Buffets are not my friend. Precisely because I like them too much.
See, here’s my problem. I love food, so when I go to a good buffet, I tend to want to try pretty much everything. But then I always want to go back and get more of what I really liked. And then there’s dessert.
So when I go to a buffet, I know what is going to happen. I am going to eat way too much and leave feeling bloated and absolutely terrible.
Every single time.
I know I shouldn’t do it. I know how I will feel in the end. I know it isn’t good for me to eat that much in one sitting.
Yet, I do it. Every single time.
All because I love food, and my love for food is greater than the knowledge of how bad I will feel afterward.
The appetites of the flesh drive so much of what we do. In this case, quite literally.
And that takes us to this week’s session, Solomon’s Sin Divided the Kingdom. (Unit 11, Session 4) As you read through 1 Kings 11:1-13, you will see that Solomon’s appetite of the flesh—in his case for women—caused him to sin greatly. And just like his father, one thing led to another and Solomon compounded his sin. But unlike his father, Solomon didn’t turn from his sin.
But we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s walk through this passage and break it into a few chunks to see what we can learn.
1 King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women 2 from the nations that the Lord had told the Israelites about, “Do not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn you away from Me to their gods.” Solomon was deeply attached to these women and loved them. 3 He had 700 wives who were princesses and 300 concubines, and they turned his heart away from the Lord.
When it comes down to it, it was the allure of the world that led to Solomon’s downfall. God had warned Israel—commanded them—not to marry foreign women. And He had a reason for that. He knew exactly what would happen—exactly what happened to Solomon. Solomon’s love for women led to a divided heart. I am sure that Solomon still loved God—it was just that he loved women more than God and that caused him to sin against God. Three quick points:
- We can never underestimate our desires of the flesh. Our desires may manifest themselves in different ways, but we all are prone to struggle with them mightily. This is why we need to go to war with our flesh and ask the Holy Spirit to go to work in our minds and hearts each and every day.
- God’s commands are always for His glory… and our best. God always has a reason for His commands. Here we see that God’s instruction was to protect His people from rebelling against Him. It wasn’t that God was trying to squelch the joy of His people—in fact it is the complete opposite. He was trying to provide true, lasting joy for them.
- God never permits polygamy. God’s plan for marriage has always been one man and one woman. Polygamy was a sin in Solomon’s day, as it is today. So Solomon was in sin as soon as he took a second wife. You will notice that when we encounter polygamy in the Bible, there are almost always—if not always—hurtful and negative consequences of it. Again, all of God’s commands are for our good, including monogamy.
4 When Solomon was old, his wives seduced him to follow other gods. He was not completely devoted to Yahweh his God, as his father David had been. 5 Solomon followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and unlike his father David, he did not completely follow Yahweh.
Solomon couldn’t control his desire for women. Which led him to break God’s law and marry multiple women and take foreign women as his wives. Then his wives seduced him to worship false gods. See a familiar pattern? Like father, like son, huh? Just as David’s sinful desire for Bathsheba led him to commit adultery and murder, Solomon’s desire led him to commit adultery as well and then idolatry.
But there was a key difference. Notice that we read that Solomon wasn’t completely devoted to God like David had been. But what about David’s sin with Bathsheba? Here’s the difference—why David can be considered a man who wholly followed God—David repented. David turned from his sin, and turned back to God and was forgiven and restored. It seems that Solomon failed to do that. Which is why David was said to be wholly committed, but Solomon was not.
7 At that time, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable idol of Moab, and for Milcom, the detestable idol of the Ammonites, on the hill across from Jerusalem. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who were burning incense and offering sacrifices to their gods.
If you think back with me to David’s sin with Bathsheba a little more, you might recall that David’s sin was not committed in isolation. He impacted others in his sin. We can see the same for Solomon’s sin. Not only did his sin impact the women he married, it impacted the entire nation of Israel. Solomon built pagan altars in the land. Again, we have to remember that our sin always impacts others to some degree. There’s no such thing as a “personal sin” or a sin done in “private.” Sin is like a cancer that will work its way out in some way, shape, or form.
9 The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had commanded him about this, so that he would not follow other gods, but Solomon did not do what the Lord had commanded.
Notice again that we see that God had commanded Solomon not to take foreign wives, but he refused to listen. Don’t miss this. It’s important. Sometimes people believe that God is vindictive, harsh, unyielding in the Old Testament. You may have heard the claim that God is a God of justice and wrath in the Old Testament and He is a God of love and grace in the New Testament. That is categorically untrue. God is unchanging. He has always been, and always will be, a God of love and grace. And that is what we see here. God’s love, grace, and patience gave Solomon time to repent. He warned Solomon, but he refused to listen.
11 Then the Lord said to Solomon, “Since you have done this and did not keep My covenant and My statutes, which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 However, I will not do it during your lifetime because of your father David; I will tear it out of your son’s hand. 13 Yet I will not tear the entire kingdom away from him. I will give one tribe to your son because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem that I chose.”
God is full of grace, but He also disciplines those whom He loves. Here we see that God disciplines Solomon for his sin. God would take the kingdom and split it because of Solomon’s sin. Now, we may be tempted to see this as God being unfair by punishing Solomon’s son and even Israel instead of Solomon. That’s understandable. But we can’t forget that God is omniscient and He is always completely just. Solomon’s son was far from innocent in how he tried to lead Israel. It was not like he was an innocent bystander when the kingdom actually split in two. And as for the people, we know that they struggled with idolatry all along. So they weren’t innocent either.
Once again, when we walk through this Bible story, we can see many different helpful takeaways to share with our kids. But as always, let’s not look past the biggest takeaway—the gospel.
Jesus is the greater Solomon.
King Solomon was tempted in the flesh and gave in to temptation, sinned, led his people into idolatry and tore God’s people apart.
King Jesus was tempted in the flesh, but He didn’t give in to temptation. Jesus never sinned, and led His people to the Father and brought God’s people together as part of the church.
Jesus succeeded where Solomon failed.
And in Jesus, we have been credited with His righteousness so that we too are seen by God as fully obedient to the Father.
Let’s remind our kids of that beautiful truth this week.
How have you seen God put desires of the flesh to death in your life? Share in a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the August 7, 2016 session (Unit 11, Session 4) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.