An Exclusive Interview with King Solomon
An excerpt from Wisdom for Everyday Living (which you can download for FREE below.)
Andrew Kooman: Well, I must say it’s an honour to meet you, King Solomon. I appreciate your time today. I know that you’ve been busy on your post-humus book tour promoting your collective works.
King Solomon: You know, it’s been a whirl-wind tour so far, but it’s been fun. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve never been to Red Deer before.
AK: And what do you think so far?
KS: Well, it’s a long way from the Mediterranean. Rumor has it the winters here are pretty intense, so I’m glad I dodged the snow.
AK: Your intelligence gathering is pretty accurate. Albertan winters can be harsh. But nothing a good pair of long underwear and a toque can’t handle. Now, I have so many questions to ask you, but since our time is short, let me get right at it. You’re known for many things –
KS: Some good and some bad. Sort of the extremes on both ends, actually.
AK: Probably foremost among all your feats is your capacity for wisdom.
KS: Really? Is that what I’m known for around here?
AK: Well –
KS: Seems most interviewers try to dig up the dirt at the get-go and want to know about all the women.
AK: I was going to sort of ease into that, but we can talk about them now if you want.
KS: No, no. Go ahead.
AK: What I wanted to ask about is the phrase that seems to inform all of your writing, one we read over and over again: “the fear of the LORD” as the heart of wisdom, knowledge, and righteousness. In your early writing and early in your kingship you launch off with this proposition, it seems to propel everything you do. It’s the banner statement for your life and the ideal you set out to live by when you were young. But by the book of Ecclesiastes – oh Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes!
KS: I know, I know. Heart-wrenching.
AK: Gut-wrenching. Mind-wrenching! It’s painful if not exquisite –
KS: How about painfully exquisite?
AK: That works. It reminds me of something Chesterton said about how, if you think depression is beautiful, it can only be someone else’s depression. When I read your earlier work and about the beginning of your life, I hear you talk about the fear of the LORD with such energy and authority. By the end of your life, by the time you write Ecclesiastes, you shout it desperately, almost madly. By the end of your life you seemed so battered and so lost.
KS: I was. I really was, Andrew. I was in search of meaning, in search of the great treasure of wisdom I had lost. Lost because I did not heed my own advice, the very advice I wrote down for the world to read. I abandoned wisdom for folly. I entered the house of the prostitute, of the adulteress who offered immediate gratification to my many lusts in the dark, at night, rather than remaining faithful to my true love, wisdom, in the light of day.
AK: It’s interesting to me that you say that, because something I’ve wondered as I read about your life in the Scriptures is whether you almost began to sexualize the idea of wisdom. In your opinion, looking back, was it dangerous for you to personify wisdom as a woman so that wisdom and woman almost became synonymous realities? Because by the end of your life you had 700 wives and 300 concubines and that isn’t normal. Did you commit adultery with wisdom itself thinking you were wise and faithful?
KS: That sure is an interesting psychoanalysis. [Laughs].
AK: Sorry, perhaps I’m getting too personal.
KS: No, no. I do think you’re onto something. I don’t think personifying wisdom as a woman was dangerous in and of itself. It was a great teaching tool, a way for people to understand what wisdom is like. Perhaps ultimately my teaching tool did ensnare me. What we can be sure of is that the real problem was my sinful heart. In retrospect I can see that there was a shift in how I perceived wisdom itself. I think I began to idolize it and started to worship the gift given by God rather than God. People do this all the time – worship the gift instead of the Giver. This is a form of adultery – spiritual adultery. Worshiping anything other than God.
It probably seems obvious when you have the distance of hundreds of years as you and your readers do reading the Bible, but for me, my thinking became clouded and I was tricked by all the success and fame that came alongside the incredibly generous gift of God. People came from all over the world for judgments from my throne. In people’s minds I could do no wrong; I was like the voice of God itself. For a fallen man to be put in that position by others is a dangerous place, especially when that man starts to believe the publicity, or as I’ve heard recently on this book tour, for that man to buy into his own buzz.
AK: This is something that has always been hard for me. You started your kingship so well. In such humility and with such a heart to please the LORD. Then it all went south. It frightens me as a young man who also wants to please the LORD.
KS: It did go south, like you say, if by south you mean to the pit, to Sheol. And it grieves my heart to have been such a poor example for so much of my life. But I am thankful for this: God can see the beginning from the end and his love covers a multitude of sin. Perhaps you get a sense of this truth awakening in my writing at the end of my life on earth. When I am old, when I am too old to lie to myself or to others.
AK: Your bullet of a line at the end of Ecclesiastes?
KS: “The end of the matter has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Yeah.
AK: That phrase is so haunting. Whenever I go back to your other writing it echoes through all of your work. It rings so clearly, like a bell through fog, adding relevance to all your words – the authenticity of the words given your life story.
I’m interested in your perspective about success. A moment ago you touched on the idea. We read in the book of Kings how under your rule Israel was more prosperous than at any other point in its history. You had enormous building projects. Gold and silver were more common than stones. The temple was built and for the remainder of Israel’s history, especially after it was destroyed by Babylon, was a reference point of glory. King Solomon, you reigned in a time of unprecedented prosperity.
KS: I did.
AK: In some ways, we could compare my province, Alberta, to provinces like Judah in your day. We’re living in an economic boom right now where there is so much money rolling around. We’re so immersed in the boom and familiar with this time, I suspect some people don’t even think about the fact that not everyone in the world lives in such a place of financial blessing. It’s not hard to find work and a lot of people are making a lot of money. What perspective can you give us, especially as Christians, living in a time and place of prosperity?
KS: Well, I think I’d start by being clear that Christians need to be very careful not to confuse wealth and godliness. This is a dangerous snare people have been caught in for centuries, beginning with Job, whose story, I might add, I commissioned to be told in the most exquisite Wisdom Literature during my reign.
AK: You mean the book of Job in the Bible?
KS: Exactly. Job’s friends got caught in a trap of believing worldly success and a fat pocket book directly correlated to how righteous a person was. But what Job and his friends discovered is that it’s not about being wealthy or poor. Success is not about belonging to a certain financial bracket. Success is about walking blamelessly before the LORD and worshiping Him no matter what.
AK: Did you see people fall into this trap while you were king?
KS: Absolutely. There is nothing new under the sun. I fell into the trap myself, fully and completely. An almost non-existent poverty line, a low unemployment rate, things were good! And I started to cut corners, both as a King and as a Jew. And the thing is, even though I lived in sin, the blessings didn’t stop. It’s weird how worldly success blinds us and makes us slack. We even let it justify our sin. I think people look at people who have money or success and assume, somehow, they are in God’s good books, but that isn’t necessarily true.
AK: Why didn’t the blessings just stop for you?
KS: God was good and faithful to his servant David. He is true and faithful to his word. He remembers the faithfulness of his servants.
AK: Hmm. That’s interesting.
KS: And the opposite is true. Look what happened to the kingdom under my son Rehoboam. Within one generation, Israel was divided, there was hardship and war, it was the beginning of the downward spiral that ended with the destruction of the Jewish state through captivity to Babylon. This is part of the legacy of my unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. It breaks my heart. It’s important for your readers to have a long-term perspective. You can’t always accurately gauge a person’s success, their true success, in their own lifetime. But time will tell. Time will vindicate or judge a person successful. You might acquire wealth and experience great “blessing” but what you reap you sow. That wealth may be fleeting. That prosperity will end. And you will see the fruit of a person’s life in coming generations. This should be encouragement to people walking the path of blamelessness but who don’t have bulging wallets or bank accounts.
AK: The bling.
KS: Sorry, what’s this, bling?
AK: The diamonds and the gold rings.
KS: Sure. Bling doesn’t necessarily mean success to God.
AK: Success is blamelessness, not bling. I like that.
KS: Me too. It’s got a certain ring.
AK: So, why do you constantly write about prosperity and blessing in the Proverbs? Is there a contradiction here?
KS: Not at all. We just must be careful not to feel entitled to wealth and riches.
AK: But the way you write, it’s like we should basically expect prosperity. I think it’s fair to say most Christians, well, most North American Christians do.
KS: And they wouldn’t be wrong, they’re just not necessarily right.
KS: God is complicated and mysterious. Remember Job?
AK: Yeah, his name seems to come up a lot, doesn’t it? But forgive me King Solomon, by the end of his life, after all the rigamarole and suffering, he ends up even more blessed than before! How do we not expect or prepare for the blessing? We’re dealing with God here.
KS: True. God, by his nature wants to bless his children, and does. By his nature God is a God of abundant blessing. But we are not entitled to that blessing.
AK: That kind of statement makes me feel guilty or bad then.
KS: Then you’re hearing me differently than I mean to be heard.
AK: Such a statement, as I hear it, causes me to consider the nature of our motives. I know God blesses, I know that is his nature. How then can I ever separate my actions and motives from that reality? Are they always impure? Am I always already motivated to please God so I get blessing? Am I always already some sort of sellout?
KS: You have an interesting view of yourself and of God.
AK: Don’t I know!
KS: Well, I mean, you could follow that rabbit trail of logic until you’re blue in the face, all the way to the padded cell of the asylum. And believe me, I have taken such trails. You’ve already mentioned my work in Ecclesiastes.
KS: But no. God is good. He is full of grace. Again remember Job and what we learn from his story. It’s not about how righteous you are or how unrighteous. It’s not about how sinful you are even, or how pure your motives are. It’s about God, about who He is. He is sovereign and worthy of worship no matter what he chooses to do. In all circumstances, no matter what they are. In our wealth or in our poverty, in our wholeness or in our affliction, we must look out of ourselves, out of our small, prosperous provinces and cities, and look to Him and see that He is good and worthy of our worship. This is the attitude and the path of success.
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