It’s said that the game of baseball is the great American pastime. Since most people have heard of, and know the rules of the game, I won’t go into them here. When a player is up to bat they basically get a few chances to hit the ball, If they miss the ball a “strike” is called. Get three strikes and you’re out. You lose your turn, you don’t get to run the bases, and you’ve lost an opportunity to score a run for your team.
My current Bible Study is in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. As 1 Kings starts, David is still the King of Israel and Judah, however he is advanced in years. Soon David will die and his son Solomon will ascend to the throne. By birthright Solomon is not the next person in line for the throne, his half-brother Adonijah is next in line. And this half-brother believes that he is the rightful heir to sit on the throne. But, God’s ways are not man’s ways, and it is God who has revealed to the peoples of Israel & Judah through His prophets who will sit on the throne. When Solomon was born God gave an indication that Solomon would be the one to ascend to the throne, God confirms this message through Nathan the Prophet when he called Solomon by the name Jedidiah, which means beloved of the Lord.
Although not recorded in Scripture, it appears that David made an oath, maybe to both Nathan and his wife Bathsheba (Solomon’s mother), that Solomon would ascend to the throne when David died. When David becomes aware that Solomon’s half-brother is claiming the throne, David calls in Bathsheba and confirms that Solomon will ascend to the throne. Then David instructs his people how they should go about anointing Solomon as King. Placing Solomon on the throne fulfills the Lord’s wishes. David, before he dies, gives Solomon a final bit of wisdom as the next King of the nation, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kings 2:2-4, ESV)
Solomon is young at the time, perhaps around the age of 20 or so and knows that he lacks the experience to govern his people, so when he is approached by God, Solomon asks for wisdom to guide his people. God is delighted by the request and grants such wisdom to Solomon that there’s no one in the world that rivals Solomon’s wisdom. We learn that Solomon loves the Lord and walks in his ways of his father David, yet there’s just one thing that Solomon does that’s not walking in God’s way, Solomon is offering sacrifices in “high places.” Now that didn’t sound too bad to me, after all Solomon was offering sacrifices to God there. Initially it may not have been too bad, because those high places had been rededicated to the Lord. But, when the temple was built, offering of sacrifices to God moved to the temple and was outlawed in the high places. And, Solomon continued the practice of offering sacrifices in those high places. Strike One Solomon.
Back in the book of Deuteronomy, God gives specific rules regarding what the people’s kings should not do. “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:16-17, ESV) And, there’s some additional things that God forbids that I think also comes into play here: “You shall make no covenant with them (foreign nations) and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23:32-33, ESV)
It appears that one of the first thing that Solomon does is marry the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt as part of an marriage alliance. She was most likely the most politically significant of Solomon’s 700 wives. Wait! 700 wives? Yup, 700 wives. My husband shakes his head in disbelief when he hears that Solomon has 700 wives, Jim will joke that he can’t handle the one wife that he has, let alone think of adding 699 other wives! Many of those wives bring in their own idols and gods into Solomon’s household, so that in his later years, Solomon’s heart is turned away following God. Strike Two Solomon.
Solomon’s wisdom is so widely known that people, leaders of their own countries, travel significant distances to meet Solomon. The Queen of Sheba (yes, there really was a Queen of Sheba) travels a distance of over 1,200 miles (a little over 1,931 km) to meet Solomon. We also learn that in one year Solomon receives 666 talents of gold (that’s 50,000 pounds, or over 22,679 kg). Not only did he have quite the wealth in gold, we learn that he also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. (1 Kings 4:26, ESV) Note: this may be a scribal error, for the same account in the book of 2 Chronicles (9:25) states that Solomon had 4,000 stalls. Still that’s amassing a super large amount of riches and possessions. I like the way that Wendy Blight, put it: “Solomon made the mistake of fixing his affections on the gifts instead of the Giver of the gifts. God had given Solomon great power, wealth, influence and more wisdom than any man who had ever lived. Rather than live in gratitude for what God had given, Solomon systematically disobeyed God commands in every area of his life to acquire more.” Strike Three Solomon, you’re out.
But, since God is the keeper of His promises, He doesn’t remove Solomon from the throne. “Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:11-13, ESV) As the book of 1 Kings continues, we see that indeed the kingdom is ripped in two, and Solomon’s son ends up ruling only one of the original 12 tribes.
This lesson on the life of Solomon is one to which we would be well to heed. What God ordains, will come to pass. Time after time, we can look through the Bible and find that God makes promises – some wonderful promises, and some not so great. And, they indeed come to pass.
Like many, Solomon started out well, he was focused, he followed God, but when things went so well that he’s rich and famous, Solomon takes his eyes off of where all this goodness came from, the Giver of all good gifts – God. So, Solomon doesn’t end well. Just look at the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. I surmise that when Solomon writes the book, he understands that it’s a little too late to salvage it all, the kingdom will not fully remain in the hands of Solomon’s descendants. But, Solomon does reflect that all things are vanity, and in the end Solomon concludes it’s our relationship with the Lord that matters the most.
Three strikes for Solomon, he’s out – and it has severe consequences for his family line. I for one, am so very thankful that I don’t have live my life under the rules of baseball. With Christ as my Savior, I have unlimited amounts of strike outs and I can still be on God’s team. Through Jesus’ sacrifices I am made righteous and don’t have to worry that I will miss out on my relationship with God. However many chances that God gives me – which are unlimited, I still don’t want to be on the “outs” with God. I want to start as well as Solomon did with his relationship with the Lord. However, I want to end just as well. I want to cross the finish line and hear “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
So instead of three strikes, I want to look at three “home runs” in my faith life – meaning three things that I can focus upon in an effort to ensure that I don’t follow in Solomon’s steps.
One: Continue spending my time studying the Bible and looking to God for inspiration and understanding from those lessons. My study Bible and looking at what other wise Christian teachers assists me greatly in this effort.
Two: pray, pray, pray. I pray to God, but I’m not as intentional as I should be. I pray for people when they request prayer, but I could be more mindful of what others are going through and truly engage with God in an all-out prayer for their wellbeing, instead of offering a rather short, maybe even banal or half-hearted prayer.
Three: Wait on God. For those of you who know me well, you know that I am not a patient person. I am a person of action. I have been known to fully take charge and work to (manipulate) situations to more of my liking – I’m going to make them happen no matter what. I need to remain ever mindful that when I don’t stop and wait on God, I really mess things up.
What three things could you do to ensure that you don’t follow in Solomon’s footsteps?