[May 05]--Trouble in Paradise

1 Kings 3:1; 10:26-29; 11:1-8

It sometimes surprises me when people are surprised. What do I mean by that? God has given us certain instructions, has made known certain expectations, has made his will perfectly clear in certain situations. People are made aware of this, and also he reveals to them the specific consequences for going astray. He tells them to do X, and if they don’t, then Y will happen to them. They think they have a better plan than he does, so they don’t do X. Then Y happens, as it always has and always will. And they're surprised when Y happens! Like I said, the only reason we should be surprised in situations like that is that people are surprised.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 is pretty clear on what God expected of a king. If you want to, you can look it up, but for convenience I’ll summarize it for you. Any king must be a fellow Israelite, not a foreigner. He must not accumulate for himself a great many horses, nor make the people of Israel go back to Egypt for them. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He also must not start a grand collection of silver and gold. When he’s inaugurated, he must write out for himself a copy of the Torah, and he's supposed to read from it everyday. And of course all this assumed that the king would be obedient to God’s law in general. So this common notion that the king would have privileges that ordinary people wouldn’t have is not biblical. If anything, there are more expectations on him than a poor citizen of Israel. Remember our discussion on lex rex a while back?

So how did Solomon do? How did he measure up? Well, he was certainly an Israelite, not a foreigner. And there's no record of him making the people go back to Egypt to get horses. But every other major test he flunked miserably. Maybe he didn’t go to Egypt to get horses, but he did get a wife there. Most of the time if one king married the daughter of another king, it wasn't an issue of sexual attraction so much as an effort in sealing an alliance with each other. So there were no God-worshipping women within his own country? Again, this was not a racial issue, but a religious one. Of course, he did find some other women, actually a thousand in all. And he accumulated chariots, horses, and lots and lots and lots of money. Now, is there anything wrong with chariots, horses, and money? Of course not. But these were symbols of security. The more of them that a king had, the more secure he felt on his throne. Here's where the son desperately needed to learn a lesson from his father. Decades before, David had written “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Should've listened to your dad, Solomon.

And what did God warn would happen if a king gathered a lot of women? Deut. 17:17 laid it all out in black and white: “his heart will be led astray.” Solomon gathered a lot of women, and what happened? His heart was led astray! Again, the only surprising part of all this is that we’re surprised when it happens.

The good news about all this is that foolishly suffering for our disobedience doesn’t have to be the end of the story for us. When we realize just how stupid we’ve been, his grace steps in.

Father God, your word is like a double-edged sword, cutting between bone and marrow, soul and spirit. I thank you that your final word to me is not “justice” but “grace.”

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