Pointing Others to the Tree of Life

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”

Pr 11:30 (ESV)

We all know that our words matter. They really do. But how much do they matter? Solomon tells us in Pr 11:30 that our words can be like a tree of life.

We read about the tree of life image in Genesis, Proverbs, and Revelation. I think it’s interesting that this important image is found in the beginning, middle. and end of the Bible. So what exactly is the tree of life?

Originally mentioned in Gen 2:9, this tree, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is found in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve that eating from the tree of life would give them eternal life – it was the key to paradise (Gen 3:22). Because of Adam’s and Eve’s sin, a cherubim with a flaming sword was sent to keep them away from the tree of life, so that eternal life was not accessible to them (Gen 3:24). Some commentaries say this showed God’s mercy on humanity because he wouldn’t allow them to live eternally in a sin-ridden and destructive world.

Revelation further reveals that the tree of life symbolizes eternal life and it will be found in the New Jerusalem, the paradise of God (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19). Putting the explanations in Genesis and Revelation together, we can conclude that the tree of life represents salvation.

So, if our words are like a tree of life, this means that they produce encouragement to others to seek salvation. We, ourselves, cannot be a tree of life; only Jesus can do that, but we can use our words to point others toward Christ.

People, in general, love stories, and telling your salvation story is a great way to point others to the tree of life. Sometimes it can be unnerving to share our personal stories, so remember that no one can refute your story — it is the unique story God gave you to share. We never know when our experiences will encourage someone going through a similar situation. God gave us different experiences to increase our faith, and when we share these experiences, others’ faith can be increased, too.

Before you share your story, it’s a good idea to write it down first. Writing your testimony is a good way to help you think it through, communicate your thoughts effectively, and avoid unnecessary details.

Your testimony should include three main parts:

  1. A description of what your life was like before you accepted Christ. What types of things did you struggle with? How did you meet your needs for acceptance, value, and purpose?
  2. A description of how you came to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. What were the circumstances of your life at that time: where were you and who helped you understand your need for Christ? This is a good place to include Scripture and the plan of salvation as it was presented to you.
  3. A description of what your life is like after you accepted Christ. What actions, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions have changed in your life since that time? A significant change to mention is the understanding that you now have forgiveness and eternal life and the gratefulness you feel because of that! End with details about your current situation.

As you write, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your spoken story to around three minutes.
  • Use your own words. Don’t use preachy language or Christian jargon (like “washed in the blood.”)
  • Be honest; don’t exaggerate.
  • Avoid unnecessary details and include only information that provides a clear picture of your faith and how you value it. For example, when mentioning people, only use a first name; the last name doesn’t add to the story.

Take some time this coming week to write your testimony. Practice reciting it so that you can share it easily, and pray for opportunities to tell it to others.  Remember: your story may be the one that leads them to the tree of life!

Finding Honor

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Pr 21:5 (ESV)

Last week, my family had the honor of seeing my brother, Ward, get promoted to Captain in the Navy. It was wonderful to see all of his hard work over the past two decades rewarded with this distinguished honor. With moving every three years, overseas deployments, and a variety of other challenges along the way, Ward has worked diligently to serve our country and take care of his family, and his work has been honored with abundance in the form of his promotion.

Distinguished honors don’t just come to those who receive them, but only after a great deal of work has been put forth. And long-range planning is usually a major part of reaching any honorable goal. Solomon, who became a wise king, understood this principle very well. Over the years, I am sure he saw many servants in his court work hard for a promotion while others tried to take shortcuts to get where they wanted to be. Proverbs 21:5 explains that hastiness and shortcuts lead only to poverty.

Have you ever tried to take a shortcut to get somewhere or something? I’m sure we all have a story about getting lost on the road when trying to take a shortcut. Thankfully, we have map programs on our phones to help give us the best route to help us get to our destination. If we take the time to study the route and plan well, we are able to get where we want to go without any problem. Sure, this planning takes time, but it gets us to where we want to go without needing to take a detour.

Most of us probably have a story of trying to reach a goal hastily. We are impatient people, and sometimes even lazy people, neither of which end with honor or abundance, according to Solomon. Several proverbs reference the value of patient planning and hard work, a few of which include:

Pr 10:4: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (NIV)

Pr 12:11: “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (NIV)

Pr 13:4: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.”  (NLT)

Pr 24:27: “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (NIV)

Honorable goals and their rewards take planning, diligent work, and ultimately patience. Are you eager to pursue a particular goal? Are you struggling with the temptation to reach your goal hastily or without doing the necessary work? Remember that the Lord rewards diligence and hard work, and when you do this, you will appreciate your reward that much more! Continue working toward your goal, following all the necessary steps, so that your diligence will eventually be rewarded with abundance.

 

Heart of Joy

“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.”

Pr 22:11 (NIV)

What are you praying for today? For me, it’s joy. As I was sitting in my bed this morning after reading the book of Philippians, I looked down at our kitten, Daisy, who was resting at my feet, eyes closed and purring loudly. At that moment, she showed me the perfect image of contentment.

Lately, I’ve noticed that many of my words have been negative. Of course, I could excuse this negative speech by saying that I’m worn down, worried, or unsure of the future. But, really, my negativity is a heart issue. As I read Paul’s words in Philippians, to “rejoice in the Lord,” (Php 3:1), do everything  without complaining or arguing (Php 2:14), pray rather than be anxious (Php 4:6), dwell on positive things (Php 4:8), and consider everything else a loss compared to what I gain in Christ (Php 3:8), I began to understand that true joy is not a feeling based on our circumstances, but rather a peace that comes from within as we place our trust in the Lord. When we have this peace, our hearts are pure and our words will be gracious.

Proverbs 22:11 reminds us of the importance of having a pure heart and gracious words. In this verse, Solomon tells us that the person who possesses these attributes “will have the king for a friend.” In this sense, king could mean two different things: the first is an earthly king, a person of respect and great importance. When we speak words that encourage and nourish others (Pr 16:24 ), we become like a light in this world that draws others to us, even those of the highest ranking. On the other hand, the king could refer to God. Our Father in heaven is pleased when our hearts are pure. That is what allows us to be in his presence, and he honors our graciousness to others. After all, grace is the message of Christianity.

If joy is something you seek as well, join me in prayer as we strive to seek joy and contentment in our lives despite our circumstances. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:9-11 are a beautiful prayer we can pray for each other:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus  Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Amen!

Proverbs: When and Where?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Pr. 1:7 (NIV)

In this final post of my journalistic series on Proverbs, we will look at the questions of when and where Proverbs took place. Just as with any other literary work, when we read the Bible, the setting (time and place) helps to give us context.

The setting of Proverbs can be gleaned from Pr. 1:1 and passages in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles about King Solomon. Proverbs was written during Solomon’s reign (970 to 930 BC) in Israel during a time when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) were still united.

During his time as king, Solomon brought lavishness to the kingdom. He made silver, gold and cedar plentiful (2 Chr 1:15), he had thousands of horses and chariots (2 Chr 9:25), he built a magnificent temple for the Lord and palace for himself (2 Chr 8:1), and he assigned thousands of people to be craftsmen and servants in Israel (2 Chr 2:17-18). In general, most people probably worked as farmers, artisans, or servants.

Why is setting important to us when it comes to studying the book of Proverbs? Knowing what was happening in Israel during Solomon’s lifetime can help us understand the references he made in his proverbs. For example:

Pr. 21:9: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” The Archaeological Study Bible explains that houses had flat roofs, and that they could accommodate a small room like the reference mentioned in 2 Ki 4:10. Living on the roof would not be as uncomfortable as we would think it with our modern-day slanted roofs that would leave us out in the elements.

Pr. 11:22: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” In ancient times, it was common for women (and men) to wear gold rings in their noses and/or ears. Ge 24:47 and Eze 16:12 refer to the commonplace wearing of gold rings. This helps us understand that women wore gold rings for adornment, and when they acted unbecomingly they were compared to a pig trying to dress up with jewelry. It was their righteous behavior, and not their outward adornment, that made them pleasing to God.

Pr. 11:1: “The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.” Buying and selling during Biblical times was done using scales and weights, and this verse refers to the dishonest business practice of merchants using heavier weights when buying merchandise (to make the seller’s goods appear lighter) and lighter weights when selling (to make their own goods appear heavier). Knowing the background of this verse helps us understand it since we don’t usually carry around a bag of weights when we shop today.

Knowing and understanding context is important and can give us a clearer picture of what Solomon meant in his colorful proverbs. But more importantly, we want to apply the idea of setting to our own walk with God. Consider the setting of your life. During the “good” times, is it easier or harder to discern wisdom when you are faced with a problem? When you are “down and out,” how easy is it to see a solution?

Whatever our circumstances (or setting), when we are closest to God, studying His word and praying to him daily, we are able to see wisdom more clearly. At the time Solomon wrote Proverbs, his circumstances were good. In fact, they were amazing. He had wealth and honor, in addition to wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-13). But, when he wrote the more sober and questioning Ecclesiastes at the end of his life, after he had worshipped other gods, his perspective was not the same. Knowing that helps us to appreciate Ecclesiastes just as we do Proverbs.

So, the lesson we can take away with us is that every time and place (or setting) is made for us to walk in fellowship with God. So let us “fear the Lord” no matter when or where we are in our lives.

What Are Proverbs?

“Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
    Let those with understanding receive guidance
 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.”

Proverbs 1:5-6 (NLT)

The first six verses of Proverbs are much like the opening paragraph of a newspaper article – they answer the important questions of who, what and why we need Proverbs. So far, we’ve looked at who and why. It seems obvious that we would already know what proverbs are, but how would you answer that question?

Based on Pr. 1:6, proverbs and parables are words and riddles told by wise people. From the very start, Solomon tells us that proverbs are sayings to help us live wise, disciplined and righteous lives that will please God and help us live in harmony with others. We know proverbs are wise words. Verse 6 adds the idea of “parables” (or, depending on your translation, “figure,” “enigma,” or “interpretation”) to these sayings. The Hebrew translation for this idea is melitsah (H4426), meaning interpretation, satire or a mocking poem.

Satire is defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.” When I think of satire, the image of the Proverbs 26 sluggard comes to mind. He’s hinged to his bed and too lazy to bring his hand to his mouth to eat. This is exaggeration at its best, but still sobering because the idea that laziness and paralyzing fear might keep us from doing useful things hits close to home for some of us.

Riddles also play a part in Proverbs. The last half of Chapter 30 includes numerical proverbs which read like riddles. Read verses 15-31, and see if you can figure out why these situations were grouped together.

The majority of Proverbs is comprised of short, wise sayings of Solomon. While they impart wisdom, they are not guarantees, or promises. Instead, they provide keen observations that illustrate likely outcomes. For example, Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Experience shows us that this is not always the case. Loving parents who have taught their children the word of God and shown them Jesus’ love, still have sons and daughters who stray from the path of righteousness and live rebellious lives. Even so, this should not discourage parents from still “training their children” in God’s word because without God’s word, there is less of a chance of their child staying on the right path. It is wise to train our children in how they should go but it is not a guarantee that they will follow God if we do.

Proverbs are words of wisdom given to us in the form of short sayings (often only two lines), satirical situations, and riddles. They provide us with observations on how to live our lives prudently. Proverbs is poetry, each verse providing an amazing word picture of what it looks like to live foolishly or wisely.

 

 

Why Study Proverbs? Part 3

“These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.

Proverbs 1:4 (NLT)

As all the kids in our area head back to school this week, we think of them going for the purpose of attaining knowledge over the course of the next school year. As adults, we can consider life as our school, where we have the opportunity to gain wisdom every day and use the Bible as our textbook.

According to Proverbs 1:4, Solomon’s wise sayings provide knowledge and discernment to both the “simple” and the “young.” This implies that these wise proverbs are passed down from wiser people to those seeking knowledge and from those who are older to those who are younger. The word “simple” used in this verse comes from the Hebrew word pthiy (Strong’s H6612), which means simple or open-minded, which means that those who are willing to hear and accept Proverbs are candidates for gaining wisdom. On the flipside, however, this idea of a simple person could mean somebody who was so open-minded that he did not have proper discernment and was willing to blindly accept anything that came his way.

Over the past two weeks, we have looked at the purposes for studying Proverbs and how we apply its wisdom to our lives. Proverbs teaches us the skill of wisdom and the value of discipline, it gives us access to God’s perfect understanding, and it teaches us what is right, just and fair. Proverbs 1:4 finishes the “why” of Proverbs by adding one more purpose: discernment.

The Hebrew translation for discernment is mezimmah (Strong’s H4209), meaning purpose, discretion, and device. We usually think of discernment as having perception or the ability to judge well. But, in spiritual terms, discernment is the ability to decide between truth and error or between what is morally right or wrong. Proverbs 1:3 reminds us that these wise sayings show us those things which are right, just and fair. Proverbs is a good guidebook for teaching us discernment to help us do these things in our daily living.

So, what aspects of living are addressed in Proverbs? Faithfulness in marriage, speech, anger, honesty, humility, time management, discipline, justice, and generosity are some of the book’s most prevalent themes. Solomon spoke Proverbs in a creative, poetic, colorful, and descriptive way, making them much more fun to read than any self-help manual. This makes it easier to remember different proverbs because they provide word pictures.

One of my favorite verses in Proverbs is 25:11: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” When I think about my own speech, I can test it by considering whether my words have made someone’s day or ruined it. Uplifting words are a beautiful gift, and I want to strive to give this type of gift on a daily basis.

I enjoy hearing which verses in Proverbs mean the most to each of you. Do you have a favorite proverb? Share it in the comments section. And, if you have worked through the Solomon Says study, leave a message telling what it meant to you.

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

 

 

 

Why Study Proverbs? Part 2

“Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.”

Proverbs 1:3 (NLT)

Continuing on with why we should study Proverbs, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 1:3 that the proverbs teach us to live well because they show us what is right, just and fair. In our current culture, I find it interesting that the ideas of rightness, fairness and justice are not absolutes, but rather opinions to be expressed, sometimes quite loudly, concerning an issue. A quick glance at the evening news or any Internet news site reveals this. Every group wants its rights acknowledged, but always on their own terms and not based on an absolute law.

God has given us this absolute law, his word, for determining what is right, just, and fair, and as Christians we can trust his word to give us the correct definitions of these terms. They are our plumb line. In the English Standard Version of Proverbs 1:3, these three terms are listed as righteousness, justice, and equity. The meanings of the Hebrew words used for these terms give us insight into how the book of Proverbs reflects biblical principles and how we can effectively apply these principles to our own lives.

Righteousness. The Hebrew word for righteousness in this verse is tsedeq (Strong’s H6664) and it means being right in a moral or legal sense. Any time we act using God’s wisdom, we are in a right relationship with him. Proverbs 8:20 tells us that wisdom “walks in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice.” Wisdom and righteousness are found together, so when we use wisdom, we can experience righteousness. This may seem like it’s only an Old Testament principle because as New Testament Christians we know that Jesus took on our sin to make us righteous before God and only he can declare us righteous. However, when God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us, it is easier to follow the wisdom of Proverbs, and our behavior will reflect the righteousness, or right standing, we have in Christ.

Justice. Mishpat (Strong’s H4941) is the Hebrew translation for justice, and relates to the idea of judgment, or issuing a formal sentence or decree. Several proverbs address this subject and they tell us that we are to leave justice in the hands of God (Proverbs 20:22, and 24:12) rather than take it upon ourselves. On the flipside of this, we are sometimes called to confront others, but when we do so, it should only be for the purpose of restoring them to God and not to pass judgment upon them. Applying this principle correctly keeps us in a just place, where God is pleased with us.

Equity. Evenness, uprightness and straightness are the meanings of umesarim (Strong’s H4339), the Hebrew word for equity. Our modern-day idea of fairness is equivalent to the implied meaning of evenness, but more importantly, umesarim carries with it the idea of straightness. Something that is straight has no angle or curves to it, and it makes an excellent point of reference to determine if another object is straight. 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians invented the plumb line to help them build the pyramids and other structures. Having the ability to determine a perfect vertical line allowed them to construct these precise, long-lasting marvels. When we line up our own actions with the straight line of God’s biblical wisdom, we know we are creating righteous moments that have eternal value.

When we follow God, we can be assured that we will always be doing what is right, just and fair, even if it goes against popular opinion. God honors those who rely on him, who are not ashamed of him, and who seek and live his wisdom.

Why Study Proverbs? Part 1

“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.”

Proverbs 1:2 (NLT)

In my journalism days I learned to write articles that covered the who, what, when, where and why of a topic or situation. As I read the first five verses of Proverbs 1, I realized most of these questions can be answered regarding this wisdom book of the Bible. Last week, I wrote about Solomon, who authored Proverbs. This week, I’m tackling why we should study Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:2 lays it out plainly for us. The wise sayings in this book teach us wisdom and discipline and they give us insight. Wisdom, discipline and insight are easy words to say, but what do they really mean in the context of Proverbs?

Wisdom. The Hebrew word, chokmah (Strong’s H2451), carries the meanings of wisdom, skill, and wit. In Pr. 1:2, the idea of being skillful in life applies. Wisdom is knowing when to use knowledge in different ways in order to get the best outcome. Wisdom is not just in knowing, but knowing how. It is a skill, or craft, that requires thought and practice. It is not a formula, in which A + B always = C. For example, there are two back to back proverbs that tell us (1) not to answer a fool according to his folly and (2) to answer a fool according to his folly (Pr. 26:4-5). These verses may seem contradictory, but they are not. A person using wisdom knows which of these proverbs to apply to a particular situation, and sometimes this is learned by experience. Wisdom is a skillful art.

Discipline. Based on the Hebrew word for discipline, muwcar (Strong’s H4148), this refers to chastisement, reproof, warning and instruction. Proverbs teach us the value of instruction, even when it means that reproof is required. Proverbs exhort parents to correct their children (Pr. 23:13-14, 29:17) and encourages friends to confront each other for the purpose of restoring one another to Christ (Pr. 27:9,17). Proverbs also remind us that God loves us through his discipline and that accepting his discipline brings blessing (Pr. 3:12, 16:20). Wisdom teaches us who and how to discipline, and it teaches us to graciously accept discipline (Pr. 3:11-12). Sometimes our greatest wisdom is gained through discipline.

Insight. Wise people have insight, which means, according to its Hebrew translation (biynah, Strong’s H998), a perfect understanding. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, requested wisdom from God (1 Ki 3:6-15), and God granted it to him, making him the wisest king ever to live. His proverbs were penned with a perfect understanding of life situations and outcomes and which behaviors please and displease God. Proverbs are therefore, counsel that covers a variety of life issues to help us see God’s truth and learn how to apply his wisdom in our own lives.

When we study Proverbs, we have access to God’s perfect understanding, and we learn the skill of wise living along with the purpose of discipline.

Solomon: A Profile

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:”

Proverbs 1:1 (NIV)

Have you ever heard a fact so much that you really didn’t question it or consider  learning more about it? This occurred to me as I began reading Chapter 1 of Proverbs this morning. I’ve always accepted that Solomon was the primary author of Proverbs, was known as the world’s wisest man, and that he was David’s son and king of Israel. But, I never really questioned the proof for those facts or what else I might discover about him if I searched the Bible for his information.

So, for this week’s blog post I decided to investigate all the verses I could find regarding Solomon. The primary books that cover his life are 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 &2 Chronicles. We can also glean information about his thoughts from Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. He is even briefly mentioned in other books including Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Luke and John. From this alone, I discovered, there is plenty to read about Solomon in the Bible!

So, what does the Bible tell us about Solomon?

His Birth

Solomon was David and Bathsheba’s second child, conceived not long after their first baby died at seven days old as a consequence of their adulterous affair and the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband (2 Sa 11-12:24). We can conclude that Solomon is indeed David’s son by the number of times his lineage is mentioned in places such as 2 Samuel 12:24, 1 Chronicles 14:4, Proverbs 1:1, and Ecclesiastes 1:1.

God’s favor was on Solomon, as evidenced by the fact that before his birth, God promised that Solomon would succeed David as king and would reign during a time of peace:

“Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days” (1 Ch 22:9).

And, God showed his love for Solomon at his birth by naming him Jedidiah (2 Sa 12:24-25), which means “loved by the Lord.” Even though the name Solomon means “peace” and is the only name used in the Bible to refer to this wise king, some scholars suggest that David may have called his son Jedidiah. Regardless, God’s action of giving Solomon this name showed his favor toward him.

His Kingship

Several verses throughout the Bible proclaim that Solomon would be king after his father, David: 1 Kings 1:13, 17, 30, 47-48. But the road to kingship was not easily paved. In David’s final days, his son Adonijah tried to make himself king. David overrode it by anointing Solomon, and then Solomon later had Adonijah killed over a request for one of David’s concubines (1 Ki 1, 2:25).

Solomon’s anointing as king was greatly celebrated and his kingdom was firmly established (1 Ki 1:39 and 2:12). Under his kingship, he built the long-waited-for temple (1 Ki 8:13, 2 Ch 6:2, Jn 10:23). Solomon reigned over Israel for 40 years (1 Ki 11:42).

His Wisdom

David’s charge to Solomon, like Solomon’s message to his son in Proverbs, shows the importance of living by God’s standards:

“When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”

1 Ki 2:1-4 (NIV)

David prayed that God would give Solomon wisdom: “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God” (1 Ch 22:12).

Taking his father’s charge and blessing to heart and realizing the great responsibility he would have as king, Solomon understood that he needed wisdom (1 Ki 3:7) and asked God for it. God was pleased with his request, telling him, Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings” (1 Ki 3:10-13).

God answered Solomon’s request by making him a wise king (1 Ki 2:9, 4:29-34, 5:12), and Solomon showed his wisdom through judging fairly (1 Ki 3:16-28), answering difficult questions (1 Ki 10:3) and writing 3,000 proverbs and more than 1,000 songs (1 Ki 4:32).

His Marriages

He married Pharaoh’s daughter as part of an alliance with Egypt (1 Ki 3:1, 7:8, 9:16, 9:24, 2 Ch 8:11). He also took on many foreign wives — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites (1 Ki 11:1, 3), which resulted in his greatest failure.

His Failures

Because he aligned himself with foreign wives, Solomon violated God’s command in Deuteronomy 17:17 and Exodus 34:16 and turned to paganistic religious practices, which directly broke God’s commandment that he should serve no other gods but Him (Ex 20:3).

Even the wisest of men could still fail. Nehemiah 13:26 tells us, “…He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.” This sin resulted in a later loss of the kingdom from Solomon’s son Rehoboam  (2 Ch 7:19-20 and 1 Ki 11:9-13).

His Wealth

1 Kings 10:23 sums it up: “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.”

Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and all other countries (2 Ch 9:28), he had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses (1 Ki 10:26), and he made silver seem common and cedar plentiful in Jerusalem (1 Ki 10:27).

In the New Testament, both Matthew 6:29 and Luke 12:27 refer to Solomon’s glory and splendor.

His Authorship

Solomon is listed as the primary author of Proverbs (Pr 1:1, 10:1, 25:1), Ecclesiastes (Ecc 1:1, 12:9), Song of Songs (SS 1:1, 1:5, 3:7, 3:9, 3:11, 8:11-12), and Psalms 72 and 127.

Solomon, in his later years concluded that life only has meaning when God is at its center. His advice to us is to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). Despite Solomon’s failures, we can trust his wisdom because that wisdom is God-given. And because of Solomon’s failures, we realize that we don’t have to be perfect. What we can embrace is the one who is perfect: Jesus. When we fear God and follow his commands, we show our love for Christ. So, embrace Jesus’ love for you and trust God’s wisdom, as Solomon concluded at the end of his life.

 

 

Fruit of the Faithful

“Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever looks after his master will be honored.”

Pr. 27:18 (CSB)

The package on my doorstep contained a golf visor and polo shirt, each with the Professional Convention Management Association name and logo emblazoned on them, and a congratulations letter. I was so excited that hot June afternoon in Montgomery, Ala., 25 years ago when I opened that package and found that I had landed my first professional job – editorial assistant for Convene magazine. Only one month after graduation, my post-college career could begin. In a flurry to find a place live, my mom and I scouted out an apartment and I made the move to Birmingham, Ala., and began my first 8-to-5 job.

I came in early and worked late, either to get ahead or simply to keep up, especially on those days when deadlines were imminent. I wanted to do my best to honor my employer, and in essence, honor the Lord. Proverbs 27:18 encourages us to serve faithfully in whatever we are doing because it brings reward to both the worker and the master.

When I worked hard, the magazine looked good, my employer was happy, and I was rewarded with a raise and a promotion, not to mention a paycheck that allowed me to eat each week. My employer knew I was a Christian, and my strong work ethic brought a good reputation for the Lord. I was, in essence, living the principle described in Pr. 27:18: I was tending my fig tree (job) with care, eating its fruit (getting a paycheck), looking after my master (respecting my boss by doing honest work), and being honored (earning a promotion and raise).

Paul echoes this idea in 1 Cor. 10:31 when he tells us to always bring glory to God in everything we do, even in how we eat and drink. The idea of working faithfully is a theme that runs throughout the Bible:

2 Chronicles 15:7: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (NIV)

Psalm 101:6: “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.” (NIV)

Matthew 25:23: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (ESV)

Luke 19:17: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.'” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 3:8: “He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” (NIV)

1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (ESV)

We are called to be faithful to God, and part of that faithfulness is shown by how we treat others and how well we act as stewards of everything God has given us (which just happens to be everything we have).

So, how well are you living the Pr. 27:18 principle?

What is your fig tree at this time of your life? Your career, family, ministry, community?

Are you tending your fig tree well? If not, how can you begin giving it more loving care?

God has given each of us specific gifts and talents with which we help each other and honor him. Work faithfully where the Lord has planted you today, and enjoy the fruits of your own fig tree!