Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

Wisdom for a King (Wisdom Wednesday #2)

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Two basic questions to ask when reading a book are (1) who wrote this book? and (2) to whom was this book written? Knowing both the author and audience of a book helps the reader to read the book well. Applying these questions to Proverbs is thus helpful in understanding how it applies to us Christians today.

Solomon wrote and compiled Proverbs in the tenth century BC. Proverbs begins by identifying him as the author of the book as a whole: “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (1:1). According to Prov. 10:1, “the proverbs of Solomon” continue through 22:16. According to Prov. 22:17, the following two and a half chapters are comprised of “the words of the wise” that Solomon has incorporated into his “knowledge.” Chapters 25-29 “also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied” (25:1). Proverbs 30 and 31 conclude with “the words of Agur” and “the words of King Lemuel,” which “his mother taught him,” respectively (30:1 and 31:1). Solomon is thus the main author of Proverbs, both by writing original proverbs and by compiling others, all under inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.

Solomon originally wrote Proverbs to his sons, especially Rehoboam who was to succeed him on the throne of Israel. The father-son dynamic in Proverbs is apparent early on and throughout the book. In Prov. 1:8, Solomon writes, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” He also addresses his “son” in 1:10 and 15, as well as 2:1; 3:1, 11, and 21. Solomon addresses his “sons” in 4:1-9 before focusing again on his “son” in 4:10, 20; 5:1; 6:1, 20; and 7:1. Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, recorded his God-given wisdom for his sons, especially Rehoboam, who would need this wisdom in order to govern the nation of Israel well.

The individual Proverbs of Solomon gave Rehoboam practical advice for being a wise king. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (11:14). “By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts [or taxes heavily, ESV footnote] tears it down” (29:4). “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness” (16:12). Biblically, a king should be just and merciful. Sadly, Rehoboam was neither. Though the wisest man in the world, Solomon was not perfect, and in Proverbs he urges his sons not to repeat his mistakes but rather to learn from them. Rehoboam, however, both repeated and worsened his fathers mistakes, which cost him ten of the twelve tribes of Israel (1 Kings 12:1-24). The wisdom for a king found in Proverbs was humanly impossible even for the wisest man on earth and his descendants, which ultimately lost the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 586 BC (2 Kings 25:1-21).

To understand how Solomon’s wisdom for kings applies to us Christians today, we must go through the perfectly wise king, King Jesus. Jesus “established” his throne “by righteousness.” As it is written in Romans 3:21-26,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Jesus’ life and death were wholly righteous, and his righteousness established his eternal throne over the universe, as Paul puts it elsewhere,

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:8-9).

Jesus is the perfectly wise king who established an eternal and universal throne by his perfect righteousness.

Which brings us to how Proverbs’s wisdom for kings applies to us Christians. Adam and Eve were originally meant to rule over creation (Gen. 1:28) but abdicated the throne of this world to Satan when they sinned in Eden (Gen. 3). Jesus, however, has fulfilled God’s promise in Gen. 3:15 to crush the head of the serpent. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has defeated Satan. Although Satan still functionally rules over nonbelievers, Jesus has established his throne over all the universe, and we believers are no longer under Satan’s dominion. Paul says that we believers are “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17)–and if fellow heirs, then restored vice-regents as were Adam and Eve before their fall. We believers should therefore strive to live righteously in this life. Put simply, Solomon’s wisdom for kings is universally wise. Kings should be righteous as an example for their people to follow. King Jesus is perfectly righteous, and by the grace of God, we his people are being conformed to that righteousness day by day (Rom. 8:29). Let us Christians therefore wisely “walk in newness of life” because through faith we have been “raised from the dead” with Christ (Rom. 6:4).

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