Integrity and godliness are to be the key markers of Solomon’s life in 1 Kings 9. Disobedience and idolatry can have no place. But how can he live like that, year after year? How can we?
As Christians, we all experience real highs with God. But then it’s not too long before the morning alarm clock goes and you’re off to work. Reality bites. Back to normal. That good stuff was yesterday; this is today. They feel completely separate. But they’re not. In fact, if they are completely separate, watch out!
Thrill in God’s presence (v1-9)
Soon after Solomon became king, God appeared to him in a dream and asked him to request anything from God. Solomon asked for wisdom – a listening heart and a discerning mind, so that he could rule God’s people well. It was a hugely significant moment for Solomon and, as it turned out, for the nation – they got God’s wise king. So now we have another significant moment: Read v1-2.
There must be something in these verses that will have a bearing on Solomon and his reign. God has come to meet with him. And the message Solomon receives is thrilling! Read v3.
Solomon had prayed; his Creator had answered from heaven! As the glory of the LORD had filled the temple, his presence descended to be among his people.
The presence of God makes something holy; the Temple had gone from being a magnificent building to being a holy Temple of God’s presence. And God’s eyes would ever be on it, and his heart would ever be in it, because it is his own presence among his people.
We have things to thrill us
And we remember what Easter and Pentecost have brought us:
- The great temple curtain was torn in two – all may enter into God’s presence because of Jesus
- Even more, the risen Jesus sent the Holy Spirit into us – we are all temples of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, made holy (sanctified) by him.
- Solomon could thrill to think the presence of God was among the people at the Temple; Christians have it even better – the glory of God the Holy Spirit within you.
- His eyes ever on you; his heart ever in you!
Even so, there were words for Solomon personally: Read v4-5. Two words stand out: Integrity and godliness.
- A life lived in integrity and godliness would be a life to please God – a life of obedience, service, righteousness.
- As long as his descendants lived like that, there would be one to rule over God’s people.
Then in v6-10 God spells out what will happen if Solomon or his descendants fall into disobedience or idolatry: There would be exile; the Temple would be destroyed. Of course we’ve read Jeremiah. We know all that happened. Neither Solomon nor any of the kings after him maintained integrity and godliness; they all had degrees of disobedience and idolatry.
“One of your descendants”
Thankfully, someone fulfilled it forever: “One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel” (v6)
And the NT makes the point over and over that Jesus is that descendant; he lives, and rules, and will do forever and ever! From Matthew 1 to Revelation 22, Jesus is the king descended from David, the Messiah who came to rule us. And so Jesus is all our joy and praise! And he has sent his Spirit from heaven – not to a building but into his people. Starting at Pentecost and into every Christian since. He is our joy, our thrill – the living God in us.
Now, if you’ve been a Christian any length of time you’ll know that there are times when you experience God as your joy, your thrill, your praise – you’re on cloud nine: When you became a Christian, when someone you love became a Christian, at Christmas or Easter or a special event, at a Lord’s Table service, or simply singing a hymn or reading a Bible verse. Your heart sings with joy in the Lord! I am his and he is mine forever! And then what happens? You’ve got life to live.
Do life with integrity and godliness (v10-28)
The rest of the chapter covers some “king stuff” that Solomon did. Being a hugely wealthy, wise and successful king would be great – and yet… it’s a job! Work to be done; projects to oversee; people to govern, influence, cajole, pay… That’s exactly what we see in the rest of the chapter: A king doing his job.
- Hiram was king of Tyre on the coast and supplied a lot of materials for Solomon’s palace and the Temple itself.
- Part of the payment was to give 20 cities in Galilee to Hiram – though he wasn’t impressed.
- Still, they had a good business thing going between them – King Solomon was doing king politics.
- We’re given an account of the conscripts and slaves used to build the Temple and palace – with subjugated nations named.
- A bit odd to our ears, but perfectly normal then.
- Again, kingly defining policies and managing salaries.
V24 describes the build for a palace for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh. Again, managing his foreign affairs.
V25 describes how Solomon would make offerings at the Temple three times a year – the king leading by example in obedience.
Then in v26-28 there’s a final description of international trade routes and wealth. Being king had plenty of perks, but it was a full-time job nonetheless.
Dignity in work
We looked at Ch 8, the dedication of the Temple on opening day. It came after Ch 5-7 giving details about the design and building. The Temple had taken years to build. Thousands of people had been involved. Slaves. Engineers. Supply chain and logistics people. Caterers and accommodation management for the large workforce. Water-carriers and supervisors. All sorts.
The Bible consistently sees dignity in work – in all sorts of work. Kings, cooks, cleaners and carpenters – no-one’s work is more worthy than another’s. Even Lockdown has forced our society to re-evaluate what it really means to be a “key worker”. And equality of value is particularly true in the kingdom of God. The Lord gives us different gifts to serve in his kingdom in different ways – but we are all required to serve, to work. And, of course, when God took human flesh he was both glorious king and humble carpenter.
Read Proverbs and you’ll see how the lazy are scorned, but the diligent are honoured – very much in the context of day-to-day work. Which is really important because, to be honest, we spend far more time at work that we do having spiritual “highs”.
Integrity and holiness in the day job
Life is more like v10-23 (work) than v1-9 (joy with God). It’s easy and natural to feel good about God at a time of rich spiritual experience (like v3 “I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart”)
- Then you’re sure life is all v4-5 – all integrity and godliness, all blessing for ever.
- The disobedience and idolatry of v6-9 seem impossible – you belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to you, and you’ll never leave him.
But life is mostly v10-28 – mostly work. Day to day stuff. Customers, colleagues, emails, phone calls. Work stuff. So here’s the key thing:
- When God told Solomon to follow him with integrity and godliness, he didn’t mean “just in this purple patch of blessing” – he meant in the day job.
- Integrity and godliness in everyday life. At work, in the shops, at home. But how?
Communion with God
You know that feeling when you enter a room and think, “What have I come in here for?” That’s natural. Up to a point, it’s healthy. If you tried to hold in your head everything going on in one place with everything going on in another your brain would burn up.
We naturally compartmentalise things.
We wear different masks in different situations: You’re a different person in work from at home; different again with near family and not-so-near family. You may well be yet another person in church; even someone else before God (who knows you best of all). When you compartmentalise like that, you’ll have different language, conduct, behaviours, maybe even values. As things impact you, some will attract and change you; others will repel. In a sense, that’s life. You’re just growing in maturity, experience, and wisdom.
Integrity and godliness, connectedness and identity
But the message of 1 Kings 9 is that in everything we are to follow the Lord with all integrity and godliness, and not to fall into disobedience and idolatry. Day after day, year after year, job after job. There is to be in your a whole-life connectedness and identity.
Because “Christian you” isn’t a mask or a mood or an event or a Sunday persona. “Christian you” isn’t a compartment to be moved, swapped out, or dumped. If you are a Christian then you are in Christ and he is in you. And that is who you are at your most foundational level. Your identity is “Christian”. Rooted in Christ. This is what’s meant by the “integrity” part of God’s command to Solomon, and it applies to you too:
- You are Christ’s; he is in you; you are in him.
- At work, at home, buying things, chatting to neighbours, dealing with customers, making awkward phone calls.
- You will still be different with different groups, but you will always be a Christian into each group.
- And you will demonstrate your inner integrity with outer godliness. An uprightness of heart and mind, words and action. People will know you’re different.
Keep it going
But how can you maintain that for years and years? By maintaining your daily communion with God, your daily walk with him. Remembering that he is your praise, your joy, your life. He is the one constant rock, your help, and your hope.
- Meditate on him; spend time. Consider: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14
- Meditate on the grace of Christ. His own grace and loveliness; that you are chosen to be like him; the purchased grace freely extended to you in forgiveness.
- Meditate on the love of the Father towards you. He loves you. In love, he chose you, sent his Son to save you, even adopted you. His eyes are on you and you are in his heart – every day, every situation.
- Meditate on the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. He is in you; you are a Temple of the creator of the universe. He is the shade at your right hand. He comforts you, mediating Christ to you and working through you to advocate Christ to the world.
- Knowing these things will affect you. They will change you into Christ’s likeness. You will carry that into every place with integrity and godliness.
But the less time you spend with him, the more you will drift into disobedience and idolatry; the less integrated your life will be. The greater your stress and lack of peace. He is your rock. So yes, there will be times of thrilling blessing with God! But you will spend most of your time in the normal humdrum of life.
By developing your close communion and fellowship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – you are rooted and grounded in him.
Then – and only then – can your daily life be marked by integrity and godliness. Make fellowship with God your highest daily goal.