Monday, February 29, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 29. Meanwhile, In Jerusalem...

Prophets And Kings
Day 29
Meanwhile, In Jerusalem...

We haves been studyin what a poor king Jeroboam is of Israel and now the author backs up to tell us whats been goin on at Jerusalem wif King Rehoboam of Judah.

1 KINGS 14:21-31
Jeroboam set up a state religion of idolatry in the ten northern tribes of Israel but we find out today that Rehoboam and the kingdom of Judah are not doing well either. "Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put His name. His mother's name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite." (1 Kings 14:21) Unlike Solomon, Rehoboam was a middle-aged man when he became king, and maybe that's why he never asked the Lord for wisdom as his father did. Solomon came to the throne probably in his late teens to around the age of twenty, knowing he was inexperienced, knowing he needed the help of the Lord. That humility caused Solomon to ask for a thing the Lord was happy to give: wisdom. Rehoboam had to know this story because everybody knew it; even a queen from a far-off land came to see if the story of such wisdom granted by God was true. But it somehow never occurred to Rehoboam to ask wisdom for himself. I suppose he thought he didn't need it or that because of his age he already knew plenty. Maybe it's because he never had a humble spirit at any time during his reign. Maybe it's because his mother was an Ammonite, a pagan woman. Whatever the reason, Rehoboam is an unwise king, and he is leading Judah down a bad path.

"Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up His jealous anger more than those who were before him had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites." (1 Kings 14:22-24) If we consult the book of 2nd Chronicles we will find that in the first few years Rehoboam stuck with the religion of Solomon and David. We are told he fortified Jerusalem and the cities of Judah and Benjamin and had the political support of all the Levite priests, including those who were no longer welcome in Jeroboam's kingdom because he only appointed priests who would serve at idolatrous altars. The temple was at Jerusalem and, "Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of Israel. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, following the ways of David and Solomon during this time." (2 Chronicles 11:16-17) It appears that for the first three years of Rehoboam's kingdom things went on as usual. So what went wrong?

It's hard to say because it looks as if he didn't commit the sins of Solomon in marrying foreign pagan women, because 2 Chronicles 12 gives us a list of some of his wives and they are all women of Israel, women who are related to his family. But one clue we are given is that his biggest sins began "after Rehoboam's position as king was established and he had become strong". (2 Chronicles 12:1a) Another clue we are given is that Rehoboam didn't have a heart that longed to know God, "He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord." (2 Chronicles 12:14) Could it be he felt he didn't need to seek the Lord any more? Did he think he could keep hold on the kingdom by himself? Judah was a very large tribe, the tribe that held title to the throne, and having their support and the support of the priesthood may have led Rehoboam to trust in man more than in God. He certainly didn't tear down any of the altars or idols Solomon had set up for his foreign wives; instead he allowed more to be built as we saw in the passage above. The people were following the sex cults and even added a new aspect to them, because traditionally the temple prostitutes were women but now the prostitutes also included men.

Because of the sins of the nation, the Lord brings an enemy against them to discipline them. Again we need to look to the book of 2nd Chronicles for additional information, "Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam." (2 Chronicles 12:2) The author of 1 Kings simply says, "In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem." (1 Kings 14:25) As we studied a week or so ago, this king is known by his Egyptian name as Shoshenq I, a powerful warrior king who led many exploits, whose surviving historical records prove he did indeed make war with Judah and Israel. The author of 2nd Chronicles tells us that, prior to sending Shishak to attack Jerusalem, the Lord sends a prophet named Shemaiah with these words, "This is what the Lord says, 'You have abandoned Me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak." (2 Chronicles 12:5b) At these words the leaders humbled themselves and admitted their sins and admitted that the Lord was justified in bringing this calamity on them. Because they did so, He said He would not allow Shishak to destroy them but that He would allow them to become subject to Shishak for a time.

When this fearsome Egyptian king came with his troops, "He carried off all the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the Lord's temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom." (1 Kings 14:26-28) In Chapter 10 we saw that Solomon made 500 gold shields to display on the walls. These were never meant to be used in battle because gold is too heavy and too soft. They were simply symbols of the power and wealth of Solomon's kingdom. At their loss, Rehoboam casts more practical shields of bronze and his troop of bodyguards use these shields when escorting the king to the temple and back. Bronze is lighter and much harder than gold, excellent for use in deflecting enemy arrows. Gold is no longer plentiful in his kingdom because some important trade routes in the ten northern tribes are cut off to him. Rehoboam can no longer import massive quantities of gold as his father did, so we see the wealth and prosperity of the kingdom falling into decline.

"As for the other events of Rehoboam's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. And Rehoboam rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of David. His mother's name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 14:29-31) Twice in todays passage the author tells us the identity of Rehoboam's mother. He feels it's quite important to settle it in our minds that she was a pagan woman. If only Solomon had married an Israelite woman maybe Rehoboam would have turned out better. His mother had far more influence on him than his father, for Solomon would have been busy running the nation. Naamah was the one who would have cared for him daily, telling him stories of her people and their gods. She likely took him with her whenever going up to the altars of her gods to make offerings. To Rehoboam, one god may have seemed about the same as another. His father hadn't set a good example in staying true to the God of Israel. His mother was not a convert to the God of Israel, as far as we know, because Solomon did not require his foreign wives to convert. To Rehoboam, idolatry was common and nothing to worry about. It was just part of the landscape and it had been a part of his life since he was born. 

A number of things came together to cause Rehoboam to be the man he was, although at any time he could have chosen to do the right thing. He was middle-aged when he ascended to the throne, not a youth who could be easily influenced by the wrong kind of people. He knew which God had made Israel great. He knew all the stories about the God who called his ancestor Abraham out of Ur to make of him a great nation. He knew the testimonies of his ancestors Isaac and Jacob. He knew the testimonies of his grandfather David. He even knew that at the end of his life, Solomon wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes which indicate he repented of his youthful mistakes. Yet none of this kept him on course for the one true God because "he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord". If we first set our hearts on seeking the Lord, all things will work together for our good. (Romans 8:28) If we first set our hearts on seeking the Lord, all the other things we need will be added to us. (Luke 12:31) This is why, in his later years, Solomon said to his son, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10) We must begin there. If Rehoboam had begun there, his kingdom would have prospered because the Lord promised blessings on the kings who would be faithful to Him. We aren't promised easy lives or wealth or fame, but we are promised the blessings of the Lord and we are promised He will meet our needs. We are promised that, whatever comes, God is able to somehow work all our circumstances together in a way that prospers our souls. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It's our starting point. Everything else hinges on this. And when we fear the Lord and are open to receiving His wisdom, we will set our hearts on seeking Him. There is no greater thing that can be said of us than that we sought the Lord with our whole hearts. There is no greater legacy we can leave behind than for our descendants to be able to say we feared the Lord and walked in His ways.

I want to conclude with a little story about something that overwhelmed me in church yesterday morning. I often think of my late mother in church, especially when somebody sings one of the old hymns from my childhood, because then I picture her sitting beside me in that little country church all those years ago. She was the first person who told me about Jesus. She both talked the talk and walked the walk. Who knows where I would be today without the prayers and the guidance of my sweet mother? Her legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren, even in the great-grandchildren she never lived to see. In church yesterday I saw a man go up and kneel at the altar during the song portion of the service, and one of my great-nephews was the first to jump up from his seat and go to pray with him. I glanced to the other side of the sanctuary and saw another of my great-nephews going to the altar with some of his young friends. And I got the biggest lump in my throat thinking about how proud my godly mother would be of her family and their devotion to the Lord. The current generation of her descendants fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. They have set their hearts to seek the Lord. My mother's godly legacy lives on, though she's been in heaven twenty years. The faith she instilled in her children is still paying off in this current generation. When she rocked her children to sleep singing "Jesus Loves Me", she set something in motion that's still going strong. I can think of no greater compliment to give her. I can think of no greater compliment to give anyone.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 28. Ahijah The Prophet

Prophets And Kings
Day 28
Ahijah The Prophet

Todays passage involves two characters wif very similar names. The son of Jeroboam, named Abijah, is deathly ill. Jeroboam sends for help from the prophet Ahijah, the man who predicted Jeroboam woulds become king over the ten northern tribes. This is the only godly man him knows who might help, for Jeroboam haves alienated all the godly men, prophets, and priests in Israel because of his state-sanctioned idolatry. Also, because Jeroboam haves instituted a pagan religion for the nation, him doesnt want it known that hims wife is going to see a man of God. It wouldnts do for the people to know that even the king doesnt trust in the gods him mades. 

1 KINGS 14:1-20
"At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill, and Jeroboam said to his wife, 'Go, disguise yourself, so you won't be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there---the one who told me I would be king over this people. Take ten loaves of bread with you, some cakes and a jar of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what will happen to the boy.' So Jeroboam's wife did what he said and went to Ahijah's house in Shiloh." (1 Kings 14:1-4a) Jeroboam has had no use for the Lord up until now, when he's facing trouble. He's not a godly man or a praying man, but in this time of worry he appeals to someone who is a godly praying man. From the text it's hard to tell whether he's sending his wife to make an appeal for the boy's life or whether he simply wants to know the outcome, as some scholars think, but I feel he hopes the prophet will intercede in prayer for the boy. If all he wanted to know is whether his son will live or die, time will soon tell. There's no need to send anybody off to Shiloh just to ask. I think he hopes the prophet will perform a miracle, just like the man of God from Judah performed a miracle on Jeroboam's hand in Chapter 13. 

Ahijah is warned by the Lord that a deception is afoot. "Now Ahijah could not see; his sight was gone because of his age. But the Lord had told Ahijah, 'Jeroboam's wife is coming to ask you about her son, for he is ill, and you are to give her such and such an answer. When she arrives, she will pretend to be someone else.'" (1 Kings 14:4b-5) 

"So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, 'Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news. Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over My people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commands and followed Me with all his heart, doing only what was right in My eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused My anger and turned your back on Me.'" (1 Kings 14:6-9) Imagine the shock Jeroboam's wife feels when she was still outside the door and the prophet calls to her, knowing her identity. This man is a true prophet and Jeroboam should have known better than to try and fool him. But more than this, Jeroboam should have known better than to try and fool the living God, who knows all things and who sees into every heart. He previously commanded Jeroboam through this same prophet to obey the Lord and keep his laws and the Lord would make a great dynasty for him. But Jeroboam failed to obey the Lord and caused the people to rebel against God. The dynasty will not come to pass. Today it will begin to fall apart.

"Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel---slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!'" (1 Kings 14:10-11) The family line of Jeroboam will die out and the males of his family won't even have proper burials, something that's very important to their culture. 

"As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good." (1 Kings 14:12-13) The only good person in Jeroboam's family will perish at a young age. This seems unfair to us. Our culture considers death a punishment and life a reward, but I think in this particular case the Lord takes this child on to heaven before he can be corrupted by the abominable idolatry of the nation, before the household of Jeroboam falls and life for this family becomes miserable. The Lord honors the child by making certain he is mourned and respectfully entombed, an honor no other male of Jeroboam's line will be awarded. Unfair as this boy's early death seems, our text today reminds me of something a woman in my church said about the unexpected death of her teenage son. Her son went off to school that morning looking like he was in perfect health and by nightfall a sudden viral illness had rendered him brain dead. I can't even imagine the pain that family has experienced, but she stood up one day in church and said she found her comfort and her answer in this passage of Scripture, "The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." (Isaiah 57:1-2) When the prophet Isaiah spoke the words she quoted, he was assuring the people that the reason the good people were dying in the nation was because terrible trouble was coming. The great nation Babylon was coming to conquer them and the godly people who died before it happened were the lucky ones. When the Lord takes Jeroboam's son on to heaven at a young age, He takes him away to be spared from evil. This child enters into the peace of the Lord and finds rest in His presence.

Ahijah goes on to say, "The Lord will raise up for Himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. Even now this is beginning to happen. And the Lord will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the wind. He will uproot Israel from this good land that He gave to their ancestors and scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they aroused the Lord's anger by making Asherah poles. And He will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit." (1 Kings 14:14-17) In Chapter 15 we will see a man come against the house of Jeroboam, fulfilling this prophecy, and 300 years later we will see a nation come against the house of Israel, fulfilling this prophecy.

"Then Jeroboam's wife got up and left and went to Tirzah. As soon as she stepped over the threshold of the house, the boy died. They buried him, and all Israel mourned for him, as the Lord had said through His servant the prophet Ahijah." (1 Kings 14:17-18) I feel sorry for Jeroboam's wife because she may just be a victim of her husband's bad decisions. Her feet must have felt heavy as she trudged home, knowing her son would die. The only comfort she has is knowing he will be spared the troubles the prophet foretold. 

"The other events of Jeroboam's reign, his wars and how he ruled, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel. He reigned for twenty-two years and then rested with his ancestors. And Nadab his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 14:19-20) In 2 Chronicles 13 we find an account of Jeroboam going to war with a future king of Judah, coincidentally named Abijah, the same name as Jeroboam's late son. Abijah's troops defeated Jeroboam's troops so thoroughly that, "Jeroboam did not regain power during the time of Abijah. And the Lord struck him down and he died." (2 Chronicles 13:20) This king with the same name of Jeroboam's son renders him virtually powerless in the final years of his reign. Jeroboam goes out with a whimper, as a weak king. Apparently he does not die a natural death of old age but is taken from life by the hand of the Lord. It seems like poetic justice that the man who brings Jeroboam down shares the name of his dead son, the son who died young to be spared from spiritual corruption and national defeat. Jeroboam's wickedness is responsible for the death of his child and the name of the king of Judah reminds him of that. His sinfulness boomerangs on him, He reaps what he has sown.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 27. The Prophet And The Man Of God

Prophets And Kings
Day 27
The Prophet And The Man Of God

Yesterday a man of God came up to Bethel from Judah to warn Jeroboam bouts the judgment to come for worshippin idols and sacrificin on pagan altars. Today the story of the man of God takes a strange turn as him meets up wif an old prophet.

1 KINGS 13:11-34
"Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king." (1 Kings 13:11) This mans sons must have been in the assembly when Jeroboam made sacrifice at Bethel that day because they know everything that happened there. Apparently the old man stayed home from this pagan festival, maybe in protest over the sinfulness of Jeroboam's kingdom.

"Their father asked them, 'Which way did he go?' And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken. So he said to his sons, 'Saddle the donkey for me.' And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, 'Are you the man of God who came from Judah?' 'I am,' he replied. So the prophet said to him, 'Come home with me and eat.'" (1 Kings 13:12-15) The old prophet wants to sit down and enjoy a meal with a kindred soul, someone like himself who has not abandoned the God of Israel. We can imagine how lonely this old man was in the new kingdom with its new gods and new priests. Even his own sons went down to the pagan festival, so not even his family is in the faith with him. 

But the man of God tells him the same thing he told the king when Jeroboam invited him for a meal, "The man of God said, 'I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: 'You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.'" (1 Kings 13:16-17)

Here is where things take a strange turn. The old prophet lies to the man of God in order to persuade him to go home with him. "The old prophet answered, 'I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by word of the Lord: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.' (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house." (1 Kings 13:18-19) The Bible doesn't explain why the old prophet lied and in my research I found several different opinions on what his motives might have been. I tend to disagree with the few who think the old prophet had bad motives toward the man of God. Instead I think his desire to talk with him and learn the future of Israel was so strong he was willing to say anything. 

What he says here is very important, I think, in figuring out his motivations, "I too am a prophet, as you are." Probably at one time he was a legitimate and well known prophet, but we get the impression that he had given up and gone home. There's no indication he was standing up and speaking out against the idolatry in the nation. He has somehow failed to impart his faith on his own sons and has lost control of his household, similar to how the high priest Eli once was a good priest but gave up and failed to keep control over his own household. I think this prophet is a "has been". He is no longer receiving revelations from the Lord because he is no longer standing firm for the Lord. His soul thirsts to hear the word of God and this is why he wants the man to come home with him. But since the man of God refused the dinner invitation, the prophet isn't above lying to get what he wants. So when he says, "I too am a prophet, as you are," this actually a bigger lie because he no longer is a prophet like the man of God.

We aren't told the age of the man of God but maybe he was a lot younger than the old prophet and this is why he falls for the lie, especially if the old prophet is a well known figure. The man of God may have looked up to the older man in respect, trusting his words. I feel sympathy for the younger man, although he's making a terrible mistake. He knows that the Lord Himself spoke to him when sending him up to Bethel. Why then would the Lord change His instructions? And if the Lord did change His instructions, why wouldn't He personally speak to the man of God again instead of speaking through someone else? The punishment for this disobedience will be harsh, which is why I don't think the old prophet intended harm, but I do think the old prophet has fallen far enough from the Lord that he is letting himself be used in Satan's plot to have the man of God killed. We should be immediately on guard whenever anybody gives us advice that contradicts the word of God. This passage reminds me of the serpent talking to Eve in the garden. He planted doubt in her mind by saying, "Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" (Genesis 3:1) The man of God from Judah was doing God's work and I think the devil wants him taken out of the way. The devil would like all of Israel destroyed by God for their sins, both the northern and southern kingdoms, to prevent Messiah from coming as predicted. He knows that eventually the southern kingdom of Judah will also fall into the idolatry trap if things are allowed to continue as they are. The last thing he wants is for a man of God to preach until the people repent. The old lazy prophet who hasn't maintained a close relationship with God is a pawn in the devil's hand.

"While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, 'This is what the Lord says: 'You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where He told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.'" (1 Kings 13:20-22) I bet this is the first time the old prophet has heard the voice of God in many years. I wonder which of the men was more surprised by this revelation. The man of God has fallen for a lie and knows it now. The old prophet knows he has led the younger man into temptation and harm, because there's no doubt in his mind that he truly hears the word of the Lord as they sit at the table. He hasn't yet forgotten what the voice of the Lord sounds like. 

"When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it. Some people who passed by saw the body lying there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived." (1 Kings 13:23-25) The prophecy that the man of God would not be buried with his ancestors was ambiguous enough that he didn't know it meant he would die today in a city far from home. It was a distressing prediction because it would have been very important for this man to know his bones would rest with those of his ancestors in the family tomb. Don't we feel it's important to be buried with our loved ones? Aren't we kind of bothered by the thought of somehow ending up buried among strangers? The man of God doesn't know his doom will come today but the judgment of God is swift in the matter of his disobedience. We find in the Scriptures that God often hands down particularly harsh discipline on His people who hold high spiritual or political positions in the nation. They are calling themselves by His name and have a great deal of influence on the people, but they are not living up to who they claim to be. They are misrepresenting the God they serve. Because of their power over the people, God has to make a public example at times to keep them from leading the nation astray. He judged the sins of David quite harshly because, as the prophet Nathan said, he had given an excuse for people to mock the name of God. People could laugh and say, "See, these godly people aren't any better than the rest of us and their God isn't any better than our gods." 

The author is careful to tell us that the lion doesn't harm the donkey. The lion also doesn't harm the people passing by. He wants us to understand that the death of the man of God by the lion is divine judgment. The lion isn't there to harm anyone or anything but this one man.

"When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, 'It is the man of God who defied the word of the Lord. The Lord has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the Lord had warned him.' The prophet said to his sons, 'Saddle the donkey for me,' and they did so. Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, 'Alas, my brother!'" (1 Kings 13:26-30) The prophet knows he was instrumental in this man's death and I think he feels an almost unbearable guilt. We may wonder why the Lord judged the man of God more swiftly than He judged the old prophet for what happened today, but a clue could be that the old prophet was no longer in a position to be used by the Lord. He had stopped doing the Lord's work. Faced with the changing times and the rampant idolatry, he went home and gave up instead of speaking out against it. But in some ways maybe the judgment of the old prophet was worse, because day and night for however long he lives he will know he is responsible for the death of a good man. He will bear the heavy burden of murderous guilt for the rest of his life. The most he can do to try and make up for it is give the man of God a proper burial in his own tomb. It's too late to do anything else for him.

"After burying him, he said to his sons, 'When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the message he declared by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.'" (1 Kings 13:31-32) The old prophet respects the man of God so much that he wants to be buried in the same tomb with him. After all, by the time the old prophet dies, there may not be many godly people left to share a tomb with. His own sons seem to be involved with the new ways, not the old ways. 

The king must have heard about all these happenings but none of it has any effect on him. "Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth." (1 Kings 13:33-34) 

When the prophecy of the man of God comes true in the time of King Josiah, the tomb mentioned today is still there. The king's zeal for the Lord is so great that he takes the bones of all the wicked priests out of their tombs and burns them on the pagan altar to defile it from further use. He then spots a particular tomb, "The king asked, 'What is that tombstone I see?' The people of the city said, 'It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.' 'Leave it alone,' he said. 'Don't let anyone disturb his bones.' So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria." (2 Kings 23:17-18) The man of God and the old prophet both sinned against the Lord, but neither renounced Him. Neither lost their salvation and their hope in the resurrection. But they did lose their ability to be useful for the kingdom of God. In Christ, we whom He has "saved to the uttermost" need not fear our salvation being wrenched away from us, but we do need to make sure we remain in a place of usefulness to our Lord. We need to be vigilant about maintaining our daily relationship with Him so we aren't deceived as the man of God and the old prophet were today. The man of God was deceived because he trusted in the words of the prophet more than he trusted in what the Lord had personally said to him. The old prophet was deceived because he had become spiritually lazy and had given up on doing anything else for the Lord in his later years. I don't believe either lost their salvation but they did endure discipline. This could be why we are never even told their names; the author of 1st Kings didn't feel they should be given the privilege of being named in the word of God. King Josiah, a man who turns the nation back to the Lord, shows these men honor by respecting their tombs and I don't think he would do so if he thought they were apostates. 

We will conclude with a passage written by the Apostle Paul who is speaking to those who are saved in Christ. He speaks of our works being judged, not our souls being judged. He speaks of reward and loss of reward, but not loss of salvation for the Christian. He says our works will be tested and, "If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15a)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 26. A Man Of God

Prophets And Kings
Day 26
A Man Of God

Jeroboam haves endorsed idolatry as the state religion of the ten northern tribes of Israel over which him is king. Him even instituted a festival that mimics the Feast of Tabernacles. Today the Lord sends a man to pronounce a future judgment for what is happenin on the godless altar at Bethel.

1 KINGS 13:1-10
When we finished Chapter 12 yesterday, Jeroboam had gone up to the golden calf at Bethel to perform offerings during his imitation of the Feast of Tabernacles. I can't help but recall that it was Israel's founder Jacob who named this place Bethel, meaning "house of God", and now the new king has desecrated it by performing sacrifice to false gods there. Today a prophet comes to deliver a dire message. "By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering." (1 Kings 13:1) The Bible doesn't name this prophet but he must have been a very brave man to make the trip from Judah into what has actually become enemy territory. It would seem that nobody from the ten tribes of Jeroboam's kingdom was willing or able to receive a word from the Lord so He had to send a man from Rehoboam's kingdom of Judah. 

"By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: 'Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: 'A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.' That same day the man of God gave a sign: 'This is the sign the Lord has declared: 'The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.'" (1 Kings 13:2-3) This is dreadful news to Jeroboam. The thing he fears most is losing the kingdom to the tribe of Judah and now this prophet declares that a king of Judah will rise up and tear down everything Jeroboam has established. The prophet doesn't provide a timeline for these events so Jeroboam doesn't know it won't happen in his lifetime, but we find the fulfillment of this prophecy in 2 Kings 23 when King Josiah renewed the covenant with the Lord, burned all the idols, killed the priests who were continuing Jeroboam's state-sanctioned idolatry, tore down the shrines of the temple prostitutes of the sex cults, and demolished all the high places where incense was burned to other gods. Even the wicked priests already dead didn't escape his wrath at Bethel, "Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things." (2 Kings 23:16) 

During the feast I imagine Jeroboam felt on top of the world until the prophet showed up. He had become king of a powerful nation. He had managed to prevent the people from going up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. He controlled most of the nation and he completely controlled the religion. But the words of the prophet strike fear in his heart. "When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, 'Seize him!' But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord." (1 Kings 13:4-5) Jeroboam wants the prophet silenced. He shuts his ears to God's warning. Although he doesn't know it will be several hundred years til the birth of Josiah, Jeroboam doesn't even consider repenting. For all he knows the prophecy could come true tomorrow but he doesn't want to hear the word of the Lord. The prophet Nehemiah will someday say, "For many years You were patient with them. By Your Spirit You warned them through the prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so You gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples." (Nehemiah 9:30) 

What mercy this is that the Lord would give the warning so many years in advance. He gave the people plenty of time and opportunities to repent but like Josiah they covered their ears at the word of God. Over and over again the Bible tells us that God is patient and longsuffering toward us. How many opportunities did He give us before we surrendered to Christ and were made into new creatures? How long did He have to deal with our spirits before we cast our idols aside and fell down at the feet of the one true God? I am thankful for the patience and longsuffering of God! He dealt with my spirit for a long time while I dug myself deeper and deeper into a pit of my own making. That whole time He was the still small voice whispering, "I'm here and I love you. Why not come to Me and be healed?" 

Satan tries his best to blind us to the joy and freedom we will find in Christ. He wants us to think of the Christian life as one of self-denial and deprivation. If Satan cannot entice us to worship him, the next best thing is to get us to worship ourselves. The biggest idol in the lives of the ten northern tribes in today's passage wasn't the golden calf. The true object of their worship was their own selves, their own desires. The sex cults didn't demand purity of them. This helped Satan to break down family units. The cult of Molek didn't place value on human love or human life, for they practiced child sacrifice. This helped Satan break down the natural affection parents should have for their children, causing mothers and fathers to choose themselves and their own prosperity over the lives of the fruit of their bodies. They could live any way they pleased as long as they burned incense at the proper times and brought the sacrifices they thought these pagan gods required of them. There was no holy God to deal with. They didn't have to listen to God saying, "You are not okay and what you're doing is not okay." There were so many gods of the nations around them that they could pick and choose which ones to serve. They could trade one for another if something didn't suit them. It was one size fits all. A person could customize their religious practices to suit their own particular weaknesses and sins. In our day in the United States we don't find much outright visible idolatry such as we find in the Bible, but all Satan has done is persuade us to trade in our old idols for new ones. Now we can worship at the altar of sex twenty four hours a day, even from our phones or our computers, even while standing in the checkout line at the grocery store gazing at the magazines on display. Now we can worship at the altar of material greed where it's acceptable to do anything we have to in order to get ahead. Now we can sacrifice our children to abortion on demand. Satan hasn't had to alter his tactics very much over the centuries; he simply became a little more subtle. We might not literally bow down to a golden calf in a pagan temple, but we can more discreetly bow down to anything that suits our fancy. Satan has told us time and again we should be "all about me", "if it feels good do it", "there is no God which means mankind never fell and doesn't need a Savior", "when you die you cease to exist; there's nobody to answer to." 

It's interesting that Jeroboam now asks for the prophet's help, but it's not help for the state of his spiritual condition. "Then the king said to the man of God, 'Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.' So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king's hand was restored and became as it was before." (1 Kings 13:6) The only thing Jeroboam desired was healing on the outside. We can look pretty good on the outside, but as the Lord Jesus said of the self-righteous Pharisees in Israel, "Inside you are full of greed and wickedness." (Luke 11:39b) I think Jeroboam was concerned with how weak he would look as a king with a withered hand. This prophet has already performed enough signs to prove that the Lord sent him and that the power of the Lord is with him, but these signs have no effect on the king or the people. We see the complete denunciation of the God of Israel in Jeroboam's heart when he calls Him "the Lord your God".

"The king said to the man of God, 'Come home with me for a meal, and I will give you a gift.'" (1 Kings 13:7) I don't know whether Jeroboam simply wants to reward the prophet for removing the stroke of God or whether he hopes to buy favor from him. 

"But the man of God answered the king, 'Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: 'You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.' So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel." (1 Kings 13:8-10) To go home with the king and eat at his table would detract from the message of God. It was important to end this meeting on a dramatic note rather than then going home and breaking bread with a wicked king. Plus it might appear that the prophet was somehow giving approval or consent to how Jeroboam was ruling the nation. The Lord was so displeased with the poisonous idolatry in the land that He told the prophet not even to take a drink of water there. 

We will see more of this prophet and also another prophet tomorrow. Today I'd like to focus on the mercy of God in sending the warning to Jeroboam's kingdom so far ahead of the judgment. I'd like to focus on how our idols will always disappoint us and leave us empty. At one time, living in sin and opposition to God, I made myself a god in my own eyes. I clung to things that were worthless and harmful, thinking I had freedom when instead I was enslaved. On a radio episode of Focus On The Family I believe it was the stepson of the late C S Lewis who said that before he came to Christ, he was his own god, which meant he had a fool for a god. I can relate to that, having had fools for gods in the past. The wisest choice we will ever make is coming to Christ and allowing Him to set us free and make us whole. I've never heard heard anyone say they regretted that.

Below is a song about casting out our idols.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 25. Two Golden Calves

Prophets And Kings
Day 25
Two Golden Calves

Jeroboam is king over the ten northern tribes of Israel. When the Lord previously spoke to him through the prophet Ahijah, God told Jeroboam if he obeyed Him, Him woulds give him as great a dynasty as that of David. But we finds out today that Jeroboam tries to keep the hearts of the people wif him by playin on theirs weakness for idolatry. 

1 KINGS 12:25-33
Yesterday Rehoboam had to flee to Jerusalem in his chariot when he attempted to have his tax man Adoniram collect the taxes the people were protesting. Adoniram was seized by the people and stoned to death and since then Rehoboam has remained at Jerusalem. Jeroboam needs to set up a capitol for his kingdom and he builds himself a place at Shechem. "Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel." (1 Kings 12:25) He has chosen two strategic cities as fortress cities, for Shechem was vitally important to his trade route and Peniel was near the entry point to Egypt.

Rather than settling down to govern properly as God's chosen man over the northern tribes, Jeroboam frets in his heart about losing the support of the people. He doesn't have the faith to do what God asked him to do, "If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to Me and do what is right in My eyes by obeying My decrees and commands, as David My servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you." (1 Kings 11:38) God made this man a great promise and all he has to do to retain control of the kingdom is obey the Lord. Instead Jeroboam makes a terrible choice because of his fears. "Jeroboam thought to himself, 'The kingdom will not likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Jeroboam." (1 Kings 12:26-27) It's at this point we may wish we could shake Jeroboam and ask him, "Did you not hear anything the Lord said to you? He said He will be with you if  you obey Him." But then we have to step back and think about the times we ourselves have doubted God's word. I think that's when we make some of our most regrettable mistakes, when we walk in fear instead of faith. 

Jeroboam is concerned because the temple is at Jerusalem in Rehoboam's territory. Jewish men were required to attend three holy festivals a year there, plus Jerusalem is the place God designated for sacrifices and offerings. Jeroboam doesn't trust the Lord to keep the people true to him while making these journeys. Jerusalem is Rehoboam's capitol and Jeroboam thinks this will give the king of Judah an opportunity to win the people back. 

King Rehoboam chose some unwise advisers in yesterday's passage, but he isn't the only man in 1st Kings to choose unwise advisers. "After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other." (1 Kings 12:28-30) Jeroboam could have set up a religious capitol in Shechem to worship the God of Israel, although this still would have been a violation, because in Chapter 12 of Deuteronomy the Lord commanded that the people bring their sacrifices and offerings to the place He would choose in the promised land, and that place is Jerusalem. Rather than trusting God and allowing the people to go up to Jerusalem as He commanded, Jeroboam does away with the real God who brought them out of Egypt. He essentially sets up a state religion and that religion is idolatry. Having spent some time in Egypt, he casts two golden calves similar to the bull deity Aphis of Egypt. This is ironic when we consider that the symbol he uses for deliverance from Egypt is actually a symbol of the godlessness and oppression of Egypt.

In his attempt to make normal the complete transfer of worship to these golden images, Jeroboam quotes the words of Moses' brother Aaron, the words Aaron spoke after casting the golden calf, "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." (Exodus 32:4b) He seems to be trying to convince them that he's simply taking them back to their roots, not instituting a new religion altogether. He's trying to make them comfortable with the change. 

"Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites." (1 Kings 12:31) Only the tribe of Levi was chosen to serve as priests before the Lord but Jeroboam ignores this statute. The tribe of Levi was part of his kingdom but I think it's possible it was difficult to persuade the Levites to serve as priests before the golden calves. It could be they balked at such apostasy and Jeroboam had to choose men from other tribes, but the Bible does not say whether this was the case. 

"He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made." (1 Kings 12:31-32) This festival imitates the Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem at the same time. Lest the people be tempted to go up and observe the true feast where God's temple is, Jeroboam made it very convenient for the northern tribes to remain in their own territory and observe a counterfeit feast. What an abomination this is! But as we noted during our study of Revelation, Satan always tries to imitate the things of Christ. He imitates them in order to substitute something else for them. The last thing Satan wants is for us to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, so he devises all sorts of distractions and substitutions.

"On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings." (1 Kings 12:33) The author is careful to tell us this practice is "of his own choosing", because Jeroboam is not acting in accordance with the laws and commandments of the Lord. 

Solomon began the practice of introducing idolatry to Israel and Jeroboam has completely surrendered himself and the nation to idolatry. This is the legacy Solomon has left behind. He set up a system which led the nation into temptation by allowing his many foreign wives to have pagan altars and shrines to their gods. What he began, Jeroboam expands upon. 

The legacy we leave behind is very important. Here in the United States we often hear of presidential legacies. Some of our presidents instituted valuable things during their time in office. Some left us in appalling debt. Some cost us a great deal of money and a great deal of lives in wars. But as Christians, our legacy is even more important than that of a president. What do we leave behind? What examples do we set for those coming after us? As Solomon learned late in his life, only what we have done for the kingdom of Christ truly matters. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 24. Rebellion Against King Rehoboam

Prophets And Kings
Day 24
Rebellion Against King Rehoboam

We studied the death of King Solomon yesterday and now hims son Rehoboam is on the throne.But as foretold by the Lord, Rehoboam's kingdom will not remain united. The division of the kingdom is discipline for the sins of idolatry but also we will find that Rehoboam himself is not a wise king and is not capable of leadin the nation.

1 KINGS 12:1-24
"Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.'" (1 Kings 12:1-4) Some commentaries mention the fact that Shechem is in the northern territory of Israel and that it seems in order to be declared a legitimate king, Rehoboam had to travel to the territory of those who are not really for him. A prophet in Chapter 11 declared that Jeroboam would become the king of the ten northern tribes which is why Solomon tried to have him killed, causing him to flee to Egypt. Now that Solomon is dead he comes back, ready to run for election on a platform of tax relief. The request of the people is a thinly veiled threat because what they are really saying is that they will only serve Rehoboam if he lightens their taxes. 

"Rehoboam answered, 'Go away for three days and then come back to me.' So the people went away. Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. 'How would you advise me to answer these people?' he asked. They replied, 'If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.'" (1 Kings 12:5-6) Solomon's advisers must have been very wise men because I can't imagine someone as wise as Solomon keeping officials near him who lacked good discernment. These men are also elders, experienced men who know what they're talking about, and they urge Rehoboam to have a servant's heart toward the people. David, the shepherd king, had a servant's heart. When the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, came in the flesh He had a servant's heart. It's difficult to rule wisely if we have not first learned how to serve wisely.

But these elders haven't told Rehoboam what he wants to hear. He has a prideful heart. He likely has a greedy heart too, since he doesn't want to lift the heavy tax burden from the people. Solomon had instituted a steep rate of taxation in order to fund his many building projects and now that they are finished, Rehoboam wants to keep the excess for himself. "But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, 'What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us?' The young men who had grown up with him replied, 'These people have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.' Now tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'" (1 Kings 12:8-11) These young men are just as foolish and inexperienced as Rehoboam. They advise him to punish the people for asking for help so that they will not ask again. How dare they come to the king on his first day on the job and ask for tax relief? He is to say, "If you thought my father was tough, wait til you see how tough I am. You haven't seen anything yet! My father was a mighty and powerful king but I'm an even bigger man than he was."

"Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, 'Come back to me in three days.' The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, 'My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite." (1 Kings 12:12-15) Respect is something that has to be earned; it can't be commanded although Rehoboam attempts to command it. In his pride he must have felt it would make him look weak to begin his reign by cutting taxes. He feels insulted that the first order of business he has to deal with involves the people expecting him to ask less of them than his father asked. His actions are setting everything in place for a rebellion against the throne. The Bible tells us "this turn of events was from the Lord". The Lord didn't cause Rehoboam to be a foolish man. The Lord didn't force Rehoboam to make a bad decision. But the Lord knows us all even before we are born and He knows our character and He knows everything we will ever do. Somehow, even though we can't quite understand it, the Lord works together His perfect plans and our imperfect plans in order to accomplish His purposes. For the sake of the Lord's servant David, He kept the promise to leave Solomon on the throne for life, but the Lord knew Rehoboam was not a wise man and would not be a good king. This is why the Lord already had a man prepared the lead the tribes that will rebel against Rehoboam.

"When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: 'What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse's son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!' So the Israelites went home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them." (1 Kings 12:16-17) The people quote the words of Sheba, a man who led a rebellion against David in 2 Samuel 20. The ten northern tribes take their allegiance from the house of David and reject Rehoboam as king. Only David's own tribe of Judah, which also includes the tiny tribe of Benjamin, remain faithful to David and to his descendants.

Rehoboam doesn't intend to allow such disrespect so he sends out his tax collector. The NIV renders this man's title as being in charge of forced labor, while other versions render his title as being in charge of taxes. "King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day." (1 Kings 12:18-19) Rehoboam has to make a hasty and undignified exit when this situation turns bad.

"When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." (1 Kings 12:20) It didn't take long for Rehoboam to lose control of the nation. He is the only son of Solomon ever mentioned in the Bible and some commentators have suggested Solomon only fathered one son. With one thousand wives and concubines we would expect Solomon to have thousands of children, many of them male, but we have to consider the possibility that for all his sexual activity he was almost infertile. Or maybe he carried very few Y-chromosomes and produced only daughters and this one son. If either of those things is true, we have a clue as to why he took so many wives and concubines, because in ancient times infertility or the inability to produce a male heir was blamed on the woman. In those days nobody knew the science behind such problems, so Solomon may have thought he had the bad luck to marry many barren women or women who could only have daughters, not suspecting anything was wrong with his own fertility. If he had only this one son, it also explains why he chose the foolish Rehoboam to succeed him as king. We wouldn't expect a man with the wisdom of Solomon to choose unwisely when selecting the future king, but if he only had one son then he only had one choice. The book of Proverbs seems to be an instruction manual for his son and I can't help but wonder if it was Solomon's attempt to impart wisdom to a son who didn't naturally possess it. 

"When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin---a hundred and eighty thousand able young men---to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon." (1 Kings 12:21) This is civil war and Rehoboam intends to squash the rebellion.

"But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God. 'Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, 'This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is My doing.' So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered." (1 Kings 12:22-23) It isn't the Lord's will for the nation to be put back together. He is carrying out His prophetic words and if Judah and Benjamin go up against Israel they will be defeated. There's no sense in pointless bloodshed. This Shemaiah must be a highly respected man of God because the people take his advice to heart. They treat his word as the word of God Himself. Many lives are saved by obeying what the Lord tells them through the prophet.

With every successive generation, the faith of David is being watered down. His son Solomon lacked David's steadfast faith. Rehoboam doesn't appear to possess really any faith at all. Sadly, the man who now leads the ten northern tribes will also not be a godly man. God's discipline is about to come down on the idolatrous ways of the nation and He will use some bad leaders to impart this discipline. Here in an election year, it's something to think about that God often uses bad leaders to discipline nations that have strayed from Him. We may or may not be happy with the current administration. We may or may not be happy with the next administration. But what if it's discipline because the USA is turning away from her Christian beginnings? I think we need to pray more and more for our nation and for its people, that there would be a major turning back to God and to His word. Who knows what discipline might be averted if God's people pray for our country?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 23. Solomon's Death

Prophets And Kings
Day 23
Solomon's Death

Yesterday we learned that a prophet of God met Solomon's official Jeroboam to tell him that God weres goin to divide the kingdom and make Jeroboam king over ten tribes. Solomon falls to the low depths of King Saul by tryin to haves this rival killed. Immediately after this event, the author records the death of Solomon.

1 KINGS 11:40-43
Word must have gotten out that God intends to hand over the kingdom to Jeroboam later when Solomon's son sits on the throne, for Solomon tries to have Jeroboam killed. The reason for wrenching the kingdom away from the house of Solomon during the days of his son is because Solomon has brought idolatry into Israel and has caused the people to stray from the faith. This is a dreadful sin to lead others astray. The Lord Jesus had harsh words for anyone who causes someone new in the faith or someone weak in the faith to stumble, "If anyone causes one of these little ones---those who believe in Me---to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42) The Lord spoke of believers as little ones and children, similar to the way the Apostle John spoke to believers, calling them little children and dear children. Solomon was in a position of authority over the entire nation and he set a terrible example of not being faithful to the God of Israel, and he caused the citizens to stumble in their faith. 

Although Solomon has to know the downfall of the kingdom is his own fault, much like King Saul he places the blame on the man who will later sit on the throne. Just as Saul hated David and wanted him dead, Solomon hates Jeroboam and wants him dead. "Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon's death." (1 Kings 11:40) Only a few pharaohs of Egypt are named in the Bible and I believe this is the first one mentioned by name. The Egyptian version of his name is Sheshonq I and there are records in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles that after Jeroboam returns to Israel, the pharaoh sees a good opportunity to attack the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. There are still-existing Egyptian records of the many military conquests of Sheshonq I and they include forays into Judah and the area of Megiddo in northern Israel. We don't know if the man known in Hebrew as Shishak was the father of Solomon's Egyptian wife and I was unable to find out in my research. There are several different opinions of who Solomon's father-in-law was. I think it's unlikely that he was Shishak for several reasons. If he was old enough to have a daughter of marriageable age when Solomon took the throne, he was likely quite a bit older than Solomon. Solomon reigned for forty years so I doubt Shishak is the pharaoh who led the major military exploits against Israel and Judah during the time of Solomon's son Rehoboam. Shishak is probably the pharaoh who came to power after Solomon's father-in-law died. It's very difficult to align pharaohs mentioned in the Bible (often without names) with the Egyptian records because the Bible tends to give few clues about the identities of most of the pharaohs mentioned there. 

The author doesn't tell us how long Jeroboam lived in Egypt while he waited for Solomon to die. The death of Solomon is related to us right after telling us he tried to have Jeroboam killed, but there may have been a passage of time in between, maybe even a lengthy passage of time. What's interesting to me is that after the downfall into idolatry and after the downfall into a murderous plot, we are told no further accomplishments of Solomon. He may very well have repented in his old age as the book of Ecclesiastes seems to suggest, but I think God was no longer able to use him as a spiritual leader. I think Solomon had lost his ability to give a testimony and be a witness for the Lord because he had set such a terrible spiritual example in the public eye. He had no credibility left. Have you ever known anyone who lived a long life of excess and waste, using and abusing everyone around them, and then later they converted and tried to force everyone around them to convert? Their faith may be genuine but the people they harmed through the years are suspicious of the person's newfound faith. They think it's just one more crazy episode in that person's life, like a fad or an obsession. This might have been how the nation would have regarded Solomon if he suddenly stood up near the end of his life and tore down all the pagan altars of Israel and passed laws that nobody could worship any god but the God of their father Abraham. Even if Solomon could command people to worship only at the temple, it would be impossible for him to make the hearts of the people return to the one true God. He could have forced them to go through the motions but he couldn't force them to believe. It was probably during these final years that Solomon reflected on his life and realized everything he'd done without God was meaningless. This is likely when he wrote the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. 

"As for the other events of Solomon's reign---all he did and all the wisdom he displayed---are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon?" (1 Kings 11:41) 2 Chronicles 9:29 puts it like this, "As for the other events of Solomon's reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat?" Unfortunately, the books mentioned here are lost. Apparently they gave details in addition to what the author of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles had to say about Solomon.

"Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 11:42) We don't know the age of Solomon at his death because we were never told his age when he ascended to the throne. It's estimated he became king somewhere from his late teens to early twenties, so he may have been about sixty at his death. That isn't elderly by today's standards but it was a long life for a man of his time, when the average life expectancy for an adult male of comfortable income would be about forty-five to sixty. Given Solomon's tendency to excess, he may have shortened his life with the plentiful wine and abundant rich foods, not to mention all his womanizing. 

It's been hard to get a real sense of Solomon's personality. We've been given a lot of detail and insight into other characters we've studied and it made me sad to say goodbye to some of those good guys like King David and Jacob's son Joseph and Saul's son Jonathan. We've gotten a better sense of the personalities of some of the villains of Scripture than we've gotten of Solomon, such as King Saul and David's shrewd and cold-blooded nephew Joab. I don't want to give the impression I think Solomon was all bad, for he's a highly-revered character of the Bible. His wisdom was real wisdom given by God. No king was ever like him when it came to making good decisions in the judgment hall. He had honorable intentions when he began his reign as a young man and it was the disobedient marriages with pagan women that turned him away from the right path. Like all of us, he had weaknesses. There were certain things and certain situations that really tempted him. Your weakness might not be my weakness. My weakness might not be your weakness. But Solomon's weakness was women and he loved them to the point of doing anything to please them, including building altars to false gods for them. He could have insisted they convert to his own religion but I suppose whenever those beautiful women batted their eyes at him and cried soft tears of distress over abandoning their fertility goddesses and cult symbols, he gave in and let them have what they wanted. One little sin after another piled up, slowly and over time, and probably he didn't realize just how far he'd fallen into trouble until he was in trouble up to his neck. 

The best way to get some idea of what Solomon was really like at heart in his later years is to read the books he wrote. He is the author of one of the most familiar passages of Scripture, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6) Solomon is giving good advice to his son based on bitter experience. Solomon made some bad mistakes and hopes to prevent his son from making bad mistakes. He now knows the value of giving the Lord "all your heart" and that the best thing to do is submit "all your ways" to Him. 

Solomon warns his son, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23) He is saying, "Guard your heart, my son, from the lusts of this world. Don't let anyone or anything turn you away from the Lord. Don't let anyone or anything into your heart that doesn't belong there. Opening your heart to what is wrong will affect everything you do."

Solomon wrote a verse that has given hope to many a godly parent whose child seems to have strayed from the faith, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." (Proverbs 22:6) This verse gives me hope for Solomon as well, because I think we can be certain David started his son off on the way he should go. Now that David's son is old, he remembers the lessons of his youth. He remembers the faith of his father. He wants David's faith to be his faith.

Solomon has made many mistakes but he has also learned that the Lord is merciful. "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Proverbs 28:13) Aren't we all thankful for that? Hidden sin gnaws at us. It makes us sick inside like a disease. The longer we hide it the worse we feel. But when we come humbly before our God to confess and renounce our sins, we find mercy. 

There are a lot of characters in the Bible who found mercy in the Lord. Just think about all the sins some of the best known characters committed, yet they turned to the Lord and found mercy. The Bible is full of liars, adulterers, murderers, blasphemers, and idolaters. But the Bible is also full of grace and redemption. When Solomon was born we are told "the Lord loved him". (2 Samuel 12:35a) Solomon had not yet done anything good or bad but the Lord loved him. The Lord knew everything Solomon would ever do but He loved him. The same could be said of all of us. When we are born, without having yet done anything good or bad, the Lord loves us. From the creation of the universe, the Lord knew everything each of us would ever do but He loved us anyway. He gave Himself for us anyway. He looked down on us in our wretched sins, at our lies and thievery and covetousness and lust and hate, and His heart hurt for us. The Lord loved us so much that He made a way for us to confess and renounce our sins and find mercy. 

Solomon learned all his lessons the hard way. So have I. I've often said that everything I ever learned was the hard way. Maybe some of you could say the same. But if the Lord was willing to be a Redeemer to these scoundrels in the Bible, why would He refuse mercy to any of us? A man who called himself the "chief of sinners", a man who was responsible for the imprisonment and death of Christian believers, assures us that the Lord extends mercy to every one of us through Christ and that all we have to do is give Him our hearts and be made whole. The death our Redeemer died for us was enough to pay our every debt. "For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy," the Apostle Paul says in Hebrews 10:14. We are being made holy. The improvement to our character is an ongoing process as we walk with the Lord Jesus day by day. Solomon messed up in some big ways but at the end of his life he returned to the Lord and got on with the process of being made holy. We are saved the day we come to Christ, but becoming more and more like Him is a daily dying to self and a daily submission to Him. Its a daily taking up of our cross and following Him. Solomon laid down his cross for a time. Many of us have. But what counts as we study the life of Solomon is that, at the end, he took it up again. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 22. The End Of Peace

Prophets And Kings
Day 22
The End Of Peace

Solomon haves enjoyed peace on every side while him haves been on the throne, but thats about to change. The Lord is angry wif him for buildin altars to pagan gods and for being a bad influence on the nation.

1 KINGS 11:14-40
"Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom. Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men of Edom. Joab and all the Israelites had stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men of Edom. But Hadad, still only a boy, fled to Egypt with some Edomite officials who had served his father. They set out from Midian and went to Paran. Then taking people from Paran with them, they went to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave Hadad a house and land and provided him with food." (1 Kings 11:14-18) The Bible doesn't tell us exactly how Hadad brings trouble to Solomon's kingdom, but it seems he went there to avenge the deaths of his people. He may have stirred up the people somehow to rebel against the throne, but the details are not given to us. 

"Pharaoh was so pleased with Hadad that he gave him a sister of his own wife, Queen Tahpenes, in marriage. The sister of Tahpenes bore him a son named Genubath, whom Tahpenes brought up in the royal palace. There Genubath lived with Pharaoh's own children." (1 Kings 11:19-20) This pharaoh must have been as pleased with Hadad as a pharaoh of Genesis was with Joseph. Apparently Hadad held a high position, so much so that he became part of Pharaoh's family.

"While he was in Egypt, Hadad heard that David rested with his ancestors and that Joab the commander of the army was also dead. The Hadad said to Pharaoh, 'Let me go, that I may return to my own country.' 'What have you lacked here that you want to go back to your own country?' Pharaoh asked. 'Nothing,' Hadad replied, 'but do let me go!'" (1 Kings 11:21-22) Hadad hears that the warrior king David and his mighty army commander Joab are both dead. Since this pharaoh is probably the same one whose daughter married Solomon, or the pharaoh who reigned right after him, it's easy to see how news from Israel traveled fast to Egypt. There was a political alliance in those days.

"And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, Hadadezer king of Zobah. When David destroyed Zobah's army, Rezon gathered a band of men around him and became their leader; they went to Damascus, where they settled and took control. Rezon was Israel's adversary as long as Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Hadad. So Rezon ruled in Aram and was hostile toward Israel." (1 Kings 11:23-25) This man, along with Hadad, sees his chance to strike back at Israel now that the fierce king David is dead. We have seen that Solomon is a lover, not a fighter, and he may have appeared weak to the enemies of Israel. Men who were afraid to make trouble while David sat on the throne are much bolder now.

"Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon's officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah." (1 Kings 11:26) It's bad enough when we are troubled by people we already know don't like us. It's worse when somebody we consider a friend, a family member, or a countryman troubles us. Solomon could reasonably expect to be attacked from the outside, but he probably didn't see Jeroboam's treachery coming. This is a trusted official and a citizen of Israel and Solomon was likely quite shocked when Jeroboam turned against him. It's my opinion that the Lord brought these troubles on him to bring him to repentance. They were intended as discipline. So far the troublemakers of other nations have had no effect on Solomon's sinful attitude, so now he is betrayed by one of his own people.

"Here is the account of how he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father. Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph." (1 Kings 11:27-28) Impressed by Jeroboam's work, Solomon had promoted him to a very high position. Solomon would then expect gratitude from this man, not treachery. But we will see in a minute that the treachery is all part of God's plan and that He intends to raise Jeroboam to an even higher position. 

A meeting with a prophet is evidently the turning point in Jeroboam's life. It's what sets up the rebellion that comes to a head during the reign of Solomon's son. "About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, 'Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of My servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. I will do this because they have forsaken Me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to Me, nor done what is right in My eyes, nor kept My decrees and laws as David, Solomon's father, did.'" (1 Kings 11:29-33) Solomon is responsible for the rampant idolatry in Israel. He built a magnificent temple for the Lord but he also built altars for the pagan gods of his foreign wives, thus giving governmental endorsement and legitimacy to these false religions. As leader of the nation, this is a particularly grievous sin. If it had not been for God's promise to David, I believe He would have taken Solomon off the throne right then and there. But God never breaks a promise and so the kingdom will be divided after Solomon's death. The ten northern kingdoms will rebel against the king, becoming known as Israel, and the two southern kingdoms of Judah and Benjamin will become Judah, the only tribe still loyal to the house of David. The tribe of Benjamin was so small it was absorbed into Judah and was called by the same name.

"'But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon's hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David My servant, whom I chose and who obeyed My commands and decrees. I will take the kingdom from his son's hand and give you ten tribes. I will give one tribe to his son so that David My servant will always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put My name. However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to Me and do what is right in My eyes by obeying My decrees and commands, as David My servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. I will humble David's descendants because of this, but not forever.'" (1 Kings 11:34-39) This must have been quite a revelation. Jeroboam went from simply working on the fortress walls to being commander of all the labor and now this prophet tells him he will become king of Israel. As we continue on in our study we will see this prophecy come true.

At many points along the way, Solomon has had opportunities to repent. He could have torn down the altars and forbidden the citizens of Israel to sacrifice or make offerings to foreign gods. He could have insisted his wives and concubines convert to the God of Israel. He could have made certain his children were raised in the faith. His public endorsement of idol worship has led the nation astray. If the king can bow down in a pagan temple, so can they. They can now disregard and disrespect the God of their father Abraham because the king has done so. The rules and regulations of false gods are far more lax. The foreign gods don't expect the same level of personal responsibility and personal relationship. As long as the people bring the proper offerings, they can live however they please. The God of Israel wants their hearts, not their offerings. He wants to be their Father. And like a good Father, He sets rules for his children for their own good. Getting mixed up in the sex cult of the fertility goddess Ashtoreth was abhorrent to a holy God. Having anything to do with the cult of Molek was an abomination to God, for the followers of Molek engaged in human sacrifices which involved the killing of children and then burning them in a large metal furnace in the shape of their detestable god. Something has to be done and Solomon has to be held accountable for the downfall of God's people. 

We are never told when or how Solomon repents but it is assumed by many Bible scholars that he did, possibly close to his time of death. They point to the fact that nowhere in later Scripture is Solomon spoken of as a man who went into perdition. Also, the fact that his writings included in the Bible are considered the inspired word of God implies that he did not die in apostasy. He is revered as the greatest and wisest king of Israel and nowhere is it ever suggested that he died a lost sinner. However, one thing we do know is that he started out well and ended poorly. Because he allowed his heart to be led astray, he caused citizens of Israel to be led astray, and he bears a great deal of responsibility for that as their leader. His glorious and peaceful reign ends with rebellion coming at him from all sides, along with a dire warning from a prophet of God. The glory of his kingdom is short-lived because he failed to walk in obedience to the Lord as commanded. He could have had it all, and for a while it seemed like he did have it all, but somewhere along the way he left God behind. By the time he returns to Him, the damage to the nation is done. God cannot let them go undisciplined because if He does there will be no end to their turning away. They will fall more and more into idolatry and become just like the pagan nations around them. For their own good God must bring trouble on them so they will return to Him.

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)