How could Solomon, a man of such great wisdom and the author of Proverbs, have strayed from faithfulness into the folly of idolatry? Consider a few of the compromises that marked his reign.
- Deuteronomy 17 tells Israel’s kings not to return to Egypt. Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh.
- The law said not to acquire many horses and chariots so that the king’s trust would not be in his army. 1 Kings 10 tells us that Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen.
- The law warned the king not to amass great quantities of gold and silver. Solomon received 666 talents of gold each year and “made silver as common as stone” in Jerusalem.
- But his greatest weakness was his passion for foreign wives. The law told kings not to marry foreign women. Solomon blew by that instruction. 1 Kings 11:3 says, “He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.”
What can we learn from Solomon’s mistakes? We learn that wisdom isn’t a badge you earn once and then get to wear for the rest of your life. You’re only as wise as your next decision.
Don’t say, “I’m wise…look at all I’ve done in years gone by.” Show me your wisdom by your next choice. Prove your wisdom by fearing God today.
None of us have arrived. None of can say, “Because of my past record, I am a man or woman of wisdom.” None of us can be proud and careless about seeking to know and obey God. We all need to grow in gaining and applying wisdom.
Solomon’s story teaches us that knowledge isn’t enough. Great wisdom can never be separated from or replace obedience to God. It’s not enough to know wisdom; you have to live by it. Wisdom is expressed and it grows as we grow in it and apply it daily.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” In a way, that encapsulates Solomon’s life. When he feared the LORD, he had true knowledge and wisdom. When he ceased to fear God, he became a fool. He was a man of great knowledge, he had written and compiled many words of wisdom, but the essential element of true wisdom—an awesome respect and fear before God—was missing. And he became an idolater. He was led astray by his own desires.
So why should we learn from a man whose life ended so poorly? The answer is that the wisdom of the book of Proverbs didn’t originate or end with Solomon. God is the author behind this compilation. And in Jesus, God’s Son, one “greater than Solomon” has come (Luke 11:31).
We don’t come to Proverbs to seek Solomon, we come to know and seek the wisdom of Jesus Christ. Solomon’s sin doesn’t disprove the truth of this book. If anything, it affirms it. Knowledge and wisdom begin and end with a right knowledge and fear of God.
If we seek this living God, we can both emulate Solomon’s wisdom and avoid his folly.
– Josh Harris