The Bible is full of so many rich stories. In fact, one of the first things that we teach new believers and children are the great stories of the Bible. Here we might consider the story of Creation, or the Exodus, or even Joshua and the fall of Jericho. I’d like to look at one Old Testament event that is not as well known, but nevertheless forever changed the nation of Israel. I am talking about Israel being dividing into two kingdoms.
If you are a bit rusty in your Bible reading, you may not remember this part of Israel’s history. Israel divided into two kingdoms as a consequence of King Solomon’s faithlessness after he built temples to false gods for his pagan wives.
First Kings 11 helps us to see the rise and fall of the nation of Israel through Solomon. In the first eight verses, we learn that Solomon abandoned the Law of God. God’s Word had warned “You shall not enter into marriage with them [that is foreign women], neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” (1 Kings 11:2 ESV) Contrary to the modern rhetoric, this had little to do with xenophobia or racism of any sort; the book of Ruth strikes down such objections from the start.
The central issue or concern was that if God’s people married unbelievers, their unbelief would be inherently poisonous to the believing spouse’s relationship with God. To put it more simply, such marriages were forbidden because the most important thing in the believer’s world (i.e., God) was not the most important thing in the unbeliever’s world (i.e., literally anything else).
We learn that Solomon’s unrestrained sexual desire was more important to him than his desire to love God. As sin always does, it destroyed everything in Solomon’s world, beginning with his character. In short, Solomon’s lust was greater than his love for God and that is why he sacrificed everything else at the altar of his desires. He sacrificed his call to holiness, his call to faithful monotheism, he even sacrificed his heart to satisfy his wives, so they might satisfy him.
As the story continues, we learn that God raised enemies against Solomon because of his abandonment of the one true God. The King of Israel became the chief idolater. He who ought to have modeled godliness forgot the very word of God. He forgot what Moses had written: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness…”(Exodus 15:11)
God’s righteousness could not remain indifferent in the face of Solomon’s spiritual treason. His holy wrath rose: “the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared twice” (1 Kings 11:9) We learn by God’s judgment in the following verses that God does not ignore our sins. He cannot ignore sin and remain God. Thus Solomon was going to lose nearly everything, namely the very kingdom he inherited from his father, David.
Yet, even in the dividing of the kingdoms, God’s judgment was still tempered by His own faithfulness. “Yet for the sake of David…” is a phrase we find repeatedly in this section. This ought to remind us that even though we may be found faithless, God is always faithful. Solomon’s judgment was delayed (1 Kings 11:12) and God even spared one tribe for the line of David (1 Kings 11:13). Just as God kept His promise to David to continue his lineage, God keeps His promises to you today.
What do we learn from this story? Solomon fell in private long before he fell in public. Though he had begun marvelously as the wisest man who ever lived, his folly quickly became apparent. The same will be true for us if we neglect the Lord. Apart from regular fellowship with Christ, we are doomed to fail.
We are reminded by Solomon’s life that godly beginnings do not guarantee godly ends. It is not enough for us to begin a trip well, but we must get to our intended destination. We cannot live off of yesterday’s graces but must seek God afresh every day. If the Lord Jesus needed to begin His days early, in solitude seeking His Father in prayer, how much more ought we? Solomon’s fall reminds us that unless we remain vigilant in our walk with God by the Spirit, the secret sins of our hearts will inevitably consume us and will surely impact those around us.
Our only hope then is our constant pursuit of God. We must seek Him through His Word, by prayer, in the sacraments, and in public worship. These are His means of meeting with us, and we cannot afford to be indifferent about these blessed privileges. To forsake God’s means of grace is to forsake God Himself. May we not end in tragedy as Solomon did.