(1 Kings 11:1-13; Phil. 4:10-13; 1 Tim. 6:3-12)
Over the last several weeks we have seen that God truly blesses people in unusual ways, and these unusual blessings result from unusual actions on the part of those blessed. But from our last two examples of those who experienced God’s unusual blessings, that is, Solomon and Hezekiah, we discover that it is not enough to experience God’s unusual blessings; we also need to learn how to handle them.
Failure to handle them properly can turn the unusual blessings into unusual burdens, and a source of grief and pain later in life. Some of the darkest, most irresistible temptations come in the wake of blessing. As we experience God’s unusual blessings in form of provisions or breakthroughs or triumphs, whether in life, or work, or ministry, our spiritual defences often come down. We may begin neglecting disciplines and relationships that have kept us close to and dependent on God who gave us all these blessings. If care is not taken, we may allow the blessings of God to dull our spiritual senses and weaken our spiritual resolves. And they can open us to new and subtle temptations.
Powerful men who fell into this trap appear all over the Bible. King David, for instance, started very well by offering to build a temple for the worship of God. This made God promise to build him a dynasty. He went on to accomplish great things with the help of God, only to crumble before another man’s wife while he enjoyed the comforts and spoils of his victories. He may have thought that as the king, he was answerable to no one and could do as he pleased. But he was wrong and suffered the consequences of his sinful behaviour. His son, Solomon, who succeeded him on the throne of Israel, did not fare better in handling the unusual blessings that God poured upon him. Our task this morning is to consider why he failed and how he could have handled the blessings that God poured out mightily upon him.
First, we consider why Solomon failed. The major reason for Solomon’s failure is that he did not allow God’s word to guide him in his handling of the blessings bestowed upon him. Hundreds of years earlier, Moses predicted that sometime in the future Israel would desire a king (Deut. 17:14). The people would approach their leaders, requesting a king to rule over them like all the nations that surrounded them. They would desire the royal pomp and power, the authority and rule of a king. Moses declared the establishment of the law: the king must be appointed by God Himself (Deut. 17:15). It is important to note that God did not tie His people to one form of government. He did not oppose the establishment of a monarchy in Israel. God had only one concern: that His Word and commandments be obeyed. If God’s people would take His holy commandments and obey them, they would be permitted to establish a monarchy, have a king rule over them. But the people had to seek God’s direction in choosing a king. The person whom God chose was the person to be placed upon the throne. Another restriction also had to be closely observed: the king must always be an Israelite brother, never a foreigner. They were not to choose a foreigner to strengthen some alliance or to gain a greater security. Next, Moses declared the duties or responsibilities of the king (Deut. 17:16-18). Simply stated, the king was to guard against doing anything that would divert him from serving God and the people.
One, the king must never depend upon horses—the cavalry—for military strength nor go to Egypt for help. He must never go back to Egypt, the way of the world, to seek an alliance with the world. His dependence was not to be in military strength but in God. Victory over the enemies of the world was to be found in God not in the arm of the flesh. Therefore, the king must depend upon God not military power.
Two, the king must not seek pleasure nor depend upon alliances through the marriage of many wives (Deut. 17:17). Pleasure and wives would divert his affections from God and the citizens of his country. There was the danger he would become enslaved to sex and the worldly ways of foreign wives. Down through history, alliances and security have often been sought through the intermarriage of royalty among the nations of the world. Once a king had been appointed to rule Israel, the temptation to take many wives would confront the king. This would especially be true if a nation’s security were threatened and war could be averted by marrying a daughter or relative of the threatening king. But God forbids this. The king of Israel must neither seek pleasure nor depend upon alliances through many wives.
Three, the king must not lust for nor depend upon wealth (Deut. 17:17). Economic prosperity always gives a great sense of independence, and a sense of independence can easily cause a person to forget God. The king must depend upon God not upon economic prosperity.
Four, the king must personally copy the law of God (Deut. 17:18; Josh. 1:7-8). He was to take the law and copy it for himself. The idea is that he was to study and learn the law, the Word of God, in order to govern his people just as God dictated. Obviously, he was personally to copy the law right after his inauguration upon the throne. This requirement is interesting, for there would be other copies of the law available to him. Moreover, he would have assistants available to copy the law if he wished a personal copy. But despite this, God insisted that the king have his own personal copy of the law and that he write it out himself, law by law and commandment by commandment.
Moses proclaimed the results of learning the law and ruling by the law of God (Deut. 17:19-20). Note that the king was to keep the law with him at all times, and to read it all every day of his life. By doing this, some wonderful results would occur.
First, by learning the law and ruling by the law, the king would learn to fear God (Deut. 17:19). He would reverence and worship God, stand in awe of Him. He would be very aware of the justice and judgment of God and demonstrate a respect and need to escape the judgment of God.
Second, if the king learned the law and ruled by the law, he would be a good leader. He would follow the law himself and rule the citizens of his nation by the law. He would not attempt to rule through selfish desires or the whims of the moment, seeking personal gain, wealth, and power. He would rule in order to serve the people. His purpose would be to build a stronger society that would meet the needs of his people more and more.
Third, if the king learned the law and ruled by the law, he would guard against pride, arrogance, and abuse of the people (Deut. 17:20). He would not consider himself better than the citizens, considering them to exist for his benefit. On the contrary, he would consider himself to be the servant of the people. He would count himself as existing for the people and not the people for him.
Fourth, if the king learned the law and ruled by the law, he and his descendants would have a long rule over the kingdom of Israel (Deut. 17:20). God would establish his rule and the rule of his heirs for generations to come. Just remember: the promise is conditional. The king must learn the law and rule by the law. Eventually, the day that Moses foretold arrived and the Israelites requested for a king (1 Samuel 8). Saul was the first king, David followed Saul, and Solomon followed David.
Unfortunately, Solomon disobeyed all the instructions that God had given in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
- First, Solomon multiplied horses to himself (1 Kings 4:26; 10:26-28a).
- Second, Solomon multiplied to himself silver and gold. God had blessed Solomon with great riches (1 Kings 10:14-25).
- Third, Solomon multiplied wives to himself (1 Kings 11:1-8).
- Fourth, Solomon appeared not to have taken the trouble to copy the law of God or read and obeyed it as instructed by Moses. He, therefore, paid a high price for disobeying God (see 1 Kings 11:9-13, 14, 23, 26).
The lesson we all have to learn from Solomon’s experience is that we must live in obedience to God’s Word if His unusual blessings would be of lasting benefit to us. Examples abound in the Bible of individuals who thought that the blessings of God upon their lives exonerated them from living in obedience to God’s commands. These include Moses whom God used to perform miracles that eventually led to the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage in Egypt (Deut. 32:48-52); the Israelites (1 Cor. 10:1-13); David (2 Sam. 12:1-14); and even King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20-21). Blessings and responsibilities go hand-in-hand. No blessing will be of lasting benefit to you if you are not ready to fulfil the responsibility associated with it.
Second, we consider what Solomon could have done to handle God’s unusual blessings. It was the Apostle Paul who said, in Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” Or, as the KJV renders it, “12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Do you know how to abound? What do you have to do to wisely handle God’s unusual blessings?
One, resist the temptations that come with having more (1 Tim. 6:17).There are many temptations that come with having more?
- The first temptation ispride. When you have more, you will be tempted to credit yourself with what you have accomplished. That’s what Nebuchadnezzar did. “He was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’” (Dan. 4:29-30).Then he lost his mind. When some Christians were getting too big for their boots at Corinth, Paul asked, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).In Deuteronomy, God speaks to His own people, and therefore to us: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:17-18). Whenever God gives you more, you are going to face this temptation in some way.
- The second temptation is presumption. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to…set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches” (1 Tim. 6:17).Money has a way of making things seem more certain, and when you have more, it is easy to get the idea that it will always be so. Always beware of saying, “I can do more for Jesus Christ later.” Really? You don’t know how much time you will have later. All you know is the time that God is giving to you now. People who know how to handle God’s unusual blessings resist the temptations that come with having more. There is a humility about them. They know that what they have is what God has given, so they don’t take credit for it themselves. And there is a shrewdness about them. They know that money is uncertain, so they don’t set their hope on it. They know how to honour God by making the best use of what they have, while they have it.
Two, relate to the blessings like someone who will give account to God (1 Tim 6:14).Everything that Paul says in the last verses of 1 Timothy is framed in the context of “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Each of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12). Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required (Luke 12:48). The principle of “to whom much given, much is required” is illustrated in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25). One servant is given five talents. He uses what he has been given for the master and brings back five more. Another servant is given two talents. He uses what he has been given for the master and comes back with two more. Both servants were given “according to their ability” and were commended in the same way: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The master did not judge his servants on the results they achieved. The master’s commendation was based on what they did with what they were given. The question on which we will give account to God is: “What did you do with what you were given?” The more you are given, the more God requires of you. Think about what will be like for you when God says to you, “Now let’s look at what I trusted to you in your lifetime. Let’s total up everything that passed through your hands—money, gifts, talents, opportunities, and time.” “What did you do with all this? How did you deploy what I gave you for the advance of my great purpose in the world? I sent my Son into the world and he said, ‘I will build my church.’ How did you deploy all of this for the great purpose of gathering my people?” The more God gives you, the more you will have to account for. Don’t envy the rich. Don’t envy people who have greater opportunity than you because temptations and responsibilities come with opportunities, and they have more to account for than you do. Remember that when you are tempted to envy them.
Three, discern how best to use what God has given. Concerning the rich, Paul said, “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Tim. 6:18). When God gives you more, it is with the purpose that you will be generous. What God requires of you and of me is that we make the best use of all we have been given. Learning to be full means wisely discerning how to do that.So you look at your life and you say, “Here is what I have. How can I make the best use of all that God has trusted to me? Where can I make a difference? How can that best be done?”If you have more than you really need in investments, what does this mean? You look at your investments and you ask, “Is this the best I can do with what God has entrusted to me when there are opportunities for ministry expansion before us right now in this congregation where God has set me down?”Those who have more are to be “generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).But suppose for a minute that you were going on a trip from which you would never return. Suppose that everything in your house would be left behind forever. What would you do? You would pack as much in your suitcase as you possibly could. That’s what you are doing when you give. When you are generous, you are “storing up treasure for [yourself] as a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of that which is truly life.” What is given, in some sense, goes with you, everything else is left behind. So pack in all the generosity that you possibly can.
Four, enjoy what you have but don’t depend on it for your joy. Paul talks about God as the One, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17). Notice two things before we close today:
- First,God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment!A person who knows how to be full will have great freedom and joy. They will not go through life inhibited by a scrupulous conscience always wondering, “Is it ok to buy this coat or this car? Is it ok to go on this vacation or to live in this home?” Knowing how to be full means enjoying what you have. Where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom.
- Second, knowing how to be full also means that you don’t depend on what you have for your joy.The only one way to achieve this is by having more joy in Jesus Christ than in anything and everything he has given you in this world. That’s why right in the middle of this call to contentment, we read about our God as “the blessed and only Sovereign” (6:15); “the King of kings and Lord of lords (6:15); and “to Him be honor and eternal dominion” (6:16).
In conclusion, have you come to a place where Jesus Christ is more than all the world to you? If the world is more to you than Jesus, you will always be chasing the world and you will never be content. Your joy will depend on what you have and one day it will be taken away.But if Jesus Christ is more to you than the world, you can enjoy all that He gives you, but you will not depend on what you have for your joy. You will hold what you have with an open hand. You will see yourself as a steward who will give an account. You will constantly be asking, “How can I make the best use of all that I am and all that I have for the Saviour who gave everything for me?” When your joy is in Jesus Christ, no one and nothing will ever be able to take away your joy.
Your eternal salvation and spiritual well-being are our concern. If you wish to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, you can pray the following prayer to God: “Dear God, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to die for my sins. I repent of my sins right now and invite Him into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you offered this prayer to God, please write to let us know through the address below. You are also invited to join us in worshipping the Lord every Sunday in Yoruba language at 7.20 a.m. and in English language at 9.00 a.m.
Good News Baptist Church,
47/49, Olufemi Road, Off Ogunlana Drive,
P. O. Box 3781, Surulere, Lagos.