14. To Solomon (3)

“God turned up” Meditations: 14 :  To Solomon (3)

1 Kings 9:1,2 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.

When I watch and listen to the affairs of the human race, I am sure that there will be those who, when they face God eventually in heaven, will say, “But I didn’t know.” Yet I am equally convinced that their excuse will not be accepted because, as I have stated before in these mediations, I am sure the Lord speaks to every person, even though they are not aware that it is actually His voice that is speaking to them. They may grudgingly concede that they ‘wondered about it’, wondered if it was their conscience speaking, but ‘another voice’ suggested, ‘take no notice!’ so they didn’t. But they will be held accountable, and accountability comes in this life as well as the next.

Solomon is a tragic case. Earlier in life he had received a remarkable dream and a remarkable promise and abundant blessing had flowed as a result. He has built the Temple and a fine palace for himself and life seems settled – and then the Lord turns up again.

As the Lord speaks again to Solomon, He first of all affirms His acceptance of the Temple: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” (v.3) That is really encouraging. Solomon has done the right thing. Then comes a challenge and a promise: “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, `You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.” (v.4,5) There it is very clearly stated: obey God and blessing will flow.

But then a sharper warning is added: “But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, `Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, `Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them–that is why the LORD brought all this disaster on them.” (v.6-9)

Now the one thing that Solomon will never be able to say is, “I didn’t know.” The warning is very clear and it is against straying to worship ‘other gods’. If that happens in this nation, the nation will be ‘cut off from the land’, they will lose their inheritance and they will lose the Temple and the whole passing world will see and know and marvel at it. A disaster will come that will be seen by everyone!

Now you can’t get much clearer than that. It is a warning that there is one thing that God will not tolerate and that is apostasy in the form of idolatry – worshipping other gods or idols that are in fact no gods. If they stray from God, their ethical standards will fall and their society will fall apart and become unjust, and they will be weak so that they will not be able to withstand the approaches of neighbouring nations, and will become subservient to them. No longer will they be a nation under God. THAT is how clear it is!

To see the tragedy of Solomon we have to read the terrible detail of what happened later on. I include all of it because of the detail and the awfulness of it: King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” (1 King 11:1-8) He disobeyed God, thinking his wisdom was wiser than God’s, for why else would he do what God said not to do and, just as God had warned, he fell prey to their pagan religions. The monument to his jaded life in old age is the book of Ecclesiastes where he has clearly lost contact with God and the world seems meaningless. What a tragedy!  He knew it but didn’t do it. May that not be the epitaph on our gravestones!

Walk of Folly

WALKING WITH GOD. No.32

1 Kings 11:1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.”

There are times when, looking at the human race, you wonder why God ever made us, knowing that in our sinfulness we would do the most stupid of things. This present situation with Solomon is one such time. Solomon in his youth had received supernatural wisdom from God and as a result of that had become the richest man in the world. He had known the blessing of God on him as few others do. He made Israel very prosperous and from his writings in Ecclesiastes, you name it and he had done it. He had had a most fulfilling life, having opportunities to do things most of us only dream of. Yet when you read Ecclesiastes it is the epitome of cynicism. He is clearly jaded and even for this man of almost infinite wisdom (well it came from an infinite source!) there is a confusion about life and a weariness that is more than mere old age.

How did Solomon get to that state? Why was he like that? In an earlier meditation as we started looking at Solomon, we noted: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter(v.1). Now that was not a smart move; in fact it was contrary to God’s instructions to the Israelites not to marry foreigners who might lead them astray. Now we can accept that this marriage was no doubt part of a trade treaty, but it still reveals an area of vulnerability in Solomon that will bring his downfall. The Egyptian princess was merely the first of many foreign women that Solomon married. His walk through life was littered with beautiful women, for that’s what they would be.

Despite all of the wisdom from God that enabled him to run a country more prosperously than any other king in the world, when it came to his own life, there was something in him that was never satisfied and could never settle. Solomon, in this respect anyway, is the role model for many foolish men today who are unable to settle and be loyal to one woman. The Egyptian princess was clearly not enough for Solomon so when he saw another beautiful woman from another land, he took her too, and then a while later she became not enough and he found another and another and another. Soon he worked on the basis of ‘variety is the spice of life’ but this ‘wise’ man did not realise that in respect of relationships that was not true. Somehow he had either not read or ignored the Scripture that told him, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” (Gen 2:24 ) one man with one woman was God’s best design, that was what worked best.

But there was another aspect to this vulnerability of Solomon. When he took another woman he forgot that she had a background, and most of them came from other cultures where they worshipped other gods or idols. He also didn’t realize that when such a woman came, she came with the trappings of superstition, not knowing the one true God, and would want to continue that idolatrous worship of idols. More than that she, like Eve, would want to involve her man in what she did, and so Solomon found himself being pressed to go along and join in her rites of idol worship. “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (v.3,4) Soon the reality of the Lord’s presence faded and with it the sense of meaning and purpose that comes with the knowledge of the Lord who is Creator, Sustainer, and Planner of this world. Soon he became very jaded. What was so awful about this was that he had been warned against it. He belonged to a people who had been warned not to marry idol-worshipping foreigners. If those foreigners wanted to convert to become the true people of God that was different, but if they didn’t the command was stay away!

Thus Solomon’s walk through life changed from a walk of wisdom to a walk of folly. Read Ecclesiastes and you will catch a sense of the awfulness of the results of that folly. Written near the end of his life it shows in the most graphic terms possible what can happen when a person loses their faith and turns away from God. The awful truth was that at some point, despite his wisdom, Solomon thought he knew better than God and ignored God’s command to stay away from foreign idol-worshipping women. Whenever we fall to such a temptation that Satan puts before us, we do the same thing, we think we know better than God – it will be all right. It won’t! Every time we accept or tolerate some ‘small’ wrong in our lives, we do this. Jesus understood this when he said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Mt 5:29,30). He knew that unless you deal radically with an ongoing sin, it would bring about your destruction. Don’t let it! Do something about it, because while you tolerate it and don’t deal with it, you walk the walk of folly and the end will be destruction.