Morning Message: John Cline
Text: 1 Kings 11
Reader: Ceres Guerrero
If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately jump out to save its life. But if you put the same frog in a pan of lukewarm water, it will sit there as happy and content as a tourist in a Jacuzzi. And when you gradually turn up the heat on the stove, the frog will only relax more. As the water gets warmer and warmer, the frog doesn’t realize that its warm bath has become a boiling cooker, until it’s too late and it boils to death. In a sense, that is what happened to King Solomon. He got “cooked” gradually. He was spiritually dying and yet he didn’t jump out of the water once it heated up and, eventually, degree by degree, sin by sin, his lack of awareness of the trouble he had brought upon himself led to his destruction. We read last week:
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So, Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So, the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:1-13)
That Solomon had 1,000 women in his life was probably due to a lust for power and prestige. In those days, a large harem was a status symbol which said to the world, “Look how many wives and concubines and children I can support and have authority over.” Solomon’s desire for worldly prestige led him to sin relationally as well as spiritually. He slowly died in his own pot of boiling water, bit by bit. His lust for prestige did work for him, though, in that foreign dignitaries recognized his greatness, and many surrounding nations became vassal states, annually sending him lavish gifts, and making him wealthy. But his marrying of foreign women who brought in the worship of false gods was a killer of a sin. As for his becoming fabulously wealthy, Solomon engaged in many building projects in his kingdom – such as his palace – and to pay for them, he taxed his people heavily (God had previously warned the kings of Israel against doing that). In any case, lots of money flowed to Solomon.
The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues brought in by merchants and traders. Also, all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the territories brought gold and silver to Solomon. King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of hammered gold went into each shield. He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three hundred shekels of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with pure gold. The throne had six steps, and a footstool of gold was attached to it. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day. The king had a fleet of trading ships manned by Hiram’s servants. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons. King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, and robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules. Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. He ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from all other countries. (2 Chronicles 9:13-28)
The picture we imagine is of unimaginable wealth. Under Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was at its richest, most influential, biggest, greatest.
Project map of United Kingdom of Israel
Returning now to the one sin that started Solomon eventually boiling in hot water, leading to his destruction: his harem of women. We don’t know the ethnicity of his 300 concubines. They may or may not have been Israelites but what we do know about his concubines is that, in that time, historian tell us, concubines were essentially sex slaves, there for the sexual pleasure of their master. Not good! All of Solomon’s 700 wives, though, as we just heard read, were foreign women of “royal birth”. They were daughters of foreign rulers given to Solomon by the rulers of other countries as parts of political peace or military alliances, a practice that may disturb us but was still prevalent in many European nations in the 20th century. Solomon’s 700 marriages thus didn’t involve two people falling in love and getting married. They were the result of political alliances. However, we do read that Solomon “loved his foreign wives”, which may explain the sway they held over him. I feel I should say, once again, though, that Solomon marrying foreign women was not an ethnicity problem. God has no problem with a follower of His marrying a person of a different nationality or skin colour. Moses, for example, had a foreign wife but she was a worshipper of God. With Solomon of the kings of Israel, though, the reason for the injunction was because of the inevitable idolatry. And, sure enough, Solomon’s wives did not worship the one true God. They didn’t share Solomon’s faith. They worshipped false gods and led the people of Israel, including Solomon, into doing so. Now, Solomon may have thought himself too wise to let any of his wives turn him away from God. But because he was both wrong and weak, this was a deadly sin for him. He stepped into that lukewarm water of compromising once, then twice, then more and more until finally the water of polygamy and idolatry was boiling hot.
I was looking at myself in the mirror this morning and saw a person who appeared to be my dad looking back. The government tells me that I am now officially “old”. I know you see me for the young, virile man that I really am. My point in saying this is that I have been doing ministry since 1975, starting with youth ministry, and I can tell you that I have never known anyone to jump “into” a pot of boiling water of sin or compromise and say, “Ah, this feels ok. This will work out!”. I’ve never known anyone to wake up one morning and admit that starting with a small sin against their spouse would lead to the destruction of their family or marriage. I’ve never met someone who, out of the blue, decided to defraud their employer in a big way. No, the theft and fraud started off with something small. I’ve never met a person who decided on the spot to become an alcoholic as they, like a brother-in-law I had, started with the occasional glass of alcohol, which led to a daily one, which led to multiple drinks a day and alcohol hidden throughout the house. I’ve never heard anyone say that they were going to give up following Jesus, even as they started to turn their back on him. But I have known people who lost marriages or jobs or had to be committed to rehab or who lost their faith, one small step at a time, as they became comfortable with the lukewarm water they were sitting in becoming hotter and more dangerous. Destruction is gradual. Solomon so slowly cooked in his water that, once he realized things had percolated and the water was boiling all around him, it was too late because he didn’t repent and get out and change his behaviour. Scholars point out that Solomon was a man of “wisdom” and that he shared that wisdom in 3 Old Testament books. Those 3 books were each written in a different period of Solomon’s life, so his messages are notably different from book to book. Put together, the 3 books form an arc telling the story of the three life phases that of Solomon’s life.
- The Song of Songs was written by the young King Solomon. Certainly, the image contained in it is of young love, of a young couple in love, mindless of everyone else.
It was not written by a jaded or tired-out individual who had lived for four decades with 700 wives and 300 concubines. It was written by someone – Solomon – who was deeply in love with his first wife and excited by the wonder of it all. It differs from Solomon’s second book,
- The Book of Proverbs are the words of a father in his prime, one who was passing on his learned wisdom and experience to his son. It was written in his middle age, by a more experienced and wiser King Solomon.
It has such wonderful and recognizable teachings such as:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)
There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
Pride goes before the fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Two of my dad’s favourites that he would quote when he was in his ‘90’s were: “Gray hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31) And, because he did not have such a wife, but he knew of others who did: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (Proverbs 21:9) Going on, Solomon’s third book, Ecclesiastes is different once again,
- The musings of the old King Solomon looking back over past experiences and his life. From the perspective of old age, both the passions of youth (as described in the Song of Songs) and the wisdom he liked to dispense while in his prime (as described in the Book of Proverbs) seem vain, empty.
It is believed that aged King Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes not long before he died, after realizing that he had wasted the favour God had given him in his life, through his chasing after multiple wives, riches, fame, and power. His conclusion about such a life was this:
“Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:1)
He writes, after 11 chapters of describing the meaningless waste of time a person makes of their life if they chase after the wrong things:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Solomon realized, that in neglecting God, he had wasted his life.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14)
As someone who has ministered to a lot of “boiled frogs” who destroyed themselves after starting off in their compromising by sitting in lukewarm water at the start and then not even noticing that the water was getting hotter and hotter, please listen when I encourage you to learn from Solomon’s life of regret. He is correct when he writes that God brings every deed of a person’s life into judgment. Solomon experienced it happening in his life, and he was overwhelmed by what he had done. He regretted it, as Ecclesiastes points out, but he didn’t repent. As one commentator noted, “The whole story of King Solomon is full of the most solemn value. His was a life full of promise, but it ended in failure and gloom, because his heart turned from loyalty to God, in response to the seductions of his sensual nature.”
Next week, we will continue our study of the kings of Israel, moving on to Solomon’s son Rehoboam as well as to Jeroboam, the man who God would allow to divide the United Kingdom of Israel, but here is the lesson we should pick up today: Don’t do the things that are contrary to what God has decreed. Don’t do things that are bad. You know what is right or wrong. Live for the Lord. God’s rules are for our safety, protection, blessing, and prosperity. Get out of the water of sin before it boils over and destroys you and all that you have. God be with you!