A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on July 6, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom I Kings 3:5-12Who was the wisest man ever? That’s easy. It was Solomon, because the Bible says so. Who was the dumbest man ever? There are a lot of people we might nominate. How ‘bout these two? Actually my vote goes for Solomon. Even though he was the wisest man ever, he did some really dumb things. Let me explain. God had commanded Israel not to make any alliances with other countries, because ultimately He was their king and didn’t need anyone’s help in protecting His people. Also, in those days alliances were sealed by having the daughter of one king marry the other king. In the verses before text, Solomon had done just that. He had married the daughter of the Pharaoh. But here’s where Solomon did something that was really stupid. Even after God had given him wisdom, he continued marrying the daughters of kings – 700 in all. And then to keep them happy, he built temples to their idols and worshipped with them. Solomon’s idolatry not only led the entire nation into that sin, it may have cost him his soul. Perhaps Solomon returned to faith before he died. But we won’t know that for sure, until we get to heaven and ask, “Is Solomon here?” Now if the wisest man ever could mess up this badly, where does that leave people like us? I mean no disrespect, but how can we have the wisdom to get through life with all of its temptations and all of its ups and downs, and still hang on to our highest treasure, which is Jesus? Solomon answers that, even though he didn’t follow his own advice. The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom. 1. True Wisdom gives us eternal life. 2. True Wisdom guides us in this life. We read, “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."” Wouldn’t it be fun if God came to us and told us that? Children, what would you ask for? A WII game? A swimming pool in your back yard? How ‘bout your very own horse? Listen carefully children, because there’s a treasure that’s far better than all of those things? And now you, adults, what would you ask for? How ‘bout free gas for life? Or steady employment? Or just always feeling good? While our earthly needs are important, and God invites us to talk to Him about them, in fact, He may be working on better things for us than we can imagine, yet God wants us to be thinking first about the things of His Word. Also, one reason God may be letting us have some of our earthly need is He’s exercising our faith. He’s making us choose again – are earthly things more important or is our faith and living our faith most important? In Solomon’s case, he too had lots of earthly needs. As king he was responsible for justice and for protecting God’s people. However the Middle East then was just as turbulent as it is now. How easy it would have been for Solomon to choose power and riches just to survive. Yet by faith Solomon knew God already had that covered. Reading on in our text, “Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.” The Hebrew word for great kindness actually summarizes the entire Bible. This Hebrew word first of all means deep, tender love like a mother has for her baby or a husband and wife have for each other. The word’s second meaning is covenant love. God’s love for us has a legal basis, so that even though His justice demands that He separate Himself from us, yet because of Jesus, God is legally bound to keep on loving us. The third meaning for this Hebrew word is steadfast or immovable love. Actually all three of these meanings are rolled together into one, because when you add tender love and convent love, you get steadfast love or love that can never quit. And now let’s relate all this to true wisdom. The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom – Proverbs 9:10.” Fear in this verse isn’t just fright. Nor is it just respect. It’s both. For example, the prophet, Isaiah, would tremble when he read God’s Word. Inwardly I do that too. When I read about the sins of Bible characters and how God dealt with those sins, the Holy Spirit pierces me right in the conscience. You see, those sins are in my heart too, and I get a little fearful of what God might do to me to root out those sins. Are there any sins in your heart that God needs to root out? Solomon’s father, David, says in Psalm 19, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults – Psalm 19:12.” It is an absolute impossibility for us to identify every sinful motive and every sinful way of thinking that’s in us, much less rid of them all. So, does this mean we shouldn’t even try? We will try, if we fear God! And so, we examine our hearts and our lives, for example, before we take communion, or whenever we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.” However, God’s goal for us isn’t that we keep picking away at ourselves. Rather His goal is that we may have a broken and contrite heart, and that we recognize sin’s power in us. Then once we have that wisdom, God’s main goal for us is that we know that our sins have been paid for through His Son and that His Son was holy in our place. God also wants us to know His Fatherly love for us, and that when He disciplines us, it’s always for our good, so that we may live with Him in heaven someday. This is the wisdom that gives eternal life. However, whoever has this wisdom also has wisdom for this life. We read, “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" Solomon saw the size and complexity of his job and realized that there was no way he could do this right. And so, because he had humility that comes from faith, Solomon asked for wisdom. Let’s do the same. No matter what our work is each day, let’s keep asking God to guide us, and as He guides us, to bless us. Solomon put it this way, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain – Psalm 127:1.” So, are you having financial problems? Rather than bear that on your own, pray for wisdom to make the most of all you have, so that you can fulfill your obligations and give praise to God. Or, is there not enough time in the day to do all you’re supposed to be doing? Stop spinning your wheels. But pray for wisdom in how use your time so that nothing God wills is left undone. Or, are you faced with hard decisions that could affect your whole life? Pray for wisdom that you may see the big picture as God sees it. Another area where we daily need wisdom is in our relationships. For example did you ever get foot-in-mouth disease? Pray for wisdom that we may put ourselves in that other person’s shoes, as Christ put Himself into our shoes, when He became our brother. Pray also for wisdom to see how much God loves that person, because that’s how we’re able to speak the truth in love in order to build him/her up. When we think about all this, we may feel like a little child as far as what we still need to learn. So, how does God give us wisdom to see the little things in light of the big things? And especially how does He give us the wisdom to hold on and never fall away like Solomon did? Keep reading the Word, and each time you do, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of the sins He wants to root out of your heart that day. Then, ask God to reaffirm His love for you. One way He does that is as we meditate on His promises and His character, such as in our Psalm for the day. Also, let’s remember that we have been baptized. Through our baptism God affirmed His fatherly love for us by adopting us into His family. And finally through the Lord’s Supper He affirms His covenant love for us, so that confident of His steadfast love, we may have strength to follow through on all that His wisdom teaches. Now, if we pray for wisdom that saves us and for wisdom that glorifies God in all we say and do, what do you think God’s answer will be? We read in our text, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, "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.” When we pray as Solomon prayed, God will give us what we ask for, and even some things we don’t ask for according to His love and wisdom. Furthermore God will cause our blessings to compound into eternity and to spill over to our children, just as He had caused David’s blessings to spill over to Solomon. Unfortunately, Solomon threw his blessings away. But may we be smarter than Solomon! Let’s never think we’re too old or too smart for wisdom; let’s never stop looking for wisdom in the means of grace, and praying for wisdom to put it into practice in our heart and life. Then we will be a blessing to many, and no one will ever have to doubt, where we’re spending eternity, least of all us. May God help us to His praise and glory alone! Amen.

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