Sunday, August 14, 2011

A king with a fatal flaw

Book Review: King Solomon-the temptations of money, sex, and power; by Philip Graham Ryken, President of Wheaton College

The sober reality that even the wise can fall prey to the temptations of the world is the thesis of this study of Solomon. I'd easily say that pastors preparing a sermon series on the life of Solomon would find this an essential resource. It is both substantive and devotional.

I've avoided Solomon because his life seems such a contradiction--a wise/foolish king who knew better. How can that be? If our beliefs truly affect our behavior, and if God makes us wise, how can we fall into such phenomenal sin? Those who trust in God are hardly perfect, but Solomon out did most of us with his polygamy and polytheism. So why did he act so foolishly? Did he reject his own God-given wisdom? When considering Solomon, we may worry whether we too might come to a tragic end. If Solomon could fail, is there any hope for us?

Ryken resolves the dilemma in chapter 12. Like King Lear, King Solomon had a tragic flaw: he did not continue to choose godliness and live out that choice. "The more he loved other things, the less he loved God, until one day he was not living for God at all." Solomon lost his first love and ended up where he had no business being. Ryken points out that even "our spiritual gifts will not prevent us from falling into grievous sin." Yet God's love did not depart from Solomon, though he suffered natural consequences of his sinful choices.

The only thing lacking is an overview of Solomon's writings--Song of Songs, parts of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. I'd like to know if Ryken considers Ecclesiastes a sorrowful king looking back on a less-than-admirable life.

Bible study groups will appreciate the study guide in the back. And individuals looking for an inspiring read to help them in their spiritual journey will not be disappointed. There are many light-weight "popular books" in the Christian book market. This one has appeal for the average reader, yet is substantive. I suspect the chapters were originally sermons that have been expanded, which is in no way a criticism. This should be in every church library and in the pastor's study as well.

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