Conversation was abundant around a table at the local coffee shop. The gathered friends hooted with laughter as they talked over their lattes and caught up on the things going on in one another’s lives.
But when the door opened and they turned to see the new customer walking in, they became silent.
“Can you believe she’ll even show her face in here?” one whispered. “I hear the affair started at work. Now people are saying she is leaving her husband for him.”
“Well,” said another, “I would never—I mean never in a million years—do something like that.”
Perhaps the most dangerous point in our spiritual lives is when we begin to consider ourselves immune to sin. The idea that we are invulnerable to temptation or spiritually superior to those whose sin is made public can gradually lead us to a place where we neglect our connection to God and let our spiritual lives atrophy.
Among the warnings for Israel’s king in Deuteronomy 17 is the warning that he is not supposed to “consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:20). This means that the king is not above the law that his people are supposed to follow. The king is to be an obedient subject of the King of kings, just as everyone else. His power does not make him immune to the temptation or consequences of sin.
I often find that it can be easy to fill up my time doing “God’s work” without really spending time with God. My schedule looks like I am doing lots of spiritual things, but unless I’m paying attention, I can do a lot of talking about God and working for God without having prayer time and conversation with God. Each of us, no matter how long we’ve walked with God or what our position of leadership or influence may be, must always keep a vigilant watch over our relationship with God and the spiritual practices that keep us close to Him. Otherwise we will slip into doing life in our own strength and following our own temptations, and both of these things always lead to sin.
Following the breadcrumbs of Solomon’s sin, we can find the roots of his fatal flaw: the temptation to love power, privilege, and women more than he loves God.
A verse in 1 Kings gives us a clue to what would be Solomon’s fatal flaw: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (1 Kings 3:1). That one bride, that one alliance, turned into an obsession for Solomon and became the destruction of his reign.
God’s people had been slaves in Egypt, and the Lord had instructed them not to go back (Deuteronomy 17:16). Solomon’s alliance with Egypt—both for a bride and then for horses and chariots—directly violates God’s careful instructions about the behavior of the king. The decrees of this law were to be written by the king’s own hand on a scroll and kept with him. He was supposed to read it all the days of his life (vv. 18-19) and he directly disobeyed. Solomon’s sinful appetite for women begins with just one wife from Egypt and escalates to the accumulation of hundreds of wives and concubines. Many of these begin as political alliances, but Scripture is clear that Solomon “clung to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2 NRSV). His love for his wives competes directly with his love for the Lord, just as his practice of burning incense on the high places does (1 Kings 3:3). In fact, Solomon’s appetite for new wives reaches addictive proportions, blinding him to the spiritual idolatry that they bring into his household and his kingdom.
Remember that you can tell a good king of Israel by how he deals with the “high places” dedicated to idol worship, because this reveals how purely he is connected to God. Good kings pull down or destroy the altars at the high places, while bad kings passively leave them standing, allowing idol worship to spread and pollute God’s people. Solomon’s love of his many foreign wives pulls his heart so strongly away from God that he drifts away—at first slowly and then dramatically.
As Christians we are called to give love and grace to all people, but we also must remember that those we spend the most time with will have an influence over us. We often remind teenagers to choose their friends and influences wisely. But as an adult now, I still have to remind myself to value the influence of some friends over others, looking to those who share the same values and desire to follow closely after Jesus.
The views of those in your closest circles are likely to impact your beliefs and actions. Offer friendship and love to everyone you meet, but be sure that you are staying grounded in the study of God’s Word and have a close group of Christian friends to inspire you “as iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
How does the study of God’s Word ground you in your faith?
Who are the Christian friends that inspire you “as iron sharpens iron”?