From a sermon series on 1 Kings by See Huang Lim, a missionary at IBF.
The first 10 chapters of the book of 1 Kings talk about the rise and success of King Solomon. God blessed him with wisdom and wealth. The nation of Israel prospered under him and enjoyed peace. Then comes chapter 11. Everything sweet begins to turn sour. Today, we’ll read about the reason behind Solomon’s decline.[Read 1 Kings 11:1-13]
There are 3 topics I want to focus on today: 1) the gradual tragedy of Solomon; 2) affairs of the heart; and 3) God’s jealousy.
A Gradual Tragedy
Solomon’s decline wasn’t overnight.
Verse 4 says, “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.”
Sounds like Solomon’s heart changed over the years. Perhaps he compromised a bit at a time. Every compromise made his conscience less sensitive to God. He became distracted.
I wear glasses. As time passes, the glasses get dirtier. But I usually don’t notice until it’s really dirty. Similarly, I may not notice myself moving further away from God, if the change is small and gradual. It happens through small decisions, small habits, small compromises.
It is possible for Christians to lose their love for God gradually. For example, the book of Revelation records warnings from God to several of the early churches.
In Revelation 2:4, God praises but then warns the church of Ephesus (which is in Greece). He said: “You have persevered and endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”
This reminds me of marriage. Everywhere, couples say it is normal for love to become less passionate over time.
There is plenty of advice on the Internet, telling us the secrets of happy couples who have been married a long time. One of the advices is this: We need to consciously make time to talk with our spouse or enjoy some activity together. We can go for “dates” together, like we used to before getting married.
Likewise, to keep our love for God, we can go for “dates” with God. I mean, we need to spend time alone with God, without distractions. We need to talk with God. We take time to listen. We meditate on God’s words. We enjoy God’s love and acceptance. And then, we make efforts to be the kind of person whom God loves.
Solomon’s father, King David, was a man who constantly talked and listened to God. David wrote Psalm 139, a song that shows wonderful closeness with God. The end of his song, verse 23 and 24, says this: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Basically, David asked God to examine his heart. We, too, should take time regularly to examine our hearts. Like a physical health check-up, we may need a “heart check-up.” Could it be that Solomon missed his heart check-ups? Maybe he started doing things that were unhealthy for his heart. Gradually, it became more clogged up with unhealthy things, which made it hard to love and obey God.
Affairs of the Heart
Next, I would like to reflect on affairs of the heart. The English word “affair” has two meanings. The first meaning is “matter” or “incident” (事件). The second means “being unfaithful to your lover” (浮気).
This is what happened to Solomon. He became unfaithful to God.
According to 1 Kings, Solomon’s compromise began with his decision to marry many foreign wives. In the past, God clearly commanded Israelites to not marry wives from certain foreign groups. The reason is stated in 1 Kings 11 verse 2: “They will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” And unfortunately, God’s warning came true.
Why did Solomon go against God’s command? Probably, it was strategic to marry foreign wives, both in terms of politics and trade. From a human standpoint, it was very logical.
Verses 5 to 8 record that Solomon’s heart was distracted from God and attracted to foreign gods. Maybe he didn’t worship those gods at first. He just wanted to respect his wives’ foreign culture. So he built altars for his wives to worship their own gods.
What kind of gods? One of the gods mentioned here is Molech, in verse 5. Elsewhere, the Bible records that children were offered to Molech. It’s possible that some children were offered as human sacrifices.
How could Solomon have allowed such worship to happen in his country? Maybe he compromised a bit at a time. As a result, his heart changed.
In our passage today, the word “heart” is mentioned 5 times. “Heart” is a word you will find all over the Bible. Because God cares about the condition of our hearts.
In previous sermons, I reflected on Solomon’s wealth and achievements. I concluded that it is not wrong to seek wealth or success. But we must examine how these pursuits are affecting our hearts. The most important thing is the attitude of our hearts towards God.
Once, Jesus was asked, “What is the most important commandment from God?” His answer, in Matthew 22 verse 37, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”
Jesus was quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. This book records the commands God gave Israel at the beginning of their history as a nation. Let’s read Deuteronomy chapter 6, verses 4, 6 and 8. This is a passage that every Israelite knows:
Verse 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength.” Verse 6: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Verse 8: “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates.”
In those days, Israelites did not have smartphones. But if they had smartphones, I think God would have said, “Write down my words on your phone, okay? Set reminders for yourself. Don’t forget my words. In fact, to be safe, please write my words on your hand and your forehead too.”
From hearing this, we can tell that God wants to be the focus of our daily life. God wants to be our number one passion.
A Jealous God
Why does God want us to love him?
We can understand by looking at human relationships. When you love someone, you want them to love you in return. God loves us intensely and wants us to return His love.
How much does God love us? The Bible says God loves us so much that He is jealous if our hearts turn away.
It’s like how my wife gets jealous of my phone. If I get too absorbed in my phone, she’ll get angry. I’m worried that one day she might throw my phone out of the window. It’s proof that she wants my attention, right?
Going back to God’s jealousy: In Japanese, there is the term “Yaoyorozu no kami.” (八百万の神), which literally means “8 million gods.” One of my students said, “We have thousands of gods in Japan; Jesus can be one of them.” She wasn’t familiar with Jesus’ life and teachings, so I can understand why she said that. She was trying to encourage me that my god can co-exist with other gods.
Let’s continue reading Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 6:14 says, “Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you.” Verse 15: “For the Lord your God is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.” Oh, wow. Does that sound extreme?
In a way, maybe God is kind of extreme. Consider how he came to Earth through the form of a man named Jesus. To heal the broken relationship between God and us, our jealous God took the first step. He pursued us, even when we were not interested in Him. He was willing to die for us! Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. This way, we can start afresh with God and enter His embrace again.
So, God’s jealousy does not come from a sense of insecurity. He is not like human beings, who feel insecure. Rather his jealousy comes from his eternal love for us.
His jealousy is also based on truth. The truth is that He is our Creator and Father. He loves us like a mother loves the child she gave birth to. As his creation, his children, we have a relationship with Him that began since we were born. The question is whether we choose to embrace the relationship or keep our distance from God.
In conclusion, let’s ask ourselves: What does my heart love? Who or what is my most precious treasure in the world?
God has opened his heart to you. You are His treasure. You are the one He loves. He invites you to know His love more and more deeply. In Jeremiah 29:13, God said to the Israelites, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”