At the zenith of Solomon’s reign over Israel, the wise monarch employed his artisans to fashion, “two hundred large, decorative shields of hammered gold” (1Kgs 10:16). The royal guard must have been a sight to ogle as they paraded before an admiring public with the sun gleaming off of the treasure of the Pactolus. The shields were an open advertisement of the affluence and prosperity, to say nothing of the wisdom, of Solomon’s regency.
Solomon’s ivory throne with its armrests fashioned after lions and twelve other vaulted felines gracing the six steps up to the throne was certainly astonishing and slightly more than intimidating. The author of 1 Kings explains that the drinking vessels for the king’s house were carried from the finest arboretum in Lebanon and overlaid with gold. No silver receptacles since the author explains silver was “counted as nothing” in Solomon’s Jerusalem (1 Kgs 10:21).
Prior to the demise of Solomon, his kingdom was diminished by the care he lavished on seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Although keeping peace in such a harem may rank high in the annals of administrative dexterity, maintenance was expensive and his heart was pilfered by his harem. At his death, his son Rehoboam ascended to the throne. But following the counsel of inexperienced contemporaries led to a further diminishing of his kingdom and wealth when an uncivil conflict ensued resulting in a “confederacy” of ten northern tribes who forged their own future under Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
The Pharaoh of Egypt, Shishak by name, viewed the weakening of Judah with greedy eyes. Coming against Jerusalem, Shishak absconded with the treasure from the house of God and found himself enamored with Solomon’s golden shields, which he took for himself. A subsequently impoverished Rehoboam, no novice at diplomacy, assured the Judahites that he could handle the problem. A cursory glance whenever the king made his ceremonial entrance into the house of God revealed that his guard carried counterfeit shields made of bronze. At first, the shields looked authentic, but in the bright sun they never sparked like the golden escutcheons of Solomon (1 Kgs 10:25-28). They were counterfeits!
Why did God lead the sacred author to tell such a narrative? This story becomes a parable of what Spurgeon would doubtless have called “the downgrade.” The gold shields have gone to Egypt. But bronze is still close to the color of gold, and it is a metal. So Rehoboam fashioned what President Trump would call a “fake shield.” One of the most uncomfortable assignments of life for believers is the necessity of judging between “reality” and “realistic.”
“Hey, man, I love you.” Easy to say. But without developing cynicism there are some simple tests. “Love is long-suffering. Love does not seek its own, thinks no evil, rejoices in truth, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (see 1 Cor 13). We may not know for certain, but in following 1 Corinthians 13, one can get a pretty good idea of whether or not the affirmation of love is true.
Should one declare himself to be a “conservative Christian” but without embracing the basic tenets of the Christian faith, he has substituted Rehoboam’s bronze shields for Solomon’s gold shields. A claim to favor a free and ordered social order while supporting or even tolerating the riots across America today or affirming arguments for a socialist agenda disqualifies one from the constitutional commitment to a free society. It is a bronze shield. Supporting Black Lives Matter while refusing to say a syllable about the death or destruction of Blacks in Chicago on a daily basis is at best the substitute of bronze for gold.
Tragically, every day a Christian lives he is coerced into judgements between bronze and gold shields. The fallen state of our world yields no place for sociological or political decisions about spiritual realities. Only a God who is able to renovate the spirt can bring about a new world order. No political party, social order, or government can change the heart of a human being. Christians must recover the message of Christ, which promises the redemption of the Holy Spirit, if we want a parade of golden shields.