1 Kings 11: Pride Comes Before a Fall
June 7, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
1 Kings 11, Psalm 119:49-56, Luke 2:21-40, Ephesians 4:1-16
Is this the saddest sentence in Scripture (v. 1-2)? Perhaps we cannot say that—we can think of sentences attributed to Judas, or Ananias and Sapphira—but this opening sentence to chapter 11 certainly numbers among the greatest disappointments. What had Solomon not been given? What else could he have possibly desired? Was he not wise? And why then did he turn from the path of wisdom to folly, and forsake pure-hearted obedience to God (v. 3-8)?
The answer to these questions, at one level, is quite simple. Solomon loved many foreign women (v. 1). And where the heart is, there soon goes the will, the devotion, and the center of spiritual gravity. He began to worship the gods that these pagan believers brought with them (v. 5)—and so disobeyed the specific instruction given to him by God himself (v. 2, 10), as well as the Law of Moses that warned against such a pathway to betrayal of God.
The result is that God is angry (v. 9)—not an intemperate rage, but a set opposition from the almighty God to Solomon henceforth. Where David had repented of his sin, Solomon continued. For the sake of David, God promises not to tear the kingdom away from Solomon while he is alive, and he will even leave his descendants one of the tribes, but the rest will be taken from his house (v. 11-13).
Specific adversaries appear—as it were from nowhere. But they are allowed to grow in their opposition to Solomon because Solomon has abandoned pure-hearted devotion to God. Perhaps God is calling Solomon back to himself through these means. Did he repent again towards the end of his life? Does Ecclesiastes bear witness to that? At any rate, at a political level Solomon’s troubles increase. First there is Hadad (v. 14-22), then there is Rezon (v. 23-25), and finally and most devastatingly there is Jeroboam (v. 26-40), a man of great talent (v. 28). He it is that will receive the other tribes after Solomon’s son Rehoboam acts so foolishly as we will see in the next chapter.
So here is Solomon, greatest of kings, wisest of men, acting more foolishly than can be believed. Be careful if you think you stand lest you fall (1 Cor. 10:12). The trouble with talent and success and blessing is that for it to last, it must be tempered with brokenness, or at the very least humility. Paul understood this, or at least was taught it: “My strength,” God said to him, “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The more gifted and successful we are, the more we are to seek such an attitude. Whence comes that solidity of character that continues to depend on God even when others praise you? No other place but in the holy place. One look at God—truly and really—and we all repent in dust and ashes. And rejoice that in Christ he would have mercy on such worms as us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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