Biblical Last Words: Solomon Decides

Biblical Last Words: Solomon Decides

Biblical Last Words: Solomon Decides.

“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone’s duty.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

A strong beginning doesn’t necessarily guarantee a strong ending. Following the faithful leadership of his father David, Solomon started on the right track. As he assumed the throne, he asked God for wisdom, “an understanding mind to judge your people with discernment between good and bad.” (1 Kings 3:9). God indeed gave Solomon a wise, discerning mind. So much so that “no one will ever equal you,” said the Lord. (1 Kings 3:12).Solomon became “wiser than all other men, and was given exceptional wisdom and understanding, and a breadth of mind like the sand of the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29-31). Solomon became the ultimate success story when he began his reign. He was soon known around the world for his knowledge and wisdom. At the start, all of Israel was in awe of him (1 Kings 3:28).

Even with his great mind, Solomon had a short memory. He forgot the Lord’s clear directive at the start of his reign. ‘If you walk before me in integrity and righteousness, I will establish your royal throne forever. But if you turn away from following me, I will cut off Israel, will cast the Temple from my sight, and my House shall become a heap of ruins.” (1 Kings 9:6). The seeds of Solomon’s demise were cast early, when “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the practice of David his father, but he continued to sacrifice and burn incense in the high places.” (1 Kings 3:3).

Nonetheless, there were many spiritual high points in his early career on the throne. He gave signs of walking in the Faith. He made it a priority to build the Temple, the religious center of worship in Jerusalem, the designated place where God committed to make his earthly presence. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon offered an extended prayer of worship, adoration and intercession that is unrivalled in Scripture (1 Kings 8). At that time, the cloud of the Lord’s glory and presence filled the Temple, and was so thick inside, there was no room for the priests to minister. Indeed, Solomon showed early promise as a great spiritual leader in Israel.

It might have taken a little while, but eventually this success story turned into an utter failure in the eyes of God. He began marrying foreign women for political purposes, and he soon turned a blind eye to the pagan idolatry they brought into the king’s palace. Also, to make matters worse, he turned to the forced labor of his people to complete his building projects. He then overtaxed his people to finance these vanity projects. Then he started forcing Israel’s young men into military service. Solomon became a common, ordinary despot, wasting all Israel’s resources on his own “unholy self-indulgence.” (Amplified Bible notes). The Israelites became bitter at this oppression, and the people began to oppose his autocratic rule. In all his wealth, power and fame, Solomon forgot the God of his father David.

As Israel discovered, sooner or later God keeps His promises. At Solomon’s death, the once proud and united nation of Israel divided, and Solomon’s throne didn’t last forever after all. The disaster of Solomon’s reign resulted in national weakness, idolatry, ignorance of God, captivity, and destruction. As Eugene Peterson observed, “Ironically, the wisest man in the world became the most foolish. Wisdom doesn’t safeguard us from waywardness, for we, like Solomon, can be mentally brilliant but morally bankrupt.” 

Solomon was a prodigious writer during his reign. He composed 3,000 proverbs and over 1,000 poems/songs. His memoir Ecclesiastes is accepted as his final reflections on life. He meditates on how meaningless and futile life is when lived “under the sun,” apart from God. Life is empty without the Creator, no matter how thoroughly one might search for purpose in existence, whether the search is for meaning in pleasure, success, wealth, fame, or knowledge. “In Ecclesiastes we find a man proving through bitter experience that finding meaning in life apart from God is a vain pursuit. Security and contentment are found only in a personal relationship with God.” (TNL notes).

Solomon’s conclusions in Ecclesiastes pack a punch. On the one hand he says “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless.” (Eccl. 12:8). He sees life apart from God and concludes that everything is futile, temporary, empty. And he didn’t end his final thoughts with that. He decided that humanity will only find fulfillment in faith and obedience, fearing God and keeping His commandments. The only antidotes to emptiness and meaninglessness is humble reverence of the Lord and faithful submission to His commands. “All has been heard. The end of the matter is, Fear God – know that He is, revere and worship Him – and keep His commandments; for this is the whole of man (the full original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness), and the whole duty for every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, Amplified Bible).