Solomon and the Power of Relationships
Researchers from the University of Utah found there's a price to pay when couples don't get along. Videotapes recorded 150 husbands and wives discussing sensitive issues (how money is managed or doing household chores) and here’s what they found:
For one thing, women who buried anger rather than speaking out were more likely to have heart disease than wives who were vocal. On the other hand, when women became domineering and controlling, rather than seeking consensus with their husbands, it was their husbands who suffered coronary problems.
In Britain, the same results were found. English researchers concluded that theose with hostil intimate relationships were 34 percent more likely to experience chest pains, heart attacks, and other heart trouble. Robert De Vogli, the lead researcher summed it up like this: "If you have good people around, it's good for your health; If you have bad people around you, it is much worse for your health."
Solomon certainly discovered this. You read of his relationship problems in 1 Kings 11. Now he hadn’t started out this way. His reign had begun with great promise. God had promised him wisdom and wealth as long as he would follow. But something got in the way of this arrangement. Read what it was in 1 Kings 11:1
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
You know, I’ve always heard that behind every good man there was a good woman, but, in Solomon’s case, behind this good man there were about 1000 women. Talk about problems! Imagine trying to decide who you were going to date on any given night. Think about it. Solomon could go for almost three years and never date the same woman twice!
But something happened to Solomon as he tried to please so many wives. Something happened to his heart. V 4 says, “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” Those 1000 women had an influence on him. The relationships in his life determined his destiny. He was impacted, perhaps subtly at first, but later, he made some drastic changes in his life that made God angry.
Which just goes to show you that relationships are powerful things. We all like to say that we are not easily influenced and that we think for ourselves, but the truth is no one is really immune to the influence of others. I become like those I hand out with. That’s why its so important that you hear about Solomon today. You may be here and you may not even realize just how much those friends of yours are really influencing you.
Teens experience it. You can usually tell just about how your teen is doing by analyzing their friends. Listen, parents, if your teenager is hanging around with people who do drugs, whether you want to admit it or not, there’s a high liklihood that they’re doing drugs too. If their friends drink, they’re probably drinking. If their friends are ditching school, you’ll probably be getting some phone calls from the principal before too long yourself. Relationships are powerful.
And not just for teenagers. Mom and Dads, single adults, listen, even Senior Citizens are very vulnerable to being influenced by those you are close to. You’ll notice when it was that Solomon’s heart was turned. Look at v 4. When was it? That’s right, “when Solomon was old.” You never get immune to the power of relationships!
But, even though relationships have immense potential to harm us sometimes, they are still absolutely necessary for each one of us. Man was not made to be an island. Everyone of us needs people whom we love and who love us. And since relationships are so necessary; and since relationships are so powerful, we need to know which relationships to pursue and which relationships to reject. Those lessons can be found right here in this story of Solomon. You can find in this story two principles to remember about your relationship. First:
DIV 1: THE QUALITY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS DETERMINES YOUR DESTINY.
You see, your relationships have great impact; they have great power. They can determine your destiny and, when they do, it is rarely a surprise. It really shouldn’t have been to Solomon. If he had just listened to the Lord, he would have known better. If he had simply heeded his own advice in Proverbs when he said “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” he could have saved himself much heartache and his family yet to come much trouble. You see, v 1-2 of this chapter reminds us of what Solomon should have known. It says that there:
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.
Clearly in this verse God has already told Solomon what to expect from his bad relationships. The same principle is restated in the New Testament. In 2 Cor 6:14 it says
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
Old Testament or new the result is the same: The quality of your relationships determine your destiny. It’s a very predictable thing.
But it is also a progressive thing. I am sure that as wedding piled on top of wedding, Solomon barely noticed what was happening to his heart. V 6 has a very interesting phrase. It says: “Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, (watch) and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.” Marriage by Marriage, relationship by relationship, Solomon’s heart was turned from God. He didn’t just wake up one morning and discover that overnight he’d become a pagan. Gradually, his heart drifted away.
Relationships determine destiny progressively. It begins with a divided loyalty. Once our hearts become divided in our loyalty to God, sin enters the picture. And that sin over time leads us to places we never thought we’d go. Notice what happened to Solomon. It says in v 7.
Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8
Here the King who had been promised the wisdom and wealth of Jehovah, the one true living God, begins to hold worship services for other gods, pieces of wood or stone which had absolutely no power. One commentator writes of this:
Other than their link to his wives, Solomon’s choice of gods makes no sense. In the ancient world polytheists tended to worship the gods of nations who had conquered their armies or at least the gods of countries more powerful than their own. Ironically, Solomon worships the gods of people he has conquered and already controls. What could he possibly gain from such activity? The whole episode makes no sense, just as idolatry itself makes no sense.
Well, it made no sense except for one thing. V 8 says: “And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.” That’s why he did it. He did it because of the relationships that had invaded his life. Those relationships had progressively brought him so far from God and led him to such idolatry that v 9 says
So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
God judged Solomon for the sin that came from the relationships he indulged. Listen, the quality of your relationships will determine your destiny.
So let me ask you: Who is influencing you?
The New York Times in publishing its interview with Peter Singer said that "no other living philosopher has the kind of influence (that Singer has)." The New England Journal of Medicine said he has had "more success in effecting changes in acceptable behavior" than any philosopher since Bertrand Russell. The New Yorker called him the "most influential" philosopher alive.
Yet, if you ask him, for example what he thinks about necrophilia (what if two people make an agreement that whoever lives longest can have sexual relations with the corpse of the person who dies first?), he said, "There's no moral problem with that." Concerning bestiality (should people have sex with animals, seen as willing participants?), he responded, "I would ask, 'What's holding you back from a more fulfilling relationship?' [But] it's not wrong inherently in a moral sense."
If the 21st century becomes a Singer century, we will also see legal infanticide of born children who are ill or who have ill older siblings in need of their body parts. Question: What about parents conceiving and giving birth to a child specifically to kill him, take his organs, and transplant them into their ill older children? Mr. Singer: "It's difficult to warm to parents who can take such a detached view, [but] they're not doing something really wrong in itself." Is there anything wrong with a society in which children are bred for spare parts on a massive scale? "No."
The interviewer said, “When we had lunch a month after our initial interview and I read back his answers to him, he said he would be ‘concerned about a society where the role of some women was to breed children for that purpose,’ but he stood by his statements. He also reaffirmed that it would be ethically okay to kill 1-year-olds with physical or mental disabilities, although ideally the question of infanticide would be "raised as soon as possible after birth."
These proposals are biblically and historically monstrous, but Mr. Singer is a soft-spoken Princeton professor. Whittaker Chambers a half-century ago wrote, "Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness," but part of Mr. Singer's effectiveness in teaching "Practical Ethics" to Princeton undergraduates is that he does not come across as being the beast his views would indicate that he is.
Here’s the point: Imagine an unsuspecting Freshman entering Princeton to be taught by this personally appealing, very intelligent philosopher who seems to have all the answers. What if he took a genuine interest in his student and really tried to help. Do you think this unsuspecting Freshman might be influenced by the likes of a Peter Singer? I’ll tell you that I believe the impact would be both progressive and predictable. The quality of your relationships determine your destiny.
And I can hear what some of you may be thinking. “But Rusty, am I not supposed to have any kind of “dangerous” relationships? How will I ever be able to even share my faith if I don’t love people who are lost? Should I isolate myself?
Well, those are all good questions. Of course isolation isn’t the answer. While you and I as believers are to be separated from the world, we are not to be isolated from the world. We are to get to know and genuinely love those around us who do not know the Lord, but, at the same time, there are some definite lines that are not to be crossed. What are those lines? Let me give you three quick ones:
First, a Christian is not to marry an unbeliever. You probably didn’t need me to tell you that. It jumps right off the page when you read 1 Kings 11. The reason Solomon got into so much trouble was because he crossed the line of marriage. There are certain relationships which, if we enter into them with unbelievers, we are probably going to have great problems. Marriage is the number one such relationship.
And I’ve heard all the excuses!
“O, I know he’s not saved, but he’s a good man and I believe the Lord will let me win him to Christ after we’re married.”
“O, I know there’s no fruit in his life, but he says he prayed the prayer when he was thirteen, so it’s ok for us to get married, isn’t it, preacher?”
Listen, I’ve heard all the excuses and I will tell you plainly how these things most often turn out. The Christian doesn’t draw the unsaved to Christ, the unsaved draws the believer away from the things of God. I’ve seen it over and over again. Why is that? Because when a Christian marries an unbeliever he or she is stepping out of the will of God. They are committing the same sin as Solomon. Marriage is the first line that a Christian is not to cross with an unbeliever.
Second, a believer is not to cooperate with those of other faiths in such a way that the truth of the gospel is compromised. Listen, there is a whole lot of room when it comes to cooperation that we need between people who belong to different denominations. We surely should be much more unified than we are, but there are some lines that have to be drawn:
You’ll not see your pastor praying with a muslim. Why not? Because we don’t worship the same God, that’s why! Prayers are only heard in the name of Jesus and if I am not praying in that name, I may be going through some social exercise, but I’m doing nothing spiritual. When I pray with a Muslim, I am communicating that we’re both connecting with God and, according to the Scriptures you hold in your hand, we are not! There are some lines we cannot cross.
Third, there are even some business affiliations that we should not make. Christian, any affiliation that causes you to compromise honesty and social justice are not affiliations you should be a part of . Any affiliation that causes you to improperly place your business ahead of the time you should be spending with your family is a line you must not cross. The money may be good and the power you have may be a rush, but if you are sacrificing your family, you are paying a price a believer cannot afford.
Our relationships are very powerful. The quality of our relationships determine our destiny, and then
DIV 2: THE QUALITY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIPS IS DETERMINED BY YOUR MOTIVES.
People enter relationships for all kinds of reasons. Just this week I listened to a report on the web about soldiers who get married simply for convenience. They get to move off base or out of the barracks and the woman they marry gets free healthcare. They may have absolutely no romantic interest whatsoever, but they marry for convenience. People enter relationships for all kinds of reasons.
But your motives do catch up with you. The reason you develop a relationship with someone else will often determine whether that relationship takes you up or takes you down. It all comes down to your motive.
It surely did for Solomon. In fact, I can discern at least a couple of motives Solomon had in these destructive relationships that caused them to hurt him so badly and they are also three motives that you and I must avoid. I’ll pose them in two questions; two questions you should ask when you are considering any kind of relationship.
The first one has to do specifically with the relationship you might seek with a potential mate. When you are considering such a relationship, you should ask: “Do I seek to simply gratify my sexual desire, or do I seek real love and commitment?” Now, while there was certainly more than sexual interest that drove Solomon to pursue 1000 women, I think this chapter certainly indicates that sexual desire and possibly even perversion drove Solomon’s relationship decisions. In v 1 we learn that Solomon loved many “foreign women.” Interestingly, he had all Israel at his disposal. Any father would have offered up his daughter to become one of the King’s wives, but this wasn’t enough for Solomon. He had to go after foreign women, the very women, we learn in v 2, that God had forbidden him to go after. Solomon puts his own gratification ahead of God. The last phrase of v 2 puts the exclamation point on his sexual desire. The Bible says, “Solomon clung to these in love.”
Men and women, our sex-crazed society sets us up to become little Solomons. We may not have 1000 wives, but we are fed so many lurid images that our hearts begin to burn with the same lust and sexual addiction that fueled Solomon’s. His defection from God flowed from his lust. He ached for sexual satisfaction he never really found. How do I know he never found it? Well, why else would you need 1000 women? You see, when you lust, you can’t even be satisfied with the intimacy of a thousand; when you truly love and commit, you’ll never exhaust the wonder of one.
Hollywood publicist Michael Levine lives in what many consider the beauty capital of the world, surrounded on a daily basis by gorgeous women. But he isn't satisfied. "Although I'm a successful, red-blooded American male," he confesses, "it is beauty alone that is keeping me single and lonely." He subscribes wholeheartedly to what is commonly called the "contrast effect": "Men are barraged with images of extraordinarily beautiful and unobtainable women in the media, making it difficult for them to desire the ordinarily beautiful."
Psychologists at Arizona State University have conducted research for 20 years only to discover that we judge both our own and other people’s attractiveness based on the social situation we’re in. If a woman of average beauty enters a room of extremely beautiful women, she will be perceived as less attractive than she actually is. If the same woman enters a room of unattractive women, she will be perceived as more attractive than she actually is. This “contrast effect” as it is called, also causes women and men to devalue themselves.
The effects on men are also damaging. It leaves them alone and yearning for superficial beauty instead of real love with real women. The researchers note that "under a constant barrage of media images of beautiful women, these guys have an expectation of attractiveness that is unusually high—and that makes the people around them, in whom they might really be interested, seem lackluster, even if they are quite good-looking."
Michael Levine is living proof of these harmful effects. He comments: "My exposure to extreme beauty is ruining my capacity to love the ordinarily beautiful women of the real world—women who are more likely to meet my needs for deep connection and partnership of the soul." He wonders what his life might have been like if he had never moved to L. A. and become a publicist.
But then he realizes that the images of the women he works with are "broadcast all over the globe. While most people do not live in L. A., they visit it every day when they turn on the TV or go to the movies. It is safe to say that, to one degree or another, we all live in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.
I wish I could tell you that, as believers, we see things differently. I’m afraid I can’t. Our motives are often just like the worlds and just like Solomon’s. We are looking for the intimacy in a thousand that can only be experienced in one. When I focus on my own gratification, I am doomed to disappointment.
“Do I seek to simply gratify my sexual desire, or do I seek real love and commitment?” That’s the first question. Here’s the second: “Do I seek to be served or to serve?” Solomon was definitely looking out for number 1! You can tell that when you analyze where these women he married were from. The most important mention in v 1 was the daughter of the Pharoah. The other women came from those countries that were near neighbors of Israel. This indicated that Solomon’s purpose for these marriages wasn’t just sexual. It was also political. These marriages sealed political alliances and strengthened his hold on power.
And that wasn’t all. Yes, his motive was sexual and political, but it was also egotistical. He had fallen into the emotional trap not just of being like other pagan kings in his polygamy, but actually of being more excessive than them all. If the proliferation of wives and concubines spoke to a monarch’s power, Solomon wanted there to be no doubt that he was the most powerful of all.
Thus, his motive in beginning these 1000 relationships had nothing to do with the needs of the ones he married; it had to do only with his own political ambitions and egotistical appetite. He sought to be served, not to serve.
You may be here today and you really don’t have a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. You also notice that you have trouble in many of the relationships in your life. You’re always asking questions like, “Why doesn’t anyone ever like me?” or “ Why does everyone close to me always let me down?”
I am often amazed when I counsel people because I hear questions like this. Often the person is distraught and the hurt is real. I try to listen as best I can and reach out to them gently and in love, but I have to tell you the question screaming through my mind whenever I hear them say such things is this: “Are you seeking to serve or to be served?”
If you have never really been a Christ-follower. I mean if you have never really walked with God and in the power of His Spirit, there is really no way you’ll ever be able to choose to serve rather than be served. At least you won’t be able to in your own strength. But I want you to know that Christ has promised that if you will come to Him in full repentance, and fully surrender to Him, He will give you power you never knew you had and, even more than that, you will find more joy in serving than you ever found in being served. Instead of asking “Why doesn’t anyone like me?” You’ll ask, “Who can I love, whether they love me or not?” Instead of asking, “Why does everyone close to me always let me down?” you’ll ask, “Whom would God have me to hold up?”
And if you are a believer, what are your motives for the relationships you’re allowing. Are you trying to gratify your flesh? Are you allowing your sexual appetite to dictate your behavior, even though you know its wrong? Are you using someone else, just to get what you want? Are you expecting your wife to do all the giving in your relationship? Are you witholding warmth and affection because you’re holding on to some grudge or hurt you should have let go months ago? You see, when I seek the wrong motives in relationships, or seek relationships for the wrong reasons, I end up either destroying myself, someone else, or both.
Fireproof is the story of Caleb and Kathryn Holt, a couple that is considering divorce after seven years of marriage. In one last attempt to salvage their marriage, Caleb's father asks Caleb to try a 40-day experiment he calls The Love Dare. Caleb agrees. In this scene Caleb (Kirk Cameron), a firefighter, has reached the half-way mark of the experiment. He calls his father (Harris Malcom) to talk about how things are going. Caleb explains that the night before, he had prepared a candle-light dinner for his wife. Her only response was, "I don't love you." Perceiving that his son is about to give up on The Love Dare, Caleb's father comes to visit, and the two decide to go for a walk. Along the way, they come to a clearing in an area where church camp is held. There's a wooden cross and some tree stumps for seating. With Caleb seated on a stump, his father questions him: "Caleb, if I were to ask you why you were so frustrated with Kathryn, what would you say?"
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