We turn our full attention to Solomon. We’ll read how his desire for wisdom granted, even while simultaneously sowing the seeds of his destruction. The Psalms will provide additional color to the narrative portions. A few Proverbs will show us the depth and practicality of Solomon’s wisdom.
We’ll take today’s reading in two sections. First, Psalm 111 and 112. These are cool because they’re acrostics. Pay attention to the reasons for praise: God’s works and God’s benefits to those who maintain awe of him. It reminds me of John Calvin’s statement: “Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends…” Second, Psalms 113-118. These are known collectively as the “Hallel Psalms” (Hallel means “praise” – our English word hallelujah means “praise Yah[weh]”). They were often sung during the holy days of Israel’s calendar – like after Passover. Jesus probably sang these psalms after he celebrated the Lord’s Supper with his disciples on the night he was betrayed.
David’s “time to die” draws near and so there’s great opportunity for posers to make a run on the throne. If you read Psalm 37 in this light, it’s even more beautiful: If you live life before the face of the Lord (vv. 1-7), wait for the Lord to sort out all the evil (v. 8-9), then both the wicked and the righteous will get what they deserve (vv. 10-40). In Psalm 71 we see a beautiful prayer trusting in God’s faithfulness into old age. In Psalm 94 we see an inherent trust that the Lord will bring ultimate justice for his people. For everything there is a time and a season.
This is the longest chapter in the Bible and it’s wonderful poetry. 22 stanzas of 8 lines with each line beginning with the same letter until they’ve used all 22 Hebrew letters. It is a psalm about God’s word (law, torah, precepts, statutes, testimonies, commandments). It is the confession of a believer about God’s word and how it applies to his life – especially in affliction (look for that after v. 48 – our comfort in affliction is God’s promise). You’ll note, though, that the writer is very concerned with how the Word of God matters for the person of God who “walks in the Lord’s way according to the Lord’s Word”.
When we left off in 2 Kgs. 2, the kingdom had been established for Solomon. His enemies had been defeated and all was at rest. It felt like a great new beginning! But, we’ve seen this pattern over and over. Just when you think all will be made right, it isn’t. Solomon makes a marriage alliance and sacrificed at the high places. He’s a great king, full of wisdom, but one little sin contaminates it all. Or, as Paul says in Galatians 5:9: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
Solomon asks for wisdom. But you may wonder what that looks like in daily life. Well, Psalm 72 shows us that wisdom looks like judging righteously and pleading the cause of the poor and needy. Ultimately, though, wisdom always turns God’s blessings into praise. There’s only one King that “people may be blessed in him.”
wrote something like 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (see 1 Kgs. 4:32). But, according to the title “Song of Songs”, this is his best one (it’s like Holy of holies, King of kings, Lord of lords). Old Testament scholar Jim Hamilton notes the garden imagery throughout Song of Solomon and suggests “The most intimate experience between a man and wife is like entering into the Garden of Eden, or Holy of Holies… Therefore we should order our thinking about marriage and sexuality by asking ‘how would we think about this if I were in the very presence of God, the most holy place. How would it alter my desires, conduct, our feelings?’” Solomon might be giving us the positive metaphor of the relationship between Yahweh and his people (contrary to Hosea and Gomer’s negative picture).
Wisdom literature is primarily concerned with three things: Proper Watching (seeing the world around us, asking the tough questions, and learning), Proper Walking (how you live and obey in light of what you’ve seen and learned), and Proper Talking (words matter and we must exhort others toward proper watching and walking). Solomon is quick to remind us, right from the start, that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord.