Description / Transcription
Good evening, Christ Covenant Church. Before we read God’s Word from 1 Kings 11 tonight, let us go to the Lord one more time to ask for His blessing.
Our gracious God and Father, we pray that as we have just sung, Lord, we would handle and touch unseen things tonight from Your Word. We pray that You would speak and that not just our eyes would see and our ears would hear, but also that our hearts would be moved, away from the things that displease You and towards a deeper love and understanding of You. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our sermon passage for tonight comes from 1 Kings 11 and I’m going to read almost all the chapter. I’m going to skip over one section with some explanatory notes there, but hear the Word of the Lord now from 1 Kings 11.
“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.”
“And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.””
I’m going to skip over here verses 14 through 25. In those verses we see a description of the two adversaries that the Lord is raising who create problems for Solomon and the kingdom of Israel. We conclude there in verse 25.
“He was an adversary,” that refers to Rezon and the previous adversary described there is Hadad, the Edomite. We read:
“He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing harm as Hadad did. And he located Israel and reigned over Syria. Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and keeping My statutes and My rules, as David his father did. Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept My commandments and My statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David My servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put My name. And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in My ways, and do what is right in My eyes by keeping My statutes and My commandments, as David My servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. And I will afflict the offspring of David because of this, but not forever.’” Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.”
“Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.”
This is the Word of the Lord.
So much in our lives depends on saying no in the right moments. When you try to get rid of a bad habit, say eating too much or working too much or smoking perhaps, you name it, saying no at the right moment is. The same, of course, is true for building good habits. Say you want to learn to get up early or you want to exercise more, you want to eat healthy, saying no in the right moment is going to be a major part of your success. The reason, of course, why it’s so hard to say no is that our desires are strong.
Sometimes that’s for good, but most of the time, at least very often, it’s for bad. When someone is overcome with strong desires, I’m sure you’ve noticed this, not even the best counter arguments are going to be enough to dissuade that person from following his path. But at the bottom of our desires is something even more fundamental, something that characterizes as human beings, and that’s our loves.
In the Song of Songs, a book in the Old Testament, sometimes attributed to Solomon, we famously read these words in chapter 8 verse 6, “Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.”
Now the author here, of course, refers to human love, but we all know how great our love for other things can be. Work, education, stuff, houses, cars, and many other things. Among all the things we know about Solomon from what we have studied over the past few weeks, we know one things for sure – he was a lover.
But what if love becomes disordered? If affections become rampant and desires become uncontrolled? Tragically, this is what we’re going to see tonight as we consider the end of our sermon series on the life of Solomon.
My goal is to draw three points from this passage that we have just read tonight, and my first point is the affections of our heart have spiritual consequences. The affections of our heart have spiritual consequences.
In chapter 10 last week we have seen the height of Solomon’s reign and really the height of the glory of the kingdom of Israel. Solomon had a great start in being a ruler. Even so, he did it in a posture of humility. He asked the Lord to give him wisdom instead of wealth and the Lord responded and gave him both. Solomon heard directly from God several times. He knew God’s obligations for him and also the covenant promises that were to follow.
In short, Solomon’s life so far, especially as we consider the building of the temple, has been glorious, a major success, and against all odds, in spite of all that, as we see here in chapter 11, verse 1, the trajectory of his life ends on a terribly sad note. The problem, as Pastor Dave has already pointed out last week, was one of the heart. We read in verse 1, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women.”
The fact that Solomon had already married an Egyptian woman was a problem already back in chapter 3. It was against the law for the kings in Deuteronomy 17 to marry foreign wives, and equally problematic as we saw at the end of chapter 10 was Solomon’s establishment of military power in the form of chariots and horses. So there were already foreshadowings of Solomon’s failure as a king.
But as we turn to chapter 11, we see that Pharaoh’s wife and the chariots and the horses and that self-sufficiency feeling weren’t the deciding factor that changed Solomon’s direction. Instead, it was his insatiable craving for more and more women. This love of women demonstrates in a very powerful way the strength of romantic and sexual desire, doesn’t it? It is true that those kinds of marriages that ancient kings often engaged in were partly for short motivated by the desire to create political alliances, but this is merely not the focus of our passage when we read those verses at the beginning of the chapter. The focus here is on Solomon’s affections.
In verses 2 through 3 we read, “Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” His heart was turned away from a pure devotion to the Lord. The word used for “clinging” here also is used by God when He instructs His people in the book of Deuteronomy in their most basic heart commitment.
Listen to Deuteronomy 30 verse 20 where the Lord says, “Therefore choose life that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and holding fast to Him for He is your life and length of days.”
Same word here. One’s translated “clinging” and one as “holding fast.” Same Hebrew word, same concept.
While in chapter 3 verse 3 we had read that Solomon loved the Lord, it says that explicitly, his love now has turned away to women instead. But it doesn’t stop there. We go from a love for women to the idolatry that goes along with the lifestyle of those women, as we see in verse 5. It started with a desire after foreign women and it ended in verse 7 with a materialized form of idolatry, serving idols. Solomon’s heart affections led to spiritual downfall.
We recognize that in so many of the movies that are being produced in our day. Oftentimes the themes are built on power and influence and there’s violent men and there’s money involved and power play and all that. But those things alone usually don’t make the plot line interesting. Usually there’s a woman involved who has the power to soften the toughest characters.
It’s the same thing for Solomon. It’s the one thing that made him incredibly weak. This had sad consequences because the love for women redirected his spiritual compass. When you think of a slightly redirected compass, its effects don’t show up immediately, but once you end up in the wrong spot, you realize that you have been drifting for a while.
Solomon did not wake up one morning, presumably, and thought it was a good idea to accumulate hundreds of additional wives, and then to erect altars for their worship. In fact, we read that this occurred when he was old. Isn’t this a sobering note? Maybe at one point this would have seemed unthinkable to him. But it was not impossible. The same man who built the great Jerusalem temple now gave, and not just with his heart, but ultimately with his hands, too, to the demands of idol worship.
Here we find a critical lesson for us today, I think, and this counts for both men and women. There is a spiritual gravity to our human relationships. Human relationships come with a spiritual gravity. Human love will either drive us closer to the Lord or further away from Him. This is why it matters so much whom we marry. Once we are overcome with love for someone, we are going to easily submit to their terms.
Romantic and sexual excess decisively changed Solomon’s direction, but it took him one step further. Solomon’s ultimate problem was the tragic division that resulted from this change. He was now able and ready to worship false gods. The Bible warns repeatedly, of course, that split and divided allegiances won’t go well in the long haul.
Maybe you are in this place tonight, a place where you recognize that the confession that you make with your lips does not match the reality within your heart anymore. This was the occasion for Jesus to utter His very somber indictment against the religious leaders in His day, from Matthew 15. Listen to these words, quoting Isaiah – these people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.
In Solomon’s remarkable prayer that we have studied just a few weeks ago in chapter 8, we read the following confession that Solomon makes – O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like You, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before You with all their heart.
And a few chapters later we find him building altars for idol worship. The disordered loves of his heart had festered and grown.
Maybe you think that you can control the small loves in your life. Maybe you’re convinced that you can exert the necessary power to ultimately subdue those loves. But that’s an illusion, and we see this with Solomon. If you find yourself in love with a sin just a little bit, it will easily create the power to turn the direction of your life. The affections of our heart have spiritual consequences, that’s our first point.
As we move on in our passage, we will see the Lord’s response to Solomon’s idolatry.
Our second point here is the warnings of God are always reliable. The warnings of God are always reliable.
The first thing we see as we look at verse 9, the Lord’s response and the Lord was angry with Solomon. We don’t find the Lord to be an active agent in the first part of our chapter, but Solomon’s sin evoked the Lord’s sure response, and I think that’s very telling in its own right for us moderns to think about that today. We need to take this to heart because in our world we constantly hear the implicit suggestion that our moral choices don’t ultimately lead to any meaningful responses, and certainly not from God’s side.
You and I are easily led to think that the loves of our hearts ultimately won’t have consequences, and it’s very easy to believe that lie. The things that you might be inclined to love too much won’t warn you in advance that they are going to lead your heart away from a pure devotion to the Lord. Apart from God’s Word and His warnings, our world doesn’t offer us any extra alarm signals that go off as we run into temptation. Certainly there is not a message that constantly confronts us with the reality that God does indeed respond to our sin.
Now the anger of God against Solomon was directly tied to His previous warnings. In verse 9 we read that the Lord had appeared to Solomon twice. Solomon had covenant obligations and as the heir of the Davidic throne, he would have inherited those from his father David. Primary with those covenant obligations was, of course, the command not to follow any other gods. While Solomon learned from his father not to follow other gods, he had an example in his father David and we see David mentioned here, Solomon came to explicitly transgress his royal duty and this should make us really wonder how he could come to this place.
Solomon didn’t lack in wisdom because we have seen it pointed out that Solomon was the wisest man alive at the time. He also couldn’t excuse his sin by referring to ignorance as if he would have not known better, because the Lord had explicitly warned him.
So how could he stray in spite of all those great advantages? I actually think that a look into our own spiritual experience and into our own hearts is very telling in this regard. As a way of personal testimony, I can say since my family and I have come to Reformed Theological Seminary and this great church, I think we have never been as blessed before in our lives with so many great spiritual resources, biblical teaching, and many godly role models to follow. It’s an amazing resource. But isn’t it true that in spite of the best external and outward blessings that we get to experience in this life, being part of a great church and having the right models to follow, our hearts are ultimately susceptible to grow blind and dull in spite of all that? To use Pastor Kevin’s language from this morning again, our spiritual taste buds are basically burned up.
We see the potential outcome when that happens with Solomon. He clearly was aware of the power of God’s promises. He saw them fulfilled when the temple was built and yet he failed to heed the power of God’s warnings. When the awe and majesty of God’s words are losing their grip on us, that’s a dangerous place to be in, when His promises aren’t sweet to us and His warnings are not heavy on us. To come back to the language of this morning again, God’s Word has become bitter to us.
So do you take God’s warnings as seriously as His promises? Both, of course, both God’s warnings and His promises reveal God’s grace to us, because it is like with a parent who does not want their child to run into danger, so he protects and provides for his children, both by his warnings and his promises.
As we look at the nature of God’s discipline, we find some tragic irony in those verses.
First of all, we find in verse 14, Hadad, the Edomite, rises up against Solomon. Skipped over this section earlier, but this is a reversal of a former success since we saw under David that he led military triumphs over the Edomites in 2 Samuel chapter 8. But now Hadad, an Edomite exile who basically ended up in Egypt, returns to create problems for the kingdom of Israel. We are not sure about the nature of those problems, but he certainly was a troublemaker for Solomon. In verse 23, equally we find Rezon, who is a second adversary to Solomon.
Tragically, we know from verse 1 that Edomite woman were among the favorites of Solomon. Solomon’s worship of Edomite gods ends up bringing an Edomite adversary against him.
So the kingdom will face danger from without, but the kingdom ultimately much more important for the further history of the kingdom of Israel will also face terrible danger from within. Jeroboam, as we saw, a servant of Solomon, becomes a means to divide the kingdom between north and south. This really begins the rest of the history of 1 and 2 Kings, and we all know where it is going ultimately.
Notice that the last recorded action of Solomon that we find in this chapter is at the very end. It’s in verse 40. There is no hint of repentance inside of God’s verdict against Solomon. We see Solomon basically responding angrily against Jeroboam and trying to kill him, and of course ultimately God’s determined purposes will prevail and he will successfully discipline His people as a response to Solomon’s sin.
But in terms of God’s serious announcement to Solomon personally, there is no real sorrow over his sin. We see here a clear difference to the example of David when he sinned grievously, we find an expression of his repentance. We don’t find this with Solomon.
Solomon turned from his Lord and the Lord made His warnings come true, but covenant discipline was not the ultimate word.
This leads us to our final point – the promises of God can reclaim our hearts.
Several times, as you might have noticed when we read through this chapter earlier, we find a very important promise amidst words of chastisement. As early as verse 13, God is qualifying His angry response to Solomon’s idolatry. We’ll read again from verse 13: However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David My servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.
We see this reinforced or alluded to several times again in verse 32, 34, 36, and 39. God was so absolutely intent on continuing His covenant promise to the line of David through Judah, but as we read on, we see, if we go further into the history of 1 and 2 Kings, this promise doesn’t come true. After this chapter, the kingdom as we know will soon divide. A cycle of unfaithful kings will develop and ultimately the northern and the southern kingdoms will be taken captive.
In the original audience, as we were reminded in the past weeks, the original audience to this message, they were sitting in exile. The king was gone and the question lingered, “How is this promise going to be fulfilled? How will God continue to show grace to the line of David in providing a godly king?”
But as they heard the message of the book of Kings, they would not just find that God’s judgment against them was justified due to their idolatry, they would also find that this promise remained. This coming king would cleanse his people both from the power of disordered love as we see it exemplified in Solomon and reinforced again and again and again through one ungodly ruler after the other.
We see that this king will not just remove the power of those disordered loves, but also the judgment of God against those disordered loves.
Of course, today we live on the other side of the story. The one greater than David has come, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the heir of God’s promise that the royal line of David will indeed continue. God has fulfilled this promise that He was faithful to keep even in spite of the sins of Solomon and all of his successors. The promise pointed to the only one who can defeat sin, both its power as well as its judgment, forever.
It’s the power of this promise, I think, that connects us tonight with what is going on in this chapter. Now whether you are a believer tonight, a believer in Christ who is battling disordered loves in his own life or you’re a non-Christian but you recognize that you live in a sea of desires and false worship, whatever may be the case, only the Lord Jesus Christ solves the deep-seated problem of the idolatry in our hearts. The only way out of there is to behold the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Solomon received amazing promises, but how much greater are the promises that we have certainly confirmed to us through the witness of the New Testament and the coming of Christ? If I were to take a random sample of the testimonies of believers as they are gathered here tonight and I would just listen to some of the stories of how you came to the Christian faith, how you became a believer in the Lord Jesus, I’m sure that I would hear a variety of great stories and there would be a lot of differences in the way that God has worked in your lives.
But as I have in the past, I think I would in that scenario also find one common thread, and that is when you came to embrace the promises of the Gospel and when you came face-to-face with the reality of the good news, you knew that there was nothing better, that the Lord Jesus Christ could give what no one else can give. You didn’t need an argument to persuade you to embrace the Lord, you just fell down and worshiped, because you knew that His Word was true and you knew that He was the only One who can rightfully claim the affections of your heart.
Remember what Jesus asked His disciples. We see this in John 6, after He had preached and people started to leave and Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to stop following Him as well, and Peter gives this great response: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God. Where else would we go?
The end of Solomon’s life is a sober warning for all of us, but amidst the warning, we find the only way out of Solomon’s problem, the only way out of disordered loves is to look to the God who loved us first in the Gospel, whose love is better than anyone else’s. Jesus Christ came and He lived and He died and He rose and He ascended into heaven, and today He’s claiming our affections for Him by the power of His Holy Spirit. May our hearts rejoice in this Lord Jesus Christ and abandon all other loves.
Let us pray. Our great God and Father, we thank You for the very great precious promises that You make to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we want to repent of all the other beauties that we have sought trying to fulfill our longings. Father, we pray that You would fix our eyes on the only One who is truly lovely, who is truly worth our love and our adoration. We ask that You would give us eyes to see Jesus through Your Word and through prayer and through the communion of saints and through all the means that you have given to us. We pray even that this advent season would lead us further into this knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this all in His name. Amen.