Monday, October 8, 2012

1 Kings 11: Solomon's Fatal Attractions

1 Kings 11:1-5 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. 

1 Kings 11:14, 23, 26 Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom...And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, Hadadezer king of Zobah... Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon's officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah. 

1 Kings 11:31-33 Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon's father, did. 

With the God-given wisdom, Solomon became very successful. His success attracted  the 3 F's that many worldly men believe are symbols of prosperity & power: Fame, Fortune and Females. The last was fatal for Solomon because it resulted in compromising his spiritual and moral integrity before God by building high places to worship the Canaanite fertility gods & goddesses, viz., the Astoreth, Molech, and Chemosh. Because of his sin of idolatry, God's judgment came upon him: he raised up adversaries that would ultimately undermine the peace and unity of Israel.

My reflections on how we can neutralise the fatal attractions of the three F's:

  • Fame: Success will make us famous. Fame can get into our heads and make us believe we are successful because there is something innate in us that make us special--when we are not. Solomon's success was a consequence of the gift of wisdom which he received from God to rule Israel well. By instead, he was using the gift of wisdom for self-promotion rather than extending God's influence to the nations. Instead of building God's Kingdom, he became obsessed with building monuments to his own greatness. When we become famous because of God's gift to us, we have to constantly remind ourselves that our success is a manifestation of God's grace, "not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8).
  • Fortune: When we become materially rich, the temptation is to splurge the riches on ourselves - as Solomon did. He built fabulous palaces for himself and his foreign wives, he accumulated horse-power (like the modern rich who accumulate expensive cars with extreme horse-power), he indulges in his private pleasure of women, wine and song: "I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well — the delights of the heart of man" (Eccl 2:4-8). He went all out to please himself (notice the number of "I" found in this passage). That is the temptation of the rich - self-indulgence. The only cure for this is to give away our riches to help the poor -- not just to the economically depressed but also to support local full-time pastors and workers in countries around us who need financial support to carry on their ministry. It takes only a few hundred dollars per month to support a full-time pastor in poor countries like Myanmar, Vietnam & Cambodia. Most of us could support at least one or more full time worker in these countries from our tithe alone. Instead of giving our millions to church building fund to build/purchase physical monuments to our own greatness, perhaps we should divert our tithes to where they can be more strategic to support local Christian workers who have a desire to extend God's kingdom to their own peoples. The thousands we indulge in ourselves in one week for vacation could probably support a full-time Christian worker in such countries for a year or two. 
  • Females: A Sunday School pre-school kid told her Sunday School teacher that she found out from 1 Kings 11:3 that Solomon was kind to ladies and animals because he had 700 wives and 300 porcupines! Joke aside, we have seen in the news how females can become fatal attraction for men--married or otherwise. Solomon had a harem of 1,000 women to satisfy his lust. But this same lust compromised his spiritual and moral integrity and he ended up losing 10 of 12 tribes that he inherited from David in just one generation of self-indulgent lifestyle. Promiscuity is on the rise - even among believers. Adultery is becoming the number one reason for divorce in marriages--not confined to men alone. But seeking for sex or affection from the opposite gender is the greatest temptation facing many Christians. The best protection against adultery is a good marriage. If we neglect our spouses, we will find other women (or men) attractive -- and it will be fatal. Do not let Hollywood deceive us into thinking that adultery is fun. It's fatal and will destroy all we have accumulated: family life, reputation, and trust.
We seek God's wisdom in order to become more godly, rather than more successful. Prosperity is not the ultimate blessing -- in fact, it can be the ultimate curse, as is the case in Solomon, leading to pride and self-indulgent lifestyle. God grants us wisdom in order to glorify Him and extend His beneficent rule to all the nations. Use the blessings of our success to extend His kingdom. Jesus has said, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (riches) will be added to you." It's a question of priority and motivation. May God grant us wisdom to use our success fruitfully, not fatally.

Father, You are gracious but also just. May "Your name be honoured and Your kingdom come" be the motivation for our life. Amen.

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