“That We Might Have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
First Kings, Chapters Five through Eight
The Building of the Temple and Solomon’s Later Years
It might come as quite a surprise to read what is written in 1 Kings 11:4: “When Solomon was old . . . his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” One would never have guessed that could happen, especially in view of what we read concerning Solomon’s earlier years on the throne.
As a young man Solomon was bent on serving the Lord. That desire came through very clearly as he asked the Lord for “an understanding heart to judge this great people” (3:9)–when he could have asked for anything else, like riches or a long life. In this four-chapter section we see him giving years of service to the Lord in building Him a temple in Jerusalem.
The amount of money, time, materials, and labor that was put into this great edifice boggles the mind. Tens of thousands of workers both in Israel and in Lebanon worked to supply cedar for the building. Large and costly stones were quarried for the foundation (but not even so much as a hammer hitting a chisel was heard on the Temple Mount–all was to be quiet in the presence of the Lord). Solomon had the inside of the stone walls lined with cedar panels, engraved with ornamental buds and open flowers. And as if that wasn’t enough, all of that was overlaid with pure gold: “The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple.”
The altar too, and the cherubim guarding the Ark of the Covenant, the floor, the doors–everything was gold. Also many other furnishings were gold–the table for showbread, the lampstands, the censers, right down to the hinges on the doors! On top of that were many items formed out of cast bronze. There was a Sea–a very ornate and very large water basin–about fifteen feet in diameter, holding perhaps 18,000 gallons of water; it was set atop twelve bronze bulls, three facing in each direction. Several carts, lavers, shovels, and bowls were also made of bronze; all were sanctified for use in the Temple.
The modern equivalent of the cost would run into billions of dollars!
But nowhere during this whole seven-year process do we find that such wealth swayed Solomon from serving the Lord. When he spoke at the Temple dedication ceremony, all we hear are humble words of thanks, praise, and supplication to God–not one word of selfish pride! “The Lord said to my father David, Your son shall build the house of My name. So the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. O Lord my God, may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel. When they pray toward this place, then hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive” (8:18, 20, 27, 28, 30).
Where Is The Full Life??
What turned Solomon away from the Lord was his love for women! “But Solomon loved many foreign women. . . . He had 700 wives . . . and 300 concubines; and his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (11:1-4). As these thousand women entered his city and his palace, they brought with them their heathen worship–and Solomon did not say no. Instead, he approvingly joined them in their worship of the false gods Ashtoreth and Milcom, Chemosh and Molech.
It probably wasn’t an overnight change. Perhaps the number of sacrifices to the true God lessened gradually over the years. Maybe Solomon missed a service now and then at the beginning. After all, there was family in town, you know, and he was needed elsewhere. And then there were all the weekend jaunts with visiting dignitaries, not to mention all the things to do at home. . . .
Needless to say, the Lord did not approve. “The Lord became angry with Solomon. . . He had commanded him not to go after other gods. . . . Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, Because you have done this, . . . I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant” (1:9-11).
What becomes painfully clear is that there is no one–not Solomon, not clergy, not laymen, not anyone–who is exempt from the temptation not to put God first, but to give in to the multitudinous distractions that surround us on all sides. It takes constant vigilance on the part of our Spirit-motivated new man to be on guard against those things which would take over the place of prominence which God should have in our lives!
It was a chastened, humbled, and repentant elderly Solomon who later on was brought to see the wicked folly of his ways: “I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem,” he wrote. “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. . . . My heart rejoiced in all my labor. . . . Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done . . and indeed all is vanity and grasping for the wind. . . . It is God who gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight” (Eccl. 2:9-11, 26).
–And that from a man who “had it all”! Solomon came to the realization that life without a relationship with his Savior God was empty and worthless.
How true! It is only in Jesus Christ that both Solomon’s and our own lives are given meaning and value. Only in Jesus Christ do we have that which is truly of priceless value–the solution to sin and the key to the doors of eternity in heaven!
–Pastor Paul Krause