If you want to learn how God created the heavens and the earth, read Genesis. If you want to learn about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, read John. If you want to learn how the Church was started, read Acts. But if you want to learn how to live wisely in the world, read Proverbs. No other book probes so deeply into the minute thoughts and decisions of our everyday lives as this one.
As the Curtain Rises
2 Samuel 12 & 2 Chronicles 1
I don’t know about you, but the idea of hidden treasure has intrigued millions of people the world over.
Treasure hunters have formed an entire subculture with group trips and web-sites and clues regarding famous sites where buried treasure has yet to be found.
Somewhere up on a mountain ledge overhanging the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, there is the buried loot of a robbery still waiting to be discovered.
In 1881, what would amount to a million dollars today, was stolen when a stage coach was robbed as it traveled westbound to California. Four canvas mail bags were taken by five masked bandits who surrounded the coach and stole the bags. A few hours later, a posse began the chase and eventually caught up with the outlaws in a log cabin. After a blazing gunfight, all five outlaws were dead. The cabin was searched, but no loot was found. The entire area was searched and dug up, but still nothing was discovered. The United States government eventually gave up the search, but not the property owner. He would spend the rest of his life – 30 years – searching, but he never found the money.
I read of a recent discovery of hidden treasure by an actual homeowner in the Middle Eastern town of Eshtemoa. The discovery was 62 pounds of exquisite, handcrafted silver jewelry that had been stored in earthen jars and buried. Worth tens of thousands of dollars – if not more, because of antiquity, it was discovered buried not in some remote place or in some elaborate tunnel or deep in a pyramid, but 2 feet underneath the floor of a home; a place that had been a home site over the last 1500 years – buried roughly 18 inches under the living room floor.
Imagine all the other homeowners . . . “If only I had known I would have dug down and the treasure would have been mine!”
Imagine, living so close to treasure.
Here’s something else to imagine. Robert Jeffress asked this in his book on some of the Proverbs.
Imagine, you’ve purchased an old fixer upper house, built in the early 1900’s. One Saturday morning as you are cleaning out the attic of your home, you discover an old sheet of paper, yellowed and brittle with age tacked to a ceiling beam in the corner. You carefully take it down and try to open it, but as you fold it open it falls apart. However, the faded words, “buried treasure” catch your attention.
Your heart begins to beat fast as you rush downstairs to the kitchen counter where you put the pieces of this note together and get out a magnifying glass. And you read the note which says,
“For some time now my grown children have given me the impression that they want their inheritance and would really like to be rid of me. Furthermore, I have come to the conclusion that my wealth would only deepen their greed for things and ultimately ruin their lives. Therefore, I have decided to bury my wealth for some future owner of this humble home. You will find a little more than one million dollars in cash, savings bonds and gold coins, buried in a small safe in the back yard. Locate the exact middle point of the back property line, walk 3 paces toward the house and you will find buried 2 feet down the safe. I hope you enjoy your inheritance.
Illustration adapted from Robert Jeffress, The Solomon Secrets (Waterbrook Press, 2002), p. 9
What would you do after reading that note?
- Play a game of monopoly with your kids?
- Throw it in the trash can saying, “Can you believe somebody would actually think I’d fall for that?”
- Would you give it to your neighbor and say, “Look, I don’t have time for this, if you want dig around out back you can keep whatever you find.”
You’d rush for your property map and grab a tape measure and race for the back yard.
You never know . . . you just might discover hidden treasure.
The truth is,
- as useful as a million dollars could be to you right now;
- as exciting as it might be to discover the buried loot in Flagstaff, Arizona or
- finding silver buried under your living room floor,
nothing will change your life more than finding hidden treasure offered to us from God Himself.
And our gracious Father left us a note – in fact a collection of clues and signposts along the way to lead us to the locations in life where wisdom lies waiting to be discovered and possessed and applied.
Solomon told us all in Proverbs chapter 2:4. You must search for wisdom as for hidden treasures.
He writes further in chapter 3:15, How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For (he understands that) her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.
You want real treasure . . . dig for wisdom. Ransack the treasure map of scripture to find where it is . . . how it acts . . . what it looks like . . . and how to have it in your life.
It’s one thing to live rich . . . it’s another thing to live right.
It’s one thing to make great investments . . . it’s another thing to have great insight in life.
This is the difference between someone who knows how to make a living and someone who knows how to have life worth living.
And the difference is this treasure called wisdom.
Throughout the Book of Proverbs, Solomon invites us all to become treasure hunters . . . seekers of wisdom.
But you need to know up front, the hidden treasures of wisdom are not for the curious, but for the serious.
Adapted from Warren Wiersbe, Be Skillful: Proverbs (Victor Books, 1995), p. 21
One author said it this way, “Straw floats on the surface of the water, but the one who searches for pearls must dive below.”
Adapted from Jeffress, p. 8
Now, before we take our first dive, I want us to go back to where Proverbs had their beginning.
In order to appreciate the Proverbs you hold in your lap, the first thing we need to do is understand its narrator’s life.
In fact, we really need to travel back in Solomon’s life to the delivery room where Solomon uttered his first cry.
Take your Bibles and turn to the book of 2 Samuel.
As you’re turning there, it occurred to me that from the very moment of Solomon’s birth, he was surrounded by drama . . . by royal intrigue.
In the 24 months before his birth, his father, David the King has admitted to adultery and murder. The young widow he had married to cover up the fact that the baby she was carrying wasn’t her husband’s child – but his. David saw to it that Uriah was killed in battle, then put on a sham wedding to Bathsheba who was already beginning to show.
Insiders knew the real story and the prophet Nathan eventually exposed the King and his new bride as evil conspirator’s who had kept terrible secrets.
Their baby was soon delivered, but died – in this covenant, it was a sign of God’s immediate judgment on David and Bathsheba.
The good news is that David confessed his sin to God. In fact, Psalm 51 records his agonizing and authentic confession and repentance before the Lord.
We have every reason to believe Bathsheba repented as well. In fact, instead of their marital relationship becoming strained by guilt, they conceived again and Bathsheba bore the heir to the throne of David.
Let’s pick up the drama at 2 Samuel 12 and verse 24. Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon.
Solomon actually had several names and in the days of the Old Testament more so than today, names were highly significant. Most parents named a child a particular name they prayed would be a name they grew to demonstrate.
David named his son Solomon – a derivative of Shalom, or ‘peace’. David trusted that Solomon would be free from the constant fighting his dad had been involved in and that the kingdom would experience peace under the rule of his son.
The Lord even gave Solomon a name, according to verse 25, Now the Lord loved him and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named Him Jedidiah for the Lord’s sake.
Jedidiah simply means “loved by the LORD.”
Many believe that the wise prophet, Nathan, would become Solomon’s tutor and friend and teach him in addition to his parents.
John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs, Volume One (Kregel, 1995), p. 18
Can you imagine growing up, hearing that you had been given your middle name by God and the meaning of that name was “God loves me.”
You’d think – Man, if I only had that kind of word from God, that kind of prophetic attention, I’d have so few anxious feelings and discouraging times. I’d wake up every morning, rain or shine, rich or poor, sick or healthy and simply remember my name and sail off into whatever the day brought forth.
We’ve been given many names – Redeemed, Saint, Son, Child, Bride . . . what difference will it make tomorrow?
Just to remind you, the name Jedidiah didn’t make Solomon wake up every day automatically reveling in the grace and goodness and providence of God. He still fought the same battles of temptation and materialism and lust and greed and anger that every believer wages war against. In fact, Jedidiah will eventually resign from the fight in disobedience and despair.
Another name that appears in the Book of Proverbs is the name Lemuel. The famous Proverbs chapter 31 begins with the words, “This is what King Lemuel’s mother taught him.”
Lemuel simply means, “Unto God.”
I would agree with the Old Testament scholars who believe Lemuel was a name of dedication, used by Solomon’s own mother. A name she referred to even into Solomon’s maturing years.
It was the testimony that Bathsheba had dedicated Solomon unto God – and she didn’t want Solomon to forget it. She had indeed repented and was herself following after God.
Additional evidence is seen in the fact that Solomon’s proverbs repeatedly challenge us to listen not only to the advice of our fathers but to our, what? mothers.
Every mother ought to take heart from the Proverbs – you are not left out; in fact, your instruction toward your children is given as much weight as the instruction of a father.
Let me read a few of the Proverbs and listen to Solomon’s words:
Hear my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9)
The Message paraphrases chapter 6:20-21
Friend, follow your father's good advice; don't wander off from your mother's teachings. Wrap yourself in them from head to foot; wear them like a scarf around your neck. Wherever you walk, they'll guide you; whenever you rest, they'll guard you; when you wake up, they'll tell you what's next. For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path.
Take it from your father . . . listen to your mother.
What a wonderful implicit compliment Solomon gave, not only to his father David, but to his mother Bathsheba; parents with a past.
- If there is a principle in this for us, it would this: God’s grace can be found at work in the present, in spite of your past.
- Godly parenting can still take place in homes that had an ungodly past.
Solomon would learn, early on, that the living God of David and Bathsheba forgives sin and gives new opportunities to follow after Him.
It was that spirit that Solomon picked up. The heart of Solomon is ready for the hunt. His spirit is ready for the quest for wisdom.
One of the most fascinating reports of the encounter between God and newly crowned Solomon is recorded in 2 Chronicles and chapter 1. (turn right from 2 Samuel through 1st and 2nd Kings and on to 2 Chronicles – it’s the place you are least likely to have had your devotions.
Un-stick the pages and look at chapter 1 and verse , Solomon went up there – that is, to the tabernacle in Gibeon – and he went up there before the Lord to the bronze altar which was a the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it. (Now imagine this) 7. In that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”
Make a wish, Solomon . . . name it and it’s your coronation gift – from Me to you. What would you like to have?
Can you imagine?
You say, that’s as likely as me finding a note in my attic that buried treasure is in my backyard.
But it happened to Solomon. This was no pipe dream . . . this is for real.
Make a wish, Solomon and I’ll grant it.
If you’re like me you’d be tempted to say like you did when you were a kid playing the game – and your friend said, “I’ll give you one wish . . . what do you wish for?” And you said, “I would wish for 3 more wishes . . .” And if you played that game as a child you know the other person always responded with, “Okay, you can have 3 wishes, but the first two don’t what? Count.”
So make your one wish count.
Actually there isn’t any indication in the text that Solomon only had one wish.
Notice again, “Ask what I shall give you.”
Solomon responds in verse 8, “You have dealt with my father David with great loving kindness, and have made me king in his place.
Don’t miss this. Solomon doesn’t wish for anything at first. Instead, he responds in three ways:
- The first thing he does is give thanks for what he has.
If we were in Solomon’s sandals and we rushed into our first wish, it would have revealed our discontent and dissatisfaction.
Don’t go past this initial response – “Solomon, what do you wish for.” Well, Lord, first I want to thank you for what I have.
I remember reading the story of how an American oil company began work in another country. The people who worked for this company were relatively poor, but they really didn’t know it. Until one day when one of the workers happened to see a Sears Mail Order Catalog in the break room and thumbed through it – and then asked if he could take it home. Soon, all the employees had their own catalogs and every family was eventually in debt and frustrated with the wages they received.
They were better off when they did not know how much they did not have.
One author said, “Contentment is realizing that you are better off the way you are right now.”
Ray Pritchard, The ABC’S of Wisdom (Moody Press, 1997), p. 62
Listen, as we head into this Christmas season . . . and did you notice how Christmas shopping has come even earlier than ever?
USA – Santa Claus and a woman and a turkey . . .
Listen, the mission of Madison Avenue is to convince you that you do not have that one thing that you need.
You need something else . . . something more . . . something better.
Solomon, on the other hand, because of his wisdom, wrote this: “Two things I ask of you, O Lord . . . give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me the food that is my portion . . . you could render it, with just enough for the daily portion I need. Otherwise I may have too much and say, “Who needs the Lord?” (Proverbs 30:8-9 Paraphrased)
What is amazing is that Solomon would say that after having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth; he had developed balance and patience and gratitude.
In the Middle Ages, it was the custom for the godparents of a child to present it with a silver spoon at his christening. From that moment the child could be fed with a special spoon made of silver. However, children born to wealthy parents didn’t have to wait to be fed with the finest of utensils – they were born, so to speak, with a silver spoon already in their mouth. Thus the history of that phrase we use to this day to speak of the privileged few.
This was Solomon.
In fact, he would grow up to eat only from utensils made of solid gold. This was an incredible kingdom and you might expect him, even as 2 Chronicles opens, to be spoiled and ungrateful.
Oh no. Not only does Solomon gives thanks for what he has;
- Solomon gives the credit to God for who he is.
Look further at verse 9. Now, O Lord God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for you have made me King of the earth.
Gratitude and humility are in the treasure chest where wisdom is kept.
First, Solomon gives thanks for what he has;
Second, he gives the credit to God for who he is.
- And now third, Solomon asks God for what he needs.
Notice verse 10. (Here’s my wish, Lord) Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?”
The word translated “great” with who can rule this great people, can be rendered “heavy.” In other words, Lord there isn’t any way I can bear the burden of this people – I cannot carry the load of responsibility that comes with my crown . . . I need Divine assistance!
Have you ever prayed something like this? Lord, I can’t be the parent, or the teacher or the employer or the employee or the student or the spouse without Divine assistance. I need help.
Solomon would be thrilled to hear you say that kind of thing. You might think, “What? I’m miserable!” Oh no . . . wisdom only comes to those who know they need it!
The first step in the treasure hunt for wisdom is admitting you have a need for it.
If anyone recognizes that they lack wisdom, they can ask God for it and He will deliver what you need and not rebuke you for asking over and over again. (James 1:5)
Lord, I do not know how to live insightfully. I do not know how to walk wisely. I cannot serve you at this station in my life unless you give me wisdom.
Remember, it’s not for the curious – it’s for the serious.
This encounter is also recorded in I Kings 3 wrote that Solomon asked God for an understanding heart; literally translated, a hearing heart, which adds an interesting thought to his one wish from God.
What do our hearts hear? Can they hear? What are we listening to? What are our hearts tuned to hear?
In the Book of Proverbs, wisdom is pictured as calling out to the passerby’s inviting them to knowledge and discernment. But they pass on without hearing her.
Solomon said to the Lord, “Oh Lord, give my heart the proper antennae – tune my heart to hear from you!”
And God granted his wish.
Pastor Ed Young wrote a commentary covering much of Solomon’s life entitled, “Been There, Done That, Now What?” In it he told the story of two men walking together down a crowded sidewalk in Manhattan one afternoon. One of the men was a native American Indian and the other man was a born and bred New Yorker. The noise was incredible – cars, buses, horns, sirens, people talking loudly as they moved down the street.
Suddenly, the Indian said, “Listen, I hear a cricket. Do you hear it?” The New Yorker was incredulous; “No way! You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket on a Manhattan sidewalk during rush hour.”
“I’m serious,” his friend countered. And to prove it, he stopped, bent down, and retrieved a chirping cricket from between a crack in the sidewalk.
“How in the world could you hear that?” the New Yorker asked. “easy,” said his friend. “I’ve lived outdoors most of my life. I can hear a cricket over other noises because my ears are trained to hear those sounds. It’s really not that amazing. If you want to see amazing, watch this!” And with those words, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, flipped it up in the air and let it dropped on to the concrete sidewalk. As soon as it hit the cement, heads began to turn. It seemed as if every New Yorker around heard that coin hit the ground.
Ed Young, Been There, Done That: Now What? (Broadman & Holman, 1994) p. 29
You say, “Yea, that’s New York for you.”
The truth is our ears are trained to hear certain sounds and ignore many others. Have you ever slept through your alarm? You ever incorporate the sound of your alarm into your dreams? And sleep on?!
Solomon is saying, “Lord, this is my wish – train my heart to hear the faintest whisper of insight . . . tune my heart to the sounds and the ways of wisdom.”
I want to hunt for hidden treasure that makes a man or woman truly rich.
The curtain is about to rise on one of the most remarkable Kings of Old Testament times and a young man who would rightly earn the nickname, “the wisest man who ever lived.”
As Solomon collects and composes some 3,000 Proverbs, he is at his best. When he eventually abandons his search for wisdom and the Proverbs he collected, he will be at his worst.
Which leads me to emphasize at the outset of our search through Proverbs for wisdom, these two principles:
- Wisdom is not for those who want it – it is for those who can’t live without it.
Simply put . . . wisdom requires that you begin the hunt, with all diligence . . . as if you were racing out the back door of your home with your tape measurer and a shovel and a map.
- Wisdom is not for those who are willing to hear about it – it is for those willing to practice it.
The writer of Hebrews said this of the Christians, “that they by means of practice have learned to discern between good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
They have learned to discern – that’s a word for wisdom seekers. They have learned to uncover the clues that determine what his good and what is evil.
It was late one evening and the entire Royal household was already asleep deep inside the walls of Buckingham Palace. The year was 1837. Great Britain’s Lord Chamberlain, an officer who was considered the senior official of the royal household, made his way to the bedroom of an 18 year old girl named Victoria. He awakened her and told her as she rubbed her eyes and yawned awake, that her uncle had just died and that she was now the Queen of Great Britain – the empire upon which the sun never set. Then he opened the Bible he was carrying and as she sat on her bed, he read this account we’ve just studied, of Solomon’s rise to the throne of Israel and how he asked God for wisdom above everything. And the young Victoria responded by saying, “If I am to be Queen, then I shall be good.”
Is it any wonder why the greatest days of Britain’s kingdom were under this Queen, whose throne was governed by the morals and directives of the scriptures, and her own life committed to the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So Israel will see its finest days . . . for it had a King who made a wish – and began a quest for hidden treasure.
When you desire wisdom . . . and you are willing to pursue it and practice it, you will discover wisdom for life.
For Solomon wrote, “If you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; 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, for the Lord will give wisdom.” (Proverbs 2:3-6)
So Solomon invites us to join him in this life determining, life fulfilling, quest for the treasures that show us how to live life at its highest level and for the greatest good, unto the glory of God.