I remember a professor telling our graduating class that we can never lose our degree. We may lose the license to practice our craft, but once that degree has been issued, that’s it. This was not new and profound information. But just hearing him say it made the absolute nature of this truth more vivid in my mind. I thought, “You mean there is no error or misconduct that can strip this degree away from me? Wow!”
Similar thoughts came to mind as I read the first several chapters of 1 Kings.
In chapter 3 verses 1 and 2 we read that Solomon, the third King of Israel, married Pharaoh’s daughter. While marriage between royal families was common practice in the ancient Near East because it secured peace, this was a violation of the Mosaic Law and the beginning of Solomon’s downfall. In addition to this bad decision, verse 3 informs us that Solomon “. . . [walked] in the statutes of his father David except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” The Israelites were supposed to make sacrifices only in specified places to prevent the prevalent false teachings of this day from being tied to these sacrifices.
After reading these things, I got to verses 5-15. Here we find out that Solomon is blessed by God with a “wise and discerning heart.” I’m thinking, “Great! Now that he has this gift of wisdom from God, Solomon will chill with these unwise moves.”
After being blessed with a “wise and discerning heart” Solomon made more unwise choices. As he prepared to gather up the manpower and material needed to build the Temple, He entered into a treaty with Hiram, a Canaanite King. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 is where God specifically states that the Israelites are not to do this. Then he excessively taxed his people and forced them into hard labor. (Keep in mind, these are the Israelites! They were delivered from slavery in Egypt and now here is another king forcing them to work like slaves again. Can we say “flashback!!”?)
So here is what we have so far: Solomon married pagan wives, entered into forbidden treaties with foreign nations, and has treated the Israelites poorly. Yet, sprinkled amongst the recording of these events is this repeated assurance that “the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon.” It is stated in chapter 3 verse 12, chapter 4 verse 29, and chapter 5 verse 12.
By this point, I was officially confused! Why was I confused? Well . . . to be completely honest, I was surprised that there seemed to be no error or misconduct that could strip Solomon of this “wise and discerning heart.” I mean, clearly, he is not using it! Yet, God keeps coming along telling us he is wise even still. It was as if once God gave it to him, that was it.
I sat with that confusion and realized I had some misconceptions about God! Hearing God say over and over again that, despite all these unwise choices, Solomon was the wisest man ever to live, reminded me of just how absolute and secure our identity is in Him. Once He declares us to be His, that’s it!
How many of us believe God is somewhere waiting for us to mess up so He can take back some gift or blessing that we have yet to fully or consistently utilize? Turns out, He is not interested in taking anything back. He is interested in having us put some stuff into action. He is saying over and over again—after each and every shortcoming, “I have given you a wise and discerning heart.”
I don’t know the specific gift God has given you. For Solomon, it was wisdom. For you, it may be something totally different. Whatever it is, learn from Solomon’s story and use it! Put it into practice! Not selectively, but consistently! In the meantime, be encouraged by the fact that it is still in your possession! God has not stripped it away. Despite your unwise choices in the past, you still have what you need to carry out God’s plan for your life.
Let’s not just walk across the stage of life, be handed a blessing, pose for a picture, and never go out and practice our craft.
Once God puts it in our hearts, the next step is for us to put it into action.