The story and life of Solomon is both inspiring and tragic. It is inspiring in that we see how God uses him for His glory regardless of his sinful disdain for God. In Solomon we see that God uses him mightily for his plan, purpose, and Kingdom. But his life story is rollercoaster of sin and righteousness and despite his success and failures God gracefully accomplishes amazing things in and through his life. Yes, Solomon was born in effect, with a silver spoon in his mouth yet his life was far from easy, carefree, and perfect. Solomon has gone down in history as the wisest and wealthiest King in the history of Israel. Solomon was unique because when he first became king God told him to ask him for anything he wanted, and Solomon responded with the desire to have and rule with wisdom over the nation of Israel. This was a noble and humble request of a King who was granted a wish to ask for anything he wanted. He knew the importance of having godly wisdom in ruling over God’s people. I will talk more about this in a little bit.
Unfortunately, Solomon didn’t always rule with wisdom. The more fame, fortune, and power he acquired he began to make unwise and sometimes sinful decisions like taxing his people unfairly, marrying multiple wives, and being ok with them continuing to worship their pagan gods. Despite his flaws and folly Solomon’s reign resulted in a period of peace for the nation of Israel, but after his passing the nation experienced the fallout of his sin which resulted in a nation divided (northern - Israel and southern – Judah).
God blessed Solomon with 40 years of leadership over the nation of Israel. For the most part He ruled in godly wisdom and yet, he was an imperfect ruler as well. There is a little debate over whether Solomon ever truly turned his life around and came back to the Lord before his death. The book of Ecclesiastes gives evidence that he did as he realized all the material wealth, power, and influence he had was all empty, void, and meaningless if the Lord was not present in his life.
Before we move forward let’s pause and look back at Solomon’s legacy. King David was Solomon’s father and many of you know that David had a turbulent and dysfunctional kingdom and family life. He was blessed as he was considered a man after God’s own heart, and historically it is believed that David was the greatest king of the nation of Israel. God promised David that the Messiah would come through his lineage (the Davidic Covenant). It was also King David who had the vision and plan to erect a temple or house for the LORD. He was also a man ridden with sin, dysfunction, and pain that ultimately affected his family.
1 Kings 1:1 – 10
Shortly after David and Bathsheba lost their first son due to his sin, Solomon was born to the couple. Solomon was the second heir to the throne of David, right behind Adonijah (his fourth son with his wife Haggith). When David was on his deathbed Adonijah prematurely proclaimed himself heir to the throne. However, Bathsheba and Nathan informed him that he was not going to be king.
I Kings 1:17
Unbeknownst to Adonijah, David promised his wife, Bathsheba, that Solomon would be heir to the throne. Adonijah went away without an issue and thus Solomon became king. Unfortunately, the story is not as simple as it seems. There is much involved in this story that I will not go into today, but it does conclude with the bloody death of Adonijah and others. This account can be read in 1 Kings 2:13 – 25.
Solomon became king of Israel after the death of his father. He was a good king for most of his life. He accomplished, as we will see soon, what no other king before or after him. He was as a fair and just ruler, he built the Temple of God in Jerusalem, he established trade with other nations, and he possessed wisdom and wealth that surpassed his contemporaries worldwide. Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs and 1,500 songs. Most of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, all of Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs (Solomon) were written by King Solomon.
Unfortunately, unlike his father, he did not walk with God through the course of his life. For better and worse Solomon is renowned for was his abundance of wealth, wisdom, and women.
Today we will look at three key characteristics of Solomon’s life (good and bad) that may help us understand God’s purpose in using people for his glory despite their fame, flaws, and failures.
The reality is that whether Solomon came to realize his folly before it was too late or not shouldn’t really matter for us today. Why? Because we can learn from his successes and mistakes and finish our lives in victory. In conclusion I want to highlight some points that can be applied from the life of Solomon for us today
Imagine, if you will, the account of Jesus ending at the cross of Calvary. This would be a hopeless message; in fact, we could not call it the gospel because a dead Savior in the tomb is not “good news”. I often wonder if the disciples who had followed Jesus for the past 3 ½ years stared at the lifeless body of Jesus hanging on the cross that dark evening; did they think “Well, that’s it boys, this was all just a waste of time! Everything we put our hope and trust in has abruptly ended!” The reality of the moment for these disciples was that everything is finished. There was nothing left but go back to their old lives. Everything they were taught, everything they believed and even fought for was now dead and gone. Everything Jesus spoke about in regard to eternal life, the abundant life, and ushering in the Kingdom of God seemed empty and meaningless.
Fortunately, this is not how the story ends.
John 20:1 – 20
The Empty Tomb
It was early Sunday morning, and it was still dark. Mary Magdalene, a faithful follower of Jesus, went to the tomb of Jesus with some other women. John does not mention the other women in his gospel, but the other three gospel writers mention these women were present and they all had come to take care of the body of Jesus. When Mary came upon the tomb, she noticed the large stone at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away. This was concerning to her because the tomb was under guard by the order of Pontius Pilate. It was sealed with the seal of authority of Pilate and should have been exactly how it was left when Jesus was buried. Concern, she immediately went and found Peter and presumably John.
The disciples and Mary naturally assumed Jesus’ body had been stolen or moved. Immediately both Peter and John ran to the tomb to observe. When they reached the tomb John bent down and looked in and noticed the burial clothes were in tatters. John showed up first, but it was Peter who entered the empty tomb. In most instances a tomb or cave opening was only 3 feet high. A grown adult would have to crawl in through this small opening. Peter went in and noticed the burial clothes were in there, but the face clothe (kind of like a handkerchief) was not with the rest of the clothes but in its own separate place. John follows Peter and when he entered empty tomb verse 8 says, “He saw and believed.”
We are told that Jesus’ body was not stolen, it was not misplaced, nor was it hidden. The body of Jesus was resurrected, fully alive! He approaches Mary and reveals himself to her and she goes out to tell the others about the risen savior. Eventually Jesus reveals himself to the rest of the disciples and showed them his wounds and they rejoiced as they encountered their risen, friend, savior, and Messiah. Jesus is ALIVE! This is the message of Easter.
Easter is not so much about death as it is about life! Sure, PART of the Easter account is about the death of Jesus being the sacrificial Lamb who gave his life so we could have life. But Easter is about life, celebration, joy, and hope in our resurrected Savior!
The Significance of the Resurrection
So, what is the significance of the resurrection? Why is it so important for us? The truth for Christians is we put all our stock in the fact that Jesus Christ not only died on a cross, but he also conquered death by raising from the dead. The death of Jesus is essential to our Christian faith (without death atonement cannot be made) but we cannot stop at his death. The story does not end there it continues with the resurrection. The resurrection is important because…
A question that often asked is, “How can I be sure Jesus rose from the dead?” The simple answer is faith. You must have faith to believe because you or I were not present at the resurrection. However, there are written accounts of Jesus’ appearances throughout the New Testament.
How the Resurrection Affects You
So, what does all this mean for us? Through Jesus’ resurrection we also are made fully alive in Him and through him!
Ephesians 4:21 - 30
Verse 21 – 25: Since you are now alive in Christ you have a renewed mind in the Spirit. The old nature is gone and because of the resurrection you have put on the new nature. This passage details some attribute of the new life. Paul writes how the new nature calls us to stop telling lies and speak the truth to one another. We are people of the truth, and we must speak truth to one another. This includes refraining from speaking lies and living in lies.
Verse 26, 27: Not only does the new nature call you to live in the truth, you are also told to not let anger overtake you.
Anger can be and often is unhealthy because it is directly related to the old self, and it should not rule the true believer’s life. Christian theologian, pastor and former president of Dallas Theological Seminary John Walvoord writes, “The way to prevent such sin (anger) is to “keep short accounts,” dealing with the anger before the sun goes down. The reason is that the devil would like to intensify a Christian’s righteous anger against sin, causing it to become sin itself. This then gives the devil a foothold (lit., “a place”), an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin. Then anger begins to control the believer rather than the believer controlling his anger.” Unchecked or unresolved anger is dangerous and can lead to full blown bitterness and eventual hatred. As hard as it can be at times, you must control your anger and you can do this through the power of the Holy Spirit in you.
The New Life
Verse 28 – 30: You are a new creation, and now walk opposite to the old life. Paul uses an example of a thief who once stole for a living is now to work hard for his wages to make a living for himself. The new life affects all areas of our lives. We no longer do what we did. Paul points out that the new life affects the way we speak. We no longer use foul or abusive language but language that encourages and builds others up. The NET bible translates the word “foul” as “unwholesome”. The original word means “to cause decay”. Foul language is language that destroys, demeans, and tears others down. This includes negative or harsh criticism, gossip, words spoken in anger, bullying, and lying. A person who is not a new creation in Christ does not bridle his tongue (as James talks about). He/she uses his/her words as a weapon to tear down and harm others. Since you are a new creation use your words to build up and edify; not tear down and destroy.
Verse 31: We are to get rid of the following…
These qualities are not part of the new life in Christ. These are all qualities of the old life.
Verse 32: Instead, the person who has the new life in Christ is..
When you become a new creation in Christ you become a new person in Christ. I want to challenge you today to look at your life. Are you living as a new creation in Christ? Do you allow the Spirit of God to work through you by being intentional in showing kindness to people around you; being tenderhearted to your coworkers and family; and showing forgiveness to those who seek your forgiveness. It may not come easily or right away but ask God to help you to become the person who intentionally lives a fully alive life for Jesus Christ to live the way God intended for you to live. I reiterate the new life affects EVERY (not some) aspect of our lives. We are called to live as Jesus lived and we can only do this by the power of his Holy Spirit.
So, what can we take home with us this Easter morning? The answer is simple… We have hope. This life God gave you is precious, and you can live in abundance for the Lord here on earth, but this life is not all we have. If you truly believe the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, then there is more to look forward to in this life and in life hereafter. When one has faith in Jesus Christ one can face death without reservation, one can live a life here and now for His glory. When we know Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can live, die and rise again gives me strength, it gives me faith, it gives me hope and it gives me the desire to live my life fully for Him because he willingly died for His children so that we may have life an abundant life both here on earth and and in the life yet to come..
Today is Palm Sunday, and thus begins “Holy Week”. Now, I know that I have used terms like Lent, Maundy Thursday, and Holy Week this Easter season that are not traditionally used in the Baptist Church. But I believe they are significant terms and practices that point to and prepare us for the remembrance of Jesus’ death and celebration of his resurrection.
Palm Sunday is traditionally the day where we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. This event is one of a few occurrences that is recorded in all four Gospels in the life of Jesus. While all four accounts are similar in subject there are some differences in the way the accounts are re-told. The purpose of this account is Jesus in all four gospels is to show Jesus preparing for his royal entry and worship as king.
Instead of recounting the events of this day I would like to look more closely at the worship aspect of this day. Most of you are most-likely aware that Palm Sunday is the first time where he publicly accepts worship, and He identifies himself as the Messiah. This account is bathed in praise and worship, so I thought it would be appropriate to spend our time together and look at and define what praise and worship looks like.
The word praise is derived from the Hebrew word Teh-hil-law which is from the root word haw-lal where we get the word Hallelujah. Teh-hil-law is defined as a song or hymn of praise and adoration, thanksgiving, renown, fame, or glory. Often when Praise is spoken in the Bible it is usually done through song but not necessarily exclusively. Praise can also be descriptive of poetry, creativity and in gatherings of believers.
The Psalms are great examples of praise. Last week we looked at two Psalms and I would encourage you to read through and meditate on them often as they are great ways to express praise to God and the words penned by the psalmists are eloquently and descriptively describe a heart that leans toward and praise God.
How, Why & When
In our time together we are going to look at several scripture passages that show us specifically who we are to praise God, why we are to praise God, and when we are to praise God. I will forewarn that this is not an exhaustive list of Psalms (that would probably take us all day), but I have chosen a few to answer the how, why, and when.
When most people talk about worship, they tend to link it with praise. Worship is often referred to Praise and Worship and we are once again people think that this is the music portion of a church service. However, there is a distinction between the words praise and worship. They are complimentary to one another, yet they are uniquely different.
The Hebrew word for Worship is Shaw Kaw which means to bow down, prostrate oneself, to honor, revere as divine or Supreme Being. The Greek word is Pros-Koo-Neh-Sis which paints a more vivid picture of worship. It means to kiss the hand towards in token of reverence or kissing like a dog affectionately licking his master’s hand.
What we need to know about worship…
In Jesus’ day the Jewish people had reduced worship to outward actions, traditions, and ceremonies. They thought that by religiously adhering to the letter of the law, and going through certain rituals, they were worshiping the Father. But this was not worship in the spirit. It was outward, not inward. Their bodies might be bowed down on the ground, but their hearts were not right before God. Jesus informed them that now that He had come, it was possible for men to draw near to God through Him in true and sincere worship.
What can we take with us this Palm Sunday? As Jesus entered the city on a donkey the people shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna is the Highest!” They were praising Jesus and worshiping him as they threw palm branches on the ground. They were not doing this out of vain tradition and rituals. They were not praising and worshiping him in a building. They didn’t decide beforehand what style or medium of worship they would use. No! They gathered to worship because first and foremost Jesus was the King and secondly, this was the fulfillment of prophecy. The religious leaders tried to stop this praise fest, but Jesus told them that if the people wouldn’t praise him, the rocks would. Palm Sunday was not just a part of the church service, but it was the culmination of what their lives were in Christ. Here are some concluding thoughts…
The Book of Psalms is both God’s revelation of himself to Israel and of Israel’s response in faith Him. The Psalms encourage us to witness how God’s chosen people related to Him in the past. They can serve as God’s remedy for a complacent church, because through it he exposes how great, amazing, glorious, wise, and awe-inspiring he is.
In a practical sense the Psalms represent emotions. These emotions are in line with what the writer may be experiencing at the specific time of writing. So, it is no wonder that the Psalms are songs, prayers or poems offered to God that express a wide range, if not the full range, of human emotions. For example, there are Psalms of joy, Psalms of faith, Psalms of happiness, Psalms of anger and frustration, Psalms of thankfulness, Psalms of despair and loneliness, Psalms of fear and grief and the list goes on. They represent the span of human emotions that range from the positive to the negative emotions but are all unified by one element: the one and only God.
John Calvin said it well when he wrote, “I may truly call this book an anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for no one can feel a moment of the spirit which is not reflected in the mirror. All sorrows, troubles, fears, doubts, hopes, pain, perplexities, and stormy outbreaks by which the hearts of men are tossed have been depicted here to the very life.” C.S. Lewis writes, “Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all incense and all formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than the logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.” What these men are saying is the Psalms are meant speak to the heart more than to the brain. They are not meant to be read merely as intellectual observations as much as they are to are read and to some extent feel the raw emotion spoken through them and they in turn speak to our souls. Many Psalms leave little doubt as to how the writer is feeling at the moment of writing.
In our study we will note that there are five types of Psalms represented in the Bible.
Many of these Psalms reflect or stir up various emotions and we can easily relate to many of them. However, we do need to be careful in reading, interpreting, and applying certain Psalms to our everyday life. It is important to keep our emotions in check. We cannot allow our emotions get the best of us. We need to pay particular attention in regard to imprecatory Psalms which call down curses on the wicked, because many of them were written specifically for the Jews and were appropriate only for the Jews but were not intended for believers of this Church age.
The Happy Life
This is a Psalm of celebration, happiness, and joy. Personally, I believe this Psalm could easily define true happiness in life. It is safe to say that we all desire happiness. Our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This document declares that every American has the unalienable right the pursuit of happiness. But what is happiness? We all want it and all of us do pursue it in various ways, but do we know what kind of happiness we are pursuing? People inside and outside of the body of Christ thinks that happiness can be found in some THING. Some believe they would be happy if with a good paying job, a nice house, a new car, a better Pastor, etc. Some seek happiness in a person… a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, children, friends, family, etc. The previous mentioned all can bring a great deal happiness and joy but they are not the true and final source of happiness.
Psalm 1 tells us exactly how true happiness is found.
Vs. 1: “Oh the Joys…” The word in most of your Bibles is “Blessed” which means happy, or happiness that flows from a sense of wellbeing and rightness. A happy person is one who does not walk in the ways of the world or in sin. Sin cannot and does not bring happiness; it may seem fun for a fleeting moment but eventually misery follows.
Seeking the “Counsel of the wicked” means taking advice or advisement from the ungodly or those hostile to God. How can a person find happiness from a person who doesn’t have happiness? Happy is the person who does not seek wisdom or direction from the ungodly or the worldly ways. The happy person does not take up residence with people who are proud, boastful, mockers, or those who get off on deriding people of joy. This does not mean we isolate ourselves from world or from wicked and ungodly people. We are to steer clear of the influence of the ungodly. We are called to love the sinner; but we are not called to let the ungodly influence who you are, what you do, and how you live your life.
Vs. 2: True happiness comes from the instruction of the Lord. Some believe this to mean that the only way we can be happy is if we read the Bible all the time and memorize the laws of the Bible and follow every letter of the law to the “T”. This is not what is meant in this verse. Sure, we experience great joy when we read the word of God and hold it in our hearts; but a truly happy person is one who is influenced by and completely submitted to God and his ways because they are the right way. Our source of happiness and joy should come from God. True happiness is found in God and living a life grounded in obedience to him. What does happiness look like? Does it mean that if we follow God’s ways we will be skipping, smiling, and soaring through life without a care? Of course not! We will always experience anger, frustration, despair, and all sorts of negativity throughout life, but we will always have the source of happiness (Jesus) in us. We can still be happy and be miserable all at the same time. Why? Because our happiness is not based in a person, place, thing, or situation; Our happiness is grounded in God, and we can truly be happy even when life does not seem so good.
Vs. 3: Not only will a submitted person be happy, but she will also live a fruitful life. The one who is rooted in God (through Jesus Christ) will be like a tree that is well nourished, cared for and producing abundant and healthy fruit in due time. God will bless the person who is rooted in Him. We will be blessed, we will prosper, and we will be filled with joy and happiness all according to God’s purposes. This can mean we may not always FEEL like we are blessed, prosperous, joyful, and happy but we are because God has promised this and has given all for us.
Vs. 4: This is a contrast of the happy life. A happy person who is rooted in God will be healthy, fruitful, and prosperous but the person who seeks happiness in anything other than God will experience fleeting or temporal happiness. This is a type of happiness that may bring momentary happiness for a season but when the storm of life picks up so goes their happiness. This is the one who has no faith in God but believes he is happy and fulfilled. This person’s happiness is grounded in things that will let you down and disappoint. If your happiness is grounded in situations, things, or careers you will be let down eventually. There will always be better jobs, bigger homes, newer cars, more money, and more stuff to buy but when they fail you or ceases to bring happiness then it does not take long for the world to turn bleak and depressing, so you either wallow in your misery or you go out and try to find something else to bring a fleeting joy which will let you down again. True happiness is found in the one who is grounded in God.
This is a song with mixed emotions ranging from crying out in despair and anguish to having joy and hope. This Psalm was likely penned at a low point in David’s life; some have suggested he was fighting a life-threatening illness and others have suggested it was penned when David was fleeing from the pursuits of King Saul who was trying to kill him. We read that he is in utter despair and at the end of his rope.
Vs 1 - 2: He begins his song by asking God “How long?” four times. The repetition shows that David is at a point of being unable to bear or endure the situation(s) he is facing. He asks God, “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Initially one would think David is having a crisis of faith moment as he wonders if God is even around or if he even cares. I believe David is not questioning the existence of God, nor does he literally think God has forgotten about him (Remember this is a poem or a song which is intended to express a pure feeling or a raw emotion). His song is not intended to be a theological treatise of God in any sense; he is just being genuine, transparent, and open to God with his emotions and feelings.
Questioning God was something many men and women of the Bible practiced over the centuries and many still do today. Abraham and Sarah questioned God when He promised Abraham’s wife would one day bear a son. Job questioned God when he lost everything that was precious to him. Elijah questioned God’s whereabouts when he fled for his life from Jezebel. The Israelites continually questioned God in times of calamity. It may seem disheartening to read about the struggles these all faced but their questions should also bring comfort. Why? Because we see some of the greatest men and women of faith having struggles and they had the courage to cry out to God with their tough questions and at times lack of faith to express their true emotions to God.
There are people who believe questioning God or voicing their true emotions and complaints to God is wrong, disrespectful, and irreverent. I could not disagree with them more whole heartedly and the Psalms back my disagreement up. God is not taken back, intimidated, nor offended when we bring our raw unfettered emotions to him. In fact, He welcomes our cries of despair and raw emotions that we express to him. Yes, we read time and again when God does get frustrated with His people who lack trust and faith in Him, especially in the times where he has assured his faithfulness. There are many accounts in both the Old and New Testament where God and Jesus respond to peoples cries of despair in exasperation saying, “How many times do I have to prove myself faithful to you?”
David, the Psalmist, is voicing his question to God by asking, “How long do I have to endure before you will intervene and take control of the situation?” He feels alone and isolated from God (and he still knows He’s there) and in despair as he faces his enemy; and the last thing anyone wants to feel during a trial, calamity, or despair is the feeling of being alone and abandoned. Yet this is how David feels and he is begging for God’s divine intervene.
Vs 3 – 4: David continues by asking God to “turn and answer me”, pay attention, or look favorably upon his request. In other words, he is saying, “God, hear my prayer! I have made my request known and I implore you to give it consideration. Give me hope to know that I will emerge victoriously over my enemies for your name’s sake; lest my enemies think they have won.” These first three verses can be seen as complaints filed against (How long O LORD?), a request being made (turn and answer me), and now the Psalmist waits with great expectation. He does not have a shallow hope that God may pull through for him; he is expecting God to hear his prayer and respond in the appropriate manner.
Vs 5: The Psalm now takes a turn from lament to confidence. David is faced with a choice; he can choose to continue in one of two ways…
We can have happiness, joy, and trust in God through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we can know, and experience true happiness and we can know and experience true joy. Because of Jesus we can completely understand that apart from God the worldly mindset of happiness essentially has nothing to offer us. Apart from God the government, your marriage, your family, your relationships, your work, your status, and the materials things of the world can’t bring life-giving all satisfying happiness. We can only find true happiness in life when we allow the source of our joy and happiness be found in God through Jesus Christ. When we do allow our source of joy be in Jesus Christ Then and only can we be truly blessed; and in so doing will we find pleasure in the life as we delight in the Lord and His Word and become healthy, fruitful, and prosperous followers of Jesus Christ in this world.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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