not) is increasingly recognized as a strong (if not leading) contributor to the cultural, moral and spiritual meltdown of our nation.
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr said, “If you look at the one factor that most closely correlates with crime, it’s not poverty, it’s not employment, it’s not education; it’s the absence of the father in the family.”
Ibid, p. 7
And from that vacuum, all sorts of theories have been inserted in to the family. For 30 years our culture has bought the feminist agenda that men are over-rated and even unnecessary.
Well, the data is finally coming in that God knew what He meant when he gave the father the awesome responsibility of moral example and spiritual guide.
The Southern Baptist Convention recently revealed the conclusion of research they conducted on the influence of fathers in the salvation of their children. The data is staggering. Research revealed that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability that everyone else in the household will also become Christians. If the mother is the first to accept Christ, the percentage goes up to 17%. But if the father is the first to place his faith in Christ, 93% of all households follow his conversion to Christ.
Let me ask you fathers something; if your child’s responsiveness to God and hunger for the word and love for serving in the church was a reflection of yours, what kind of Christian would you have on your hands?
The Raleigh World/May 9, 2003, p. 12 “When Father Goes First,” by Dr. Dan Burrell
The absence of the father as moral guide and godly standard gave rise to another theory called the sexual revolution – a revolution that brought incredible devastation.
- Today one out of every five Americans are infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
- In all, there are 12 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases every single year . . . 8 million of these cases involve people under the age of 26.
- Every day, 6 thousand teenagers are becoming infected.
The message is still being announced that what everybody needs is more education about birth control. No, what we need is self-control.
The logic of our world is to take a teenager, put him out in the middle of the interstate and then teach him how to dodge the cars; rather than teach them to stay off the interstate.
The Journal of the American Medical Association which, in the past has gone along with the politically correct message of our generation published a powerful editorial that actually read, “This was the age of over-indulgence . . . of tolerance for anything and anybody . . . of anti-celibacy . . . it was the age when homosexuality came out of the closet . . . abortion was on demand . . . of Chlamydia and herpes, and it was the age of AIDS. The editors concluded: This is a great time to practice monogamy.” (What a brilliant idea!)
Friends, Foes and Fools, p. 65
Solomon himself warned his son about sexual immorality when he wrote, “You will mourn at the latter end, when your flesh and your body are consumed.” (Proverbs 5:11)
Who better to teach the value of fidelity and the safety of monogamy than the example of a father who has chosen to love his wife and remain faithful to her, the mother of their children, for life.
Who better to teach that no matter what the world says about you, what your wife and children know about you is the most important thing.
I had two points here . . . there’s hardly room for one more.
The first point was, godly fathers believe 1) That shepherding in the home is better than succeeding in the world.
2) Godly fathers are convinced that being an example is better than simply giving instruction.
And this is where Solomon eventually failed.
He became the fulfillment of the unsatisfied, the immoral, the unhappy, the discontented man he wrote about in Proverbs.
Solomon had written earlier, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked and he will be held with the cords of his sin; he will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.” (Proverbs 5:22-23)
Rehoboam saw it happen. His father became exhibit A for the truth that actions speak louder than words!
God’s word through Moses forbade the accumulation of horses and silver and gold – even specifically condemning going to Egypt to get the horses. 2 Chronicles 9:28 informs us “they were bringing horses for Solomon from Egypt.”
Rehoboam saw his father doing that very thing!
God’s word commanded, “You shall not marry foreign women, they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” 1 Kings 11:2 reads, But Solomon held fast to these in love.” And he had seven hundred wives . . . and his wives turned his heart away.”
And Rehoboam was there all the while watching, saying to himself, “My dad doesn’t really care what God says, so why should I care what he says and why should I listen to what God says either?”
Most fathers think, “If I throw a Bible in the car seat, that’ll be all I need to do!” No, that son or daughter want to know if you buy it!
A godly father is convinced that
1) That shepherding in the home is better than succeeding in the world.
2) Godly fathers are convinced that being an example is better than simply giving instruction.
A wise father believes three things in addition:
- A godly father believes his children’s greatest development will be spiritual development; not academic; not social; not artistic; not economic – and those are all good – but his child’s greatest development is spiritual.
- A wise father believes his children’s greatest deeds will be finding and fulfilling God’s will.
- A wise father believes his children’s greatest passion will be a hunger and thirst for God.
Fathers, what should we do about shepherding our children?
Let me encourage you with 2 things:
1) You need to know that it’s never too late to start.
Begin with your own relationship with Christ – where do you stand?
What do you need to change?
What would you never want your children to
find out – begin confessing at that point!
Pick up the word of God . . . start to evaluate everything in your life and the life of your family in the light of God’s word, not the opinion of an ungodly, immoral, needy wandering world.
It’s never too late to start. . .even if your children are grown and gone – your grown children need godly counsel and we happen to need godly grandfathers too.
It’s never too late to start!
Secondly: It’s always too early to quit.
Some of you are daily pursuing the face of God – attempting to lead your sons and daughters in the knowledge and wisdom of God’s word and there is little or no fruit . . . keep it up!
Don’t quit . . . stay the course.
Don’t abandon your shepherds staff and rod – no matter how ineffective your leadership may seem . . . you do not know what is happening and what it will take.
One of my favorite commentaries on the Book of Romans (I just had to mention Romans); was written by William R. Newell. A preacher’s son, William rejected his father’s Christianity and was filled with anger and sarcasm for the faith. At his father’s command, around 1888 he applied to Moody Bible Institute and was rejected; at his father’s pleading with the president of the school, R. A. Torrey, Newell was allowed in, under two conditions; that he meet every day with Dr. Torrey and that he keep the school rules – any infraction would lead to dismissal. He agreed. Every day, William came and presented his doubts and questions and Dr. Torrey answered them with the word of God. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months . . .then one day, William R. Newell came into the presidents office, his face aglow, Torrey wrote, like the rain on parched ground.” William R. Newell had come to faith in Jesus Christ.
You’ve probably never read Newell’s commentary, but you’ve sung his hymn that he wrote as a testimonial of salvation by grace in Christ who died on the cross.
The hymn lyrics go like this:
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died – on Calvary;
Mercy there was great and grace as free,
Pardon there was multiplied to me,
There my burdened soul found liberty – at Calvary.
Al Smith, Hymn Histories (Better Music Publications), 1985, p. 70
The greatest desire in the heart of William R. Newell’s father – whom we know nearly nothing about, was that his son know and walk with the Savior.
Dads, if you had one wish . . . what would it be? May it be something like this,
That we as Dads might walk in wisdom, and see God incorporate Biblical wisdom into the hearts and lives of our children.
Could there be any greater treasure than that?!
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