The wisdom and folly of Solomon

People find it easier to start well than to end well. Nowadays, we see it in the tremendous number of anointed ministers of the gospel who fall into some kind of gross sin. (Failures of lay Christians get less press but provide similar evidence.) In the Bible, we see it in the lives of all of the ancient kings that God declared good.

Early in his reign, Solomon delighted God one evening. He asked God for a discerning heart to be able to judge rightly and thus fulfill his kingly duties. Because it is impossible to please God without faith, we know Solomon asked in faith for such wisdom.

God said he would give Solomon what he had asked. That’s an important principle of prayer. Several New Testament passages likewise teach that when we ask in faith, God will respond according to our words.

God also said that he would give Solomon all kinds of things he had not asked for.  Again, that follows an important principle. In Jesus’ words, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you as well.

In Solomon’s case, he did not ask for long life, riches, or victory over enemies, things many a king would have wanted. By faith he asked for wisdom and discernment to be able to judge disputes that came before him. By faith, he received not only that, but the riches and honor that he had not asked for.

Solomon was the richest king of his lifetime, as well as the wisest, the most renowned, and the only one in his entire dynasty who never had to fight a defensive battle. These other blessings were not simply tacked on to his prayer for a discerning heart; they came to him as a consequence of a discerning heart.

Unfortunately, he never personally walked in wisdom. He ruled in wisdom, more or less, but even before his prayer of faith, he launched on the path that would destroy the end of his reign. He made an alliance with Egypt and married Pharaoh’s daughter.

By the end of his reign, Solomon had married many more foreign women: a total of 700 wives and 300 concubines! That amounts to 25 new women every year, 7 or 8 of whom he didn’t formally marry.

They did not become good Jewish believers and settle down to worship the living God. No. They continued to worship their pagan deities and insisted that Solomon build them suitable temples. Not only that, but Solomon started to worship their gods, too.

By not walking in wisdom in his personal life, by not being fully devoted to the living God, Solomon disgraced himself and God in his besotted old age. He lost his moral standing. He grew so distant that even a scolding from God himself could not cause him to repent.

Among those whom God raised up to rebel against Solomon, he chose Jeroboam as king over a majority of the tribes of Israel. And how did Solomon respond to the news? He tried to kill Jeroboam, just as Saul had tried to kill David under the same circumstances.

Solomon, the wisest, richest, most successful king in history played the fool. As a result, his kingdom was divided. Both new kingdoms followed Solomon’s example of turning to pagan gods and called down God’s wrath.

Today, Christians have the Holy Spirit. If we do not quench him, he will empower us to repent as necessary and finish at least as well as we began. That gives us a tremendous advantage over the long list of fallen heroes of the Old Testament. Let us walk in that advantage.

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