Sunday, February 21, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 21. Solomon's Wives

Prophets And Kings
Day 21
Solomon's Wives

Today we looks at some sad facts of Solomons life. Him breaks the rule God set down for kings by takin many wives. The Lord knew wealthy kings could afford more than one wife, and Him knew kings hads a tendency to want to build huge family dynasties this way, but it werent what God wanted. 

1 KINGS 11:1-13
We just finished studying yesterday the splendor of Solomon's kingdom and how he was already living in violation to the rules set forth for kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17. We talked about how wealth itself is not a sin and how it can be used for Christ and to help others and to help spread the gospel. Because Solomon asked for wisdom and not riches, the Lord told him He would give him riches also, so it wasn't the money itself that was the problem. It was where Solomon's heart was. It seems like he became focused on being the most famous king on earth instead of focusing on God and on how to lead God's people. 

There's nothing wrong with enjoying and being thankful for the material blessings God has given us. Like a loving Father, it pleases Him to give us good things, but our love should rest upon the Giver, not the gift. I grew up fairly poor in a very rural farming community where gifts were usually given only at Christmas, but it pleased my parents to be able to give me good gifts when they could. I remember one December as a small girl when I was suffering with a particularly stubborn case of bronchitis. I had been sick and on antibiotics for a couple of weeks. I was sitting in my little rocking chair beside the wood stove for warmth, coughing my head off and having chills from the fever, when my mom and dad handed me a gift wrapped in Christmas paper. They told me Santa had come early to give me a special treat because I was so sick. I was young enough to still believe in Santa then but within a couple of years I knew who had really bought me the gift.  Inside the box was a baby doll and I rocked her and sang to her all that day in my chair, but honestly I can't remember a thing about what she looked like. I don't remember what brand she was or what I named her. But I do have very clear memories of the faces of the givers that day. My mom and dad were beaming with smiles, happy to have provided me with a surprise that cheered me up and took my mind off feeling sick. I remember the givers far better than the gift. And I think that's what God intends with all His blessings. He wants us to enjoy them; it would be awfully ungrateful of us if we didn't. But He wants us to enjoy our relationship with Him more. 

God had warned Israel that the taking of multiple wives would cause the king's heart to drift from the Lord. "He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray." (Deuteronomy 17:17a) The taking of many wives was bad enough if the wives were from a man's own nation, because no man can truly focus on God if he's keeping up multiple households. But Solomon, like many kings, took foreign wives, women who worshiped false gods. Some of these marriages were for the purpose of making political alliances, which is probably why Solomon married an Egyptian princess. But no man needs a total of one thousand wives and concubines in order to make allies with his neighbors. This indicates personal desires and the lust of the flesh. I don't think it's just about physical lust but also about the desire to be looked up to and envied by others. It was a matter of status for Solomon to be able to provide for so many wives and children. It was something that leaders who visited from other countries could marvel at and envy. 

"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 Molek 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." (1 Kings 11:1-6) The part of this passage that really stands out to me is that Solomon's heart turned from the Lord as he grew old. It didn't happen all at once. When he married these women in his youth, he felt completely able to stand firm in the Lord. No matter what religion his wives held to, he fully intended to hold on to God. But the turning away happened bit by bit, little by little, over a period of time. That's how turning away usually happens. It reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns that says, "It's a slow fade," and, "People never crumble in a day." 

"On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek 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 Kings 11:7-8) This man who built the glorious temple to the God of Israel also built altars for false gods. The least Solomon could have done when marrying these women is make the condition that they must convert to the God of Israel. You would think he would want all his children raised in his own faith but it would seem he exerted no influence on these women, instead making it possible for them to retain their own religions. Solomon has fallen into grievous sin. He has broken what Jesus Christ would later affirm is the greatest commandment of all, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5) It's impossible to love the Lord with all we've got if there are idols in our lives. Solomon's heart was divided. He clung to these women more than to the Lord. He built altars to the goddess of a sex cult and to the gods of cults that even performed human sacrifice. Since we've been told by the Scriptures that Solomon was the wisest man on earth, we can only assume he willfully chose to ignore the gradual decrepitude of his spiritual life. He knew the word of God. He knew how God commanded kings to live. He knew that, even though David made a couple of shocking mistakes, his heart never even considered turning aside after other gods. These pagan altars on the hills of Israel would make David sick all the way down to his soul. 

"The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice." (1 Kings 11:9) These appearances are not described to us in detail; we have only been given the words the Lord spoke to Solomon. But whenever we find Old Testament appearances of God, they are awesome and fearful things. Moses shook from head to toe when meeting with the living God. The prophet Daniel fell into a faint when meeting with the living God. Even in the New Testament, when the Apostle John saw the glorified Lord in the book of Revelation, this disciple who lived so closely to Jesus that he called himself "the disciple whom He loved", fell at the feet of Jesus like a dead man. In our times the Lord speaks to our spirits by the Holy Spirit but in the days of Solomon He still made personal appearances because before Christ died and rose again, the Holy Spirit did not continually indwell believers as He does now. We don't know what Solomon's meetings with the Lord were like but based on other accounts of these type of meetings, we can safely assume it was something a person could never forget. It would be the most overwhelming experience of a person's life and yet Solomon still allowed himself to be carried away from the faith.

"Although He had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord's command. So the Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept My covenant and My decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David My servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen." (1 Kings 11:10-13) If Solomon never shook and trembled in the presence of the living God before, he should definitely do so now. These are solemn and fearful words, very similar to the words the Lord gave to the prophet Samuel about the downfall of Saul's kingdom. The only thing that keeps the Lord from putting Solomon off the throne now is His promise to David. The Lord will not break His word. In this life, people make promises to us that they are sometimes unable or unwilling to keep, but God will never break a promise. I have no doubt that David prayed for his son Solomon and for his kingdom and it should be an encouragement to us that the intercessory prayer of believers lives on after we are gone. David is dead and buried, gone on to be with the Lord, but for his sake the Lord will protect the kingdom of Solomon while Solomon lives. You may not live to see your prayers for your loved ones fulfilled but those prayers don't die when we do. Your prayers for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren may be answered fifty years from now, but it should encourage us that God continued to answer the prayers of David even after his death.

This would be a good time for Solomon to fall on his knees and repent with weeping and with a broken heart, but we are not told that he does so. It seems evident that a time did come when Solomon turned back to the Lord, for at the end of his life he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes which deals with the meaninglessness of following after anything or anyone but the living God. But the Lord will still allow the kingdom to be divided in the days of Solomon's son Rehoboam. He does not relent from this judgment. Solomon didn't set a good example for Israel as David did. He not only allowed the worship of false gods in Israel, but he built altars to them himself and encouraged these pagan practices. The people could go to the temple of God and perform the required rituals and then go to the altar of a pagan god and make offerings there as well. This is why the Lord would someday say to the people through the prophet Isaiah, "These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me." (Isaiah 29:13a) They were saying the right things and bringing the right offerings to the temple, but their hearts were yearning for the gods of the nations around them. Their hearts were on the hilltops at the altars of false gods.

I think somewhere along the line Solomon became prideful in his wisdom. He became prideful in his wealth and high position, taking his eyes off the Giver and rejoicing only in the gifts. At the end of his life, old and sad over his mistakes, Solomon would give this advice to his son, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." (Proverbs 3:7) He had learned his lessons the hard way. In his youth he became wise in his own eyes, failing to fear the Lord, failing to shun the evil lusts of this world. This is why at the end Solomon spoke these sad words which I can't help but feel he is saying about himself and his past, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them." (Proverbs 26:12)

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