My New Year Resolutions, 1 Kings 3:4–15, Second Sunday in Christmas, January 5, 2020
This New Year I resolve to be greedier, meaner, and nastier than ever before. I resolve to drink more beer, eat more fried foods, smoke more cigars, watch more TV, and exercise less. I’m hoping to make this the laziest, least productive year ever! I resolve to save less and spend more. I resolve to spend less time with the wife and kids, and instead devote every waking hour, thought, and care into how to get more and do less. If all goes as planned, I’ll be flat-broke and never around!
Finally! Some resolutions I can keep! Of course, I would hope that by now you realize I’m not serious about these resolutions. Honestly, who would ever make these resolutions? That’s just not how it’s done.
People all over the world are making resolutions this particular time of year with the intention of improving oneself. We resolve to do less of the bad, and more of the good. It’s a new year, a clean slate. What better way to start the New Year off than with a new and improved you.
That being the case, it should come as no surprise that many Christians, as well, like to make use of this clean slate, even if we don’t make the typical resolutions involving diets and exercise and such, many of us do tend to try and read our Bibles more, maybe attend more Bible studies, volunteer more, or give more.
We hope to resolve ourselves from our Old Adam into a new and improved Adam, Adam 2.0, if you will; a new and improved version that is far more faithful and far less sinful. And you know what? That is a good thing! There’s sure nothing wrong with that.
As your pastor, as you fellow Christian, I would hope that you recognize the sin that is staring back at you in the mirror, and want to do something about it. I certainly hope that you would want to bring about positive, faithful change in your life. That’s part of what repentance is: a turning away from sin, a going and sinning no more.
But have you ever noticed that even these very good and faithful repentant resolutions focus on ourselves? “Well, duh, Pastor.” Try as we might, we can’t resolve to improve the other guy. We can only worry about ourselves. We can only really affect change in ourselves, in our own lives.
But what about God? When you get down to it, all these resolutions, as good as they are, are ultimately concerned with “my will.” What about “Thy will be done”? What about God’s will?
Our Old Testament reading leads us into the story of Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel. Never did a ruler’s reign begin with so much hope and with so much promise. Solomon truly loved the Lord. He walked in faithfulness and was upright in heart. He was a man of many talents, and he recognized that those talents, including that of leadership, were gifts from God.
And so it happened that while Solomon was sleeping, the Lord himself appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Ask what I shall give you” (v 5). It appears that the Lord was so pleased with Solomon that he wanted to give him an inaugural gift, something to celebrate Solomon’s coronation as Israel’s king.
Now, there’s a deal! I suppose that any one of us would relish such a gift. It reminds me of the story of the fellow who rubs the magic lamp and is granted three wishes. Only this was the real deal.
And what did Solomon choose? What would you choose? I know as a kid, I actually prayed to win the lottery, which as I think back on it, it’s kind of funny, since I never bought lottery tickets. Perhaps I would ask that more people in the congregation would attend Bible class on Sunday morning. Maybe I would ask for more volunteers to take positions of leadership and responsibility in our congregation. Maybe I just ask that our pews be full every Sunday.
Perhaps, if I were king, I’d pray for a long reign. Maybe, I’d ask that the land be prosperous and that I would preside over a nation that grew in power and wealth. Maybe, I’d petition for a large and efficient military in order to defend the borders of the land. Or, just for fun, I’d ask for a great big palace, with swimming pools and a hot tub.
But not Solomon, Solomon asked for none of these earthly things. Instead, he sought, of all things, wisdom. He sought the power to discern between right and wrong that he might rule his people fairly, in a way that would benefit his people and please God.
And so, our Lord granted to Solomon wisdom, for which he become famous, even to this day. From all the corners of the earth, people came to hear and learn from Solomon, who knew not only that which was right, but who also knew how to apply that wisdom in real-life situations.
Even the famous queen of Sheba traveled to hear him and to lay treasures at his feet. And no one who came to Solomon was ever disappointed, for he had a way of seeing clearly to the right solution. Remember the two women who came to Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of a certain child? Solomon in his wisdom decreed that the baby be cut in two, knowing the real mother would never agree to such a plan.
But, as we know, Solomon’s story didn’t end as well as it began. Before long the prince of wisdom became the king of fools. What happened? Well, along with wisdom, our Lord gave to Solomon great wealth and honor. Maybe these earthly honors were his downfall. Maybe the money and power went to his head.
In his desire to enlarge the kingdom and promote diplomacy, Solomon took to himself many wives who believed in many false gods. And the heart of Solomon turned, and he began to forget the God who loved him. And the great King Solomon, the man who built the Lord’s temple, also built temples to the pagan deities.
The very same Solomon whose wisdom saved a child, and put that child with its rightful mother, was now building temples where children were sacrificed to pagan gods. Oh, how the mighty fall, and the greatness of wisdom turns to folly.
Solomon, who rose to the pinnacle of wisdom, fell to the absolute depths of folly, just another foolish and corrupt leader. That was not what Israel needed. Israel needed a king who would reign with wisdom and establish a kingdom that would not fall. Israel needed not only a wise king, but a king who could save his people from their own self-destructive folly and trust in the one true God.
That just seems to be how life in this fallen and sinful world works. Nothing ever seems to go as planned. If only we were in charge, right? If only people did what we wanted; what we thought was best. If only things worked out the way we drew the plans up.
But, they don’t, and this year won’t be any different. Certain things won’t go as you think they should. Accolades will be given to people you think don’t deserve them. People you think who are deserving of praise and honor will not be celebrated or esteemed, and you will wonder if God knows the great injustices that are taking place.
Votes won’t go your way. Moves will or won’t happen, and you’ll be troubled because that’s not how you drew up the game plan. Job loss, job change, or no change at all will happen. And it will drive you nuts because you had hoped and planned differently.
Leaders, pastors included, will stumble and let you down, and there will be no shortage of arm-chair quarterbacking, and opinions and complaints.
Sickness and death will rear its ugly and unexpected head, either in your life or in the life of someone you love, someone you feel is not deserving of such misery and suffering. Financial situations will cause you grief and worry and anger.
Basically, your will won’t be done, and it will cause problems, just like last year, the year before, and every year since the day our first father and mother fell into sin in the Garden of Eden.
Only our Lord Himself offers the true and final wisdom that Solomon sought. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt 6:33) Then all the other stuff will be added in the life to come. Seek the heavenly treasure; follow the way of heavenly wisdom. The Lord Himself is our treasure, and He is our wisdom. It is the Lord Jesus, who by the folly of the cross has saved us from our own foolish ways.
Yes, this world is foolish; so caught up in things that won’t last, in goals that have no enduring value. You want money? It won’t make you happy, and when you die, relatives and lawyers will circle to get their “fair” share, trust me, I know. You want to live a long life? Well, you can only live so long. You want to make a name for yourself and become famous? Someday, even Mount Rushmore will crumble and fall. That’s the nature of things.
But our Lord offers us a kingdom that is better than the one Solomon ruled. For the kingdom of God will never fade nor fall. The devil himself, with all his fury, won’t be able to prevail against it. The kingdom that Christ proclaims is from everlasting to everlasting. Wealth gives pleasure but for a while, but the kingdom of Christ brings eternal joy and takes away all our fears, even the fear of death.
The world in its foolishness says that the cross is a sign of weakness, a picture of shame. The world wants a king dressed like Solomon of old. It mocks a ruler whose throne is the cross and whose crown in made of thorns. Yes, the world is filled with foolish scoffers, those who think they’re so smart. The world is littered with men who look in the mirror and are impressed by their own wisdom.
But the folly of the cross is greater than the wisdom of men, for in that cross of shame alone do we find all glory and honor, and in that death, we find our life. The cross of Jesus Christ is the place where we can see God’s full wrath against sin, and God’s awesome and unconditional love.
This is God’s plan for your salvation. This is God’s answer to your death sentence of sin. He kills His own Son so that you can have the gift of life. Jesus Christ, as full God, knew this plan full well. It didn’t come as a surprise or plot twist to Him. Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Thy will be done,” and then He did it! He obeyed. He willingly, humbly, and obediently, conformed His life to the will of the heavenly Father.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Look to this cross of Jesus Christ, forever and always. Look to Him, and only to Him. Here is your Father’s good and gracious will for you, and for all people. Here is your Father’s answer to that which troubles you and gives you no peace, no joy, and no contentment. Here is the peace and joy and contentment that can only be known in the humility and wisdom of saving faith. It is finished, once and for all, in Christ alone and because of Christ alone.
You can’t resolve to get this peace or joy or contentment. More willpower and resoluteness isn’t going to cut it, or make it happen. It’s a gift from God; a free and unmerited gift that He wants nothing more than for you to have.
Despite the hardships, failures, and crosses we may bear in this life, make no mistake: This is God’s plan of salvation working in you and through you according to His timeline, even though His plan and His timing may sometimes cause you pain and suffering.
As we now enter into a New Year, feel free to make your resolutions, if you haven’t already. Try your very best to lose weight, give up smoking, read more, or whatever else it is you resolve to do, or not do in this New Year.
However, always remember that God’s plan of salvation is not a simple resolution that may or may not come to fruition. God’s plan is eternal, unchanging, and already accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ. It is finished!
God grant you the grace, perseverance, and patience to endure all this fallen and sinful world has to throw at you in this New Year as you live out this day, and every day, as one who is completely redeemed and given a truly clean slate in the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.