I don’t quite understand it. Everyone knows that King Solomon was the wisest man in the Old Testament. Yet, he had the most precipitous moral freefall of all the kings.
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The early Solomon loved God. “Now Solomon loved the Lord” (1 Kings 3:3).
But the later Solomon was out of control morally: “Now Solomon loved many foreign women.” “Solomon held fast to these in love” (1 Kings 11:1,2). What went wrong?
In fact, the marital alliances he made with the daughters of foreign kings, plus all the other wives and concubines he acquired, were of Olympic proportions. “He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines” (11:3). For those who have trouble keeping up with one wife, this seems daunting, to say the least!
The man who had been given wisdom as a gift by God and was considered the wisest man of all time before Christ, who wrote thousands of proverbs, was skilled in music and science, built the kingdom of Israel up to its most productive GDP, and to whom God appeared twice, had an affection problem. The Bible records it this way: “and his wives turned his heart away” (11:4).
Poignantly, the writer of the history of Israel said:
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites . . . . Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus Solomon did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.” (11:4-8)
On a mountain overlooking Mount Zion where Solomon constructed the impressive Temple to Jehovah, high places for all these gods were smoking with the incense and sacrifices of the gods of the nations. It was a visible triumph for Evil.
Did God just overlook Solomon’s multiple marriages and sexual exploits because he was a king and this is what kings do? Not at all. The Bible records that “the Lord was very angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing” (11:9-10).
God said: “Because you have done this . . . I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.”
So God raised up adversaries to Solomon and eventually, in the rule of his son as God had prophesied, the kingdom of Israel was divided into the southern and northern kingdoms—a sad day for everyone because of one man’s sin.
What can we learn from Solomon?
Solomon had spiritual riches, not to mention physical ones. He was immensely blessed by God. There are few men who are such illustrations of blessing like Solomon. Among the greatest of his blessings was the gift of wisdom to rule the people of Israel. God gave him this when He appeared to him at Gibeon. And how he used this wisdom! But wisdom for ruling was not the same as wisdom for his personal life, it appears. We should never think that just because God has blessed us that we are free to allow our heart to be turned from God. Dangers are everywhere for blessed men and women, and in some ways such believers become pet projects for the enemy.
Whenever we read of the moral failure of an otherwise godly man or woman, don’t think that it is something that happened without any background leading up to it. In almost every case, the downfall came after neglecting the heart, or failing to be fully devoted to God in such simple matters of discipline as meditating on the Bible, vital Christian fellowship, and prayer. In fact, sinful reversals may come to people who are blessed with benefits most Christians would envy if it were not wrong to do so, such as loving, responsive families, eager disciples, spiritual responsibilities, and a heritage of Christian service.
I often pray, “Lord, let me die in integrity.” I have learned through watching many blessed men and women facing temptation, that a backlog of blessings provides no guarantee that I will always make the right choices. If it can happen to Solomon, it can happen to me.
Similarly, when they have walked with the Lord for a long time, many men and women find themselves careless about their walk with God. It is a deadly mistake. Paul wrote, many years after Solomon, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Solomon is the proof that this statement is accurate, and so are thousands of otherwise godly men and women who went down morally because they were lax about their love for God. Although there is forgiveness from God even for the worst offenses, there are also severe consequences. And, a perpetually careless state is even more problematic, for it may reveal that you never were God’s child in the first place. Not every old man or women is saintly, even if he or she looks the part. And men or women who might otherwise sin even more wickedly, may not do so now, only because they are unable. Watch yourselves as you grow older.
As you visit the retirement home to worship with all the white-haired people who have come out for the Sunday church meeting, remind yourself: These people may be some of the most wicked people in the world, because age and religion, without true devotion to Christ, only makes men and women worse. Their heart points the way. A man who had a remarkable Christian testimony and was respected by his wife as a Christian gentleman and excellent example of faithfulness, was caught by his wife in his older years in an addiction to pornography on the internet. His mental harem was akin to Solomon’s, yet in his case, he was unable to fulfill his desires.
All true older believers who have sinned foolishly in their latter years, yet, due to God’s transforming grace have returned to the Lord, will tell you: Watch yourself; you can’t just coast the rest of the way in!
Solomon was a great writer on moral themes. Remember his striking rendition of a young man being led along by the allurements of a harlot.
With many flattering words she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know it will cost him his life. (Prov 7:21-23)
He knew the moral pitfalls that the opposite sex could present. Though he did not consider his wives or concubines harlots, he should have seen the correlation to following his lust. God even warned him about this.
Or how about this one?
Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. (Prov 4: 26-27)
Solomon was a hypocrite in his latter years. He would have saved himself much turmoil if he had heeded the wisdom of his own proverbs. Put a way that modern man can understand it: Solomon would have been wiser to live his proverbs than merely to tweet them.
Are we really any more secure than Solomon? Well, that’s hard to say. If the wisest man of the Old Testament can make such a foolish mistake, then can we do better? The way ahead is not going to be easy, and the temptations may be much greater later on. But we can be a lot wiser if we learn a lesson from Solomon.
For all of us who will face temptations, this promise provides the hope we need. Cling to it and “flee from immorality”:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)