SOAP Journal – 18 January 2018 (1 Kings 5:1-12)

When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly and said, “Blessed be the LORD today, who has given to David a wise son over this great people.”

1 Kings 5:7

I noticed that some of Solomon’s inner circle were friends and servants of his father, David.

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SOAP Journal – 17 January 2018 (1 Kings 4:20-34)

They came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

1 Kings 4:34

I recently read about some historian or archaeologist who was trying to find King Solomon’s mine. This passage says nothing about that mine and I cannot remember reading about that mine, because the preeminent thought with which I come away from reading about King Solomon is his wisdom. It is his ability to see a way through difficult problems and his ability to apply his knowledge that I find to be his leading characteristic in scripture. There are people with twisted priorities in every age of human history, and a person looking for Solomon’s mine instead of his mind has twisted priorities.

In his time, people had their priorities straight. Solomon was wise — wiser than any of his contemporaries. And this wisdom called to people. We are all in desperate need of wisdom. One glance at social media makes that clear. Solomon was wealthy, but there were other rulers as wealthy or wealthier than him. It was his wisdom that differentiated him from his contemporaries and drew others to seek him out.

The same God Who gave Solomon wisdom gives to all generously and does not reproach (James 1:5). I will never have the same level of wisdom as Solomon — God promised Solomon that would be the case — but I can receive God’s wisdom, which is greater by far. As folks came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, so, too, are people searching for wisdom in the modern world. I need to bring people to my King, Who has the wisdom that we all seek.

Father, thank You for this reminder that it was Solomon’s wisdom that set him apart in his time and that it is Your wisdom that I can receive that can mark my life in my time. Please give me wisdom, I am one of those about whom James spoke (the ones who lack wisdom). Please show me the way in which You would have me walk so that my ways please You.

SOAP Journal – 16 January 2018 (1 Kings 4:1-19)

Now King Solomon was king over all Israel. These were his officials …

1 Kings 4:1-2

One thing I have learned in my professional life is this: The person in charge is only as successful as those they bring on to support them. I have known managers who were brilliant in surrounding themselves with competent people and letting them do their thing, but not so phenomenal in other respects. These managers were successful, because they had good support and they knew how to let those folks do their job.

Solomon had a group of men in high positions. Some of these men — like Zadok, the priest who stood beside David through thick and thin and Jehoshaphat the recorder who also served during David’s reign and Benaiah who was over the army and had been one of David’s Mighty Men — are definitively strong in their roles. Others — like Abiathar, the priest who backed Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah for the throne despite what God had said about who would succeed David — were not.

Paul wrote of the kind of people with whom God surrounds Himself in this way: there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

My God does not need my help. That is much of what is beautiful about Him. He does not need me, but I need Him. He can do things more efficiently without me — He did, after all, speak everything into existence in seven days — but He chooses to work through me, anyway. And, as Jesus said, I can do nothing good apart from Him (John 15:5). My God surrounds Himself with earthen vessels so that it will be obvious that the work was accomplished by His power and not our own (2 Corinthians 4:7). While human managers and leaders are only as good as their support, the opposite is true of my God. God’s supporting cast is only as good as our Leader. And He is Good indeed.

Father, thank You for this reminder that human leaders are only as good or successful as their support. Thank You, also, for the reminder that You are not so; that You are Good with or without me serving You. You are, in fact, Perfect. You do not need me, but allow me to serve You. Thank You for that privilege and for the blessings that come with seeing You accomplish the work.

SOAP Journal – 12 January 2018 (1 Kings 3:16-28)

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.

1 Kings 3:28

It has been a while since I last read Machiavelli’s The Prince. I do recall, though, that he wrote of three ways in which a prince could govern. One of them is fear. But the fear of Solomon experienced by the Israelites is not what Machiavelli wrote about. The fear of Solomon is the fear we experience when we are young and faced with an adult who appears to have a preternatural ability to know when we have done something wrong and what we have done wrong.

The story told in this morning’s verses is sometimes contentious. I have heard people go on about how they think it is silly that Solomon would threaten a baby in order to ascertain which woman is the real mother. More, I have heard people speculate about whether or not the method is valid. Could not, some of these people ask, the woman whose baby died have been just as good and caring a mother? Sure. But then her housemate would have found her weeping over her dead child come the morning, not switching babies in the middle of the night.

The wisdom of Solomon’s ruling is difficult for us to appreciate when we look at it through a modern lens. We have mountains of research and data from which to draw when we speculate on human nature and the wisdom of the ruling. We have decades of psychoanalysis and psychology and centuries’ worth of history to use as reference material. We have a great deal of knowledge, but often lack the ability to apply it properly. And that ability is wisdom.

The picture that I see painted is that of my King, Jesus Christ, knowing me better even than I know myself. These women came in to Solomon with a dispute over which baby belonged to whom. They walked out as an object lesson in human nature. I go in to the presence of my King thinking that I want to ask Him something or lay something down before Him — and I do — but I come away from His presence as an example. It may be that I come away as an example of His grace or His mercy; I may become an example of how He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Regardless of what I become an example of, it is more than what I went to Him for.

Both women were given justice and they both left Solomon’s presence a little more informed about who and what they were. The same is true when I go to Christ. I enter His presence looking for something and come away with insight into who and what I really am.

Father, thank You for this reminder that You give more than I ask and reveal more than I think to inquire after. Please continue to speak to me and make me an example of whatever You want to communicate to the world around me through my life.

SOAP Journal – 09 January 2018 (1 Kings 3:1-15)

It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.

1 Kings 3:10

In addition to the purely political things that Solomon did to establish his reign, he also went up to one of the high places where the Israelites offered sacrifices to God and offered a large number of sacrifices. God appeared to him in a dream and told him to make a request. Solomon asks for wisdom to govern God’s people well and the request pleased God so much that He told Solomon that He was also giving him riches and reputation and a long life if Solomon walked in obedience to God.

Reading it results in a “Cool story, bro.” moment, but it hardly seems applicable. I am unlikely to go up to any high place and offer a thousand sacrifices. PETA would be all over that. However, I am told that  if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5). I will never reach the level of Solomon’s wisdom — God promised Solomon as much in verse 12 — but I can have God-given wisdom operating in my life.

Let me, like Solomon, come to God and ask for wisdom to do the things that God has set before me well and to make the right choices as I do.

Father, thank You that You give generously when we lack wisdom. I admit my lack. There are choices that baffle me and paths forward that look identical. To make the choices You would have me make, I need wisdom. Please give me the wisdom I lack, that I might see the Godly path and walk in it. Please give me wisdom that sees Your way through a situation when it appears there is no way through at all. Thank You for Your wisdom; for lavishly providing all that I could ever need and more.

SOAP Journal – 08 January 2018 (1 Kings 2:26-46)

Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon.

1 Kings 2:46b

After Adonijah is executed, Solomon turns his attention to the other parties involved in Adonijah’s bid for the throne.

Solomon begins with the priest, Abiathar. Solomon tells Abiathar that his time as a priest is done; he is retired. So Abiathar is removed from service. There is no record of am argument or even a protest. I suspect that Abiathar examined the situation, recognized that this was a direct consequence of his previous actions, and accepted the sentence. He had probably heard that Adonijah was executed and could see the mercy in simply being dismissed from service in the tabernacle. The text notes that this removal of Abiathar from service in the tabernacles was done to fulfill the word of the LORD given to Eli about his descendants (v 27).

Joab, hearing that Solomon is working his way through potential threats, runs to the tabernacle and takes hold of the horns of the altar. This seems to have been a form of pleading sanctuary, but I cannot recall any stipulation for such a thing in The Law and a quick search yields no results. There were cities of refuge to which one could flee if he had accidentally killed someone, but Joab was a cold-blooded killer and would be executed at the gates to any of those cities. Solomon sends Benaiah to execute Joab, but Joab refuses to leave the tabernacle. So, Solomon gives the order that Benaiah kill Joab where the man stands and it is done. There is no knowing what Solomon might have had in mind for Joab, because Joab was not willing to find out what sentence the king would hand down for him. It appears, based on Abiathar, that Solomon was predisposed to mercy, but Joab left the king with very little recourse.

Finally, Solomon turns his attention to Shimei. I already wrote about how Shimei was put on what amounted to house arrest and was executed when he went after some runaway slaves. But Shimei is an instance of someone saying that they accept the consequences for their actions, but forgetting that the consequences do not have an expiration date.

So, too, can it be with me and anyone else. We can, like Abiathar, accept the consequences for our actions and submit to the decree of the God concerning what we did. We can, like Joab, try to head off the consequences and potentially bring on ourselves consequences worse than those that were planned — we will never know if we try to head them off. Or we can appear to submit, but forget that the consequences are in place, then suffer the worst of them when we step out of bounds. Every action — good or bad — carries a consequence. As Hosea put it, we can sow the wind / and … reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). Or, as Paul put it For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8). I can choose what I do and each of those actions is a potential sowing to the flesh or the Spirit. And I will reap a harvest. How I respond when harvest time comes makes a difference.

Father, thank You for these three examples of men who reaped the harvest of their actions. Thank You for concrete examples of what it looks like to accept the consequences, to try to head them off, and to accept them but forget they are there. Please work in me a heart that seeks to obey Your Word so the harvest is good and the consequences good. When I fail, please give me the ability to accept the consequences for my actions and to be mindful that those consequences may not have an end date.

SOAP Journal – 05 January 2018 (1 Kings 2:10-25)

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.

1 Kings 2:19

In verses 10-12, David dies and Solomon is left as the king without his father to give him counsel. In that moment, I am reasonably sure that Solomon felt overwhelmed. He had gone from being one of the king’s sons to being the king. That is quite a change.

And it is in these early days of Solomon’s reign that Adonijah has a chat with Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and asks her to take a request to her son. In this is a picture of intercession; of going to one who can supply on behalf of another who does not have the necessary standing to make the request. Adonijah asks for Abishag as a wife and Bathsheba, apparently unaware of the political ramifications of such a marriage, agrees to ask Solomon to make that happen.

And she does. Bathsheba goes to see her son and asks him to give Abishag to Adonijah as wife. Solomon sees the ramifications of such a union instantly. If he lets Adonijah marry a woman who was that close to David, the people would at best be confused about who was really the king and at worst would think that Solomon was ceding the throne to Adonijah. Solomon understands that this is not a request that Bathsheba would have come up with, but that she was put up to this request by Adonijah. Solomon sees in this a continued pursuit of the throne, despite God’s choice, and decides to put an end to it. Adonijah is executed.

I find encouragement for my prayers in this passage. It may seem odd to look at a mother asking her son for something that would spell political suicide and the resultant execution of the reigning king’s half -brother and see encouragement to pray, but it is there.

Adonijah asks Bathsheba to go to Solomon on his behalf. So far, the picture of intercession is clear. This is exactly how it works. Someone who lacks standing or relationship asks one who has both to make request on their behalf. Add to this picture the relative simplicity of the one being asked to intercede. If I have an effective prayer life, a friend or colleague may ask me to pray to God on their behalf that some circumstance be changed. Like Bathsheba, I do not see all the ramifications of the request. I cannot look forward and backward down the corridors of time to see that this was the inevitable consequence of some previous action or that this is the more merciful of the possible circumstances that could be transpiring at that moment. My vision is limited. My scope of understanding small compared to my King.

Bathsheba goes and makes the request. Knowing what little she knows of the situation, she takes things to her son, the king. And the king receives her. He comes to greet her and has a place of honor set up for her to sit and talk with him. Likewise my King is only too glad to meet with me when I come to Him in prayer. He meets me and takes time to sit with me and hear what I have to say.

Solomon hears Bathsheba and denies her petition and explains why. The text is pretty clear that Solomon understood where Adonijah’s request could lead. What is more important is that Solomon explains to Bathsheba why the request is denied. The text does not give any indication that she got up in a huff and stormed out of the king’s presence. Nor does the text indicate that she was any less welcome the next time she visited her son in the throne room. So, too, if I will but take the time to make my requests known to God and sit a while, He may very well explain why some requests are denied while others are cheerfully granted. He may decide that I need to understand the implications of the thing I am asking — implications of which I may be wholly unaware.

All of this encourages me to pray; to take any and all petitions to God with the understanding that He will refuse any request that does not further His kingdom and is willing to help me understand why the thing I ask does not contribute to that furtherance. God does not want me to be some thrall, held to Him because I have no choice in the matter. He wants me to grow from child to trusted steward to intimate friend. And one of the ways He does that is to give me understanding; to teach me so that I can pray in the right way and for the right things.

Thank You, Father, for this passage that encourages my prayer. I need the encouragement, as I do not pray in the way that I should or as often as I should. Please stir in my heart a desire to sit with You and pour out my heart and listen as Your pour out Yours. Let me grow from child to steward to friend and to increase my boldness in prayer proportionate to the relationship.