I’m just enjoying “The Message of Kings” commentary to help with these readings. It’s such a timely help.
We love success stories, but 1 & 2 Kings are the opposite. They were written when Israel was in exile, a national disaster and are a reflection of why they are in such mess. 1&2 Samuel was a high point in Israel and now we are in a succession of Kings that are mainly bad – only 2 are exemplary, 6 are praised with qualification and the rest are condemned.
The finishing of the Temple is a high point, but we can see in v1 that all is not totally well. Solomon built also “all he had desired to build”. Money, sex and power are the greatest temptations for anyone and especially leaders. We can see the beginning of riches enticing Solomon in that first verse. It is common to speak of Solomon being led astray by foreign wives (11:1,4), but here are signs of being led astray by wealth and power with conspicuous consumption to enhance his status. Solomon’s story demonstrates Tim Keller’s statement that “sex, work and money… are great goods. They are intrinsic to our being made in God’s image. If God is second place in your life and one of them is in first place, then you are cooked. These things are candidates for first place, because they are so good.”
The Lord begins to speak to Solomon promising blessing if he is steadfast, but then in v6-9 predicting the destruction of the Temple. They may have been worshipping well as the Temple is dedicated but there are warnings of apostasy, turning from God in a deliberate and persistent way. We see the same today with the quest for wealth and power – the conspicuous consumption of cheap meat, that has led to factory farming in a way that should never have happened and the emergence of animal to human virus jumps like never before. We also see a rise of modern slavery with sweatshops and exploitation of labour.
God is calling us back to steadfastness – walk with integrity of heart and uprightness (v4)
Solomon it would seem has got more focused on the magnificnence of the Temple building than worship – come back to worship! I’m loving joining Olly Knight on his Facebook page for daily worship.
Later in the passage we see forced labour rising – Wilberforce got rid of that blight in the UK just over 250 years ago, but it is now coming back for the sex and drugs trade and apparently car washes too. Samuel had prohecied that if Israel went for a King rather than Judges they would end up in slavery at times (1 Sam 8:17). That came true as Solomon used Israelite slave labour to build the temple in 1 Kings 5:13 and in today’s reading Canaanites were used.
Lastly we see mention of Pharaoh’s daughter coming to the Palace – the beginning of the influence of foreign wives, that will eventually take Solomon far from God.
In this time of lockdown, we can journey with Solomon to reflect on our own hearts. As John Olley writes in the Message of Kings “Our wealth may be nowhere near Solomon’s nor our relationships akin to being married to Pharaoh’s daughter but the starkness protrayed can illuimate our greys. At this stage Solomon is faithfully worshipping Yahweh, but questions are being raised as to his priorities. Jesus was to point to sad results. “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, makingit unfruitful (Matt13:22)
Grace and peace