Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”
“When over dizzy heights we go,
One soft hand blinds our eyes,
The other leads us, safe and slow,
O Love of God most wise.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh King of Egypt and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the City of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem.”
1 Kings 3: 1
“A Dent in the Hedge”
“They do more harm by their evil example than by their actual sin.”
What message did Solomon send to the people of Israel when he made an alliance with the ruler in Egypt and then married his daughter and brought her into his home in Jerusalem?
Is there a time in my own life when my example was not one that spread “light” to those around me?
“The first great gift we can bestow on others is a good example.”
“A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.”
The story of the two harlots in 1 Kings 3 has bookends that are carefully placed on either side of this descriptive event. The two texts which stand on either side of this incident are 1 Kings 3: 1 and 1 Kings 3: 28.
What we discover is that at the beginning of the chapter, the author shares a critical piece of information. It seems that at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, he was thinking strategically, as a king would most likely do. Unfortunately, even with all the wisdom and knowledge God had presented to Solomon, it is evident that instead of consulting God about the alliances he entered into, both politically and romantically, right off the bat, one of Solomon’s first tactical moves was to form a “coalition” with good old Pharaoh over in Egypt. God had warned His children regarding the destructive forces which could develop when they formed unions which brought individuals together who were unequally yoked -- and in the case of Egypt and Israel -- let’s begin with the obvious, the God of heaven and earth was not Egypt’s God. Furthermore, we have to look no farther than the life of Moses to see that after the death of Joseph, the Pharaoh’s in Egypt, certainly didn’t hold Israel’s God in any respect, anymore.
As time moved forward, and we come to the rulership of Solomon in Israel, hoping to strengthen his leadership position among the surrounding countries, Solomon chose to tighten his connection with Egypt’s ruler by marrying his daughter.
First, this was not an uncommon practice at all. Most women at this time in history, especially daughters and wives, were considered the property of their fathers and husbands. In a business transaction, to throw in a beautiful woman to sweeten the deal would not be an uncommon practice -- and this is exactly what Pharaoh did, for along with a political union, came a marital union, too.
Second, to Solomon’s credit, he appears to have been very generous and accommodating to Pharaoh’s daughter. He brought her to the “City of David,” Jerusalem, where she lived in his house. And as we will study in the coming days, Solomon’s generosity in taking care of Pharaoh’s daughter was over-the-top.
This leads us to the bookend at the end of 1 Kings 3 in verse 28. Here we see that all the people of Israel “feared the king,” or as the Hebrew translates “feared” --“yawray,” to revere or hold in reverence the king. They saw that God’s wisdom was, as I like to say, in residence or at home in Solomon.
With every eye in the nation focusing on his actions, his behavior and his decisions, to say that Solomon was an example would be an understatement.
To help me get a better understanding of what the word “example” means, I went to Webster’s Dictionary where I found this definition of “example”: “One representative of a group. One serving a specific kind of pattern. A case or situation serving as a precedent or model. Serving as an illustration.”
I decided though to dig even deeper and I found that the word “example” is not used in the Old Testament. However, it is found in the New Testament where in the Greek, there are five forms of the word “example.” The first time this word is used is in Matthew 1: 19, when upon finding out that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was pregnant, “Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.” In this case, the word example means to make a public spectacle of one, to expose to infamy and put to open shame. This is the negative way one can try to humiliate another individual by holding them up to ridicule as an “example.”
In John 13: 15, Hebrews 4: 11, Hebrews 8: 5, and James 5: 10, the Bible speaks of an example using the Greek word, “hupodeigma” which means an exhibit for imitation or warning or a pattern to follow. Then we find in 1 Peter 2: 21, that Jesus’ disciple used the word “example” to help you and me have a vision of what Jesus’ life taught us when he wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example. That ye should follow His steps.” Finally, in Jude 7 we uncover the fact that an example can, in this Greek word, be used as a “specimen.” What we discover is that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, stands witness, as an example to what happens when people give themselves over to the driving force of human lusts and desires. Just to be clear, this doesn’t refer to only sexual passion, for the prophet Ezekiel plainly states in Ezekiel 16: 49, 50, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination (idolatry) before Me.”
The texts I shared from the New Testament, give us a much more comprehensive view of what the word “example” means. But in addition, it assists us in discerning why, as God’s leader of Israel, the “example” Solomon provided to his subjects was critical. As a pattern for behavior, as a model for action and as someone to exemplify in word and deed, Solomon’s attachment to the daughter of a heathen ruler and his act of bringing her idolatrous ways into Jerusalem provided not only fodder for gossip but also an excuse for the people of Israel to use when their own desires flew in the face of God’s commands. In addition, we discovered when we studied 1 Kings 2: 4, David told Solomon that success would fill his life if he chose to, “take heed to your way,” or as the Hebrew translates, if you: “stay within the hedge.”
It is for this reason that I have entitled our study today, “A Dent in the Hedge.” When Solomon’s strategic plans included a marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter in order to gain political advantage, we find that the “hedge” of protection surrounding Solomon, was damaged. While at this time, the “hedge” was not totally destroyed, the tragic beginning of a destructive process had begun. And Solomon’s “example” was part of the problem.
Not any of the wise words Solomon spoke could undo the acts he committed. As Thomas Brooks notes, “Example is the most powerful rhetoric,” and in the case of this young ruler, who had the blessings of heaven showered upon his life, his actions did in reality speak much louder than his words. And as Dr. Albert Schweitzer so correctly admonished, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.”
“Let us preach You, Dear Jesus, without preaching…not by words but by our example…by the casting force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to You. Amen.”
“We beseech You, O Lord, to enlighten our minds and to strengthen our wills, that we may know what we ought to do, and be enabled to do it, through the grace of Your most Holy Spirit, and for the merits of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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