1 Kings Bible Study (The Decline of God's People)

1 Kings 9-10, The Price of Unfaithfulness

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The temple of the Lord is completed. Symbolically the great temple is where we see the presence of God dwelling, though Solomon notes that there is nothing in creation that can contain the greatness and majesty of the Lord Almighty. Chapter 8 records the dedication of the temple, calling upon God to be merciful to the people when they violate the covenant. When the people turn toward the temple in repentance, Solomon calls upon God who is in heaven to listen to the prayer of the people and forgive. The temple represents the covenantal promises of God and the place of mediation between God and his people. Turn your hearts to the covenant and God will extend mercy toward our sins. I believe chapter 8 records the pinnacle of the kingdom of Solomon. The chapter ends with everyone going home joyful and with gladness of heart because of the goodness of the Lord.

Warning Against Sin (1 Kings 9)

The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream a second time. The last time this happened was at Gibeon when God offered Solomon to ask of him anything (1 Kings 3). This is when Solomon asked for a discerning heart and understanding to judge God’s people. God then blesses Solomon with the things he did not ask for as well as what he asked for because God was pleased with the request. In this second dream we see God agreeing to the temple terms. God heard the prayer and plea of Solomon and God consecrated the temple by putting his name there. Like the first dream, God promises Solomon long life if he will walk in God’s ways. Further, God promises in verse 5 to keep a person on the throne of David perpetually.

But the warning is pronounced and notable, which is found in verses 6-9. Do not go and serve other gods and worship them. If you worship other gods, God says he will cut off and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (reflecting the covenantal warning in Deuteronomy 28:37, the section of curses for disobedience). The temple will become a heap of ruins and the peoples of the earth will ask why this happened. Verse 9 records the answer: they abandoned the Lord their God and laid hold on others gods and worshiped them and served them. This becomes the ominous tone as we move through these final three chapters that record the life of Solomon. This warning becomes a cloud over the glory that God had given Solomon’s kingdom.

Notice how things begin to slip from the hands of Solomon, a foreshadowing of what was to come to his rule in this kingdom. The hub of the problem seems to be found in verse 16 where we read that Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh. Recall that this was God’s command against marrying people outside of the nation of Israel.

You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deuteronomy 7:3–4 ESV)

So with this violation we will begin to watch the disintegration of the nation. First, we see Hiram, the King of Tyre, being dissatisfied with the twenty cities that were given to him in the land of Galilee (9:12-13). Instead of God’s name and generosity being praised among the Gentiles, Solomon damages the reputation of the Lord.

Second, we see Pharaoh doing what the people of Israel should have done but did not do. In verse 16 we read that Pharaoh destroyed the Canaanites who lived in the city of Gezer. This city stands as one of many failures in the days of the conquest of the land, as recorded in the book of Judges.

And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them. (Judges 1:29 ESV) The Gentiles do for the kingdom what the people themselves should have done but willfully did not accomplish. A Gentile is more obedient to the command of the Lord than the people themselves, an interesting foreshadowing.

Third, Solomon enslaves the Canaanites rather than utterly destroying them (9:20-21). Listen to how the book of Judges recalls this failure:

When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.  (Judges 1:28 ESV)

Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor. (Judges 1:30 ESV)

Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them. (Judges 1:33 ESV)

The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. (Judges 1:35 ESV)

This is not what God commanded the people to do. The book of Judges records this act of subjecting them into forced labor as a failure because they did not drive out the people. This led to the downfall of the people of Israel in the days of the Judges. In the same way, the same people are being left in the land again, pressed into forced labor, rather than being driven out of the land as God decreed. The symbol is used to picture the coming downfall of Solomon. Solomon is not walking in all the ways of the Lord as he was warned to do at the beginning of the chapter. So we are reading about the kingdom slipping from his hand.

Guarding Your Heart (1 Kings 10)

As we noted in the previous lesson, we see the nations and kings coming to Zion to hear the instructions and wisdom of the Lord through the mouth of Solomon. This truth is exemplified in the Queen of Sheba coming, hearing the wisdom of the Lord through Solomon, and glorifying the Lord (10:9).

Please notice in the listing of all the wealth of Solomon, nothing is said about the temple any longer. Four chapters were devoted to the temple previously. But the temple is no longer the focal point of Solomon’s efforts. This symbolizes a turn of the heart within Solomon. This is fascinating because the author of Kings is recording that a Gentile ruler understands that all of these blessings came from the Lord God because the Lord loves Israel (10:9). Yet Solomon seems to be losing his understanding of this fact. After the coming of the queen of Sheba, the scriptures record how Solomon violates the laws of kingship. Listen to the law God gave for the kings to obey.

“When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 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 17:14–17 ESV)

(1) The king was not supposed to acquire many horses for himself or go to Egypt in order to acquire horses. Now listen to verses 26 and 28.

And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.

And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. (1 Kings 10:26, 28 ESV)

Not only is Solomon acquiring horses but he also importing them from Egypt, expressly what God said not to do.

(2) The king was not supposed to greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Listen to verse 14 and verse 27.

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, 15 besides that which came from the explorers and from the business of the merchants, and from all the kings of the west and from the governors of the land. (1 Kings 10:14–15 ESV)

All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver; silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 10:21 ESV)

And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. (1 Kings 10:27 ESV)

The gold that is coming in each year is approximately 25 tons. Solomon is receiving an enormous amount of gold each year, which God said not to do. Further, the silver has become as common as stone.

(3) Notice what Solomon does in verse 29. Solomon begins to export goods to the enemies of Israel, the Hittites and the Syrians. In 2 Kings 7:6 we will read about the Hittites becoming powerful and all throughout the Kings account we read about the Syrians acting as a constant threat (cf. 1 Kings 11:23-25; ch. 20; ch. 22; 2 Kings 5; ch. 7). Solomon, the wisest man as given by God, begins to fund his own enemies.

Conclusion

So what do we learn from the turn of the kingdom in the days of Solomon? I think there are at least three lessons we need to take away from this text.

(1) Things go wrong when we are not following God’s commands. The kingdom is beginning to slip because of the choices Solomon is making that are in violation of what God said to do. It is astounding how often we willfully choose to disobey God only to wonder why things are not working out very well. We wonder why we do not feel close to God. We wonder why we are struggling. We wonder why we are paying consequences in life. Life goes wrong when we do not submit our lives to the will of God. Solomon starts relying on his own wisdom rather than the wisdom of God. He does not drive out the Canaanites to fulfill God’s commands. This leads us to our second lesson.

(2) Wisdom requires guarding our steps. We read the story of Solomon and wonder how a man like Solomon who possesses the wisdom of God could make such grievous mistakes and sins. What happened to Solomon is the same thing that happens to us: we do not guard our steps. We are not carefully following the wisdom of God. The same criticism that we make of Solomon can be made of us. Why is it that we, who possess the whole counsel of God and the wisdom of God, make grievous mistakes and sins? The reason is that we are not carefully guarding our heart. We start moving toward what we think is right and best rather than what God tells us we need to be doing. We forget that God has given us all that we have, just as God warned in Deuteronomy 8:11-18. Amazingly, we are able to have everything and still think that we need more. We are still unsatisfied and continue to seek for more when we have all that we in God. God is our hope to be our hope and joy. This leads to the third point.

(3) God tells us to guard our hearts against wealth. God specifically instructed the kings to not acquire excessively. The reason is that wealth steals our hearts away from God. We begin seeking wealth rather than God. We put our trust in wealth rather than God. How often we take the blessings of God and turn them into our idol, rather than turning our eyes to the Giver of our wealth!

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22 NIV)

Our pursuit of wealth chokes out the power of the word in our lives, causing us to become unfruitful. We must listen to the warning of our Lord. Wealth prevents the life change that God is trying to work in our hearts through his word. Wealth causes our hearts to become hard, not allowing God’s glorious and saving words to penetrate so that we can participate in his glorious kingdom. Instead, we are excluded because we are not experiencing what God is looking for us to have: radical people living changed lives because of God’s grace that has affected our hearts and minds. Friends, let us guard our hearts against the deceitfulness of wealth. The price of unfaithfulness is too great. We lose everything that has lasting meaning and value by trying to grab the temporary physical things of this life. Is the glory of God the highest treasure of your life? Let us not become disqualified in our pursuit of him.

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