Set Your Face Like Flint

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Isaiah 50:7 (ESV), “But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”

 How many times have you heard someone say, “Practice what you preach”? I thought of that while reading through proverbs. Solomon didn’t do that!

 Proverbs 1:2-9 (NIV), “For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

King Solomon spends verse after verse insisting that his son listens to his teaching, he grasps for wisdom and understanding, and then he gives chapters of wise sayings and warnings to anyone who will take heed. Solomon is written about in the Bible as the” wisest man that ever lived or ever will live”. (I Kings 3:12). So, what happened? We clearly see by reading Kings, Chronicles, and Ecclesiastes that somewhere along the way, Solomon stepped off the path. In fact he couldn’t have gotten any farther away. He built pagan altars, places of worship to false gods, and even worshipped them himself.) One of those false gods was Molech the god who demanded children be sacrificed in his ovens, I Kings 11.)

I can’t help thinking, “if he was so wise…what happened?”

Clearly “wisdom” isn’t the key to staying on track. If it had been, Solomon would never have turned his back on God, or ever left the path that God had laid out for him.

What do you think caused his backsliding?

We know that his many wives and concubines had something to do with it. The bible says, “Solomon married seven hundred princesses and also had three hundred concubines. They made him turn away from God,  and by the time he was old they had led him into the worship of foreign gods. He was not faithful to the Lord his God, as his father David had been.” (I Kings 11:3-4) It is easy to put the blame on all of those women, but let’s dig a little deeper here.

Why did Solomon marry so many “Princesses”?

He was trying to broker peace with other nations. It was s common practice in the day to form alliances through marriage. The thinking was that rival kings wouldn’t attack if their daughters were married to and living in the palace of the king. God had already told Solomon that he reign would be a peaceful one. God had planned it all out and His plan didn’t include hundreds of women! Solomon was trying to work out something God wanted to give him. Does that sound familiar? Think of Sarah and Abraham, or Adam in the garden, and what about Satan’s temptation of Jesus (to give Him something by means of another way instead of by God’s will.)

He stopped looking to God as his source. In all of his hundreds of relationships, he left out the most important one! His relationship with God. All the wisdom in the world won’t get you far without a relationship with the one who gave you the wisdom to begin with.

After turning his back on God, Solomon tries everything to find meaning in life. Instead he finds that it is all vanity!

Ecclesiastes 1:2-8 (NIV), “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say.”

These verses sound like someone in the throes of depression. If you read through Ecclesiastes you will see he tried everything, work, leisure, pleasure, and even turned himself over to false religions and idol worship, yet found no meaning in life. All the wasted time, the wasted life, and the ruin of a whole nation! All he had to do was repent (turn back to God).

Compare his lamenting in verses 2-8, to the scripture in Isaiah. Isaiah states that he had not been disgraced, or put to shame. He set his face like stone, keeping his eyes and his focus on God. Maybe that is why he had such a great revelation of Jesus. Yet, Solomon’s life is full of shame and disgrace, so much that his sin caused the kingdom to be divided, leaving a legacy of selfish, hard-hearted, kings in his wake.

In all of the warning he gave his sons, and us, through proverbs, he didn’t practice what he preached.

A sad story.

We know that at some point he came to his senses. We can read in the last chapter of Ecclesiasts, Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

He realized his mistake, yet he couldn’t undo the evil influence that he propagated to the people of Israel, or his own children. God had made it plain what would happen if Solomon or his children didn’t do all that He had commanded. The die was cast and there was no taking it back. Sadly for Solomon and Israel, it was “too little, too late”.

Thankfully, we live in God’s glorious grace! It’s never too late for us to return to our first love. Any move to gain more intimacy with God is never too little.

Set your face like flint! Don’t let anyone pull you away from your relationship with God. Make Him number one.

Chronicles of the Kings

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God called David, “A man after my own heart.” He made a promise to this young shepherd-turned King, to always keep one of David’s heirs on the throne. This line started with David’s son Solomon and went all the way to Jesus (who still happens to occupy the throne and hold the title of “King.”) Starting with Solomon, David’s heirs were not faithful to continue in their father’s footsteps. During Solomon’s reign he worshipped false Gods and led the people astray. So God separated His Chosen People into two groups, Judah who kept the throne of David and ruled in Jerusalem and Israel who ruled in Samaria. Israel had a string of leaders who mostly fought for the throne, while Judah continued to have David’s seed as their kings.
Read Kings and Chronicles as well as the prophets and you will quickly see that the very people that God had chosen to have as His own, turned their backs on Him. They built altars to foreign gods, worshipped and sacrificed to false gods; they even profaned the temple that David had dreamed of building for the Lord. They went as far as even sacrificing their own children to Molech, by throwing them into the mouth of the idol, which was a fiery furnace. Over and over through the lineage of those kings from Judah and Israel we read how they “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and led God’s people to do the same.
Every now and then there was a light in the darkness, a prophet who really heard from God, a king who “did good like his father David.” They were few and far between and all but one, never removed one hundred percent of the idols and temple of the false gods, or restored the temple worship, sacrifices and the law. Only Josiah, who was only eight years old when he became king, did. He tore them down, pulled the altars to false gods out of the temple, crushed them into dust and let them wash away in the river. Then at the ripe age of sixteen he is given the book of the law that had been sitting unused in the temple. Once again God’s children renewed their faith in Him and they repented and followed the practices set up by God.
At his death, the next king, his very own son, “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” I read all of this and the one thing that stands out the most (no, not the stupidity of the people) is God’s patience! If I was Him, I would have given up after Solomon…So why did He keep trying? Why did He come when they remembered to call on Him? Because of the promise He had made to King David, all those generations ago, generations of unfaithful, hard hearted, stiff necked and rebellious people, that a son of David would always sit on the throne.
So even in His anger, when He used other nations to chastise the people and scatter them from their own land, He preserves the seed of David and a “Remnant” of His people. God was faithful to an unfaithful people. He preserved the line from David all the way until Jesus, the Son of David.
So what has God promised you? He is faithful. If He said it, He will bring it to pass. It might not always look like its coming, or come when we want it to, but it’s there. He is always watching over his word to perform it, (Jeremiah 1:12). Beware- don’t sin as the children of Israel and Judah did and expect God to move on your behalf. He clearly states in Zephaniah 3:12, that the remnant He preserved were, “A humble and lowly people and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord.” Those are the ones who inherit the promises.

Consider Solomon

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Solomon was given the royal title of King. He wasn’t his father, King David’s, firstborn son. He was the son of Bathsheba. David and Bathsheba committed adultery while she was married to Uriah the Hittite. David had him murdered in battle and married Solomon’s mother. David and Bathsheba conceived a son in their sin. After the man of God corrects David and he repents, the child dies. Then along comes Solomon.

David’s desire was to build a house for God. But due to his “bloody hands” and because he was a “man of war”, God couldn’t allow it. In his place, Solomon spent seven years with literally hundreds of thousands of men to build the temple, using the finest stones, lumber and precious metals. If you read I Kings and II Chronicles you can see the splendor. David designed it. Solomon built it.

When Solomon was to become King, God asked him to ask for whatever he wanted. As a new young King, with big shoes to fill, he asked for wisdom to rule the people. God was so pleased that He gave him the wisdom as well as riches and honor. In all time, Solomon was the wisest and richest man ever to live. A great beginning.
So what happened after his coronation and the building of the temple that takes us to Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, Where he exclaims “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

I believe chapter 11 of I Kings explains the heart of the matter.”Solomon loved many foreign women.” It’s not just that he married them, when it was forbidden by God, “You must not intermarry with them, because they surly will turn your hearts after their Gods.” No, the real issue was his heart. He “held fast to them in love.” And sure enough, “as Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to God, as the heart of David, his father had been” (verses 1-5). He ended up following other gods, including Molech who demanded they sacrifice their children by fire.

It’s pretty simple, really. God knows what is best for us. When we listen, things are good. When we don’t things aren’t so good. Sure bad things happen to all of us; after all we live in a fallen world that is under Satan’s control. But do you want to face them alone, or go through them with God on your side. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

What do you love more than God? Who do you love more than God? You might not have 700 wives and 300 mistresses but what takes your attention away from Him? What comes first? Whatever it is, you better get your priorities straightened out. Otherwise you’ll end up like Solomon screaming, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” We’ve all been there, hind-sight and all of that, thinking “that was a waste”. Solomon went from dedicating the temple where God showed up in such a way, physically, that the priests couldn’t even stand in his presence, to building places of worship for false gods, and he was the wisest man ever…

I like to think that I am pretty smart. I like to think that I have a pretty good relationship with God. But if Solomon in all of his wisdom and glory could fall so far…

Priorities. We all love our families, our Churches, our hobbies, interests, some of us our jobs, etc. But we need to love God best, or as my granddaughter used to say “the most-est”. Now, we don’t do that by “working” ourselves up like an actress getting ready to film the big love scene. Instead it’s something we work at, and work towards. Build a relationship that nothing else can replace or compare to. Choose God, first and foremost.

By the way, Solomon recognized his error and set his priorities straight, but how much time was wasted? What kind of example did he set for his son’s who were destined to rule? Read the rest of Kings and Chronicles. Things didn’t work out too well for his descendants, most of whom “did evil in the sight of the Lord”. What example do you want to leave?