Bible Reading: I Kings 11:1-8
There is so much here that just shocks me. And just as quickly as the shock sets in, the Spirit convicts me, that I too am a Solomon.
Chapter 11 starts with: “King Solomon loved many foreign women”. In order to set alliances and also just because he could – Solomon married women who were not Hebrew. One of these foreign women is said to be the daughter of the Pharaoh. (I Kings 3:1). He built her a beautiful palace. There were 700 of these “alliance wives” and 300 concubines. And these women led him astray in his faith. Later Solomon goes on to warn against these kinds of women in Proverbs 5-7.
As Solomon grows old he ends up worshiping Ashtoreth (goddess of the Sidonites), Chemosh (god of the Moabites) and Molech (god of the Ammonites). He then actually builds two places to worship these gods and he joins his wives in worshiping these detestable gods. The place where he builds these places of worship was on a hill east of Jerusalem which is actually the Mount of Olives (the place where Jesus later wept for Jerusalem and gave His sermon on the mount). Even though Solomon did these horrible things, God still appeared to him twice so that he would turn away from these gods, but the Bible tells us that he turned away from following the God of Israel (I Kings 11:9). God then tears the Kingdom of Israel from Solomon and divides it into two kingdoms.
Reading I Kings 1-10 consecutively we see the glory of Solomon’s reign. In these chapters we see how he became king, how God blessed him, how he brought the people together, how he luxuriously spends to make an astonishing temple to worship God. We see Solomon’s wisdom and judging techniques. We hear of his beauty and his love for justice. We see kings and queens from distant lands pay him homage for his wisdom and splendid kingdom. He just overflows with excess, riches and elegance. I can envision a shining city where nothing is made of silver because it has no worth because there is just so much gold (I Kings 10:21). But God is not flattered by the pomp. He reminds Solomon to obey His commands and warns that if he doesn’t He will leave the Temple and tear his kingdom apart. In chapter 9, Solomon finishes the Temple, but by chapter 11 he is building temples for the gods Chemosh and Molech. These gods are called detestable/hated (11:7) and required human sacrifice as a form of worship. Molech specifically required child sacrifice through burning them (what was called “passing them through the fire”) in order to bring prosperity and success. Molech was molded to have extending arms where a fire could be lit underneath and a child could be placed within his arms. We see Manasseh King of Judah use this type of worship in 2 Chronicles 33:2-6. How horrific to have a Temple where God has decided to live and then down the road we hear the screams of humans and even children as they are sacrificed to abhorrent gods and then to find among the worshipers Solomon, God’s chosen king. The son of the man after God’s heart. Among this beautiful city made of gold is the excrement of man-made worship. I can’t help but wonder if Solomon, fearing losing his success and prosperity, placed one of his little ones in the burning arms of Molech.
Our God is longsuffering and patient. (Psalm 86:5, 2 Peter 3:9, Joel 2:13, Isaiah 30:18) and gave Solomon time to return to Him, but Solomon had made his decision. Despite all God had given Solomon (and by all, I mean ALL!), Solomon betrays God for the arms of women who would eventually lead him astray to the arms of a burning god. He became lost in the glitter of the world that surrounded him. The blessings bestowed on him eventually cursed him. The riches given to him made him a poor and miserable man. Even the knowledge and wisdom God entrusted him with brought about him misery and emptiness. Just read Ecclesiastes.
In the end, God is not mocked and the fools are us if we seek to do things our way. We have a tendency to wander from God and His holy ways, and most of the time He is gracious to lead us back with tenderness. But there is a thin line that once it is crossed, God says enough and the buck stops with Him. Solomon worshiped the way the world in his day worshiped. Are we also tempted to do the same? Do the lights, speakers, smoke, and full out rock band tempt us to say “if we had a worship service like that, we would feel the Holy Spirit every Sunday, more people would come to church, people wouldn’t be so bored” etc etc? Is there anything inherently wrong with these things, no. But if you need those things in order to “feel” like you worshiped God, we must examine ourselves again.(I John)
The kingdom of God is a mustard seed (Mark 4) or leavening (Matthew 13) meaning it is small and in time it does something great. But not great in our fickle eyes, but greatness only God could invent. Solomon had a thousand women to bring him pleasure, wealth and power beyond measure, unprecedented wisdom and knowledge and the admiration of the known world, but it all crumbled under God because he worshiped other gods. And before he knew it, that road lead him to a place where he allowed the slow and painful death of children and maybe even participated in it.
I don’t believe that the moment Solomon finished building the Temple of God that he turned around and said “I think we will worship Molech now.” I do believe though, that there were some red flags that he chose to ignore and although it may have bothered him at first, he eventually stopped seeing them. Besetting sins don’t ever start off shocking us into humility and repentance. I know my ugly sins didn’t look so ugly at first. But our God is merciful to forgive us and sent His Son to bring us into communion with Him.
Let us not be tempted to worship like the world. Let us not become lost in the glitter of things that will not bring true happiness. Let us only look to the God who saves us from ourselves and allows us to truly rest in His arm.