Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Days 45 & 46: Collecting Fortune Cookies

By Bo Gordy-Stith  [CC-BY-SA-2.0 

Proverbs 1:1-6

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Purpose of Proverbs

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
    to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
    knowledge and discernment to the young.
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.


The Book of Proverbs might be full of quotable quotes, but it's so much more than little quips that can be put inside fortune cookies. I believe that it is often dismissed as having little significance because so many of the proverbs are one-liners that have been repeated so often that we mistake them for common sense. The truth is, every word of these little sayings should be carefully considered, because they were written by the wisest man in all of history! So, what was it that made Solomon so wise? It's an interesting story.

Solomon was pretty young when his father, David, relinquished the throne. Most scholars tend to think he was around 20, probably because of his alliance with the Pharaoh which resulted in a marriage arrangement with the Egyptian princess. From everything I've ever heard and read, though, arranged marriages took place at very young ages in the upper crust of society back then, so that really isn't an indicator for me. Sources of Jewish history, on the other hand, put him as young as 12. I'm leaning towards the boy-king theory, personally, because although David had long ago promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be king after him, he didn't seem to consider abdicating the throne to anyone at a time when he was old and in poor health. until he learned that his oldest son was about to overthrow him. At that point, David rushed into crowning Solomon, and in a speech to his kingdom, he acknowledged that the new king was "young and inexperienced". (1 Chronicles 22)

As the story goes, Adonijah then went, not to Solomon, but to the new queen-mother, Bathsheba, and asked her to pass along his request that Abishag, their faither's virgin servant, be given to him as a wife.  He may very well have known that Bathsheba was going to be protecting her son, so soon after Adonijah's plot to steal the throne from his father. Otherwise, why wouldn't he have gone straight to Solomon himself? He must have also thought that his kid brother would be so eager to please his mom that he'd foolishly grant the request. I covered this in another chapter a while back, and at the time it was a little confusing to me why Adonijah would have thought Solomon would be suckered into such an agreement. After all, only a king is allowed to take something so close to his predecessor as his own. Perhaps Adonijah thought that David was too young to know that, and that he'd be able to displace his brother through this little slight of hand.

And then Solomon's own view of himself as this story unfolds, also indicates to me that he may very well have been on the verge of teen-hood. He still thinks of himself very much as a child, and wonders how he can ever fill his daddy's shoes. And I'm sure he was overwhelmed at the enormity of having to rule over a kingdom of people that God had chosen as His own. This must have weighed very heavily on his mind during the early days of his reign. It's no wonder, then, that he was dreaming as he slept one night in Gibeon, where he had gone to offer sacrifices. 

God came to him in his dream, and asked Solomon, "What do you want, more than anything else? Whatever it is, just ask, and I'll give it to you!" (1 Kings 3:5)

Solomon's response went something like this:

Wow, God! I don't know what to say! You've shown unfailing love to my father all these years, and now you've replaced him with me on the throne. But I'm just a kid who doesn't know the ins and outs of all this stuff! I'm like a child who doesn't know my way around! (1 Kings 3:7) And here I am in the midst of your chosen people, and they're all looking at me to lead them, now. (v.8) Who am I to judge them? So God, I guess what I want most of all is an understanding heart so that I can discern right from wrong as I judge their cases. (v.9)

You have to wonder why God would offer to give him anything he wanted. But God know Solomon's heart, even if the boy didn't yet know his own. Even if He had known how the young king would respond, it still pleased God that what he had requested was wisdom. He told Solomon that because he had not asked for anything selfishly, that God was going to not only give him wisdom in spades, but that there had never been, nor would there ever be, anyone wiser. (v.12). He didn't stop there, though. He also gave Solomon what he had not asked for; unsurpassed fame and wealth.

So when you read those snazzy little quotable quotes that are throughout the book of Proverbs, don't breeze through them like they're just cute little sayings that mean nothing.  These treasures that you think are common sense only became common sense because Solomon wrote them down and generations have repeated them. They are nuggets of divine wisdom, an indirect gift to you from God, who dispensed them through the wisest man who ever lived.

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