*July 12 - 19
The Rise and the Fall of the House of Solomon
MEMORY TEXT: But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? (1 Kings 8:27).
MANY STRANGE WOMEN. First Kings 3:3 reads: And Solomon loved the Lord; 1 Kings 11:1 reads, But King Solomon loved many strange women. Solomon vacillates from the love of God to the love of many strange women. What a long (or maybe a short) distance! Either way, between those two simple verses, the whole story of this weeks lesson emerges.
Perhaps these two other verses could have provided the bookends for the week: And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing (1 Kings 3:10); So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel (1 Kings 11:9, NKJV).
Whichever pair of verses one uses to contain the account, the story remains sad, poignant, and, most of all, instructive.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: Why were the early years of Solomon so great? What were the conditions for that greatness? What was the purpose of the temple? Was it to be for the Jews alone? Which great spiritual truths were to be taught from it? What signs, if any, early on gave indication that Solomon was heading for disaster? What ultimately brought his downfall?
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 20.)
Sunday July 14
Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry (1 Kings 4:20).
Never, in the long and troubled history of the Hebrew nation, had the people enjoyed such a time of peace, wealth, and prosperity as they had during the reign of Solomon. The Bible with justice depicts Solomons reign as one of unexampled prosperity. Israel enjoyed a security and a material plenty such as she had never dreamed of before and was never to know again. And this, in turn, allowed an amazing flowering of the peaceful arts.John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), p. 217.
In many ways, the nation seemed to be enjoying the blessings that God had promised to the people if they would obey Him.
Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Compare the blessings that God said Israel would enjoy if they would diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments (Dent. 28:1, NKJV) with what they were experiencing in Solomons time:
| The Promises
| The Results
God had raised up the Hebrew nation for a reason: They were to preach the message of salvation by faith to the world, whoseeing the success of the Hebrew people-would come, seeking to know the source of their greatness, wisdom, and material prosperity. Read Deuteronomy 4:6-8 and compare it with 1 Kings 4:29-34. Though the focus in Kings is specifically on Solomon, the principle is the same: God blessed these people because they obeyed His laws and His commandments, and as a result of those blessings, their lifestyle made them attractive to the world at large.
How does this same principle apply to us as a church today? Read 1 Peter 2:9.
|Look at yourself, look at your church, andrealizing that the issue goes far beyond mere material prosperityask the question, Are you living a lifestyle that would cause others to want to know more about your beliefs? Could someone, not knowing much about you, by seeing how you live, how you react, how you treat others, find something appealing that would draw him or her to want to know more?|
And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name (1 Kings 5:5).
God, through the promise made to the forefathers of Solomon, had raised up Israel to teach the world about the plan of salvation. At the center of salvation is, of course, Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). Of all that Israel could teach the world about the true God, about hygiene, about diet, about family relations, nothing mattered more than that they teach the world about the sacrifice for sins that would come through the Messiah. That is why, no doubt, the sanctuary service in the temple that Solomon had built was at the center of Israels worship. It was through this structure and the services performed in it that the plan of salvation was taught. No wonder it took on so much prominence in Israel.
Read through the details of the construction of the sanctuary service. It was, obviously, quite an elaborate structure, taking seven years to build (1 Kings 6:38). Think about how much time and money was spent on building it. Though Solomon had Gods blessing on the project, could one argue that there was no need for such extravagance? Could the money and energy expended on something so grand not have been used elsewhere? Or, on the other hand, was there a purpose for it being built so elaborately? Give reasons for whichever position you take.
However crucial the temple was, it was not so much the building that was important, nor even the services themselves, for these were only temporary measures, earthly things that were to point to a greater reality, that of Christ and His ministry in heaven (Heb. 8:1-5). What mattered, instead, were the spiritual lessons that were to be learned from the services.
|However grand and glorious Solomons temple, the danger existed that the people would become caught up in the forms and styles of worship, thus missing the great truths behind them. This, apparently, had happened to Israel. In what ways are we, as a people, in danger of doing the same thing: becoming too caught up in forms, style, doctrines, and missing the real message behind them?|
And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy
people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven
thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive
Though there is an incredible amount of theology in Solomons prayer of dedication, one theme comes through time and again, and that is forgiveness. How many times does Solomon talk about forgiveness in his prayer? Count them. If we, as a people, sin, please, Lord, from heaven, forgive. Whatever else Solomon says in the prayer, this theme comes repeatedly. Gods people need forgiveness and not just in Solomons time, either (see 1 John 1:8-10).
Solomon mentions some things, in 1 Kings 8, that his people might do that would cause them to need forgiveness. What are they? Compare these things with Deuteronomy 28, where the Lord warns Israel about the consequences of their sins.
What is it about the sanctuary service itself that makes the theme of forgiveness so appropriate? In other words, why would Solomon, in dedicating this temple, constantly talk about forgiveness? What does the sanctuary have to do with forgiveness?
Read carefully the beautiful section in 1 Kings 8:41-43. Here, clearly, we see depicted the missionary, evangelistic aspect of Israel. However much over the centuries the people had turned their religion into an exclusive club only for themselves, this was never the intention of God. God most definitely had separated Israel from the world (see vs. 53), but that was to prepare them to be His witnesses. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God (Isa. 43:12). Israel was to be the center of world evangelism, and the temple was to be the focal point of that activity.
|Gods people, today, are not in one specific location; nor is there any single earthly structure around which their religious life centers. What, now, is the center of our faith, and in what ways is it so much better than what the earthly sanctuary provided? See Heb. 9:11-15.|
Looking back over our shoulders, many centuries later, most of us find it incredible that Solomon, having been given so much by the Lord, could have fallen as he did.
The first two verses of 1 Kings 11 say it all: Solomon took women from the nations that God had specifically told him not to. They did exactly what God warned about: They turned his heart away from the God of his fathers.
Notice the progression of steps in his fall:
1. He takes wives he is not supposed to take (vss. 1, 2).
2. The women turn his heart away from the Lord (vs. 3).
3. Solomon follows the abominations of the Ammonites (vs. 4).
4. Solomon builds a place of worship for these foreign deities (vss. 7, 8).
If someone would have said to Solomon in his earliest days, the days in which he was humbled and submitted to the Lord, that he would one day be building altars for pagans to practice their abominations (most likely involving sexual impurity), he probably would have laughed in his or her face. However, if one reads through the texts talking about Solomon, even in his glory, there are hints of his deviating, even then. Read through Deuteronomy 17:15-20 for the rules regarding a king and see where you can find, even before his fall, areas in which Solomon had compromised (see also Prophets and Kings, p. 56).
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded (1 Kings 11:9, 10). Read both accounts of the occasion when God appeared to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15; 1 Kings 9:1-9). In both cases, whatever the great blessings were that God promised Solomon, they were always based on the condition that he obey.
The story of Solomon raises a number of interesting questions, among them this: Why did the Lord not stop Solomon in his tracks, early on, from the path of apostasy? Could He not have appeared in vision to him or not sent an angel or not done something that could have, in a very clear, startling manner, told Solomon: My son, you better wake up, or you are heading for disaster! And not only you, but your whole nation. If something like that did happen, nothing is recorded in the text. Perhaps Solomon had been given enough warning through Gods appearances to him twice, as well as through the testimony of the Word. In short, what does this story tell us about the freedom that God gives us?
According to Ellen White, it was after the Lord had pronounced judgment upon Solomon (1 Kings 11:9-13) that Solomon repented: Awakened as from a dream by this sentence of judgment pronounced against him and his house, Solomon with quickened conscience began to see his folly in its true light. Chastened in spirit, with mind and body enfeebled, he turned wearied and thirsting from earths broken cisterns, to drink once more at the fountain of life. For him at last the discipline of suffering had accomplished its work. Long had he been harassed by the fear of utter ruin because of inability to turn from folly; but now he discerned in the message given him a ray of hope. God had not utterly cut him off, but stood ready to deliver him from a bondage more cruel than the grave, and from which he had had no power to free himself.Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 77.
In one sense, it is not hard to see how Solomon could have fallen. Look at all the prosperity he enjoyed: wealth, power, wisdom. Who could withstand such temptations? Only a soul totally dependent upon God; only a soul painfully aware of his or her own sinfulness, finitude, and unworthiness could be protected from self-exaltation under those circumstances. How could looking at the Cross and what happened at the Cross protect a person from the kind of self-exaltation that proved so damaging to Solomon?
The religion of the Bible does not speak ill of material things. God created the world, He created material things, and what He had created was good (see Genesis 1). God made us as material beings, wired and programmed to enjoy the material world. There is nothing evil about sensory pleasures: They are gifts from God.
Give some examples of how, through sensory pleasures, we can learn about God and Gods love for us.
Solomons problem, however, was that he allowed these pleasures to take total control of his mind. The desire for earthly goods, in and of itself not bad, consumed him until it became an end instead of the means. His bitter words, as expressed in Ecclesiastes (which he wrote after his repentance and return to God) express the painful journey that one inevitably takes when lured down the road of excessive pleasure.
Read Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, chapters 1-5 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], pp. 25-86, for a more detailed history of the rise and fall of the house of Solomon.
From being one of the greatest kings that ever wielded a scepter, Solomon became a profligate, the tool and slave of others. His character, once noble and manly, became enervated and effeminate. His faith in the living God was supplanted by atheistic doubts. Unbelief marred his happiness, weakened his principles, and degraded his life. The justice and magnanimity of his early reign were changed to despotism and tyranny. Poor, frail human nature! God can do little for men who lose their sense of dependence upon Him.
During these years of apostasy, the spiritual decline of Israel progressed steadily. How could it be otherwise when their king had united his interests with satanic agencies? Through these agencies the enemy worked to confuse the minds of the Israelites in regard to true and false worship, and they became an easy prey. Commerce with other nations brought them into intimate contact with those who had no love for God, and their own love for Him was greatly lessened. Their keen sense of the high, holy character of God was deadened. Refusing to follow in the path of obedience, they transferred their allegiance to the enemy of righteousness.Prophets and Kings, pp. 58, 59.
Mr. Ookubo was a busy man, running his shop and caring for his family. But for the first time in his life, questions began to plague him. Who is God? How did life start on this planet? Is it all by chance, or is there a Creator whom we could come to know?
Mr. Ookubo began reading a lot of books about religion, but the books did not satisfy all of his questions. He watched other people and tried to learn from them what was ultimately real, but again he was dissatisfied.
One day as he paced the floor grappling with his spiritual questions, he noticed his small shortwave radio sitting on his desk. He turned it on and idly turned the dial, searching for something of interest to listen to.
He came across a station that was broadcasting in his native language. The program, Voice of Hope, filled his home and heart with truth and faith. Mr. Ookubo was fascinated by what he heard. The program offered answers to some of his deepest questions, and he kept on listening. He became convinced that there truly is a God who not only made us but loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. That was good news to Mr. Ookubo!
Then Mr. Ookubo heard about the Sabbath. The same God who made all things asks us to honor Him and nurture our relationship with Him by observing His Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, the speaker said.
This news agitated Mr. Ookubo. He noted that the radio program was sponsored by Adventist World Radio, and he listened for their address. He wrote a letter to the radio speaker, telling him, I want to keep the Sabbath. But Saturday is the busiest day of the week in my shop. For the customers sake, it is impossible to close on Saturday. What do you think? Do I need to close my shop on Saturday? I am searching for an answer to this dilemma.
The Japanese speaker for Adventist World Radio responded carefully to Mr. Ookubos questions, making sure that Mr. Ookubo understood that keeping the Sabbath is motivated by our love for Jesus and our desire to follow Him.
The two men exchanged many letters over a period of time. Eventually they met face to face. After a lengthy conversation, Mr. Ookubo said, There are many hills to climb in life, but now I walk them with Jesus.
Don Jacobsen is president of Adventist World Radio.
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