Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Solomon took Israel, a country his father – King David – fought so long to secure, to a whole new level. He refined the capital of Jerusalem with his impressive building projects ( 1 Kings 9:10-23) and redefined the country by expanding its borders and improving its defenses on land and sea ( 1 Kings 9:26,27); gaining for himself and his nation a reputation for other-worldly wisdom and prosperity primarily through peace and commerce. ( 1 Kings 10:14-29) So what happened?
Why did everything he and his father worked so hard to achieve fall apart so quickly into tribal division and civil war? The answer may seem simplistic when compared to the reasons given today for our failures; social and economic pressures, politics and public policy inadequacies; prejudices and the inability to consider – and accept – new ideas, etc. But simply put, Solomon and his fellow Israelites followed a recurring pattern of falling into sin and then suffering its consequences that is so common to us all. “…they did evil in the eyes of the Lord…”, were disciplined, turned to God in their need, were restored and redeemed – and then, “Once again… did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Judges 3:7 & 12
Notwithstanding all the benefits Solomon’s wisdom brought Israel, his legacy and Israel’s security depended on their determination to apply the directive of Deuteronomy 6:4,5 to their daily lives. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This bedrock principle and the laws that followed were meant to be imprinted on their minds, hearts and souls and passed on faithfully to the generations that followed. So that, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not foget the Lord who brought you out of Egypt,…”, and provided you with all you have and hope to accomplish. Duet. 6:10-12
But that’s exactly what happened. They became distracted, their allegiance divided, their faith – and faithfulness – compromised. Again, simply put, they forgot. And any household, city, state or nation so divided in their commitments will not stand for long. ( Matthew 12:25)
The message to be derived from Solomon’s story is one of commonality. For even though he achieved many great things, his beginnings were humble; at least in the sense that he was the son of the wife David acquired later in life by nefarious means, who was never really accepted by the masses of her countrymen nor forgiven for her part in the sordid activities that led to her marriage to the King. Yet he must have been raised with a real sense of devotion to Israel’s God and a commitment to His principles, honoring God apparently a priority for Solomon – at least early in his reign. For instance, at one point God appeared to Solomon in a dream and promised to give him whatever he wanted. In humility, Solomon recounted the blessings he had already received and confessed his feelings of inadequacy, feeling like “a little child” given huge responsibilities. As such, he asked for, “…a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”; instead of the expected health, wealth and success in life. And of course, “The Lord was pleased…” and declared, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have you asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked… Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for…” as well. 1 Kings 3:5-14
We’re all familiar with what follows in Solomon’s story. His wisdom exemplified by his ruling in the case of the two women claiming the same child, gaining for him acclaim all across the region. ( 1 Kings 3:16-28) But were you aware of the 3,000 proverbs attributed to him and the 1005 songs he is credited with writing? ( 1 Kings 4:29-34)
Because of his immense capacity to rule well and wisely – exuding culture, refinement and strength – many men and women found him irresistible; coming to verify the truth of what they heard. ( 1 Kings 10:1-9) How they must have praised and flattered him, confusing God-granted wisdom and adherence to Godly principles with being chosen – and therefore special – in his own right and entitled to do as he saw fit. Which he did with gusto. The main extravagance that came to inflict deep wounds on Solomon and his fellow Israelites – besides the slave labor and exorbitant taxes needed to support his lavish lifestyle – was his love of women. As Solomon, “…loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter (his wife) – Moabites, Ammonites, Edmonites, Sidonians and Hittites.”
The problem being, besides the obvious one of keeping that many women satisfied – let alone happy – was that, “They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them,…’” Which was not about maintaining racial purity but, “…because they will surely turn your hearts after other gods.” 1 Kings 11:1,2Which indeed turned out to be the case, for “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God… He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites” (And Chemosh the god of Moab). “He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” 1 Kings 11:8
Regrettably, Solomon followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and, “…did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” characterized by “… not follow(ing) the Lord completely,…” 1 Kings 11:6 As a consequence of his actions, his life and more significantly, the lives of his countrymen, was about to take a drastic turn for the worse.
Check back next week for more on the difficulties Solomon found as his house and his faithfulness became more and more divided.
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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