Of things hoped for

Nineteenth in the Solomon Series

Some commentators have assumed that Psalm 45 is an "epithalamium" – a song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom – written for Solomon to celebrate his marriage to his Song of Songs bride. Others see it strictly as a prophetical psalm, a wedding song for Christ and his bride, the church.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible states that it was a song:

Of that perfect love that ought to be between the husband and the wife… Verse 2, "Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever" speaks of Solomon’s beauty and eloquence to win favour with his people, and his power to overcome his enemies.

Verse 6, Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom [is] a right scepter likens Solomon's just reign to the perfect judgments of God. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (vs 7) Solomon is lauded for his exemplary kingship; his subjects rejoiced for him on his wedding day.

To the bride, the psalmist sings, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he [is] thy Lord; and worship thou him. (vss 10, 11) This princess should forget her roots.

The expressed hope for greatest blessing was: Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. (vs 16) The Geneva Study Bible explains that their children "will have greater graces than their fathers."

In a general sense, Solomon's descendants born after the coming of the Lord did have greater graces. However, of those born to him, we never hear about any but Rehoboam, the son of an Ammonitess (1 Ki 14:21). If Solomon and his bride of Psalm 45 had children, we know nothing of them. Was the singer's hope for that blessing unfulfilled?

King Rehoboam probably was Solomon's first son, since he began to reign at age 41 (2 Ch 12:13), and Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Ki 11:42).

The epithalamium ends with the prophecy, I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. (Ps 45:17) This must refer to the Father's desire and power to lift up the name of his son, Jesus Christ, whose likeness faintly glimmered in Solomon, the imperfect type.

Psalm 127 was also written for Solomon. It is a "Song of Degrees," to be sung as one ascended the mountain to Jerusalem. About this psalm, Charles Spurgeon wrote, We are here taught that builders of houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labour in vain without the Lord; but under the divine favour they enjoy perfect rest. ... It is THE BUILDER'S PSALM. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Ps 127:1, 2)

One can picture Solomon walking up the mountain to work on the temple, and comforting himself with these thoughts. It was such a massive project; only the Lord could complete it. All of his hard labor could never amount to anything if the Lord did not help him. Perhaps he did stay up late and rise early, hardly eating, to figure out how to complete what needed to be done that day.

And then, to think — that God would cast this temple away from His sight — that it would be destroyed! Oh, the vanity! The vanity of vanities — the epitome of all vaporous results of devilment. The agony!

Had Solomon not proclaimed that God alone would preserve the temple? He set up the pillars in the temple's porch, calling them "Jachin" and "Boaz," or "God shall establish strength in it." (from John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

Where is the strength! Where is the Lord?

The purposes of the Lord will be established and his own people preserved, for the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Tim 2:19) In God's house there are two aspects of a sure foundation: God knows his children, and they must obey his law.

Christ has recompense for hopes that are disappointed. God had something even better planned for Solomon who had shown himself a man of faith, even though one who also disappointed. The Lord designed that he should not be made perfect without us. (Heb 11:40)

Over many generations we proceed to the wedding supper of the Lamb. We can learn from history and from the failures of our ancestors in the family of Christ. The Bible is wonderful in the way it reports all the sins and failures of God's people so that we can hope!

Beware your Egyptian contracts

Sixteenth in the Solomon Series

Before we study how the Lord punished Solomon, let us consider the backdrop of his demise.

Was it "OK" for Solomon to marry Pharaoh's daughter? Would there be any reason he should not have?

In Deuteronomy 17:16 God instructed Israel not to multiply horses to have increased concourse with Egypt, considering the mighty deliverance that had set her free from Pharaoh and slavery. That miracle was to be held in honor forever. But would bringing an Egyptian wife to Israel run counter to that command?

David had a foreign wife. Absalom's grandfather was Talmai, king of Geshur. (1 Ch 3:2). Kings of that epoch were expected to have harems, and Israel had been built by polygamy, wives and concubines; but those were not patterns God intended.

These facts help to explain why Solomon's liaison with the Egyptian was accepted, but our lives must not be guided by family practices or cultural norms that do not reflect God's highest and best, and that do not uphold his law.

Israel had been told not to take foreign wives. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Moses instructs the Israelites regarding the Canaanite nations, "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Perhaps there was some leniency in the days of the kings, since not all foreign tribes were Canaanites, nor much beyond Israel's borders. As well, did not Joseph marry an Egyptian and were not Ephraim and Manasseh of this line?

But the principle of marrying within the family was begun with Isaac. (Gen 24:3); Esau caused his parents grief by marrying Hittite women. The principle carried over to New Testament teachings: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)

Was Solomon's marriage to the Egyptian a "state" matter? As covered in a previous post, the alliance came about because Pharaoh helped to secure Israel's borders by driving Canaanites out of Gezur. That victory provided her dowry. It seems that Pharaoh had a goal to ally with Israel now that she had become great.

Was not the princess a proselyte to Judaism? But if so, why did Solomon say: My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because [the places are] holy, whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come. (2 Ch 8:11)? She was removed to dwell outside of Jerusalem, not within the city of David.

Yet to say that Solomon should never have married Pharaoh's daughter presents theological problems. Why is the Song of Solomon the only one of his songs to be preserved as well as included in holy Scripture? Does that not give a stamp of approval to this marriage? Or, might it be only a story presented for our edification, like the story of Samson and Delilah? We appreciate its meaning when we have read further to understand its ramifications.

Unlike Delilah, the Egyptian princess was a gracious creature, truly in love with her lover; but Solomon's desire for her and his other foreign wives had an echo from the past, "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well — " spoken by Samson, though his father and mother had pleaded: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" (Judges 14:3)

Did Solomon ever wonder if he should have paid Pharaoh in gold for Gezur rather than by marriage contract?

If we accept the Song of Solomon as a wedding song for a marriage NOT made in heaven, we would see the need to compare Scripture with Scripture for meaning and context. As we go beyond Songs to Ecclesiastes and read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, we realize a context for warning and not rejoicing.

However, many much wiser than I have seen the Song of Solomon as a divine allegory of Christ's love for the church, so I will not refute that, but only say, Young person, be certain of your marriage plans. Love is strong as death.

Overreaching leads to failure

Fifteenth in the Solomon Series

Early in his reign, Solomon had asked: "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Ki 3:9)

The Lord had replied,

"Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." (1 Ki 3:11-14)

Did the promises of the Lord fail? The Lord did promise to give Solomon a wise and discerning heart. What happened?

The promises of God never fail. God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Num 23:19)

God's promise of wisdom was in respect to judging Israel, and Solomon never lacked that ability. He states in Ecclesiastes 2:9, So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

He was also highly intelligent and had unusual knowledge of natural phenomena.

With respect to the promises of God (1 Ki 3:13, 14), Solomon gained immense riches and honor during his lifetime, which was not as long as his father's, since he strayed from walking in God's ways.

God did not promise that Solomon would never fall into deception or temptation. On the contrary, the Lord warned him, after he had completed the temple, his own palace and all he desired to do:

And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, [and] wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:
Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.
[But] if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments [and] my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:
Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:
And at this house, [which] is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house?
And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil.
1Ki 9:4-9

God always keeps his promises.

Following these verses, the Bible presents Solomon's many building projects, and that he levied taxes on the people and built a navy, married and entertained foreigners, was very rich, did much trading, gathered chariots and horsemen, horses; and then… loved many strange women.

What comes to mind in this sequence is that Solomon overreached.

A colloquial way of stating this is, "If the devil can't make you bad, he will get you busy." Then, of course, he can "make you bad." An overabundance of responsibilities can result in poor decisions.

Another insight is that even we, the beloved of the Lord, can be deceived. This is stressed in War On The Saints, a book written to expose how Satan took advantage of a revival in Wales in the early 20th century. This book is online. If we humbly acknowledge that we can be deceived, perhaps we can avoid it.

Some Christians advocate being "accountable" to other specific Christians. Perhaps if we are in a good church and have Christian friends, this is enough. Anything beyond may be overreaching.

At the start of his reign, we know that Solomon had good influences: Nathan (the prophet), Zadok, Benaiah, and Nathan's sons served him and were his friends. (1 Ki:4:5) But at the end of his life, did he still have these good influences? He did have the Torah, the first five books of our Bible, and he understood that he ought not to multiply wives.

In past generations, God permitted some practices in deference to man's hardness of heart and ignorance — and still does, if we would think deeply about our own lives. However, Solomon himself taught, [It is] not good to have respect of persons in judgment (Proverbs 24:23) [Also taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:17), Jehoshaphat (2 Ch 19:7), Paul (Rom 2:11), Peter (1 Pe 1:17), James (James 2:1)]

Solomon had turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4) There would be no respect of persons.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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