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Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Old Testament

Old Testament Sermon Series    I Kings 4:29-34

Today we are continuing our series of sermons on the Old Testament. Somebody asked the question:  “Why are we having a series of sermons on the Old Testament?’ We can answer that question clearly and easily. There are several reasons. That is, we believe that both the Old and New Testament are the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Both Testaments. We don’t believe that God speaks only through the New Testament. Rather, we believe that God speaks through both the Old and New Testaments. The two testaments are part of one Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are part of the living, inspired Word of God. Further, it is the same God who speaks through both the Old and New testaments. The God who created the heavens and the earth in the Old Testament is the same God who raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead in the New Testament. The same God who loved Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament is the same God who loved Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. The same God who poured out his Spirit on the prophets in the Old Testament is the same God who poured out his Spirit on all the people in the New Testament Book of Acts. It was like the seed of the New Testament was planted in the garden of the Old Testament. Adding up all of these reasons, it is appropriate that we have a series of sermons on the Old Testament. We believe that both Testaments are the inspired and authoritative Word of God, God’s living voice for us.

In this series of sermons, I have been comparing these Old Testament personalities with gigantic, powerful, awe-inspiring mountaintops here on the West coast. I love to see the mountains, hike in the mountains, and experience the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. From high on mountains, you see the panoramic vistas, the broad perspective of the land below, the grandeur of God’s grand design of the landscape before our eyes. Similarly, many of these Old Testament personalities stand tall, taller than all the rest of the people in the Old Testament. They draw our attention because of the beauty of the stories about them, because of their inspiration, because of the momentous truths we learn from them. …  I have used the analogy of examining the highest mountain peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range. You start north up near Bellingham and travel directly south by car via I-5 or by air via Alaska Airlines. As you travel south, you see Mount Baker, then Mount Rainer, then Mount Adams, then Mount Hood, then Mount Jefferson, and then Mount Shasta in northern California. All of these mountains stand apart, are a source of inspiration and they lift up our lives and make our lives better because of the beauty that we experience when we see these mountains and hike on those mountains. From the tops of these mountains, we sense that we can see forever and that we can see more clearly.  Similarly, when we visit these Old Testament personalities, we see with greater clarity. That is, when you visit the mountaintop called Mount Moses, you can see more clearly and more deeply the truth of the Ten Commandments. That is, you see the wisdom of the Ten Commandments, the wisdom of the moral law for all human cultures, the necessity of all civilizations to develop moral imperatives, a moral code of right and wrong. If you think if you can live outside the boundaries of the Ten Commandments and the moral laws of human civilization, you are sadly mistaken. Your life will get messed up. From mountaintop of Moses, you see more clearly the necessity and wisdom of moral law for all civilizations and also for the civility of your own life. Or, if you visit the mountaintop called Abraham. When you visit the inspiring mountaintop called Mount Abraham, you clearly see the importance of faith in your life. You begin to see what it means to believe in and trust in God and his promises. From that mountaintop called Abraham, you see more clearly the importance of faith in your own life. Or if you visit the mountaintop called Mount David, you see more clearly what is the meaning of living eternally with God. With David, you see beyond the end of time and peer into the spectrum of eternity. When you visit this mountaintop and hike on the trails of this mountain, you clearly see that God knows us intimately like a shepherd, nourishes us, protects us, knows us personally by our names.  Mount Moses. Mount Abraham. Mount David. These are all important to our lives, and from their perspective, we can see more clearly.  

But now it is time to go to the next mountaintop, the mountain called Mount Solomon. Mount Solomon symbolizes wisdom. We want to hike on the trails of Mount Solomon and learn about the wisdom of Solomon. Do you see the importance of wisdom for your life, the importance of having God’s wisdom guide your daily life? Where you have God’s mind, God’s heart, God’s judgments, and that God’s inner wisdom helps you to chose between right and wrong in your daily life? Do you understand the necessity of being a wise person? Do you know what wisdom is? If you don’t live wisely, you will live like a fool, according to the Bible, and your will hurt yourself and others around you in numerous ways.

Solomon, Mount Solomon and wisdom. In the Old Testament, we find that wisdom was very important, that Solomon wrote 3000 proverbs and 1000 songs. From Solomon in the Old Testament, we discover that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, that to stand in awe of God is the foundation of all life. In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus grew in both wisdom and stature, and like Jesus, we too want to grow in wisdom. We discover that Jesus Christ crucified was the wisdom of God, to follow the crucified Christ is to follow in the path of God’s hidden wisdom.  A goal for us all is to grow in the wisdom of God. That was true in the Old Testament and New Testament.

Being an American, we often find it easier to talk about Solomon’s money than Solomon’s wisdom. That is, we could talk about his wealth and riches, that Solomon was the wealthiest king of his era. That is normally what Americans like to talk about: great money and great wealth. Solomon was the richest man of his world.  Do you realize that it took 175 bushels of flour per day to make bread for his court? It took 375 bushels of meal to feed people. They slaughtered 30 head of cattle daily to feed the court officials. They slaughtered 100 sheep and goats everyday for meals. Do you realize that Solomon had chariots for 4000 chariots and horses and that he had stalls of 12,000 horses? From his taxes on the people, Solomon took in 25 tons of gold every year. Another thing, King Solomon had a harem. Solomon had 700 wives. I can’t understand that, how a wise person would want 700 wives. Plus he had 300 concubines who were his sexual mistresses. Solomon had 1000 women to be taken care of. If you all this up, you come to the conclusion that Solomon was an enormously wealthy man. This degree of wealth was such a change from four decades earlier. That is, forty years previous to Solomon, the Jewish people were simple nomads. They were simply nomads coming off the desert but under Solomon, they had become sophisticated compared to forty years earlier. We remember a similar thing happened in the United States. In 1933, one out of six people in the United States was unemployed.  Almost everybody was poor in 1933. If you had left the United States in 1933 and come back forty years later in 1973, you would have exclaimed, “What happened? Where did all this money come from? What has been going on these past forty years that this nation has become so prosperous?” There was this transition from being dirt poor to becoming enormously rich in the United States within forty years. So it was during Solomon’s reign, from the time of King David to the time of King Solomon. Today, we could talk about Solomon’s great wealth and it seems that many Americans like to talk about wealthy people.

But today, we do not want to talk about the wealth of Solomon but we do want to talk about the wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom is much more important than wealth. Solomon said:  “Wisdom is more valuable than pure silver. Wisdom is more valuable than the finest gold.” Solomon should have known. That is, 25 tons of gold were paid each year to Solomon in taxes, and he said that wisdom was more important than having large sums of money.

There are two stories about Solomon and his wisdom. I would like to tell you both.

Solomon had a dream. God often gives his people dreams and visions. So Solomon had a dream and this dream revealed the inner values that he had unconsciously deep within the hidden recesses of his mind. Solomon had a dream and this was his dream. In his dream, God asked him the question: “Solomon, I will give you anything that you want. What do you want? I will give you what you ask for. What do you want?”  … How would you answer that question? God says to you that God will give you anything that you want. What do you want? … Solomon answered, “Lord, you have blessed my father, David. He was an upright man, an honorable man, a just man. He was a man of justice and integrity. He was a good man. You blessed my father by giving him a son, myself, to sit on the throne. But I am a young man. I pray that you would give me a wise and discerning heart that I would know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. I pray that you would give me a wise and discerning heart so that I could rule my people with justice.” God was pleased with Solomon’s answer and said, “I will give you wisdom. But also, I will give you what you did not ask for. I will give you fame, riches, a long life and a great family. I will give you all of these.” Solomon then woke up from his dream and he realized that God has spoken to him.

This past week, I have been thinking about what I would have asked for from God, if God had posited that question to me. How would you answer that question? What would you ask from God if God would give you anything you asked for? What would you want?  First, a good family. Second, good health. Third, honor or respect. Fourth, sufficient money. But, did you notice that all the four things were for us or me? This is what would make me happy, God. I would like this and this and this and this. I would like family, long life, honor and a little cash wouldn’t hurt. These are all for me. But Solomon did not ask for anything for himself. Instead, he asked, “God, give me a wise and discerning heart so that I will be able to help others understand the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. Solomon did not ask anything for his happiness. He asked that his life would be used to make the world a better place.

Jesus said the same thing when he taught, “A person who wants to find his life will lose it but a person who loses his life for others, that person will find it. What does it profit a person if they get all they want but still lose their own soul.” A person who develops the habit of living for their own personal happiness will become a sad and selfish person. But the person who discovers what it means to live for others, that person will find happiness.” That is what Jesus taught. If people search for their own personal happiness and it becomes a habit, over time, over time those people will discover that it does not work. Rather, we discover that in loving other people and giving yourself away that you find happiness. And then Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and then all the other things will be given to you as well.”

Have you learned this lesson in life yet? What is it that you want more than anything else from God? Solomon answered, “Lord, give me a wise and discerning heart so that I might help other people.” You want that quality and so do I.

That was the first story about King Solomon. The second story about Solomon goes like this:  Two prostitutes came up to Solomon one day. These two prostitutes were room mates. One prostitute had a baby and three days later, the second prostitute also had a baby. They were in their home sleeping one night, and so the story goes, one prostitute rolled over on her baby, suffocated her baby and the baby died. That prostitute woke up and saw her baby dead. She was upset but not so upset as not to think very fast. She got up and went over to her friend, the other prostitute and put the dead baby at the breast of that prostitute and she stole the live baby and put it at her own breast. The sleeping prostitute woke up and said, “O no, my baby had died.” She was deeply upset. This mother then looked carefully at her dead baby, looked carefully at the eyes, and it wasn’t the same eyes, not the same nose, not the same hair. She had been with that baby for three days and she knew her own baby. She realized that a deception had been played on her. She challenged the other prostitute, accusing her of swapping the dead baby for her own. The second prostitute denied it. The two prostitutes then went to the king, and Solomon heard the story. Solomon thought and thought and then finally said, “Bring me a sword.. I will cut the baby and give you both a half of a baby.” The prostitute whose baby was alive but with the other woman said, “No, don’t do that. Give that woman the baby.” The other prostitute said, “Cut the baby in two.” The king then said, “I know the truth. Give that woman the baby. She is the true mother.” Solomon proved to be a wise man.

A wise person is able to figure out what is right and wrong for your particular situation in life. A person who has the heart and mind of God in your inner self is able to figure out what is right and wrong for a given complex situation. How blessed you are if you have been given and developed the gift of God’s wisdom for your own life. Right now, almost all of you here in this room are facing complex situations and you want to do the right thing in those situations. I face complex situations with my life today and so do you. With Solomon, we know that God will be with us and help us to make those wise decisions for our lives.

Today, I would like to briefly examine three wise sayings from the book of Proverbs. Solomon said: “To win the control of one’s self is more important than winning the control of cities.” Have you learned this bit of wisdom? Have you learned to control yourself? To control your anger? To control your rage? To control your greed? To control your lust? To control your eating habits? To control your materialistic self indulgence? To control your inferiority, your depression, your emotional peaks and valleys? What is it that you need to control in your own life? What is out of control in your life? What parts of your person need to be brought under control? Solomon says, “Wise is the person who wins the battle of control in your life. To win control of your life is more important than winning the control of cities.” And if you or I haven’t learned how to control our lives, the Bible says that we are fools. I personally feel the need to learn the wisdom of this proverb.

Another proverb of Solomon is this one: “Pay attention when others correct you and you are then wise. If you do not pay attention when others correct you, you are a fool.” … Who is a wise person that you go to for direction and advice? Who is a person who is wiser than you on certain important issues? If you don’t have someone wiser than you that you go to, sit at their feet, listen to what they say, the Bible says that you are a fool. Who is that wise person for you? Is it a mature friend? A wise and mature parent? A wise and mature brother or sister? A wise and mature pastor? A wise and mature teacher? Who is that wise person that you go to for correction and direction? Or, do you not need correction and direction? If you do not need correction and direction from a wiser person, the Bible says that you are a fool. Throughout our whole lives, we need correction and direction. Tragically, King Solomon never had a prophet to give me correction and direction, and as Solomon grew older, he did not have any one to correct or direct him. And at the end of his life, Solomon went down, down, down, down, down and ended his life at the bottom. Solomon thought that he was above correction and direction because he was the wisest of all. How mistaken he was. Who is that person to whom you go, that is wiser than you?

Solomon also said, “If you fail to disciple your child when they are young, you are helping them bring destruction upon themselves.”  Do you know how important it is to teach discipline to your children? That they would grow up and be disciplined people? If they don’t, you are helping your children to destroy themselves.

We could go on and on and on about the wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom is having the heart and mind of Christ inside of you so that you can make healthy decisions about simple and complex matters in your daily life. Amen. 

CHILDREN’S SERMON: Solomon was very wise and wrote 3000 proverbs or wise sayings. Also, he was a song writer and composer of 1005 songs. Solomon has two famous proverbs about children. The first is this: “train up a child in the way he or she should go and they will not depart from it.” That is, develop good habits early in life and those good habits may stay with you for as long as you will. Chances are, not inevitably, that will happen. A second proverb, “If you don’t disciple or correct your children, you parents will heap destruction on your children.” Do you understand this? No? Your parents do. Next time when your parent disciplines you and corrects you, thank them for their correction and say that discipline felt good. You all laugh. Yes, we laugh but we know it is true. 

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