Read 1 Kings 11:1-11
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race.” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-13 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 61: Solomon. There are few people IN THE WORLD who have not heard the name of King Solomon. He is one of the most romanticized of the Biblical personalities and he is remembered for many great things. In fact, when we think of Israel, especially Jerusalem, we more than likely view it post-Solomon and not pre-Solomon. He had a lasting and indelible effect on the history of the Jewish people.
He was known for his incredible wisdom, for his illustrious lifestyle, for his countless women, and his torrid romance with the Queen of Sheba. He was known for his great building campaigns and, at the top of the list of things he built, he was especially known for the building of the first Jewish Temple. Solomon’s reign was the height, the golden years if you will, of the United Kingdom of Israel. With that said, it was also the quick and fiery downfall of the United Kingdom as well.
While Solomon might be known for many great things, and is widely considered to be the wisest of all the kings of Israel, it goes without saying that even the wisdom of the great Solomon ended up falling a bit short. What’s more, like all of the rest of the kings, Solomon proved to be yet another example of how power muddies the water and poisons the well. Solomon, at best, was an embodiment of contradictions.
For instance, Solomon is known for his building of the great Jewish Temple. This temple was to be the “House of God”, where the Spirit of the LORD would literally be enthroned. This temple was not just good for the Spiritual health of the United Kingdom of Israel; however, it was great for commerce, for tourism, and for the economic growth of the kingdom as well. People from all over the world traveled to Israel to see the great Temple built by the great king.
And that brings us to what Solomon is NOT commonly known for: building temples to foreign gods for the tourists. That, in today’s day and age, probably doesn’t sound that bad, right? I mean, that is just being accommodating of diversity and showing hospitality to foreigners. If we are saavy capitalists and/or economists, we might also note how economically genius that was because, in the ancient world, temples also doubled as banks and currency exchange.
Yet Solomon, in the end, turned to those false gods and began to worship them himself. It is one thing to be accommodating, it is another thing to stray away from one’s relationship with God. The author of 1 Kings places the blame on Solomon’s wives and his old age; however, the truth be told, Solomon began to see himself above God. So much for wisdom, right?
The king, who had assassinated all of his opposition at the outset of his rule, had generally brough peace and contentment to the people of Israel; however, in the end, he forgot that peace and contentment come out of our faithfulness to God. As he grew more and more unfaithful, the façade of peace and contentment began to crumble and the state of the Kingdom grew frail and weak. In the end, Solomon died and the Kingdom instantly became divided among his son Reheboam and his superintendent, Jereboam, both of whom were contending to be the Solomon’s rightful successor.
The result: The United Kingdom became the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, forever separated and at war with one another for their legitimacy, for land, and for power. This should cause us to see the damage done by unfaithfulness. God trusts us and desires a relationship with us; however, we so often stray from God for this reason or that. We even allow excuses to justify our unfaithfulness, but in reality, we only have ourselves to blame.
The challenge for us is to admit we’ve been unfaithful in the areas we have, and to turn our hearts back to God. It is there, in a faithful and committed relationship to our Lord, that we will find true peace, contentment and joy. It is also in the context of that relationship, that we will realize that it is ONLY with God that we are capable of greatness. Apart from God, we are merely consigned and doomed to our own designs which lead toward destruction. Today’s challenge, reaffirm your commitment and your faithfulness to God.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.” —King Solomon (Proverbs 20:28 NLT)
Lord, give me the wisdom to see where I have been unfaithful and the integrity and strength to turn back to you.