Week 22 Devotion
As the rule of King David comes to a close we are left with all sorts of great stories from his life but the nation of Israel as a whole was left with something else, unity. God allowed David to unite all of the 12 tribes of Israel into one Kingdom and that kingdom was more powerful than those surrounding it and it was also just what God had promised to do. But now that David is no longer ruling over the nation the question is, “What is going to happen next?” and that is where the books of Kings steps in.
The books of 1st and 2nd Kings tell us of the rulers that came after David starting with his son Solomon. These books start off with a great deal of hope and promise but it doesn’t take long before we see things beginning to go in the wrong direction. We are going to read about how this newly united nation gets split into two and how the kings in the north and most of the kings in the south lead the nation into idolatry.
By the end of the book, we will have seen the Kingdom of Israel will have been run into the ground, or more specifically carried off into Exile in Babylon. These books show the decline of the nation of Israel from King David all the way to Exile.
But this week we will also be reading the Song of Songs, which is 8 chapters of love poetry centered around the relationship between a man and his wife to be. Now this book is interesting in that it refers to Solomon as the main male character but the main voice in the book is that of a woman, in fact, Solomon, as far as we can tell, never speaks. It would also be odd to put Solomon in this story because he is known to have had more than 700 wives, hardly making him a model of romance and devotion.
In this lengthy series of poems, we are taught the power and danger of love through the winding pattern of one young couple's relationship. Their love is intense and it causes them to not only desire one another but also to seek one another out. When the find each other there is joy in their physical attraction but just when things start to warm up the two lovers have separated again and the hunt continues. In the end, we are left with a concluding poem about the power and danger of love which we will talk about in a few minutes.
But first, let’s find something that we can discuss as we begin to read the book of 1st Kings.
Here is something to Discuss…
The book of 1st Kings opens at the close of David’s life and the transfer of power to his son Solomon but before that takes place there is a problem. David has another son named Adonijah who recognizes an opportunity to seize control of the nation. But his plan backfires when Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon find out about Adonijah’s plans. What happens next is that David is brought into the picture and he sets the record straight that his son Solomon is to be his successor. Solomon is anointed, Adonijah is made to step aside and then King David passes the throne to Solomon by charging him to stay faithful to the Word of God.
In chapter 2 David reaches back to the book of Deuteronomy and he lays before Solomon the responsibility of being king over the people of God. David tells him,
“Keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His rules and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish His word that He spoke to me…” – 1 Kings 2:3-4
This is great advice and in many ways, I believe this is what made David a man after God’s own heart. He was committed to God’s Word as a man and as a king, and he wants the same thing for his son.
What a great legacy for us as parents to pass on to our children. “If you will be faithful to God and His Word, life will not be easy but God will take care of you, comfort you and bless you.” The most important legacy that we can leave to our own children is to trust God and obey His Word.
In the beginning of his reign, Solomon does follow the counsel of his father. In chapter 3 we read that Solomon loved the Lord, walked according to the instruction of his father David, and only sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. This phrase “high places” is a bit confusing because it is often used to refer to the worship of idols but here is seems clear that these high places served as public altars where Yahweh is worshiped.
We also read of Solomon’s request for Wisdom and how God granted him that request. Then in chapter 4, we see the scope of God’s blessing on Solomon and the nation of Israel. These first 10 chapters of 1 Kings represent the high point for the nation of Israel. In this time they are experiencing wealth, wisdom, and peace like never before, all of which came from God’s hand.
But the elephant in the room is the fact that none of these things last and the question is why not? What happened to bring this to a halt? Did it happen quickly or over time? Were there warning signs that we could see? And if so, how can we who live in the wealthiest nation in the world learn from the mistakes of the past?
Take some time to discuss how and why God blessed Solomon and Israel in the way that we see here in 1 Kings 1-4. But then also discuss how we have a tendency to turn God’s good gifts into something that turns our hearts away from the giver. Because that is what we are going to see happen as we continue to read this book.
Here is something to Meditate on…Song of Songs
The Song of Songs is a beautiful book and it is unlike any other in the Scriptures. It is poetry and the Bible has its fair share of poetry but none of it is quite like this book. The Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon, is about the love between a man and his wife to be. It is a book about the beauty and intensity of love. It is about the joy and excitement of romance and the almost unbridled anticipation of sexuality that comes with marriage.
There are two main characters in this book; a young shepherdess and a young shepherd. They have a fiercely strong attraction to one another but they are not yet married so they must wait to be together fully. But they are eager to express their love for one another and this book gives us a glimpse into their hearts as they think about each other, catch glances of each other and even how they feel and talk when they finally meet up.
The Hebrew title is Song of Songs and the way we should understand this title is that this is the Best of Songs. The point is to say that love is the greatest song to be sung. But this love is also dangerously strong.
Song of Songs 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.
Ray Ortlund offers us a paraphrase that helps us with this verse:
“Make me near and dear to yourself. Wear your wedding ring with pride. Why? Because our love is powerful in its finality. When I give myself to you, I can’t take it back. Marriage changes both of us permanently. Like death, in getting married we lose someone – our single selves. But it’s a death we gladly die, in order to belong to one another for the rest of our days, come what may. And the vows of marriage, if broken, cannot be betrayed without fierce pain. Marriage is such an intense, human experience, ‘the very flame of the Lord,’ because it is God’s love burning in our love.”
Love is not a game because the love the between a man and his wife ultimately point to the love that God has for His bride, the church. God created human sexuality and He gives it to us as a gift that we are to enjoy to the full, but within the boundaries that God set’s up around it. Because the purity that God wants us to maintain in our marriage bed is just a shadow of the purity that Christ died to establish the relationship between Himself and the church.
There is plenty for us to meditate on as we read the Song of Songs. Think about the joy of marital intimacy that God wants us to have. Think about the excitement and anticipation that God declares a good thing in our relationship. Think about the romance and sensuality of this book. But also keep in mind the picture of Christ’s love for the church.
Here is something to pray about in the Proverbs…
How often do you pray for wisdom? I do it all the time because I am constantly in positions where I know that I am in over my head. I need wisdom from God. If I am to lead people in a godly direction, if I am to give counsel that is wise and faithful to Scripture, If I am to make the right decisions in life; then I need God to give me wisdom.
Here in the book of Proverbs, we are told that wisdom is there to be gained but the path to wisdom begins with an acknowledgment that God is, and that He is to be loved, revered, even feared above everything else. Godly wisdom begins when I humble my heart and accept that God is, that He deserves my worship and devotion and that all I am and have I owe to Him.
As we begin to read through the book of Proverbs this week I want us to cry out to God to make us wise. Cry out for God to let us grow in a right kind of godly fear. Pray that we would increase in knowledge of God as we read His Word, and that his Word would produce the fruit of godly wisdom in our hearts, minds and lives.