Popularity: A Potential Heart Thief
Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel c. 970 b.c. began as a triumph of conquest. Not only did Solomon avoid the coup attempt of Adonijah, the son of Haggith, to involve Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, in an attempt to have Solomon bequeath the beautiful Abishag of Shunem to Adonijah as wife, thus effectively giving away the kingdom. When God offered Solomon the opportunity to ask for any benediction, he would choose from the hand of God, he adroitly sought “an understanding heart” with which to judge the people of God. Somehow he knew that he would face a thousand situations that were confused and unclear. How could anyone handle such a task?
Every man assuming the role of a pastor and every barrister mounting a judicial bench should follow Solomon’s example. The task is more extensive than the mental embrace of any. Without the wisdom of God, some mountains are too lofty to scale. And God answered Solomon’s petition. The early chapters of 1 Kings chronicle the exploits of the young king and the prominence that he subsequently acquired. Architectural feats were visible throughout Jerusalem, including the promised temple of Yahweh centered on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite on Mount Moriah. His wisdom became proverbial throughout the Levant.
Entering the text of 1 Kings, its author informs the reader that Solomon displayed one tragic weakness. The combination of the accumulation of wealth with the acquisition of fame presented the sovereign with opportunities that soon were juxtaposed to the great wisdom provided by God. According to 1 Kings 9:17, Pharaoh had conquered Gezer and “had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.” In fact, “Solomon loved many foreign women,” eventually claiming seven hundred wives and an additional three hundred concubines and his wives “turned away his heart” (1 Kgs 11:3). Here occurs one of the anomalies of biblical history—the wisest man who ever lived, who penned the beautiful Song of Songs, much of the preceptive Proverbs, and the weighty Ecclesiastes, lost his heart to his multiple wives who pilfered his affections at the height of his success.
Essentially Solomon elected to fritter away the manifold graces of a loving God in exchange for the vanishing favors of a harem on the hill. He went out of his way to do the things that charmed the women in his life at the expense of faithfulness to the God who had made him king and preserved his life. Solomon squandered the approval of God for the approval of women whose affections he could never be certain. Toward the conclusion of his reign, Solomon’s kingdom was in tact, his wealth was extraordinary, his wisdom legendary. But his heart had been stolen!
The “lust of the flesh” constitutes an obvious culprit. More preachers have lost their ministries due to failure to observe the codes of holiness associated with fleshly desires than can be rehearsed. But as a rule such tragedies unfold under a set of circumstances that differ from those of Solomon only in degree. Successful, wise, having overwhelming reputation, monetary accumulation, protection, ah—the perfect recipe for a disaster!
The same thing happens to politicians and leaders in all phases of life. Success is essential but is, at the same time, the ultimate trial for most. Paralyzed by the inertia of recognition and honor, through the centuries men have lost their clear vision of the mandate of God. David does not go with the troops to battle but succumbs to the unintentional temptations of Bathsheba. Sampson’s experience with Delilah rides on the point of consecutive routs of the Philistines. Solomon’s wives “steal away his heart” for the things of God. And the band plays on.
Forgive me, please. I am just a tad slow to understand. But now I am beginning to understand. “I am crucified with Christ.” There has to be a cross in every man’s life. No cross, no crown! Each circumstance of life must carry with it a cross, a death to oneself. Without death to oneself, one cannot live unto Christ! We humans are just too full of ourselves. Handling adversity may present its difficulties, but success is more often devasting. Dying daily, we live to Christ.
The cross of Christ not only secures our redemption. The cross also sets the example of the methodology for a life of service to the Lord. As the Bible cautions, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 Jn 2:15).