Today’s Bible reading: 1 Kings 11-12:19; Acts 9:1-25; Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 17:4-5
In 1 Kings 11:1 we see two problems with Solomon: he loved foreign women and he loved many women. God designed marriage to be between one male and one female. He had also ordered Israel not to intermarry with other nations. Solomon knew this but did it anyway (1 Kings 11:2).
For all his wisdom, he was unable to follow these simple rules. Perhaps it was controllable lust. Or perhaps it was prestige (in those day having a harem was an indication of wealth and power). Perhaps he was following the example set by his father. Whatever the reason, it was not valid. Doing things our way is never justified.
These women did turn Solomon’s heart away from God (1 Kings 11:3) in his old age. Isn’t that interesting. Solomon was wiser in his youth than he was when he was older. Usually it is the other way around.
Solomon had the chance to lead his wives away from their gods to the real God but instead he indulged their false beliefs (1 Kings 11:7-8). How do we handle non-believers in our lives? Do we stand up for God and rebuke sinful behavior? Or do we ignore it or even indulge it because we are too afraid of what the other person will think?
God’s punishment is that He will take Israel away from Solomon (1 Kings 11:11). The onus is on us. If we cling to God He will cling to us. If we walk away from Him He will walk away from us. The choice is always ours.
God raised up enemies against Israel (1 Kings 11:14-40). Notice that it was God who caused Israel to lose its peace. I think the same thing is happening to the United States. Over the past 30 years or so we have been attacked all over the world (e.g. Beirut bombings in 1983) and at home (September 11, 2001). Recently North Korea has been threatening to attack us. These are not coincidences. These events are God trying to get our attention for having forsaken Him over the past few decades.
Back in 1 Kings 3:14 God promised Solomon that he would have a long life if he obeyed God. Solomon died at about the age of 60, which was not very long because he did not obey God. Also, just as is true today, a life lived in excess often ends early.
Evidently Solomon had taxed the people of Israel severely in order to finance his lifestyle. The people ask Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and the next presumed king of Israel) to lighten this burden (1 Kings 12:3). If he does they will be loyal to him. Sadly the people are not interested in spiritual matters. The current state of idolatry and worship of false-gods didn’t bother them. Sounds very much like the United States in 2013.
Rehoboam receives two pieces of conflicting advice about this situation. Older advisors tell him to be a servant to the people and reduce the taxes (1 Kings 12:7). Younger advisors (Rehoboam’s friends) tell him to deal harshly with them. It is this advice he follows causing a split in the kingdom. Abuse of power never ends well.
Rehoboam was more interested in power than he was in leadership. He was the son of one of Solomon’s 1,000 wives and concubines. I’m sure Solomon had no time to raise him so he was probably raised by his mother who didn’t know the true God. When we have too much in life we cannot adequately steward all we have. This is certainly true of our children.
We read about Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 today. Previously Saul was present at the stoning of Stephen. He was also going from house to house taking Christians and throwing them in prison. Here we see that he was doing all this with the approval of the high priest (Acts 9:2). Notice that the early term for following Jesus was “The Way”.
But while going to Damascus to arrest followers of The Way, Jesus appears to Saul who immediately believes (Acts 9:3-11). Saul thought he was serving God by persecuting Christians, but now he learns that he has really been fighting God (Acts 9:4). Our world is the same today. We think we are making “progress” with our decisions to ignore God’s teaching (e.g. legalizing abortion, same-sex marriage, etc). But we are really fighting God. We will lose that fight.
Nowhere does the Bible say “God works in mysterious ways” but certainly this story about Saul (later to be called Paul) would fit that description. No one was less likely in the eyes of man to be chosen by God to spread His message to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) than Saul. But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He will, and often does, surprise us.
Notice Saul began preaching a different message immediately (Acts 9:20). He wasted no time in telling others the truth – that Jesus was who He said He was. This is the message we all need to bring to our circle of influence.
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