Wisdom in the Kingdom – 1 Kings 4

Wisdom in the kingdom of God stems from having a perfectly wise king. In 1 Kings 4 we get a glimpse of a kingdom ruled by a wise king. And yet there’s something missing – something that makes us yearn for the real thing.

It’s been said that wisdom is “the art of right living.” That’s helpful because whereas knowledge is theoretical (in your head), wisdom is practical (how you choose, and live). In 1 Kings 4 we see what it’s like to live in a kingdom ruled by wisdom. Godly wisdom, grounded in God. And it’s pretty fab.

These notes are from our Sunday sermon series in 1 & 2 Kings which you can find on our YouTube channel.

Get a glimpse of heaven

Last time we looked at Ch 3, where God asked Solomon what he would like from God and he asked for wisdom. Specifically, he asked for a listening heart and a discerning mind (to know good from evil, right from wrong). And he wanted those things so that he could rule with wisdom in the kingdom. Now, wise kings delegate well.

In v1-6 there’s a list of Solomon’s immediate team – his cabinet, his senior staff. The names don’t mean much, but it’s interesting to look at their jobs: Priestly, administrative, military – it’s a good set. There was a time when our own Government valued the presence of Bishops in Parliament; now they’re seen mostly as an ineffective relic of a bygone era. In biblical terms, that is not wise.

In v7-19 we get a list of 12 district governors, each providing food for the king’s household for one month per year. But what was it like for the people? Amazing. Read v20 & 25.

But what about all the enemies from Joshua, Judges, and in David’s time? David had defeated them and extended the borders: Read v21.

  • The writer describes big provisions for the king’s house.
  • Was Solomon a greedy glutton? 
  • No. v24 should start with a “Because…” The size of the kingdom meant a big administration, which meant many mouths to feed.

The writer is painting a fab picture for you. He wants you to respond with a “Wow, amazing, wish I’d been there” response! Even the horses were treated well (v26-28).

Why is this a taste of heaven?

The writer is pointing you to it in his choice of words:

  • V20 “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore” – exactly as God promised Abraham with a covenant security.
  • They were secure in the land – also as promised.
  • And even all nations were being blessed (v34) as they came to Solomon to hear his wisdom.
  • The nearer we are to God’s covenant with Abraham being fulfilled, the nearer we are to heaven and all things complete, and perfect.

But even more, the description of Solomon in v29-34 shows that God is fulfilling his promise to David to have a son to rule. What a boy this son of David is turning out to be! No wonder v25 is so good. God’s wisdom in the kingdom meant all the people enjoyed peace, security, and happiness.

Heaven on earth?

Our postmodern world is more like the book of Judges

You might wonder why the world isn’t like that today? After all, isn’t humanity moving forward, progressing every day? Actually, our postmodern world is more like the book of Judges – everyone doing what is right in their own eyes. Or, better, the image of Revelation 17 with the prostitute on the beast is more complete: People ruled by competing governments, media corporations, philosophies and ideologies – all fighting against each other, chasing an impossible dream of meaningless happiness.

Judah was amazing in 1 Kings 4 because it was ruled by one king – one who was wise, and good, and loved God. And that is a glimpse of heaven! But the Bible is clear: Israel didn’t stay like that – it was only a taster of what’s to come. What’s to come will be infinitely better and permanent:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Revelation 22

Which reminds us that although there was indeed wisdom in the kingdom in Solomon’s day, there’s a big hole in 1 Kings 4:

Ponder the Wisdom of God

We’ll come to what that hole is as we ponder the wisdom of God in three ways: Creation, Redemption, and Provision.

Wisdom in Creation

Read v33, where we see the wisdom of God in Creation. We noticed that when Solomon asked for wisdom he asked for a listening heart and a discerning mind. It seems his listening heart extended to all sorts of things. He was, in effect a scientist. “Animals, birds, small creatures, and fish” – very much reminders of Creation from Genesis 1. And he was a botanist, noting all sorts of plant life.

There’s no disharmony between science and the Bible. The Bible doesn’t pretend to be a science book, no more than science can build a rocket to heaven. But the study of science reveals the fingerprints of God. If you get some hand-made pottery or art, you can often see the touch of the artist. Creation shows you God in all his creative wonder and delight, and his scientific beauty.

When you look for beauty in science and Creation, it’s no wonder you’ll also be someone who appreciates the arts! Read v32.

  • Humanity is made in God’s image.
  • He is astonishing in his creativity and beauty.
  • He gave us music, and senses to enjoy it.

What are we doing here? We’re developing a listening heart and a discerning mind – even as we ponder God’s own wisdom in Creation. But we still haven’t found the big hole in Ch 4. Let’s ponder God’s wisdom in Redemption.

Wisdom in Redemption

Heaven isn’t heaven without Christ.

It’s not a small thing that these people live in safety, with secure borders and no enemies. God has brought them to that place, given them that land, given them opportunity to settle and multiply. He redeemed them – freed them – out of Egypt and placed them in a land he’d promised Abraham so much earlier. And that, so far, is the image of heaven we’ve thought about. Peace; security; home. But with a hole. Because, to put it simply, heaven isn’t heaven without Christ.

The people of 1 Kings 4 had a good life, but there was something deeply important missing: They were God’s people; he was their God.

Even though there was wisdom in the kingdom, God himself was not yet in their midst.

That’s why the next few chapters are all taken up with the construction of the Temple – the place where the glorious presence of God would dwell on earth among his people! Then – and only then – could the picture of heaven be near completion. And yet! It was all to turn sour.

Spoiler alert: Solomon wasn’t the Messiah. It would all go wrong.

But we have enough in this chapter to have a picture of Redemption – of the good bits, and the missing bits, and piece it together. And it’s clear that in Christ, it all comes together. The redemption of God is two things: It’s freedom from tyranny (whether Egypt or slavery to sin), and freedom to enjoy his promised blessing (whether Canaan, heaven, or a new earth).

So 1 Corinthians 1 describes the message of the cross of Christ to God’s wisdom. It’s put really strongly: Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Though it’s all just foolishness to unbelievers. But it’s astonishingly wise. Wisdom does good – especially doing right when choices seem hard. At the cross, God is both just (punishing sin) and merciful (forgiving sin).

Wisdom in Provision

And so the third way to ponder God’s wisdom is in his Provision. Just as he placed Israel in the promised land and provided for them there, so too will he provide your spiritual needs as a Christian and your material needs (not wants!) now, and even more spectacularly in the world world to come.

In fact, he has already provided the earth with sufficient resources for every living person. Certainly no-one should go hungry – but for our borders, nationalism, and selfishness.

How might we respond to this now then, today?

Display the wisdom of God in his kingdom

In the first place, notice v29. Solomon certainly was great in wisdom, but it was given him from God. God is the one who has brought about all these blessings. It’s God who sent Jesus into the world to be your saviour. He did so in love, willingly. He wasn’t forced – it’s something chose to do.

And now all treasures of knowledge and wisdom are in Christ and he calls you to himself for salvation, redemption, provision. If you have never known Christ – crucified and risen – he calls you to himself today. Repent of your sin and enter into his life and salvation. He is your only hope of life in this battered, broken world. Because Christ is everything. And as he is in his people there is inherently wisdom in the kingdom of God.

Heaven isn’t heaven without Christ. Read Revelation 4 & 5 and you’ll see how Jesus is the very pleasure of heaven. Needless to say, a church without Christ has become a club. The church at Laodicea in Rev 3 was just such a place – they were all very nice and good and busy – but Christ was outside, knocking on their door to come in. But churches are just people – you need to ponder your own walk with Christ as a Christian. 

The people of Israel mostly never met Solomon – they just enjoyed his rule. But you, Christian, have Christ with you all the time – and the picture of the new creation in revelation is clear that you’ll be with him forever. Be sure you know him, walk with him, experience him, depend on him, speak with him, know him.

And not just for yourself. The stakes are higher than that. Read Ephesians 3:10-11.

The stakes are high

God’s purpose through the ages was to use the church – this church, you and me – to display his wisdom here where we are! We are to be the wisdom in the kingdom to display that wisdom to all. But what if we’re not? Expect us to close.

So how can you display his wisdom?

  • Simply by looking forward to the future. Think on things above – set your desires there, not here.
  • That shapes your priorities in time, in money, in purpose.

Live as a citizen of heaven

  • Joyful in hope. This world will disappear.
  • Anticipating Jesus more than anything (or anyone) else in heaven.
  • For those who’ve gone before us, Christ is their delight. Anticipate him even more than wanting reunion with them.
  • Grow in holiness – put on your heaven clothes today.

Pray for wisdom; use that wisdom; develop your wisdom.

Pray for wisdom; use that wisdom; develop your wisdom.

  • Stop, and have a listening heart. Listen to everything.
  • Stop, and have a discerning mind. “Is this good for me?”
  • Slow down, and meditate on Creation, on Redemption, on God’s Provision. Lockdown has been helpful in slowing us!
  • And then let all that shape your actions and reactions in the world; your words and hopes and direction.

But if your life is a mess of pain and worry, you might feel it’s impossible to stop and that hopes of peace are far off.

  • Don’t lose sight of that peace that’s promised with Christ in heaven, and on the new earth.
  • And the delight of heaven is already with you – you are united to Jesus, and he walks with you by his Spirit.
  • So even you can turn to him for wisdom, and he will give it. (Some people don’t really want to be helped.)

God has given you a picture of heaven – a wise and lovely Government – and he has given you a Messiah king to make it happen. Submit to his Government now, to his wise rule, and seek a listening heart and discerning mind to live well for him.