One of the most pathetic figures in the Bible is King Solomon. His life, begun with incredible promise, ended with incredible grief. Overwhelmingly blessed on the outside, his soul increasingly languished.
I believe there is a lesson in Solomon’s life for American Christians that I pray we heed. Consider how much God favored this man:
- We are told of the newborn Solomon, “Because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah,” which means “loved by the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:25 NIV).
- Of all David’s sons, God chose Solomon, the son of Bathsheba, to succeed David on the throne of Israel and to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:9-10).
- While we never read of God talking directly to David, God appeared to Solomon twice. The first was in a dream when God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). What an amazing thing for God to say to a sinful human!
- God gave Solomon what he asked for: wisdom in leadership and governance. But He gave him so much more: wealth, riches, honor. And God promised that if Solomon would walk in His ways and obey His statutes and commands, He would also give Solomon long life (1 Kings 3:13-14).
True to His word, God richly blessed Solomon: “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart” (1 Kings 10:23-24).
How I wish we could end the story here! I’m sure God intended for him to go down in history as the greatest king ever. But Satan also had a plan for him. And Solomon didn’t protect himself from the designs of the devil, or of the world or the flesh (our enemies as well).
It probably started very small, with a failure to obey God in “little things.” But sin is like fire, and what starts as a little spark ultimately becomes a conflagration that consumes us.
Let’s look at the progression of sin in Solomon’s life, often a direct violation of God’ explicit law for kings, found in Deuteronomy 17:
- Verse 16 says Israel’s king “must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them.” But Solomon “accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses . . . imported from Egypt” (1 Kings 10:26, 28).
- Verse 17 says the king “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” Most of us know that “he had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray” (1 Kings 11:3). He actually built altars to foreign gods in Jerusalem, for his wives and for himself.
- Verse 17 also says the king “must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” But Solomon “made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones” (2 Chronicles 1:15).
Solomon wrote many proverbs, which are wonderful ancient “tweets” about wisdom. But, as time went on, his pride likely blinded him to God’s instruction and led to his downfall, like he himself predicted would happen: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:7, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” We are always to seek wisdom, but never to think we have arrived. By his flagrant disobedience, wise Solomon played the fool.
American Christians may not be as wealthy or as wise as Solomon. But compared to the rest of the world, we live a very comfortable lifestyle.
As such, we can be drawn toward the sense of entitlement, pride, and superiority Solomon had. How can we avoid his tragic results?
- Recognize that we are most vulnerable when we feel we have everything under control. Pain is a friend to lead us to dependency on God, while comfort can lead to arrogant complacency.
- Beware of treating God’s grace as license to sin. “I’ll give God 99 percent; that’s better than most do. It’s only a little sin!” Unfortunately, Satan is content to take a millimeter a day, until we wind up far from the Lord.
- Be sure you have a small group with whom you are honest. We need the body of Christ! When (not if) you are tempted, humble yourself and seek prayer and counsel from others. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
- Bear in mind that, while we can fool others, we can never fool God. He warns us of the consequences of disobedience: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Our gracious God loves to bless us, and someday in eternity we will enjoy all of His riches. But for now, surrounded by enemies, we need to keep persevering, with our eyes fixed on Him.
Finally, what is true for us as individuals is also true for us as a nation. National revival will only happen as we corporately forsake our pride and comfort-seeking; as we choose to love Him, proving our love by obedience; and as together we continually cry out to God in humble, repentant, desperate prayer.