The Turtle on the Fence Post
“Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?” Ecclesiastes 2:12
I’m sure Solomon felt pressure from both sides on the issue of kingly succession. On the one hand his father was David, who quite frankly was a better man than he would ever be-even though Solomon was technically a greater king. Matthew 1:1 called the Lord Jesus Christ the “son of David,” not the “son of Solomon,” though that title is also correct. Solomon lived and reigned in the shadow of his father, and I am sure he knew that no matter what he did, he could never eclipse his father’s place in the hearts of his people.
Then there was the matter of his successor. Transferring power is always a tricky business, but Solomon didn’t help himself by all the foreign wives he married and the consequent introduction of idolatry into Israel. First Kings 11 plainly says that God used the rebellion of Jeroboam to wrest the kingdom from Solomon’s hands in judgment for Solomon’s sins in the latter years of his reign. Solomon evidently knew nothing about God’s decision. He died thinking that Rehoboam his son would rule the whole nation as he had done. However, his son proved to be too proud to listen to wise counsel and levied a severe tax on the people. The northern ten tribes revolted. That left the tribes of Benjamin and Judah-a tiny remnant of Solomon’s vast empire.
In the end Solomon was not as great as his father but much greater than his son. His reign would be remembered as Israel’s Golden Age-a time when the borders of the nation reached their zenith. With much pride Solomon asked in Ecclesiastes 2:12: “What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?” But Solomon was wrong. He could not outstrip King David as a military leader or as a poet.
Perhaps the lesson here has something to do with the dangers of pride. It is no surprise that the ancient church fathers listed pride as the first of the Seven Deadly Sins. First because it destroys more people than any other sin; because it comes in unawares and does so much damage; and also because religious people are so susceptible. Pride, remember, was the sin that caused Satan to fall from heaven.
In his office, noted author Alex Haley had a painting of a turtle on top of a fence post. When people asked him why he had the painting, he replied that it reminded him of a great truth: Whenever you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself. Somebody had to put him there.
The next time you are feeling a little puffed up about all the great things you have done, and you are about to break your arm patting yourself on the back, remember the turtle on the fence post. You didn’t crawl to the top by yourself. Somebody had to put you there.
Eternal Father, help me live so that those who come after me won’t be ashamed to follow in my steps. Amen.