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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Failure of Faith—Solomon—Part I

I was recently reading an author (C. S. Lewis) who to paraphrase it was making the declaration that faith must be fed if it is to survive.  I have thought about that quite a bit since reading it and I am persuaded he is right.  Just because a person holds a belief today does not mean he is going to hold it tomorrow.  People lose their faith.  The question is why?  Lewis would say that the faith was not fed and, as he said, most people who lose their faith just gradually drift away, drift until faith is gone. 

I was trying to think of a Bible example of a person like this, one who once believed in God and followed him and then lost his faith.  The one I know about that best fits into that category and certainly the best known would be Solomon, David's son and king of all Israel.

If you recall the story David had wanted to build a house for God but God told David that he would not be allowed to build it due to his having "shed much blood"(1 Chron. 22:7-8 NKJV) but went on to say that a son would be born to him, "his name shall be Solomon," (1 Chron. 22:9 NKJV) who would build the house and have the throne (1 Chron. 22:10, 2 Sam. 7:12-13). 

When Solomon was born the Bible says, "The Lord loved him." (2 Sam. 12:24 NKJV)  God sent word by Nathan the prophet to call him Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25 NKJV) which literally means "Beloved of the Lord" (see the footnote in the NKJV).  That is a good start in life and his life did start out well.  He listened to his father David who gave him the kingdom, instructed him as to the building of a temple for God, and warned him to be faithful to God and not to depart from him.  "Keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn." (1 Kings 2:3 NKJV)

These things Solomon seemed to do in the early years of his kingdom.  The Bible says of Solomon in those days that "Solomon loved the Lord." (1 Kings 3:3 NKJV)  It was about this time, very early in Solomon's reign, that "the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night" (1 Kings 3:5 NKJV, see also 2 Chron. 1:7) before the building of the temple and asked Solomon what he could give to him.  I am sure you know the story how Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chron. 1:10, see also 1 Kings 3:9) and it was granted to him (2 Chron. 1:12, see also 1 Kings 3:12 and 1 Kings 4:29-31) and his desire for these things so pleased the Lord that God chose to grant him also riches, wealth, and honor (2 Chron. 1:12, see also 1 Kings 3:13-14). 

It is important to point out something here at this point in the life of Solomon.  Solomon had a personal relationship with God the likes of which men do not have today.  How often has God appeared to you?  We think that if he did it would strengthen our faith to the point that we would never lose our faith.  Why then did Solomon lose his faith?  Are we stronger than Solomon? 

Solomon again had direct contact with God during the building of the temple for we read in 1 Kings 6:11 where the Bible says, "Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying." (NKJV)  This was an admonition to be obedient so the Lord could fulfill his word to Solomon which he had spoken to David earlier.  Here is another instance of what should have been a faith-building event in the life of Solomon of such a nature that he would never forget it—the word of God coming to him in a direct way. 

So far, so good in Solomon's life.  The temple is built and when it is completed the ark is brought down and placed within it.  There was an incident here that occurred showing God's presence, another faith builder.  When the ark was set in its place, "the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God." (2 Chron. 5:13-14 NKJV)  Solomon was fully aware of this (2 Chron. 6:1).

Solomon on this occasion is a faithful obedient servant of God.  Immediately after the event just described Solomon says "blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chron. 6:4 NKJV) and goes on to tell how God has fulfilled his word.  He then offers a prayer of what some might call a dedication in which he says, and I repeat this here to show the state of his faith at this point in time, "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like you, who keep your covenant and mercy with your servants who walk before you with all their hearts." (2 Chron. 6:14 NKJV)  When the prayer is completed the Bible says, "Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (2 Chron. 7:1 NKJV)  Solomon believes in God and Solomon has experienced God in supernatural acts.

The Lord then appears to Solomon for the second time in Solomon's life after all the ceremonies associated with the temple have passed (2 Chron. 7:12-22).  On this occasion, God tells Solomon that he has heard his prayer and basically says he will be attentive to Solomon's requests for forgiveness on the basis of repentance for the children of Israel but he also issues a warning, "But if you turn away and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them..." (2 Chron. 7:19 NKJV) and the reader knows the rest as regards the consequences of such acts.

This applied not only to the nation but also to Solomon himself.  His father David while still living had said to him, "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever." (1 Chron. 28:9 NKJV)

Throughout the rest of his life the Bible does not tell us much to enlighten us on the state of Solomon's faith.  We are told about his wealth, the visit of the Queen of Sheba, and some of his accomplishments but not anything about his faith until near the end of his days.  We do know he reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42), started building the temple in his 4th year (1 Kings 6:1), and 1 Kings 6:38 tells us it took 7 years to build.  What am I getting at?  We know Solomon lived a life of faith for a number of years after becoming king.

We also know much of the book of Proverbs is attributed to him as is the book of Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, and even a couple of the Psalms (Psalms 72 and 127).  We know, "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV) and we thus know God's Holy Spirit was with Solomon for a time.

At what period during Solomon's reign he wrote one can only say with certainty that it had to be either in the earlier years of his reign or at the latest his middle years.  An important point to be made here is that not only has God appeared to Solomon in his life, spoken to him, and worked a miracle before his eyes at the dedication of the temple, but also inspired him with his Holy Spirit yet his faith eventually fails.  If his faith can fail how about the faith of the average man or woman, can their faith fail? 

The Bible tells us "when Solomon was old…his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God." (1 Kings 11:4 NKJV)  As is well known Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).  Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth and Milcom and evidently also Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:5, 7 and 2 Kings 23:13) in his old age.  He also built what were called high places where the worship of these gods took place and based on the text of 1 Kings 11:8 one can surmise there were even more idolatrous gods involved than just these 4 mentioned.

God grew angry with Solomon and spoke to him one last time, "Because you have done this, and have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant." (1 Kings 11:11 NKJV)  This was to occur after Solomon's death during the reign of his son Rehoboam but nevertheless Solomon spent his last days trying to kill the one who was to be the recipient of the kingdom—Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:34-35, 40).  What a sorry way for a man of God to end his life—as an idolater, as a man in rebellion against God (a God who speaks to him), as a man who is actively fighting to keep God's decree from fulfillment by attempting to kill Jeroboam.

How could such a thing happen?  How could a man who once loved the Lord (1 Kings 3:3) fall away?  How could his faith fail him?  How could a man who wrote things like "trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov. 3:5 NKJV), "the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (Prov. 14:27 NKJV), "righteousness leads to life" (Prov. 11:19 NKJV), etc., come to the point in life where he falls away?  How does his heart become so hardened that when the Lord tells him he is taking the kingdom away from him he does not repent?  What can we personally learn from this account that would be applicable to us today for "whatever things were written before were written for our learning?" (Rom. 15:4 NKJV)

[The lessons learned will be found in Part II of this article.  Click here for that.]  

[To download this article or print it out click here.]


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