Sobering but Necessary Reading
The Bible, at times, makes for very uncomfortable reading. Consider these opening verses of 1 Kings 11:1-8:
‘Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.’
What have you thought as you read those words? ‘How could he?’ This is Solomon, whose reign began with such glowing promise. Whom God so greatly commended because he did not ask him for wealth or power or fame, but rather for wisdom in order to rule God’s covenant people justly and well. How could he? There are two answers, the obvious and the not so obvious.
First, he did what he did because he ‘did what was evil in the sight of the Lord’. Solomon disobeyed God’s clear commandment and did so again, and again, and again. There is always a price to pay when you disobey God. Solomon started his disobedience with Pharaoh’s daughter, but it didn’t end there. Sin and its unholy master Satan, will always seek your complete downfall. They will never be content with making the occasional incursion into your life; they want to dominate and control your life. It is little wonder that Paul exhorted the church in Rome, ‘If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live’ (Rom. 8:13). He understood the pathology and power of sin.
But there is a second answer that is not so obvious. Why did Solomon descend into such depths of sin? Behold the mystery of iniquity! Why did Adam and Eve, so richly blessed by God and themselves without any sin, sin? Behold the mystery of iniquity! Yes, Solomon disobeyed God’s clear command. But why did he do so? Why did he turn away from the God he knew, professed and served? Why did he abandon the God who had made him King? Behold the mystery of iniquity!
There is no rationality to sin. It is the ultimate absurdity. Who in their right mind would exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator? (Rom. 1:25). But uncountable multitudes do. The opening words of Psalm 2 reflect the irrational absurdity, and futility, of sin, ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?’ The Psalmist understands there is no ultimate explanation of sin; it truly is the ultimate absurdity.
Why does God’s word so graphically detail for us Solomon’s tragic descent? To impress on us a truth that we desperately need to take to heart: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9). Solomon had every possible advantage in life but he descended into unimaginable wickedness.
The application to you and to me is surely obvious: ‘let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall’ (1 Cor. 10:12). However blessed and spiritually privileged you have been to this moment, you are a step and a breath away from making shipwreck of your soul. Perhaps you are thinking, ‘Ian, are you not being a little too melodramatic?’ I think not. The examples of Solomon and Demas (2 Tim. 4:9) confirm that I am not. Our Lord Jesus’ teaching assures me that I am not (Mk. 4:1-20). You are never as ‘far along’ as you think you are. Your ‘adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ (1 Pt. 5:8).
So, ‘watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation’. Just as our Lord encouraged his hearers to ‘Remember Lot’s wife’ (Lk. 17:32), no less remember Solomon’s life, a life that began with such hope and promise but which ended in moral and spiritual tragedy.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in Queen Emma Primary School, Gunhild Way, Cambridge and in Resurrection Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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