At church, we just started a sermon series on 1 Kings 1-11. The central character is king Solomon. There’s plenty of action and an engaging narrative. But what do they mean for us? We are a long way from the original events. We’re a Christian church – and overwhelmingly non-Jewish Christians – in Australia, in 2014AD.
With the help of images I used during the sermon, here’s my idea of what we should keep in mind.
Copy this man?
Readers learn lots about Solomon, as represented by this diagram.
Solomon was a wise king (see his skill with the two women in chapter three). Solomon was a foolish king (see his fall with many women, his wives, in chapter eleven). Perhaps we are different from you, but no one at my church rules a middle-eastern nation.
Solomon also was a man before God, with responsibilities similar to every person: trust God’s promises, pray, avoid greed, …
This is pretty easy for us to relate to: Solomon was a man before God, we are people before God, therefore we learn about life with God. As a preacher, I know that a sure-fire way to get positive comments is to present a character study of the Bible’s famous folk. ‘Living like Solomon’ will always be a hit. And sometimes handy. And always deceptive.
A king among kings
For the account of Solomon does not come to us as an individual and stand-alone tale. It’s connected to God’s bigger story. There are hints (Hebrew Bible hyperlinks?) even with 1 Kings chapter one. See verse 37’s words to David: “As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.” It’s a link to the whole of King David’s rule and the promises God spoke to him. And it’s a tip to keep an eye on the future, to see what God will continue to do.
You could say that 1 Kings is God’s word that gives us the grammar of kingship. The Lord is showing us what he says about the rule of his people: about justice, and wisdom, and service, and power (and about failure). Solomon is the establishment of a Davidic dynasty. Solomon is the house-of-God-building-ruler. Solomon is justice for the poor, and the unveiling of hidden motives, and the envy of all other kingdoms. And Solomon is the certainty that human kingdoms do not establish the rule of heaven.
In other words, the first question is not, ‘What do I do?’ It is, ‘What is God’s kingdom?’
The King of kings
Ultimately, God’s kingdom is salvation for the world in Jesus Christ. The practical reason most readers of 1 Kings come to the text because of Jesus: Christians and churches keep delving into this book. This reflects the underlying theological reason: all the scriptures that God has provided are about his Son.
In a way, Christians reading 1 Kings are continuing the Emmaus Road Bible study that Jesus kicked off nearly 2000 years ago (Luke 24:25-27). We’re in a new place, and meet at a different time, and there are new group members – but apart from that it’s exactly the same!
We learn of Solomon, the king, so that we will know the King of kings. Solomon’s story is part of the biggest story of all.
By giving up the desire for ‘life tips’, we might initially feel as if the Bible becomes irrelevant. The truth is far better: by finding out about Lord Jesus, we learn our place in the world. From this follows every part of pursuing the kingdom, and the experience of deep and eternal change more profound than that produced by any behavioural to-do list.