Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Wisdom and Obedience

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss imagines what it was like to be Solomon, called the wisest man who ever lived. Despite this title, he still disobeyed God.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “Life is going great. Oh, yes, that little thing God said about wives will turn your heart away—not my heart. My heart is turned toward God.” How did he justify that? How did he rationalize it? I don’t know, but apparently he did.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 12.

You can learn a lot by observing the lives of wise people. We’re about to observe the life of a man who was called the wisest who ever lived, but despite the title, he didn’t always act very wise. We’ll learn from his success and failure in a series called The Way of Wisdom.

Nancy: We get a lot of emails here at Revive Our Hearts, and I always enjoy reading them. It’s interesting how many of those emails are people sharing concerns, requests, questions with us where they are in a situation where they just don’t know what to do. They want wisdom. They have questions.

Some of those are questions about decisions that people need to make, “What would you suggest? What is your counsel?”

They’re questions about areas of the Christian life.

I read one this morning from someone who said,

How do you know when one person is meant for the other? [This is somebody who is in a dating relationship.] We’re not yet seriously in love, but before we make that step, I’d like to know if we were meant to be together so that neither of us gets hurt if otherwise.

I’ve prayed about it. I’ve asked God for a sign, but what I’ve received from Him is very confusing, so I don’t know what to do.

Some of you have been there.

We got another one from a boyfriend and girlfriend. They said,

We’re both Christians, but we want to know where to draw the line. Is kissing too much? Hugging? Cuddling? How do we know what is right and wrong, or is there a line?

Then ones like this, written from a 20-something who said,

A lot of my friends, people in their 20s, are sharing apartments. Some feel there’s nothing wrong with a platonic roommate of the opposite sex.

This person isn’t so sure about that position and wants to know what we could contribute to that discussion.

There are others who are just dealing with hard life situations, major struggles, major challenges, major difficulties. A lot of them are in situations and circumstances that they have no control over. They may be the family they were born into, they can’t change that, or physical limitations.

Some of the situations, many of them, are things that have happened to people as a result of a failure to walk wisely. They’ve made choices in their lives in the past, and now they are reaping some of the consequences of those choices and wanting to know what to do about it.

As I’ve been reading a lot of these emails recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of wisdom. Wisdom—what is it? How do you get it? Why is it so important? Why do we need it? It sounds like a pretty basic subject, but I’m discovering the Word of God has a lot to say about it.

It seems to me a good starting place on that subject is to look a little bit into the life of the man who was known as the wisest man who ever lived. His name would be Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.

Now, right away there you know that here’s a man who grew up in a home where his parents had made some foolish choices. His parents taught him some things as a result of the foolish choices they had made. Solomon, in turn, passed on to his son some of the things he had learned from his parents, and, therefore, we have the book of Proverbs.

Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs and also the book of Ecclesiastes. Between those two books alone there are approximately 160 references to wisdom—the word wise or wisely or wisdom. I’ve been through the book of Proverbs a number of times recently and just circled all the references to wisdom.

First Kings chapter 10 tells us that King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, and the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom which God had put into his mind.

So here’s a man who is so wise that people are knocking down his door to say, “We want to learn from you. We want to learn from your knowledge and your wisdom and your experience and your understanding.”

So the question is: How did he get that wisdom?

Now you’re familiar with the story, but let’s just take a few moments and review it as we start this series. I think it has some instruction for us.

Turn in your Bible if you would to 1 Kings chapter 3. There’s a parallel passage in 2 Chronicles chapter 1, but we’ll look at 1 Kings 3, that tells us how Solomon came to have this kind of extraordinary wisdom.

First Kings 3, beginning in verse 5, Solomon had just become the king of Israel. He’s succeeding his father David on the throne. In verse 5:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, "Ask what I shall give you"—[whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.]

Now, you just let your mind go and think of all the things he could have asked for at that moment—success for himself, for the kingdom, wealth, honor, and we’ll see that God recognized that there were other things he could asked. Then notice that before he asks for anything, he stops to acknowledge God’s faithfulness and his father’s faithfulness to God, his godly heritage.

He says in verse 6,

And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father [my father was faithful to you], because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.”

Solomon starts with saying, “Before I ask for anything, God, I just want to thank You. You have been so good to me. You have been good to my father. You’ve been faithful. I realize I’m here in this position, not through any deserving of my own, but because of Your goodness, Your kindness, and Your mercy, and Your appointment. You have put me in this position.”

He’s grateful, and his perspective is God-centered. Already his life is centered on God.

So he says in verse 7,

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child.

“I don’t deserve this. I don’t know why You chose me, but You’ve put me in this position. But I’ve got a problem. I’m young. I’m inexperienced. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to go out or come in."

So, again, before he asks for anything, he acknowledges that he has a need. He humbles himself. He says, “I can’t do this job. I’m inadequate. The task to which You’ve called me is too great for me.” That’s the cry of humility, and we’re going to see that humility is the starting place of all wisdom.

Proverbs 11, verse 2: “With the humble is wisdom.”

So Solomon says in verse 8:

And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?

“Lord, one request I have—just one thing—if I’ve got to narrow it down to one thing, here’s what I want, here’s what I need: Would you give me an understanding mind, a wise heart, to govern Your people? Help me to know the difference between good and evil. Give me the wisdom I need to lead these people.”

That’s what he asks for above all, and we see in verse 10 that the Lord was pleased with this request. “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.”

I think that’s because God loves a humble heart. God loves people who know they need Him. God loves it when we say, “Help! I can’t manage without You. I need You.” Yet, isn’t it in our bent to want to be self-sufficient, to want to be able to handle life, to be able to manage? We want to be able to make it on our own. After all, that’s the American way. Yet God says, “I want you to need Me. I want you to humble yourself.”

People who think they already have it together, people who think they know everything don’t see a need to ask for wisdom. They rely on their own understanding. God is pleased when we rely on Him and say, “Lord, my understanding is not sufficient for this.”

So it pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

Then, verse 11:

And God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.

So God says, “I’m going to give you what you’ve asked for. I like that request.” Then God says, “I’m going to give you more than you’ve asked for.” Verse 13:

I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.

Now, we’re going to come back to that verse tomorrow, but let me just say here that God gives wisdom to those who ask Him, but, as we see in verse 14, there’s a condition. “If you will walk in My ways.” We have to use the wisdom God gives us to make wise choices, to follow Him, to obey Him, to walk in His ways.

Now just after this dream, you remember there came the situation where the two prostitutes who had had babies came.  One baby had died, and they were arguing about whose baby was living. Solomon was faced with this huge, terrible dilemma. Right away he had a chance to use the wisdom that God had given him. He made a decision, and as a result, in 1 Kings 3, we read,

All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

Now just looking at this much of Solomon’s life, we’ll take a look at his later life in the next session, but just the part that we’ve looked at thus far, let me make four statements that I think are things we can learn from this passage.

Number one: We need wisdom. We need wisdom more than we need anything else. We may think what we need most is more money, a mate, a break from all the stress we’ve been going through, a job, a house. We may think what we need is a certain problem to be solved or a certain circumstance to be changed, but I want to tell you, we need wisdom more than we need any of those things.

If you’re a mom or a college student, or a high school student, or a woman out in the work force, whatever your season of life, the thing that you need most, more than you need anything else, is wisdom.

Those of you who are moms, you need wisdom to adjudicate between your children when they’re having sibling rivalries—right?—as Solomon needed wisdom to adjudicate between those two sparring women. You didn’t see what your children did. You don’t know how to respond, and each of your kids are so different. You need wisdom to know how to rear one differently from the other one. You need wisdom.

So, number one: We need wisdom.

Number two: God is pleased when we ask Him for wisdom. You want to please God? Tell Him that you need wisdom. Tell Him that you can’t do it on your own. Ask Him for wisdom.

Number three: God gives wisdom to those who ask. We’re going to see that throughout the series.

Number four: If you get wisdom, you will also get everything else you need. So we think of all the other things we need, all the other things we could ask God for, and we stop and realize, “If I will get wisdom by asking God, then with that wisdom, I will get everything else that I need.”

As we continue to study Solomon’s life, we learn that we have to use that wisdom to walk in God’s ways and to obey His commandments.

First Kings chapter 3, when God was saying to Solomon, “I’m going to answer your prayer for wisdom,” God said in verse 13:

I will give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways [I’m giving you all this wisdom, but there’s something you have to do—if you will walk in My ways], keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days (verses 13-14).

It’s not enough to have wisdom. We need to use the wisdom we have, and we need to keep walking in wisdom. It takes intentionality to get wisdom, but it’s real, real easy, and it takes just one little step at a time to get off the pathway of wisdom.

Wise people can sometimes do foolish things. It’s not enough to know the difference between right and wrong. We have to do it. That’s why we have to be vigilant over our hearts, to keep obeying God.

Solomon had great wisdom. That was not disputable. But he disobeyed several specific commands that God had given to kings.

In Deuteronomy chapter 17, God told kings of Israel that there were several things they must be careful about. Now God sometimes tells us why; He doesn’t always tell us why, but God always knows there’s a good reason for His commands.

God said in Deuteronomy 17, Your kings "must not acquire many horses for themselves” (verse 16).

You say, “Why?” God knows, and we’re going to see that this was so true. The king must not acquire many horses for himself.

Verse 17: “He shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”

Three things that kings were to be careful about not having in excess: horses, wives, and silver and gold. Apparently, God knew that if they had too much of these good things, they would become proud, self-sufficient. They wouldn’t need God. Yet, what happened with Solomon?

First Kings chapter 10,

Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone (verses 26-27).

In these little areas, what he thought apparently were little areas, he violated the direct command of God. Now he apparently didn’t think there was anything wrong with this. Somehow he thought he could be an exception to God’s rule, but he couldn’t be.

Furthermore, chapter 11 of 1 Kings tells us,

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after other gods (verses 1-2).

Now why would Solomon have married all these women? Well, he was making treaties, alliances. They were political moves in many cases. Or maybe he just had a thing for women. He obviously liked them. He had a lot of them, but there may have been political reasons. Whatever the reasons, they weren’t good enough reasons for him to violate the Word of God.

The passage goes on to say: “Solomon clung to these women in love.”

When he did something, he did it all the way. Verse 3 tells us: “He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines.”

Now, our minds cannot fathom this. Let’s just say he went to excess on this thing of marriage. And what happened? He thought he could get away with it. He was wise, and yet he made foolish choices, foolish decisions in the matter of horses, in the matter of silver and gold, and in the matter of wives. God’s Word came true. God said, “If you marry these women, they will turn your heart away.” And what happened? God’s Word always comes true.

Verse 3 goes on to say: “And his wives turned away his heart.” That’s exactly what happened—what God had said. “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (verse 4).

I hadn’t noticed that little phrase, “When Solomon was old” until I was reviewing these notes this morning. It occurred to me that the consequences of foolish choices don’t always come right away. In fact, that’s probably why we make foolish choices because we think we’re getting away with them—and we may, for the short term. But the passage says when Solomon was old, these wives turned his heart away.

So when he was young, footloose and fancy free, he says, “I’ll do my thing. I’m in love. I’m having fun. I’m having a ball. Everybody thinks I’m wonderful. Everybody’s coming to see me and paying me all this honor and respect. Life is going great. Oh yes, that little thing God said about wives will turn your heart away—not my heart. My heart is turned toward God.”

How did he justify that? How did he rationalize it? I don’t know, but apparently he did, and the consequences weren’t experienced until he was old—the visible consequences at least.

When he was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites (verses 4-5). 

These were the gods and goddesses of the wives that he married, and his heart turned toward them as well.

So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done (verse 6).

And then he goes from bad to worse. Don’t think that foolish choices will just get you in a little trouble. Sin multiplies. It snowballs. It gets bigger. It gets worse. It gets greater.

Verse 7: "Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab." Now, Chemosh may not be an everyday word for you, but Chemosh was one of the gods of the Moabites to whom they routinely offered human sacrifices, many of them children. You say, “Solomon? The man who spared the life of that little baby by making a wise decision early in his reign, and now you’re worshiping a god who requires children to be sacrificed?”

How do you get there? You fall in love with people God’s told you not to fall in love with. You make little choices, one after the other, that result in and amount to big choices.

He made a high place for Chemosh

And for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites [another wicked, pagan deity] on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded (verses 7-10).

Solomon had encounters with God. He had the Word of God. He had the commands of God, but he didn’t practice what he knew to be the truth.

Solomon has a lot to teach us about wisdom. We have the book of Proverbs today because of Solomon’s early years of walking in wisdom, and that’s not to be discounted. I’m glad we have those years, but we also have an example of a man who in his latter years had a heart that turned away from the Lord because he didn’t practice what he knew. The things he told his son to do, the things he tells us to do in the book of Proverbs, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he didn’t do those very things. So we learn not only from his successes, but from his failures.

What do we learn from his failures?

  • When we violate, as justified as we may think it to be, when we violate the way of wisdom, we will reap consequences.
  • We learned that individual, seemingly small, foolish choices invariably lead to other bigger, foolish choices.

What direction has God given you in His Word that you know but you’re not keeping? Maybe you don’t think it’s a big thing, and maybe there’s no huge consequences in your life—yet. What is it? You may have Christian parents, you may have grown up in the church, you may know the truth, but you’re not doing it. You rationalize, you justify, you think you can be an exception to God’s rule.

Think ahead and ask yourself, “What will the legacy, the story of my life be when it’s all said and done?” You want to end well? That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts. We want to end well, but I tell you what, we won’t if we don’t walk in the path of wisdom.

Let me just say, you may have already made a lot of wrong choices. You may say, “My life is hopelessly botched up, messed up. I’ve made wrong choices. I’ve ended up in these dire circumstances.” Let me tell you it’s not too late. You can always repent. You can acknowledge the wrong choices.

I’m looking into the eyes today of some women. I’ve heard your stories over these months and years. You’ve shared with me how you’ve made wrong and foolish choices, but God is redeeming your life. God is giving you a fresh start because you have been willing to humble yourself, repent, acknowledge where you’ve gone wrong, and asked God for wisdom to get up and get going again.

Leslie: It’s not too late to pursue godly wisdom. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has opened the series The Way of Wisdom by studying the life of Solomon. God gave him incredible wisdom, but he still made some disastrous choices. We can learn a lot from his positive and negative examples.

A lot of women are carrying around the pain of bad choices. That’s one reason Nancy wrote about clearing your conscience and granting forgiveness in the workbook Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

When you go through this workbook, you’ll study what the Bible says about honesty, humility, holiness, and other important topics. You’ll learn to incorporate biblical wisdom into your life, and you’ll discover where the power comes from to make wise choices.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a copy of Seeking Him. Ask for it when you make your donation of any amount by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

You can learn some things about wisdom by considering high value jewelry. Find out why tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version. 

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