1 Kings 10:1–11:8, Mark 6:45–7:13, Proverbs 3:1–5, Jeremiah 9:23–24
Solomon was blessed by God with wisdom, wealth, and power for which he praised God, but somewhere along the line, his focus changed from the Giver to the gifts. Perhaps it happened when the queen of Sheba heard of his fame and came to test him.
A rich woman herself, she arrived with a great show of it, but when she saw the wisdom of Solomon, his house, his food, the seating of his officials, the attendance of his servants and their clothes, his cupbearers, and burnt offerings offered at the house of the Lord, she was breathless.
She said to Solomon, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:1–9)
Did this praise from a wealthy foreign woman turn his head? Or was it that his “drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold” and that in his day silver was not considered as anything? After all, “King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom” and the whole earth sought his presence to hear his wisdom “which God had put into his mind” with each one bringing articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules. (1 Kings 10:21–25)
Some or all of this diverted Solomon and he started to love “many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’”
Solomon wound up with 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. These wives turned away his heart after other gods. His heart was “not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. He built a place of worship for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem, doing this for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.” (1 Kings 11:1–8)
This same man, likely before this happened, wrote, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:1–5) How sad that his wisdom did not keep him from falling into sin.
This fall into sin also happened to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. As Jesus healed the sick, the Pharisees criticized everything He did. Jesus said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6–7) Instead of worshiping the Lord God and obeying Him, they had fallen into worshiping their own version of what obedience means.
These accounts remind me of God’s Word to Jeremiah: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
Today, God warns me that no matter what good things He has given me, I need to guard that I do not take pride in those good things and begin worshipping the gifts instead of the Giver. Even though my boast can be in the very best that God has done, putting my focus there instead of on Him (and my need of Him) will pull me down, just as it pulled Solomon and the Pharisees down into sin — and that sin ruined their lives.