A few years ago, my wife and I were traveling down an interstate highway in New York at a good clip when the cars in front of us began to slow and eventually come to a full stop. Slowly, for several miles, the line of traffic crawled along. My wife and I assumed that there must be a car accident up ahead and tried to be patient while we hoped that our engine wouldn’t overheat. Finally, after what seemed like hours (but was probably about 30-45 minutes), we discovered the cause of the backup. We were right; there was an accident—but not on our road! The accident was on the other side of the divided highway. The backup on our side was caused by drivers slowing down to see what was going on! What is it about human beings that makes us want to look at and away from an accident simultaneously? Most of us don’t enjoy seeing an accident; we may even cringe when we’re near to one. Yet, how many of us see ourselves drawn to taking a quick peak (or more) when we pass one.
That urge to look at and away from something simultaneously is exactly how I feel every time I read the story of King Solomon. I flinch from looking at it but find myself drawn to it over and over again. How could someone’s life start out so well and end so poorly? Here’s a fellow who had, while he was still a young man, God appear to him in dreams at least twice. The first time (1 Kings 3) God told Solomon that He would give him whatever he asked for. I wouldn’t mind that offer! Solomon requested that God give him a wise and discerning heart. God granted that request and told Solomon that He would give him wisdom such as had never been given to anyone ever before nor would anyone ever again be so wise. Not a bad gift! Oh, and for good measure God threw in wealth, honour, and a long life. Then, in 1 Kings 9, God appeared to Solomon a second time and told Solomon that if he remained true to God, he would never fail to have a son sit on the throne in Jerusalem. Not a bad deal, huh? So, how did things end? Terribly! The Scriptures tell us that, in his old age, Solomon began worshiping other gods and died a failure in the eyes of God. Talk about a car wreck!
So, what does this story teach us today? It’s hard for me to believe that I have been a Christian for well over thirty years. Many of you reading this column have been believers for even longer periods. For those of us who have been walking the Christian road for many miles, this story reminds us that we can never take our relationship with God for granted. In other words, we will never walk so closely to God that it would be impossible for us to fall away. I believe two things led Solomon away from God:
1. Solomon forgot his first love. In other words, his heart strayed from God. In 1 Kings 11:4, we are told that, in his old age, Solomon’s “heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” I pray that never happens to me. I want my life not only to go well for a while, I want to end well. I want to end my life more devoted, more loyal, and more committed to God than I am now.
2. Solomon forgot his priorities. There’s a telling little detail at the end of 1 Kings 6 and the beginning of the next chapter. In these few lines we are told that it took Solomon seven years to build a temple for God but thirteen years to build his own palace. In other words, it took him nearly twice as long to build his own house as to build God’s house. Which was more important? Where were his priorities? I believe this story is indicative of a life that had lost any sense of what was most important—of what his priorities should be.
Do you see why I am fascinated but cringe when I read about Solomon? Talk about a car wreck of a life? Yet, who amongst us can say that it could never happen to us? Who can say that we are so close to God that we could never drift away? The story of Solomon is a reminder to each of us never to take our relationship with God for granted. We need to continue to work at strengthening our walk with God, to evaluating our priorities, and to embracing that love that drew us to God in the first place.