Chapter 11 of 1st Kings starts with three lamentable words:
“But king Solomon…”
We have just journeyed through 10 chapters where everything has been on the up and up. The throne is established, the surrounding nations subdued and paying taxes. Solomon’s wealth and wisdom is becoming the stuff of legends, and to cap it all, the breathtaking temple has been completed, with its gold glistening in the middle-eastern sun to be seen for miles around. The temple, the nation and the king were all to be a testimony to the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.
It all sounded so perfect, almost too good to be true, and then comes that one little word that cuts like a knife. If that one little word stops us in our tracks, the next causes us to take a sharp intake of breath in disbelief; for the source of the calamity to come was not one of Israel’s enemies, nor was it another pretender to the throne; rather, the cause of this heart break is the king himself. Then, to compound our sorrow, we learn it is not just any old king, but of all the kings who have ever lived and reigned, it is the great king Solomon, author of 3000 proverbs, the writer of 1005 songs (1 Kings 4:32), the wisest man who has ever lived (1 Kings 3:12), this is the king who is responsible for the pending national tragedy.
I’m reminded of the question the disciples asked when Jesus spoke of the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God:
“Who then can be saved?”
If Solomon, with his visions of God and all he had going for him can’t live an obedient life before God, what chance do we have? The answer for us is the same as it was for the disciples: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”! (Mark 10:27).
So what was it that would bring about this great tragedy? Verse 6 tells us that Solomon “went not fully after the LORD” (1 Kings 11:6). Notice that he did not walk away from God or reject Him entirely, but allowed his many wives and his much wealth to pull him away from fully obeying God as David had done. Yes, David had sinned; but his heart was crushed by the horror of sin, and in brokenness he came humbly to God in repentance to seek His forgiveness (see Psalm 51). Not so with Solomon. Incredibly it was Solomon who said: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov 14:12 / Prov 16:25), and also: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). Yet somehow he had not learnt these vital lessons. Jeremiah would later say: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
What about you and I? Are we too easily swayed by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life? (1 John 2:15).
We have a choice as to how we live our lives. But please consider the end of Solomon’s life and ask yourself, if all the worldly pleasure, all of the hobbies, all of the activities we can find to fill our time with, is really worth all that we forfeit when those things pull our heart away from God? It might start with something small, like an ‘innocent’ hobby that gets in the way of your reading the Bible each day. Maybe the lure of spending time with friends who care little for the things of God. This is why Paul urges us in Romans 12:2 to ‘think differently’ – don’t be conformed to this world. John asserts that if you are Christ’s you are not to love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15).
The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s own record where he lets you know that he tried more of, and in greater quantity, anything that you can think of or imagine! He ultimately found it was empty. Solomon has been there and done it, and the T-shirt was not worth it! There is nothing in this realm of things worth living for outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ, where we love God before and above everything, with our whole being.
Jesus said He came to give us life in abundance (John 10:10). By God’s grace I pray that you start living it today!