Monday Club Sermons
1 Kings 11:1-13
But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians…
A few years ago two paintings were exhibited in this country, which attracted wide attention. One of them represented Rome in the height of her splendour, and the other in the depths of her decay. The contrast was melancholy and instructive. One could not repress the question as he turned from one scene to the other, What led to this mighty change? It was the old story, which every great nation thus far in history has illustrated sooner or later, that of a secret, slow-moving moral decay, preceding and occasioning social upheaval and ruin. We might fancy that a similar picture might be drawn between two periods in the history of Israel — one, that of the latter part of Solomon's reign, when there was an unsurpassed wealth and glory and power in the holy city; and the other, only a few years later, when the kingdom was rent and the sceptre had departed.
I. SOLOMON'S SIN. This was no ordinary transgression of an ordinary evil-doer. It was not the general unworthiness of his life — an unworthiness that pertains to every child of Adam. It was a distinct thing. It had an historical character — Solomon's sin. We now ask briefly in what did it consist?
1. It was not, primarily, sensuality. That was only the outworking of an inner and far deeper evil. The simple and honest historian tells us that he loved many strange women, thus breaking an explicit command to the chosen people. Now the ultimate evil against which Moses was led to legislate in this particular was not polygamy nor licentiousness, but the idolatry which the foreigner would inevitably introduce. Among these women he found an intellectual stimulus and gratification. They were more brilliant than Jewish maidens, and their culture was a distinct and attractive element in the royal pursuit of "wisdom." For in that great experiment of life Solomon commanded the most costly and varied forms of pleasure and of learning. All the world — all there was in man — was made tributary to the object held up in view.
2. Nor was it pure and simple idolatry. That also was a symptom of inner disorder and weakness. It was like polygamy, a form only of heart-wandering from God. He built high places for his wives, which burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. There is not the slightest evidence that he ever abandoned the worship of Jehovah, or set up images of him as Jeroboam did, or that he ever lost faith in Jehovah as the one and only true God. But his heart was not perfect; and this was the sin beneath his sensuality and idolatry. He began to waver by tolerating the false religions of his wives. He was liberalised in religion. If people were only sincere, he may have said, no matter what they worship. If they live up to their light, it is well enough without letting in more light. Who knows absolute truth? Who can say, "Thus saith the Lord"? Who, thought this king, sets himself up to say that there is only one narrow way of life? The religious world of to-day finds its most subtle and powerful temptation in the general revolt against restraint and constraint. It takes now one form and now another. It comes as a protest against what is called narrowness, even in construing the terms of the gospel upon which men enter into life. The world has always seen the insolence of greatness against the law of God. It sees now the same insolence under cover of the grace of God. But whatever we may discover in science or art, whatever gains we may make in the domain of reason, there can be nothing essentially new in the way of life by Jesus Christ. The data of theology are all furnished, and have been for ages. The path of life is just as narrow and just as broad as ever. God demands the whole heart, because anything less is nothing at all to Him. Half even of Solomon's great soul is worthless in the kingdom of heaven.
II. SOLOMON'S PUNISHMENT. We observe at once that it was of a character to be peculiarly felt by one of his great endowments and brilliant opportunities. It came very slowly In the first place, although we do not find it here recorded, he lived long enough to see that his splendid experiment in life had been a miserable failure. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, was his sad verdict. His "world" passed away and the lust of it. He ceased to desire. Punishment came in another form. He was unable to transmit the kingdom to his posterity; and such men have an eye to the future, in which their greatness will come to be fully seen and honoured. They are above the narrowest lines of an ignorant selfishness. They would make coming ages tributary to themselves. To Solomon, who had been made acquainted with the mind of God towards Israel, there must have been a profound sorrow in the certainty that his failure carried the nation down with himself. Those in authority hold a peculiar place in the divine economy, because their defections entail such widespread disasters. Hence God rightly exacts extraordinary punishments of them.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;