Of all the leaders whose lives are described in the Bible, Solomon reflects our times and problems most exactly. He ruled a nation whose wealth and society were the envy of the world. He ruled a nation that historically had called upon God as their Lord. His position as king was neither challenged by his own people, nor was it threatened by any other king. He reigned at a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity in the land in comparison to other nations. And yet, with all of these advantages, there were serious problems that plagued him and the nation that he ruled.
The people were burdened with excessive taxes to maintain a wealthy court. Solomon had a large harem of foreign wives who led him into idolatry. The nation itself began to drift away from the worship of God into idolatrous practices.
In addition to these, a political battle was brewing because Solomon had not prepared a successor. This threatened the stability of the nation and opened it to attack from other kings. Because of these problems Solomon's kingdom eventually split into two parts and the nation of Israel never again regained its former glory. The fall of this great nation and its king can serve as a very good lesson to our nation during election time because we are in a similar position and face similar problems almost 3,000 years later. I'd like to review Solomon's fall and some of the advice he might have given America today, as a result of his experiences.
When we look at Solomon's demise it's tempting to speculate that he simply fell victim to worldly success:
- He let things slip because he was so rich.
- He began to forget the basics because he was too busy enjoying himself.
- He got "too big for his britches" as the old saying goes.
Solomon's fall, however, was not simply a matter of carelessness in obeying God…not simply the general disobedience of one who begins to slack off spiritually. No, Solomon fell because he disobeyed three very specific commands that God gave to those who would become rulers over His people. These are found in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.
The book of Deuteronomy is a review of all the precepts and commands that Moses gave the people while they were in the desert. Moses was at the end of his life and the people were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy, Moses reviews what the people must and must not do as they go forward into Canaan. In 17:14-20 he prophecies that they will one day have a king and when they do, their king will need to abide by some basic rules of conduct.
Several hundred years later Solomon became the third king to rule Israel and he kept only a few of these commands, and for this reason set into motion the failure of his kingdom. Let's look at the commands Moses gave and review how well Solomon followed them. First of all there were some that Solomon managed to abide by:
Let God Choose Your King
14 "When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,' 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.
Solomon was chosen by God and humbled himself at the beginning by asking God for wisdom instead of power and wealth. God richly blessed him with all of these things at the beginning of his reign.
Never Return to Egypt
16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, 'You shall never again return that way.'
Although Solomon had alliances with Egypt, he never mentioned any attempt to return to the land of his nation's former slavery. On the contrary, for a time Israel was greater than Egypt.
In verses 17-20 of this passage we begin reading the commands that Solomon did not follow and actions that set his downfall into motion.
1. He had an abundance of foreign wives (1,000 in his harem)
17a He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away;
In those days kings would contract all kinds of political marriages in order to strengthen their positions and create alliances. In addition to this, the abundance of wives would provide for a larger royal household and guarantee succession in the family. In Israel, however, the safety of the nation depended on God, not military or political alliances. Succession was not a matter of progeny but of promise.
If God promised that your children would sit on the throne, then He would make it happen no matter how many or few children you had. When trouble came, neither his alliances nor number of children could maintain peace in the land and unity in succession. Solomon's children fought each other for possession and his allies quickly tried to dominate what they thought to be a weakened and divided nation.
The greatest trap of these foreign wives, however, was their influence in drawing Solomon away from worship to God. Just as Moses said, they turned his heart away from the Lord and slowly led him into pagan worship practices. It was this sin that lost Solomon the protection and blessings of God, and led to the ruin of the nation.
2. Taxed too heavily
17b nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
Solomon and his court were fabulously rich for several reasons. His father amassed great wealth from war. The country was prosperous because of its many exports and also received much wealth because of Solomon's wisdom and consultation to other nations. It was the issue of crushing taxes while the nation was at peace and enjoying prosperity that the people resented. When his son succeeded him on the throne and added even more taxes, the people revolted and caused a divided nation. God had warned not to selfishly amass wealth as king, but Solomon ignored this to his detriment.
3. Neglect of God's Word
18 "Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
In pagan nations the king was god, but in Israel God was the king, and the king was his servant. Moses said that the king's rule was to rule the people in light of God's word. In order to do this he had to carefully study the word himself each day, and teach his own children so they would always rule according to God's command. Solomon and his children abandoned the word and this caused them to serve other gods and indulge themselves in worldliness.
We read in the book of Ecclesiastes that near the end of his life Solomon came back to the Lord and acknowledged what was right and what he should have done all along. This may have brought him some peace and personal salvation, but it was too late for the nation that a scant few centuries later would, except for a small group in exile, be totally destroyed, its greatness gone forever. If anyone could provide advice for our nation and its potential leaders at this time in history, it would certainly be Solomon.
I believe that based on his own experience, this is what he would say to America:
1. Restore Moral Excellence as a Requirement for our Nation's Leaders
The sex scandal involving former president Clinton showed how damaging to our culture and nation low morals can be in a national leader. The great danger in that matter was not that a president might have been impeached, but rather that the nation came to ignore or excuse such conduct from one who had such grave responsibility. You can't detach moral responsibility from political responsibility, they are two parts of the same unit.
Sexual purity, faithfulness to marriage vows, respect for human life and commitment to high moral values is a necessary ingredient for leadership because if we don't insist on it at the top --- it won't be long before we won't insist on it at the bottom either. Virtue is what guarantees liberty, not government.
Our leaders need to embody what is Godly, what is best, what is excellent, what is truest about our nation if we are to maintain our values, our way of life, and our freedoms. "Neither adulators, homosexuals, or swindlers will inherit the kingdom of heaven," Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9; whether they be leaders, or the nation that follows their example.
2. Restore Fiscal Moderation
Illicit sex is what drew Solomon away from the Lord to paganism, but it was his excessive taxes that divided the nation. I heard someone make a wise analogy on a radio program: he said, "what is good financial policy for a family, is good financial policy for a nation of families." Abraham Lincoln also said the same kinds of things when he spoke about money matters and the nation, for example:
- You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
- You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
Simple ideas that help ordinary families deal with their budget should be applied to the leaders' thinking about money as well:
- Don't spend what you don't have.
- Keep some money for a rainy day.
- Pay off your debts before you splurge on new purchases.
Solomon and his sons learned the hard way that freedom and national prosperity are meaningless if they don't permit the individual to keep the majority of what he has earned.
3. Restore God as Lord of this Nation
God could help Solomon through his tax and diplomacy errors, but when Solomon abandoned God, there was no help for him after this. It is no secret that America is fast becoming a secular state as unbelievers have infiltrated and pressured government to detach itself from any acknowledgement or dependence or subjection to God the creator and Father of Jesus Christ. Of course, this contradicts the Word of God that says all governments are established for and by God (Romans 13:1).
Separation of God and state is a human idea, not a Godly one.
It also contradicts the belief of the original founding fathers and leaders of this nation. For example, George Washington said: "True religion affords government its surest support... It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible." And yet the U.S. occupies the role of the only super power in the world today, this is exactly what it is trying to do. (Rule the world without God.)
What a disaster awaits us if we succeed! Without God as Lord of this nation, without a fixed moral code set by the Bible, even Muslim terrorists could beat us, if God decided to use them this way. (Look what God has permitted them to do to us in the last 10 years!)
- Billions in war cost
- Changed travel
- Threat levels
We need to restore America as a Christian country as it was originally founded to be. Of course laws are there to protect the freedom of every religion --- that's the price of a democratic system in a modern society. However, if we don't protect and promote our own Christian heritage, the one that began and made this country great, we will lose it and the greatness it produced.
It wasn't Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism that laid the spiritual foundation of America - it was Christianity!
We need to support those who will promote Christian values and objectives in this country and do so without apology. After all, those who practice Islam or other religions in this country do so freely and without making excuses for their zeal and faith. Why should we be afraid to aggressively practice and promote the major and founding faith of our country?
It is interesting to note that America is the only civilized nation in the world that doesn't protect its religious heritage---we actually pass laws to undermine our faith and we work overtime to protect the rights of atheist and non-Christians who are in the business of replacing Christ as Lord with their worthless philosophies and pagan deities. I don't know where the cut-off point is, where God is no longer the Lord of this nation.
What insult; what blasphemy; what policy; what degree of sin; what percentage of non-Christian population will finally disengage us from this divine relationship and the protection and blessing it affords.
I don't know when God the Lord will finally consider our cup of sins full to the brim and punish and discipline us, in order to save us from ourselves. I simply know 2 things:
- This is the direction we are heading in.
- I don't want to be around when it happens.
I'm sure that if he were here Solomon would have more to say to our leaders on many topics but these three are a good beginning. Solomon's lapse of faith plunged his people into an irreversible fall into immorality, idolatry and, in the end, political disaster. Does this sound familiar?
Like me, you might feel rather helpless at times when you realize what's happening on the large stage of life and there doesn't seem to be much you can do about it. It might surprise you to know that even great leaders felt like this at times, and like you and me they chose the only recourse that they had when the problem was too great and they seemed too small: prayer.
On April 30th, 1863, Abraham Lincoln, discouraged by the state of the nation over which he ruled went to the Lord with the following prayer that he recorded:
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Lord that has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
To have leaders today who would pray this prayer. To have a nation today that would humble itself before such wisdom, a wisdom that even eluded Solomon for much of his life. To have leaders elected who would seek God's blessings and counsel before accepting the challenge of leading this great nation. What rejoicing there would be in heaven today if even one soul called out to God for forgiveness or restoration in Jesus' name!
The church exercises no great political power here in our community - we can't "make or break" candidates. However, we do have great spiritual power in preaching the gospel of Christ. This ministry gives us:
- The power to convict
- The power to forgive
- The power to restore
- The power to comfort
- The power to intercede
- The power to include
I encourage each of you to choose and vote for candidates that will honor God in their conduct and work on behalf of the people; regardless of party. Know this, however; your vote will affect the course of this nation for the next few years.
I won't ask you how you will vote in the next election, but I do want to know what your vote for Christ will be. I also encourage you to choose to obey Christ today (every day is voting day for Christ), this decision will affect your eternity. Choose now...