Monday, July 17, 2017

Solomon’s Example

When Solomon became king of Israel, I Kings 3:3-9 describes his attitude.  “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.

And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.  And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.   Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? “ 

When Solomon first became king, he loved the Lord, following the principles David had given based on the Old Testament Law.  As a result, God appeared to him, asking what he would like as king.  Solomon humbly requested wisdom, so that he could understand what was good or bad to properly lead God’s people.    I Kings 3:10-14 describes God’s response. 

“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.  And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.  And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.  And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” 

Because of his desire to do what was right, God promised to bless him immensely.   With this in mind, is seems shocking that about twenty five years later, in I Kings 11:11, God told Solomon, “…Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.” 

The change was not a result of a single action by Solomon but resulted from and ongoing pattern of behavior.   Let’s start by looking again at I Kings 3:3. “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.”  Notice that the only problem mentioned with his initial attitude was he was offering on high places, contrary to the command in Deuteronomy 12:13-14.  “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.”   It didn’t seem like a very big thing and Solomon didn’t take that command seriously, especially since Israel had been doing it for hundreds of years.   

As a demonstration of his love for God, Solomon built the temple, as described in I Kings 6:37-38.  “In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the LORD laid, in the month Zif: And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.” 

Unfortunately, as much as he loved the Lord, Solomon’s primary focus was on his own desires rather than God.    I Kings 7:1-2 tells us, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.  He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…”    He spent more than twice as much time and effort on his own house and businesses.    Because of that attitude, Solomon disobeyed God in other areas as well.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-19, God commanded, “When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:  That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” 

Their king was not to flaunt his wealth and power by trading with the Egyptians for huge amounts of horses and chariots or marring a lot of wives or accumulating a lot of wealth.  There was the very real danger that in doing so, they would get proud and trust their own power and wealth rather than God.  Instead the king should spend his time reviewing what God had said to make sure he obeyed.  Solomon disobeyed this command on all counts as I Kings 10:26-11:2 tells us. 

“And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.  And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the vale, for abundance.  And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.  And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. “

God had specifically forbade making treaties or intermarrying with the people of Canaan because it  would result in the Jews being turned away from God, in Exodus 34:12.  “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.” Solomon totally ignored that warning intermarrying and making treaties with every one of those groups and the results were exactly what God warned, according to I Kings 11:4-8. 

“ For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.  Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.  And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”

Because he was more concerned with getting his own way than pleasing God, God withdrew his blessings as  I Kings 11:9-11 tells us.  “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.  Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.”  The last 10 -15 years of Solomon’s reign were filled with more fighting and conflict than all the first 25 years combined and when he died, the kingdom broke up with only one tribe remaining to his family, just as God had promised.

If we are to receive the maximum benefit of God’s promises, we need to follow all his commands completely.  Failure to do so will not cost us our salvation, but it will cost many of the blessings, just as it did to Solomon.   We must not think we can ignore his commands without suffering the consequences, no matter how spiritually strong we may be.    

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