We live in a time when everything has an exception. Think about how many products have exclusions or exceptions. Every drug commercial warns about a myriad of side effects to such a degree that all the exceptions will make you not want to try the drug after all. How many commercials have a lawyer at the end of the ad quietly and quickly saying, “Some exclusions apply” or reading off some long list of exclusions? Perhaps one of the worst exclusions that we find on a box or in an advertisement is, “Some assembly required.” “Some assembly required” typically means you will be working on building this project for more than two hours. Life seems to be full of exceptions and loopholes. But this is a dangerous idea when it comes to our spiritual walk with God. We are going to see this problem exemplified in King Solomon in 1 Kings 3.
A Sinful Alliance (3:1)
When we examined the life of David, we saw a generally positive portrayal of David as recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel. However, you may remember that there were hints of problems to come. After a positive declaration about David we would read about David taking more wives to himself (cf. 1 Samuel 25:42-44; 2 Samuel 5:13; 11:26-27). We would have these subtle shadows depicting future failures, which was ultimately seen with the sin with Bathsheba. The same thing is happening now for Solomon in 1 Kings 3. The second chapter of 1 Kings is positive for Solomon. Notice how chapter 2 ends. “So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon” (1 Kings 2:46). We saw the kingdom of God being put first as justice comes with the arrival of the kingdom. So it looks like all is going well. Solomon is following David’s instructions to bring justice those who acted wickedly and show loyalty and faithfulness to those who were loyal to the kingdom (cf. 1 Kings 2:5-9). But David also instructed Solomon to walk in the ways of the Lord, keeping his statutes, commandments, rules, and testimonies as written in the Law of Moses (1 Kings 2:3). Yet chapter 3 records some warning signs about problems to come in the reign of Solomon.
In verse 1 we read that Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt and married Pharaoh’s daughter as part of the marriage alliance. One of the big warnings that the Lord gave was about keeping the people from returning to Egypt. God said what the future kings were to do and not do. God said:
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.” (Deuteronomy 17:16 ESV)
In essence, Israel was not to have anything to do with Egypt. Egypt is not a positive in Israel’s history but an enemy who had enslaved God’s people. Egypt was the oppressor and God had rescued Israel from them. Not only this, but Solomon is already married. We are not told this yet but it is revealed later on (cf. 14:21). Solomon is following in his father’s footsteps by multiplying wives for himself. This was a violation of Deuteronomy 17:17 where God specifically instructed that the king “not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away.” Another problem with what Solomon has done is he has made an alliance with another nation. God always wanted his people to trust in him alone for their protection and safety. Listen to Ezekiel’s condemnation for Israel’s dependence on Egypt.
It will never again be Israel’s source of confidence, but a reminder of how they sinned by turning to Egypt for help. Then they will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 29:16 NET)
A Sinful Worship (3:2)
Verse 2 continues to speak of problems during the reign of Solomon. The people are sacrificing on the high places because the temple for the Lord had not been built. The high places are always depicted as a negative and represent the idolatrous worship that plagued the people of Israel throughout their history. This was also specifically condemned by the Lord in the book of Deuteronomy.
You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. (Deuteronomy 12:2–6 ESV)
God said that the people of Israel were not to go to the high places to worship. Rather, the people were to go to the place that the Lord would choose. The location of God’s name would be the place to bring their offerings and sacrifices. But that is not what is happening right now as we wait for Solomon to build the temple to the Lord. They are not going to the tabernacle in Jerusalem.
A Sinful Exception (3:3)
Now notice verse 3. Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the ways of his father, David, except he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. It is not just the people who are failing in their worship of the Lord. Solomon is also participating in false worship. He is offering sacrifices and burning incense on the high places. But I want to zero in on one word that his stated in verse 3. It is the word “except.” Some translations read “only.” Solomon loved the Lord except…. Solomon walked according to the instructions given by David except….
This becomes a huge problem for Israel, for the future kings of Israel, and it a theme in the book of Kings. The kings will follow the Lord except they did not do something that God wanted them to do. Many kings will do good except for something that they will choose to neglect. Solomon is the first one who starts this pattern in the book. Solomon loved the Lord and followed David’s instructions except worshiping in the high places.
I want us to think about our own lives and the description that the Lord would give to us. Is there an exception in our lives? Do we love the Lord and follow the instruction except for something in our lives that we are unwilling to give up? Do we love God without exception? Or, like the products that we see advertised today, is there fine print that follows after saying that we love God?
This is the problem with loving God without your whole heart but keeping a divided heart. A divided heart always has an exception. There is something that will hold us back from loving God under certain circumstances. This is why the greatest command is that we would love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus said this when asked.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:35–38 ESV)
Here is what I want us to see. If there is an exception, then we do not love the Lord with your heart, soul, and mind. We love God but not enough to stop the thing that is keeping us from serving him without exception. God wants us to love him without exception. God wants us to follow his ways and seek his kingdom without exception. God wants us to trust him and in nothing else without exception. Are you serving the Lord without exception?
Now you may ask why it matters. Why does it matter that I serve the Lord without exception? Why can’t I keep this one little thing in my heart and in my life? The reason why is it will be these exceptions that will be the downfall of every person you read about in the book of Kings. This exception is foreshadowing the future failure of Solomon that will lead to his ruin. The other exceptions you read about in the book of Kings reveal the downfall of their reign and depict their spiritual ruin. The exception in your life that we think is so small and so insignificant will be the reason for your future spiritual failure and ruin.
Jesus said that no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Jesus told parables about people who made exceptions when it came to following him. They were first going to examine oxen, see a field, or were just married and were unwilling to truly following Jesus (Luke 14). People would say that they needed to bury the dead before they could follow Jesus (Matthew 8:22). Jesus calls for people to serve him without exception. Will you serve the Lord and love the Lord without exception? Jesus wants you to trust him and he wants all your heart because that is what is best for you and for your life. So consider what is holding you back. What is your exception? What will you do to remove those excuses and exceptions so that you can simple have the description: he or she loved the Lord without exception?