Solomon recognized that having a teachable spirit was necessary for living a meaningful life. In this Genesis 3 sinful world we live in, valuing and receiving instruction from wise counselors is crucial if we are to live wisely. The wise welcome wisdom while the fool despises wisdom and instruction.
When Leading (4:13–16)
The king in the story had at one time paid attention to the advice of his counselors and ruled wisely, but when he got old, he refused to listen to them. The hero in the story was a youth who had been in prison, was released and then became king.
The young man had been born poor, but he became rich. The old king was rich, but it did not make him any wiser. The young man was in prison, but he got out and ascended to the throne. The old king was imprisoned by his foolishness and lost his throne.
Wealth and position are no guarantee of success, and poverty and seeming failure are not barriers to achievement. The key is wisdom. The best conditions for learning wisdom do not guarantee it, and the worst conditions cannot keep a person from receiving it.
The story continued. The young man got out of prison and took the throne because of popular demand. It looked like the new king had it made, but his popularity did not last. The new crowd deposed him and appointed a second youth. The first youth’s reign came to an end just as the foolish king’s reign did before him. And the cycle continued. Solomon concluded that this was futile and a pursuit of the wind.
When Worshipping (5:1–3)
When we enter into God’s presence, we are not to be dull-minded or insensitive, but we are to stay alert and attentive. We should draw near and listen well because God is communicating. We must think carefully before taking action when we go to the house of God.
Solomon was telling us to close our mouths and open our ears as we prepare for worship. God speaks to us through the music, prayer and sermon. But we will not hear Him if we are hasty and impulsive with our speaking. We should be quiet and stay calm because God hears the inaudible and sees the invisible. We need to focus and think, to let go of our concerns and anxieties and set our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on God.
We are commanded to do this not simply so we can hear God and know Him better but also because He hears our inner thoughts as well as our spoken words. His perspective enables Him to penetrate and expose all that we think, say and do. So we need to guard our thoughts, words and actions and listen attentively to what God has to say to us.
When Promising (5:4–7)
We should make a commitment and keep it because God accepts it and does not forget it. In our day of empty promises and shallow commitments, we need to heed these words. We should never make a vow to God that we have no intention of keeping. And when we do make a vow to God, we should carry it out fully because He takes our vows seriously.
Do not back out of a vow you have made to God. Such an act will lead to sin and God’s discipline (Deut. 23:21). God expects His people to honor their commitments. We dishonor God whenever we fail to keep our word.
We should never play games with the God of the universe. He demands our utmost respect and diligent obedience.
By Jay T. Robertson, Ph.D.
Robertson is Associate Professor of Christian Studies at the University of Mobile