Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
While reading 1 Kings this morning, I was faced yet again with the fact that whenever I think I have the Lord “figured out,” that what I’m thinking is what He’s thinking, He blows my mind… a fresh revelation of what Isaiah 55:9 proclaims:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
So there I was reading 1 Kings Chapter 3, about what happens just after the kingdom of Israel was established in the hand of Solomon. He begins his career by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter in order to make a treaty with the king of Egypt. I thought, “Oh great… nice start, guy! First thing you do is marry someone who is not one of God’s people, against the Lord’s commands.” I read on to verse 3, already shaking my head.
“And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.”
“Wow, so close!” I thought to myself pharisaically, “He loved the Lord ‘except that.’ There always seems to be an “except that” when it comes to some of these fellows in the OT, some major flaw, sin, or character defect.”
As I began to reflect on what a knucklehead Solomon was and how he was already leading Israel in a wrong direction, the next interchange between the Lord and Solomon amazed me.
It said that King Solomon “went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” Then verse 5 followed with, “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?””
Wait a minute… what kind of reaction was that to someone falling so short? I was immediately struck with the answer, which can be found in verse 3: “And Solomon loved the Lord.”
Although worshipping on the high places was not necessarily lawful or right, it was an imperfection coming from a lack of wisdom. And this is where “my ways” took a turn from the Lord’s beautiful and higher ways. The Lord saw Solomon’s heart, that he loved Him, and His delight was to show Solomon mercy and grant him wisdom.
James 1:5 tells us that if anyone lacks wisdom we should ask of God, “who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (my emphasis added.) In my mind, God should have given wisdom to Solomon, but definitely with a reproach. But Our Wonderful Father is thankfully not like me. His mercies are beyond comprehension and He desires to give His children gifts, especially wisdom. Our tendency is to recognize our lack of wisdom, to reflect on our epic fails, and get down on ourselves because we can’t seem to do anything right – and we tend to look at others through this lens as well. But the Father doesn’t treat us this way. He delights to bless us with what we need. He wants us to take our shortcomings straight to Him so that He can teach us, train us, grant us wisdom, and change our natures to be more like His.
Solomon, though lacking in wisdom, obeyed the first and greatest command: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ We run into problems when our religiosity kicks in and we try our hardest to follow the commandments in our own strength and wisdom – in the flesh. Our thoughts can become consumed with walking the line for God, focusing on what to do, what not to do – trying not to sin. But the first command is not stated, “Do not sin.” Instead, it is focused on a relationship to Almighty God. Love Him with all your heart.
Loving God with all our hearts, abiding in Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit places us in a relational position with the Father where we can receive His instruction, counsel, and gifting to move forward and grow in Him. If we get this first part right, everything else will fall into place. A heart set lovingly on God is filled with faith and a sincere desire to please and glorify Him. Now this is something God can work with.
So today I thank God that someone like Solomon – and like me – can receive wisdom from a Father so gracious and kind, so willing to gently teach and grant us all things in Christ Jesus. We find that instead of being consumed, we are rather conformed to the image of Christ.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not…