I Kings 9-11
I have heard that if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly heat the water, the frog will not notice the temperature change until he is cooked.
Are you like a frog in a pot of water? Are you slowly adapting to disobedience, not noticing that you are well on the way to being cooked?
Some friends of mine rented out their farm and moved to Australia to farm there. They were gone for a few years and when they returned, they had a noticeable Australian accent. They had gone with a Canadian accent, and when they came back, without their even noticing it, they had adopted an Australian accent.
Are we accommodating to sin without even noticing it? How does this accommodation happen? What is the path that leads from being an obedient child of God to the destruction which results from disobedience? Can we prevent it?
We have learned that Solomon was a great king. He wanted to judge righteously and follow God in being a just king. He demonstrated his desired to promote the worship of God by building the temple. He experienced great blessings from God, receiving wisdom, wealth and fame. He had it all and it had come from God. But before he died, we read that “the Lord became angry with Solomon.” What made God angry at him? How had he gotten to this place? As we learn what happened to Solomon, we can learn from his example how not to do it. I trust we will learn some lessons about how we can avoid the subtle path that can lead to getting cooked.
I. The Promises To Solomon
A. Conditional Promises
God had made many promises to Solomon. We have already noted that some of these promises were conditional.
When David appointed Solomon to be king, we read in I Kings 2:2-4, the words of David, in which he told Solomon to “observe what the Lord your God requires… so that you may prosper.” David knew that although God was a gracious God, the continued experience of his grace involved a response of obedience to Him and walking with him.
God himself appeared to Solomon on two occasions. The first time was when Solomon was worshipping God and God came to him to offer him, “whatever you want me to give you.” When Solomon asked for wisdom, God gave him much more than wisdom. He gave him riches and fame as well, but he also included a conditional promise. We read in 3:14, “…if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
The second appearance of God to Solomon happened in chapter 9. Solomon had built the magnificent temple for God. He had worshipped God with words and with a great number of sacrifices. God had indicated his presence in the temple by coming down in a cloud and so affirming that this was the place where the people were to meet him and worship him. After all these events, God appeared to Solomon once again. He told Solomon that he had heard his prayer and that his Name was in this temple. But then in 9:4-9, we once again read the conditional nature of God’s presence and blessing. God tells Solomon, “if you walk before me…I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever as I promised David…” But then, God went on to warn, “if you or your sons turn away from me…I will cut off Israel from the land…and will reject this temple…”
Solomon also knew what it meant to walk before the Lord and obey His statutes from the word of God. From Deuteronomy 7:3 he knew that he was not to “intermarry with Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.” He knew from Deuteronomy 17:14- 17 that a king must not “acquire many horses,” “make the people return to Egypt,” “not take many wives,” and “not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”
Solomon had heard from his father, from the Word of God and from God himself that the continuation of blessing was conditional on walking with the Lord.
B. A Good Beginning
With the knowledge of these things, Solomon began well. He began, in obedience to his father David, to want what God wanted. We see so much evidence in the life of Solomon that he was a man after God’s own heart. When God invited him to ask for “whatever you want me to give you” Solomon’s desire was to be a king who carried out justice and who could discern justice. What a wonderful intention. He wanted what was right.
When we read his prayer at the dedication of the temple, we hear the prayer of a man who also had his heart in the right place. Listen to some of the words of his prayer. Are these not the words of a man who desired what God desired? Who wanted more than anything to please God? “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you…you keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way…May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day…hear the prayer of your servant…may he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways…” In all these words and throughout the prayer, we hear the words of a man who loved the Lord and truly wanted to follow Him and serve Him. He fully understood the conditional nature of the Lord’s blessings and prayed earnestly for the ability to keep the Lord’s commands and to follow what God wanted.
He continued to worship God throughout his life. In 9:25 we read that three times a year Solomon burnt offerings before the Lord in the temple he had made. He continued in his worship of the Lord.
Solomon had much reason to continue to follow the Lord for the Lord blessed him greatly. We have already seen how God blessed him by giving him great wisdom, riches and fame. As we continue to read in chapter 9 and 10, we have a description of a nation at peace. Everything was going well. He had strong support from his people. His wealth increased greatly. Neighbouring nations got along with him and he traded with many nations. His fame continued to spread all over the world. The story of the queen of Sheba is a fascinating story which tells us of the immense wealth of Solomon, his great generosity and his fame. The statement of the queen of Sheba in 10:6-9 gives glory to God and reveals just how good things were.
Solomon began so well.
II. The Lord Became Angry With Solomon
But things did not continue in that way. We have already noted in 11:9 that “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord…” What went wrong? What turned Solomon away from the Lord? What was the path which lead to disobedience?
As we examine the path which led to Solomon’s disobedience, we learn about a path that any one of us may be tempted to follow. It is a path that is extremely dangerous. It is a path that leads away from God, a path that leads to destruction as we will see. It is important that we recognize this path and that we take time to evaluate our lives to see if perhaps we have started down this path. First of all, let us examine the path which Solomon took and then we will take time to evaluate whether perhaps we are walking down the same path.
A. The Path To Disobedience
1. Everybody’s Doing It
Solomon’s name likely means “peaceful” and he was a king who liked peace and promoted peace. There are different ways to have peace with neighbouring nations. You can so intimidate them that they don’t bother you. You can give them anything they want so that you appease them. One of the most common ways in which ancient nations made peace with their neighbours was to make the king of the other nation your father-in-law. If you married the daughter of a king, then that king would not attack you and would act favourably towards you because he would want to please his own daughter. This was a very common practice, everybody did it. Political marriages were the order of the day and an acceptable way for a king to rule.
Solomon wanted peace and so he engaged in this method. We already have read about this method and how Solomon engaged in it in I Kings 3:1, “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter.” But Solomon didn’t stop there. He really got into this method of peacemaking. He would have loved the saying common in the 60’s, “make love not war.” We read in 11:1, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.” In 11:3 we read that by the time Solomon was done, “He had 700 wives of royal birth.”
This was the beginning of his path to destruction. He did something which made so much sense and which everyone else was doing. Why not learn from what other people do? Why not make peace with everyone around?
2. A Little “harmless” Disobedience
There is no doubt that Solomon must have known that what he was doing was wrong. He knew that he must follow the Lord. He knew that blessings were conditional on obedience. He knew what God’s word said about marrying foreign women, especially about marrying women from the tribes which the Israelites had been told that “they should not intermarry with them.”
Furthermore, he knew that the Word of God was for his good. He knew that marrying these foreign women was dangerous because it could turn the hearts of the Israelites after their gods. He had read Number 25:1-15, which told of the disaster that occurred when Israelites married women from these nations and began to worship their gods. He knew that God had not arbitrarily given this law because he was trying to spoil his fun. He knew that it was for a good reason that God had commanded this.
And yet he did it, and what is interesting is that he did not do this suddenly at the end of his life. He did it while he was serving the Lord. One day he relied on the Lord’s wisdom to make a difficult judgement and the next day he went to marry a Hittite woman. One day he built the temple of the Lord and the next day he went to Moab to marry a woman from there. One day he sacrificed offerings to the Lord and sincerely worshipped him and the next day he went to express his desire to marry an Ammonite woman.
What twist of logic caused him to disobey? He loved the Lord and desired to follow Him, but at the very same time he disobeyed him. The only explanation I know is that he must have considered his disobedience a small thing. He must have failed to see the harm in it. He must have thought of it as an insignificant disobedience.
3. A Turned Heart
But there is no insignificant disobedience. Every disobedience is the beginning of a path which leads to destruction. The next step on that path is where things get really serious. We read in I Kings 11:3, 4, “his wives led him astray…his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.”
It was not that Solomon stopped worshipping the Lord and offering sacrifices to him, but his heart was turned. He was no longer fully devoted to the Lord. He now permitted other gods to grab his attention. When he had started out, his heart had one focus of trust and worship - he loved God. Now, he loved God, but he also loved other gods. His heart was divided and it was no longer fully directed to God. This is a significant point in the path towards disobedience. This is the point where the warning of danger is past and the danger of destruction has entered in. As long as he merely engaged in actions that were “what everyone else was doing” or even the point at which it was a “small disobedience” there was hope that he could correct it, but when his heart turned, then he was a long way down the pathway of destruction.
4. A Great Disobedience
When his heart turned, then the “small and insignificant” disobedience became a great disobedience. There were two specific disobediences that occurred at this point. No longer was the worship of God centralized in the temple of Jerusalem as he had indicated in his prayer and as God had said should be. The worship of God at many high places was not a new thing and when the temple was built, it was supposed to stop, but Solomon did not stop it and now it increased once again.
But it was even worse than that. No longer was he going to the temple to worship God one day and to another land to marry a foreign woman another day. Now he had brought the foreign woman to his own land and Solomon built places of worship for the gods of his foreign wives. One can easily see why he did this. He wanted to please them and to keep a good relationship with them and their families in the foreign countries, but it was wrong and it gave a signal to the people that it was OK. Furthermore, he was not content to build them places of worship, he also joined in with the worship of these gods.
How sad to see how low this great, wise, righteous king had stooped when his heart was turned.
B. The Consequences of Disobedience
The consequence of his disobedience was the judgement of God. It came to Solomon in the form of a warning that “I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you…”
The judgment of God began in that the kingdom of peace that had prevailed for so much of Solomon’s reign began to fall apart. Enemies appeared who began to make trouble for Solomon. In 11:14-22, we read about Hadad who was an Edomite and who began to make trouble for Israel. Then in 11:23-25, we read about Rezon who was another foreigner who also fought against Solomon. Peace was no longer present.
In 11:26, we read the beginning of the story of Jeroboam, an Israelite, who began to rebel against Solomon and eventually became king of the 10 northern tribes. Through him, the kingdom of Israel which had been happy, peaceful and content for most of the years of Solomon became divided and was eventually destroyed.
Although the judgement did not come so much in Solomon’s day, it began seriously after Solomon died and climaxed at the end of II Kings with the destruction of the northern ten tribes, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of Judah. The consequences of disobedience lead to destruction. Next week, Bryan is going to talk a little more about the destructive consequences of disobedience.
C. Warning To Us
Today, I want us to be aware that disobedience leads to destruction. But even more, I want us to be aware that the path to disobedience today is just the same and just as dangerous as it was for Solomon. The threat does not come from gods today as much as from ideologies incompatible with Christian commitment.
Although we are saved by grace and our salvation in no way depends on our works, yet if we have been saved, we must walk in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and make sure that we do not fall from the position Christ has given us. In Hebrews 4:6-11 we read, “It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” …Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.”
How do we apply this today? The path does not come without signposts and is the same as the path Solomon followed. For example:
Young people enjoy contact with other young people of the opposite gender. They are encouraged to develop friendships with non-Christians. So far, this is a good thing, but they enter the path to disobedience when they begin to do what everyone else is doing. The justification and the little disobedience starts when they begin dating and continues when dating turns to going out and going out to marriage. Although it is not inevitable, it often happens that this is a path which leads to hearts that are turned away from the Lord.
We like to express our concern for one another and it is a good thing for us to express concern and pray for one another. This is a good thing, but the path to disobedience is entered when we do what everyone else is doing. We start with the little disobedience of talking about others and follow the path to gossiping and judging others? Soon our hearts are turned away from the Lord because we do not love our neighbour as ourselves any more.
As Mennonites, we have recognized that the law of God is our highest law. If human law is against God’s law, we disobey the human law because of the higher value of obedience to the law of God. But somehow Satan takes that attitude and twists it so that we begin to engage in little disobediences. We set ourselves above the law and judge the law of man as useless and not worthy of our full obedience? Small disobediences turn to bigger disobediences justified by the fact that everyone else is doing it and soon our hearts are turned away from the Lord.
Wealth is a blessing from God and He calls us to depend on Him and be good stewards of all he has given us. Somehow, it is so easy for us to be caught in what everyone else is doing. A small disobedience of depending on our wealth instead of on God can lead us to love money and depend on money instead of on God. It is the first step down a path in which our hearts are turned away from following the Lord fully.
With such critical reflection, we know that we are all to a greater or lesser degree vulnerable to the path that lead to destruction. What will we do about it?
There is a wonderful statement in 11:39, “I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’” Those few words, “but not forever” are a wonderful note of hope. They point beyond the destruction which is promised in these verses and beyond the destruction which is recorded in the rest of I & II Kings. It points to the hope of a coming Messiah who forgives. It tells us that destruction is not inevitable even if we have stepped on the path to disobedience.
If you have gotten to the place where great disobedience is a part of your life, although you are in great danger of destruction both because of the natural consequences of your wrong path and also from the judgement of God, it is not too late. Through repentance, it is possible to turn from that sinful way and return to the Lord and begin to follow him again. I invite you to repentance and receiving God’s grace.
But how do we avoid getting to such a place? The greatest danger is the place where our heart is turned away from wholly following the Lord. If you are wavering and your heart is close to being turned, it is not too late. A turned heart can return to the Lord and I invite you to turn your heart solidly towards the Lord.
But how do you avoid getting to the place where your heart is in danger of turning? The answer is that we need to be aware of the little disobediences that we are permitting. It may not seem like a big thing, but if it is against what God has said, then it is a disobedience. There is no little disobedience, every disobedience has the danger of becoming a big disobedience. If we are permitting these little disobediences in our life, that is not hopeless at all. A clean break from those things that are against God’s will allows us to return to God and avoid the dangers. I invite you to such a turning.
But how do we avoid engaging in the little disobediences? By being aware of those things in the world in which we live which are common to the world, but against the values and practices of what it means to follow the Lord whole heartedly. By knowing that just because everybody else is doing it, does not make it right and by evaluating all our values and actions by the Word of God, we can learn to avoid getting on the path to disobedience.
Let us keep in touch with the Lord! Let us walk in such a way that we continue in faithfulness. Let us turn our hearts towards God!