Sometimes the Bible shocks you….
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. (1 Kings 11:1–8)
How in the world did this happen? God’s word was clear:
Kings were not to have multiple wives. (Deut. 17:17)
Do not intermarry with the women of the nations of Canaan. (Deut. 7:1-4)
Never worship any of the gods worshipped by the people around you. (Deut. 6:14)
So how did this happen? And how did this happen to Solomon of all people? This is the Solomon who prayed for wisdom, who was known for his wisdom, who built the temple….
How did he get to this point?
He did not get there overnight. It was probably inch by inch, step by step.
If you flip back to 1 Kings 3 you notice some ominous foreshadowing. In verse 1, “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt.” He took an Egyptian princess as a second wife to secure Pharaoh as an ally. A strategic move in the eyes of the world, but a dubious one in the eyes of the LORD.
In verse 3: “Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.” Until the temple was complete, sacrificing and making offerings at the high places was not technically wrong, but worshipping at the tabernacle would have been a better choice.
Inch by inch and step by step, one wife turned into 700. Inch by inch and step by step, Solomon went from building the temple for the LORD to building high places for other gods. How gradual, how imperceptible is the road that leads us away from the LORD.
But, again, how did he get to this point? It was his heart. Look back to see how many times the word heart is repeated in our passage. Ashley Null is fond of saying, “What the heart desires, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” Solomon’s heart is divided. He has not left Yahweh, but he has brought in other gods beside the LORD.
The end of Solomon’s story is not pretty, but it invites me to learn on his nickel. I see the consequences of his alliances, his accommodations, his worship of other gods. Not only was his kingdom torn in two, but one of the high places he built became a place of child sacrifice, a place where one of his own great, great grandsons was sacrificed to Molech. (2 Kings 16:3)
Like Solomon my heart is easily divided. I too have built my own high places. The gods of approval, control, and money all vie for my allegiance. I too am prone to wander and leave the LORD I love. I wish there was a quick fix. A vaccine of sorts that would keep my heart undivided, that would freeze my heart in obedience mode. But there is not. The answer is in the freeing power of the gospel.
I need to hear the gospel over and over again. “This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). How remarkable. God himself came in the person of Jesus Christ to save you and me. Advent is a time to ponder that anew and prepare our hearts for his coming again. The lessons learned from Solomon have put a new prayer in my heart: “Come, Lord, and abide in my house. Come, and consecrate me more fully to thy service; come, and without a rival reign; come, occupy alone the throne of my heart” (Charles Spurgeon).