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God's wisdom and man's folly

'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of all wisdom.'

Proverbs 9:10

Solomon2 LH.jpg

chalk and charcoal on black Canson 160gsm paper

The elephant is often known as the symbol for wisdom, and so Solomon is portrayed as an old, blind elephant at the end of his life. His weariness and sadness can be seen and felt here as he comes to realise what a waste he has made of the wisdom and opportunities God gave him.

As a young man with the legacy of his father King David to live up to, King Solomon started off his career relatively well when he asked God for a 'wise and discerning mind to discern between good and evil’ so he can govern the people well (1 Kings 3:9). God granted him this wisdom as well as riches and honour, so that during his reign Israel reached the height of its glory and the kingdom was filled with peace and prosperity. He had finally constructed the glorious Temple of God that his father wanted to build, and had such wealth and power that everyone bowed down when they recognised that God was with him. The whole kingdom was blessed through him. King Solomon is remembered for his God-given wisdom, and who had, by all intents and purposes achieved the highest level of success in fame, career, money and power. 


How then, could he turn around at the end of his life and claim in the book of Ecclesiastes that ‘EVERYTHING is meaningless’? How did he manage to mess up so disastrously, and miss the point so totally, that kingdom of God was split and broken after his death? The answer, it seems, lies in his heart and his folly. He did not have a heart like David his father, a heart that loved and pursued God. True Godly wisdom is described in the Bible as having a ‘fear of the Lord’. This means a reverence and respect for God, and wanting God’s will to be done instead of our own. Even though he loved God in his youth, time and time again Solomon proved that he did not put God’s priorities before his own and he disobeyed God’s direct commands. He married 1,000 foreign wives and concubines for strategic political allegiances and slowly, day by day, step by step, these women with their foreign idols and practices led Solomon further and further away from God. His own life (and he also allowed the laws of his kingdom) tolerated, then permitted, then encouraged idol worship. His heart and the hearts of the people had turned so completely that at the end of his life, despite the multiple warnings God gave him, he did not care for nor sought after God or God’s wisdom at all. 


Are there any areas of your life in which you are tolerating the poisoning effects of sin? Are you giving sin a foothold in your life, compromising something that you don’t think is ‘so bad’ in the grand scheme of things? Solomon did not suddenly wake up one day with 1,000 wives and then suddenly decided to walk away from God.  It doesn't matter how well-intentioned you are or how great your achievements have been (even if it's in service to God!), we are still just susceptible to pride and sin like Solomon was. Like CS Lewis once said, 'indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts'.


If you would like to read more about the story of Solomon please see: 

The Bible Project also has lots of great resources on the story of Solomon

or you can watch a video here:

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