You've probably heard it said that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. But where did people get that idea from? Does the Bible actually say that about Solomon? Yes. In 1 Kings 3-4 we learn the enlightening story of how and why Solomon was considered the wisest man in the whole world.
A Matter of Heart
I Kings 3:16
James Dobson once told the story about of friend of his who was flying his single-engine airplane toward a small country airport some years ago. When he arrived, the sun had already dropped behind a mountain at the close of the day, and by the time he maneuvered into a position to land, he could not see the hazy field below. he had no lights on his plane and there was no one on duty at the small airport. He circled the runway for another attempt to land, but the darkness had then become even more impenetrable. For two hours he flew his plane around and around in the blackness of the night, knowing that he faced certain death when his fuel ran out. Then, as panic began to grip him, a wonderful thing occurred. Someone on the ground who lived near the airport had heard the continuing drone of his engine and realized his predicament. That kind, merciful man got in his care, raced to the runway and then drove his car back and forth on the runway to show the pilot the location of the airstrip. He then parked his car at the far end of the runway and let his lights cast their illuminating beam down the runway. The pilot landed safely.
The early life of Solomon's reign and his writings provide a set of brilliant headlights that illumine the runaway of our own lives.
While we are prone to speed up the videotape to the place in his life where he himself crashed in despair, I want us to spend some time reflecting on his incredible beginning - a beginning marked by integrity of heart, loyalty to scriptures and great wisdom.
I want us to drink in as much as we can on Solomon's wisdom from those early years - it is, to this day, serving as a brilliant light to guide us through the darkness of our world.
In our last discussion, his wish was for wisdom - God grants the wish.
Now the remainder of chapter 3 is nothing more than an illustration of wisdom and discernment.
We'll call it - WISDOM . . . FROM THE BENCH!
I invite your attention back to the First Book of Kings for a dramatic day in court.
Turn to chapter 3 and let's slip into the back of Solomon's courtroom - He, the supreme court justice of Israel is presiding over an unusual, undoubtedly a no win case. Verse16. Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him. 17. And the one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house. (in other words, there were no witnesses) 19. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on it. 20. So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. 21. And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne." 22. Then the other woman said, "No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son." But the first woman said, "No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son." Thus they spoke before the king."
The Background - two prostitutes gave birth to children three days apart. Must have been one noisy apartment!
The dispute started out between the two of them, it escalated to the neighbors, the community of friends, the local magistrates and ultimately it came before the supreme court - and Solomon himself.
The Case is a difficult one for any judge.
-evidently all the lower courts were unable to decide
-there were no eye-witnesses
-the disputants were both of the same questionable character
(it was one harlots word against another's)
-the testimonies were evenly balanced
-both women were passionate in their testimony
Can you see this scene - tempers are enraged - shouts are going back and forth - I can imagine them pulling and tugging at this little boy - "He's mine" "No! he's mine" he's probably crying - the women are probably crying and begging the King to see it their way - what's at stake is the future of this boy. . .here's young Solomon - If I were him, I'd have said, "I didn't ask for this job . . . I never went to law school."
verse 23. Then the king said, "The one says, "This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one: and the other says, "no! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one." 24.. And the king said, "Get me a sword." (Imagine that) So they brought a sword before the king. 25. And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." 26. Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him." But the other said, "He shall be neigher mine nor yours; divide him!" oops! 27. Then the king answered and said, "Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother."
What an incredible perception of maternal instincts . . .this shocking solution could kill the remaining child. But Solomon, with wisdom and discernment beyond his young years knew he could count on the tender love of the real mother
Her concern for the safety of her child would surface and identify her.
The real mother would be the one who would be willing to lose her child in order that he might live.
Where'd Solomon get that wisdom? There wasn't any doubt in anyone's mind - notice verse 28. When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.
In other words, the wisdom of Solomon was clearly defined as a gift from God - get your pencil ready and I Kings 3:12b: God said, "Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart..."
Look again at verse 28. and underline the last part; ". . .they saw that the wisdom of God was in him. Look at chapter 4:29. Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind.
Turn over to chapter 5:12. And the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon, just as He promised him...
The point is, you don't learn this discernment in law school - you don't receive wisdom with an engineering degree, or a masters in sociology. . .the source is God.
Now the rest of next chapter informs us that Solomon's wisdom extended behind the judge's bench.
Let's call this . . . WISDOM . . . ACROSS THE BOARD!
Look back at I Kings 4:29 there are three Key Words given to us in this verse: 29. Now God gave Solomon . . .
-wisdom - "chockmah" can be defined as "looking at life from God's point of views. Solomon wrote, "The fear/reverence of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom" 15:33
Wisdom is the ability to see life from God's perspective!
Now I know this may sound trite - and a lot like some sound bite - but you noticed that Solomon said, "the reverence of God is the manual/instruction for wisdom".
That means you don't have to read the latest Christian bestseller to be wise; you don't have to go to the most popular seminars or catch up on the latest devotional technique - if you want wisdom - worship God. . .get to know God.
-discernment - the word is binah "insight" and it concerns the ability to distinguish between truth and error, between the valid and invalid. If wisdom is seeing life from God's perspective, "discernment is responding to life with God's perspective"
Discernment is the sister of wisdom - it helps you interpret the events of life correctly.
I love the story sent into the Reader's Digest - now I've had several people tell me how grateful they are that I don't preach out of the Reader's Digest - I don't - but I'll use it this morning to illustrate!
Virginia Spring, a middle age housewife, was seated in the family room with her family. They were gathered around the television watching the arrival of Pope John Paul II. As we watched the Pope step from the plane, he stooped and symbolically kissed the ground. Virginia's 80‑year‑old aunt turned to her and loudly whispered, "I know just how he feels. I hate to fly, too."
What a hilarious interpretation - and she was dead wrong - but misinterpreting the important events of life is not funny - it's tragic - people do it every day - wisely interpreting the events of life is a byproduct of wisdom!
the verse goes on to give us the third key word/phrase: notice middle of v. 29.
-God gave Solomon breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. - "largeness of mind" - refers to a breadth of interests.
Take a look with me at some of those interests: v. 33 And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall.
By the way, this phrase is a categorical expression - ancient rankings put the cedar tree at the top of the list of plants and hyssop at the lowest level; thus Solomon's botanical interests were all-inclusive - in other words, Solomon had studied the entire range
Now notice further: v. 33b. ". . .he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.
One author said this - Solomon was the founder, the only representative, not merely of Hebrew wisdom but of Hebrew science. We should understand him to be, among many other things, the first great naturalist of the world, in the midst of his kingdom's collections.
Now the reference to Solomon speaking about these things was more than brute observation - he wasn't saying - that animal has four legs, drinks water, and likes to climb trees.
Wisdom relates knowledge to God - the creator. Solomon related that plant and animal world to people so that they had a better understanding of and awe of their Creator God.
To Solomon, these things were more than knowledge of brute facts - it was the relationship of knowledge to God - and that ladies and gentlemen is wisdom.
The problem with scientific and artistic advancement today is that it is not correlated with a creator God - and as a result - we are taking knowledge learned and ending up with the wrong conclusion.
that's why art can be blasphemous/pornographic but protected as free speech
that's why a tree can be given greater rights than a land owner
that's why a spotted owl can be considered more important than
that's why churches officially pronounce blessings on cats and dogs
The world of nature is a wonderful world - and we should be wise and careful stewards - but if we learn without ever relating our knowledge through the scriptures to a Creator God, eventually trees will have feelings and dogs will have souls.
Am I raising any controversy yet?! I didn't get this out of the Reader's Digest, that's for sure!
Relating the created world to the believer is exactly what Jesus Christ did with the crowd who'd come to hear Him preach: he said to his audience - why are you so worried whether or not you will have anything to eat or to wear; God has provided a visual illustration of his faithfulness - haven't you noticed the feeding patterns of the birds lately - they don't store anything in barns, nor plow the fields, yet the Father provides; and have you noticed the beautiful wild flowers - they don't spin their clothing, or paint their petals - the Creator did that - in other words, if the Father can take care of them he can take care of you.
Franky Schaeffer brings out this interesting point
Now the account of Solomon informs us that his breadth of mind included many interests: his interests were compiled by several authors who studied all of his writings:
natural history botany ornithology astronomy
geometry medicine music poetry writing
and architecture - by the way, Solomon's projects included
houses, reservoirs, gardens, parks, orchards, and vineyards -
his crowning achievement, of course, was the golden temple.
It's amazing to me that a man could be so well versed in so many subjects: I tend to identify with the person who did well in spelling and history but struggled with math and science.
I appreciate the story Chuck Swindoll once told about an elementary student who took a test in anatomy and failed it. This is what the young student had written on his test, "The human body is composed of three parts - the brainery, the borax, and the abomidable cavity. This poor kid is groping for straws isn't he?! "The brainery contains the brain" The borax contains the lungs and the living things" The abominable cavity contains the bowels of which there are five: a, e, i, o, and u!
I'll betcha anything though this kid was good at spelling!
Now your text goes on in I Kings 4:30 that Solomon's wisdom surpasses the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. (Egypt who was know for its wisdom literature)
Solomon's wisdom also exceeded several specific individuals who were highly regarded in Solomon's day such as:
-Ethan the Ezrahite - he appears in the title of Psalm 89 and presumably he wrote that psalm -According to I Chronicles 15, Heman was a musician
-The others listed include Calcol and Darda. . .the sons of Mahol. . . we don't know anything about them except they evidently represented men of great knowledge and wisdom. They who were the pullitzer prize winners; the nobel prize winners, the Aristotles, the Einsteins - these were the brilliant thinkers of Solomon's day. . .
. . .and Solomon surpassed them all.
Verse 32 informs us that he spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
Now since the Book of Proverbs contains only 800 verses and the Song of Solomon includes only a few songs, in addition to Psalms 72 and 127 - this wise king must have been responsible for much that has not been preserved.
Wouldn't you like to have the other 2,000 proverbs he wrote - well, God preserved for us, not everything Solomon wrote, but enough of what he wrote to adequately equip us for life.
What I want to follow some of the clues that Solomon gave us that will also allow us to have wisdom and discernment for today!
This is WISDOM . . . FOR THE BELIEVER!
The question is not - "Do I need wisdom" but "How can I afford to live without it . . .how do we get it?!
I'll tell you ahead of time . . . it's a matter of heart!
Some 80 times in the Book of Proverbs, Solomon references the heart.
The Greek word for heart is kardia from which we get words like cardiology.
Gerhard Kittel, in his massive scholarly, nine volume work on Greek words, takes up nearly three feet of bookshelf space in my library - he wrote, that the Old and New testament idea for the heart was that it occupied the main function of spiritual life - the place in human beings at which God bore witness to himself. . . that the heart was the dwellling place for feelings, emotions, desires, passions - it was the Biblical seat of understanding, the source of thought and reflection - it was the seat of the will and the source of decision making.
You know the old saying, "Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap your character. Sow your character, reap your destiny."
Solomon himself said it best - "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is."
In Solomon's proverbs, he alludes to many kinds of hearts: that reveal many kinds of people:
crafty righteous cunning glad reverent hopeless
cheerful proud teachable haughty deceptive pure
grieving envious contented angry sensual understanding
What makes the difference in what kind of heart we will have?!
Well, believe it or not, we have to start with our ears:
Look with me at Proverbs chapter 12:15 as Solomon relates wisdom to listening:
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Look over to 13:1 A wise son accepts his father's discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. 15:31-32 He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
In the very beginning of Proverbs, (turn to chapter 1:2) Solomon stated that his collection of sayings was to allow us to "Know wisdom and instruction, to discern the saying of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior (the word receive means to welcome instruction for wise behavior like you would welcome a dear friend into your home . . . all of these verbs - know, discern, receive implies that we are not talking - we are listening.
A person who becomes wise somewhere came to the conclusion that he wasn't! And he stopped talking - and started listening.
Proverbs 1:5 continues - A wise man will hear and increase in learning and a man of understanding will acquire understanding.
You see, a person is not considered wise because he knows everything, but because he is willing to learn more.
My dear mother used to make it very simple my three brothers and I to understand this principle - she'd often say, "God gave you two ears but only mouth - so listen twice as much as you speak." I used to hate that!
One of Dallas Seminary's well known scholarly faculty members was the Professor of Old Testament, Dr. Bruce Waltke - he once said, that if he had to choose one Book out of the entire Bible to serve as his guide for life, it would be the Book of Proverbs and if he had to choose one chapter over all the rest he'd choose Proverbs chapter 2.
Chapter 2 begins with an invitation to wisdom - notice v. 1 My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you; 2. Make your ear attentive to wisdom (listen to me). . . look at verse 4. If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God 6. For the Lord gives wisdom . . ." RIGHT! He gives it to those who want it!
Did you notice the passion of this person's search - verse 3 - if you cry for it...4. seek . . . search - literally, to "dig out". We treat this Book like a magazine in the Dr.'s waiting room. We flip through a few pages, looking at the pictures - skimming the headlines - not this Book!
If you want wisdom, you have to become a wisdom hunter; you have to become a wisdom archaelogist who patiently digs and carefully observes.
Have you ever thought about the fact that an archeologist on a dig and a hunter in the forest usually aren't doing much talking - they do a lot of looking and listening.
One wise sage once wrote, "I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."
So a search for wisdom is a matter of the heart - but it relies heavily upon the ears - I want to go one step further - the search for wisdom ends with the feet . . .
Whether or not you are a wise person will not be revealed in how much you know but in which way you live.
Solomon put it into perspective when he wrote in chapter 16:9 "The mind of man plans his way, (notice the implied submission) but the Lord directs his steps." You could refer to this as making your plans for life but giving to God a big eraser that He alone has the right to use.
This allows God to direct us - and do our busy lives ever need directing?! Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus Christ was always busy - the wisest man to ever touch planet earth - look at his 3 1/2 years of ministry - they were a whirlwind - He was always busy, but he was never sidetracked!
I want Him directing my steps - don't you?!
For those who want to hunt wisdom down - to dig it out of the word:
I want to encourage you - with three final observations:
These are words to the wise, dug from the source of wisdom:
1) Having a heart of wisdom is merely a return to the basics:
take a close look at your heart
make sure your ears are open and your mouth is closed
look at the direction your feet are pointing in - where did they take you recently - where will they take you tomorrow.
2) Having a heart of wisdom is not inevitable, but it is available!
Where do you think Solomon first learned that wisdom was a matter of the heart?"
Well, listen to his father David, who wrote, "Lord, teach us to number our days so that we might present to you a heart of wisdom."
Interesting - there is a relationship between understanding the brevity of life and having wisdom.
That may sound morbid - but it actually works - you remember that time you were in an accident or in the hospital - how your perspective on life became much wiser?!
I was in the home of Floyd and Diana Green . . . what perspective!
I return you to something Dr. Waltke also did - I've shared this before with you in a much earlier study - he took this verse (Psalm 90:12) and applied it literally. Dr. Waltke created a calendar that worked backwards from the age of 75. He would tear off a page each morning that would tell him how many days he had left .
Since I just had a birthday, I re-calculated - my backward calendar would tell me that if I live to be 75, I have 13,870 days left.
If you are 40, you've got roughly 12,000 days left;
if you're 50 - 9,000 days left
if your 65, you have 3,600 days to go.
Whether you have 13, 000 or 3,000 left - it doesn't sound like much does it.
Makes you want to reach for this Book of wisdom doesn't it - and hold on tightly.
Having a heart of wisdom is not inevitable, but it is available!
One more word of encouragement for the wisdom hunters here:
Having a heart of wisdom is not developed by what you know, but Who you know . . . and who you follow.
I want to close by reading to you from Proverbs 2: just listen: 6. For the Lord gives wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justic and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to you soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you.
Enough said! Let's go hunting . . . just remember, the hunt begins at the heart . . . wisdom, is a matter of the heart!
- a point that Solomon reveled in - listen, "If from this world around us we can learn anything about God's character, surely it is that we have a creative God, a God of diversity, a God whose interest in beauty and detail must be unquestioned - we could have lived in an uninteresting flat world, one that had the bare minimum of gray ingredients to support life, one whose diversity was only enough to provide the minimum of existence. Instead, we live in a riotous explosion of diversity and beauty. We live in a world with millions of species, we live in a world peopled by individuals of infinite variety, talents, abilities, shapes and colors - and when one looks heavenward and sees the complexity of the reaches of space above us, the mind boggles at the creativity of our God."