TEXT: 1 Kings 11:1-10
People are paid a lot of money to write the things that appear on the packages and products we buy. This warning appeared on a clothes iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” “Do not drive car or operate machinery after use.” They actually pay people to come up with this stuff.
There is a name for this: sophomore. It comes from two Greek words: sophos, from which we get the word “sophist,” meaning wise, and moros from which we get the word “moron,” meaning fool. In other words, a sophomore is “a wise fool” (present company of second year high school students excluded). A sophomore is a person who has just enough knowledge to be dangerous. They don’t have enough education to realize how much they don’t know.
Now, Solomon was a wise fool. He was the wisest man on earth, but failed to realize he did not know it all. Today, I thought about asking the question, “How can a smart person be so dumb?”
In thinking about Solomon, we might wonder if he was too smart why did he make several serious mistakes.
The first mistake we will talk about was:
1. HE STARTED WELL, BUT HE DID NOT FINISH WELL.
We have all seen the runners who burst into the lead in a race and then did not have the stamina to finish the race. Basketball teams who started so strong but ended up defeated by a point or two…(banderang kapos). The world is filled with people who were voted “most likely to succeed” who crashed and burned shortly after takeoff from school. Many people are good at starting things, but not so good at finishing things. The Bible talks often about the importance of finishing well. One I like says, “One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11). Jesus said, “He who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Toward the end of his life the apostle Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
Think of what Solomon was like in the beginning. God visited him in a dream and told him to ask for anything his heart desired and it would be his. He could have asked for riches or fame, but instead he asked the Lord for wisdom to rule his people. He wanted to be a good king. And because Solomon’s request pleased the Lord, he not only gave him great wisdom, but he gave him riches and fame as well. Solomon wrote the bulk of the book of Proverbs, the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. He wrote Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon and part of the book of Psalms. SOLOMON had a lot to say about how to live wisely, but he failed to follow his own advise. When he wrote the book of Proverbs, he said: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). But he stopped fearing the Lord and he despised discipline. HE BECAME THE WISEST FOOL.
His wisdom is best illustrated in the famous story of the two prostitutes. These two women lived together and both had newborn infants. They slept with their babies at their side, but during the night one of them rolled on top of her baby and smothered it. When she awoke she saw that her baby was dead so she switched her dead child with the living child of the other woman. Both came to Solomon claiming that the living child was hers. Today we could solve it with a simple DNA test. But in that day it took the wisdom of Solomon. He paused just before calling for a sword. Then he said, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other” (1 Kings 3:2). The Bible says that the real mother immediately cried out and said, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” (1 Kings 3:26). Solomon then handed the child to the real mother who would have given him to the other woman rather than have him killed.
Solomon was very wise. He started out very well, but something happened with him that caused him not to finish well.
He ended up making foolish decisions in life…
- Initially, he built a magnificent temple for the Lord, but then he built an even more magnificent palace for himself.
- And not long after that he built elaborate quarters for his wives — 700 of them, not counting the 300 concubines.
- Solomon started out worshiping the Lord alone, but it was not long until he was worshiping all the pagan gods of the surrounding nations as well.
- Instead of influencing the nations for the one and only God, he was seduced by all the gods of the people around him.
As a result, his wisdom became foolishness.
Analogy: (Running in a marathon)
The same is true for us: the spiritual battles ahead may be lost because of poor preparation and lack of consumption of the proper spiritual food. Solomon did not prepare for the pressures, temptations of life and other things he might face as king. WE DO NOT END WELL BECAUSE WE DID NOT PREPARE WELL. Endurance is best developed before it is needed. The athlete who does not prepare well will not finish well. The Christian who does not prepare well will not finish well.
THE SECRET OF ENDURANCE IS CAREFUL PREPARATION. Go back to the basics and go over them until you have them down. Solomon got involved in the spectacular and forgot the basics. He concentrated on form and forgot about substance. He was more serious about developing his wisdom than relying on God’s wisdom and developing his relationship with God.
He began with a heart that was tender toward God and ended with a heart alienated from God.
The reason Solomon finished so poorly was because
2. HE STOPPED GROWING IN GOD.
Someone said of a person they knew: “When it came to living for God they would stop at nothing.” When it came to the things of God he did the least he could to get by, and as time went by he did less and less — and eventually he would stop at nothing.
When I was in high school, especially in my 3rd yr., being a varsity, I knew exactly what I had to do to pass the subjects. I was not interested in learning what they were teaching. I could have cared less about getting a 90 or 95 for excellence. Even doing above average was too much effort for me at the time. I just wanted to get through it. My teachers tried everything they could think of to motivate me, but nothing worked until I finally made up my mind that learning was important. I was an academic minimalist — I did the minimum amount of work in order to get by. (makaraos lang)
MANY PEOPLE ARE SPIRITUAL MINIMALISTS. They meet the minimum requirements and leave it to other people to achieve excellence. (okay na itong pa-attend attend, paminsan-minsang basa ng Bible, okay na itong paminsan-minsang pagkakaloob, paminsan-minsang maglingkod, paminsan-minsang umaatend ng midweek…Yung overnight prayer, naku pampastor yan, pang-workers, yung pagpa-fasting, naku di ko kaya yan, naku yung pag-join sa ministry, wala akong time dyan…okay na ako dito, paupo-upo…makapag-pa-attendance kay Lord.) There is only one problem with that: after awhile, a little becomes too much. YUNG MALIIT MO NA NGA LANG GINAGAWA, PAGLAWIG NG PANAHON NAGIGING PABIGAT PA SAYO…Some of you may be experiencing that now. NAPIPILITAN KA NA LANG…THAT YOU’RE NO LONGER EXCITED DOING THOSE THINGS FOR GOD…That you’re saying there’s no more thrill, singing…clapping, praying…listening, (WALA NG THRILL YUNG PASTOR…NIAANTOK NA AKO…) If you’re already thinking and doing that, You have taken a step back spiritually. YOU HAVE TAKEN A LITTLE BREAK FROM GOD. (Chillax, chillax muna kay Lord…pahinga…) For a short time he becomes second place. But a short time turns into a long time, and second place turns into third place, and third place turns into last place, until you forget about your relationship with God. In the end, he who does the least gets lost.
Solomon’s original name was Jedidiah, meaning “loved of the Lord.” The name was given to him by Nathan the prophet who was responsible for his education (2 Samuel 12:24-25). But Solomon was seduced into worshiping the gods of Baal and Molech, the detestable gods of the heathen nations. At first he merely tolerated the worship of these gods by his foreign wives, but eventually he imitated their evil practices and embraced their gods. The Bible says, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God….” (1 Kings 11:4). He did not stop worshiping the Lord and offering sacrifices at the special feasts, but his heart had been compromised and he began to turn away from the Lord more and more, until the Lord said to him, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you…” (1 Kings 11:11-12). In the beginning he would only worship the Lord, but then he wanted to worship the Lord and foreign gods as well. Eventually, he worshiped the Lord less and less, except for formal occasions.
It is no accident that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, the Bible’s existential book of despair. It is a treatise of a man who has sought for pleasure and meaning in all the wrong places. At times in the book he even comes up with the correct solution, but by this time he is so trapped in his sin he cannot follow his own advise. IT IS THE STORY OF A MAN WHO HAS LOST GOD, AND NOW HE FINDS NO PLEASURE IN LIFE. He begins the book with the words: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). It is the theme of the book. He had it all and found it meant nothing. He went to the extreme on pleasure, but he was a minimalist when it came to the things of God. If the life of Solomon tells us anything, it is that IGNORING GOD IS THE ROAD TO FOOLISHNESS AND DESPAIR. Listen to the difference in how Jesus grew: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Solomon grew in wisdom, but he did not grow in favor with God.
Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). It is my experience that if Jesus Christ does not have first place in your life, he has no place at all. If he has slipped to second place in your life it will not be long until he is third place — and eventually no place. We serve a jealous God. The Bible says, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). It means, He will not share us with other loves. We need to be reawaken to the fact that THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS AN ALL-OR-NOTHING AFFAIR. Christianity is not a trivial pursuit. It is not a ritual to be performed, it is a life to be lived. IT IS AN EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP OF LOVE.
The problem with our world today is not the immorality of the media, it is not the unethical behavior of our leaders, it is not our courtrooms or our schools; the problem in our world today is the church. Because the people of God have failed to be what they should be, we are living with moral confusion and chaos. We sat down when we should have been standing up. We have failed to be salt and light to the world. We have failed to depend on God’s wisdom and are leaning on the wisdom of the world. We have been worshiping the gods/things of this world and failed to keep our love for God undivided and unspoiled. We have been so distracted by the things we are doing in the world that our priorities are upside down. We are not so much doing bad things as we are doing other things. When the church/the believers start being the church and being a true Christian, then the world will be changed by its witness and Spirit filled presence.
Let me just tell you brethren that, we ought to be better today than we were a year ago. We ought to know God better, love him more, and be more faithful in living for him. Regardless of how strong you think your walk with God might be, anyone, like Solomon, may let it slip by not paying sufficient attention to God’s word daily. A wholehearted devotion to God is necessary, and we cannot divide our loyalties between God and other things.
The third mistake that Solomon made was:
3. HE ALLOWED HIS STRENGTH TO BECOME HIS WEAKNESS.
His strength was his wisdom, it was a gift from God, but it quickly became his weakness.
- He started thinking instead of praying.
- He was so impressed with his intelligence that he questioned everything and believed nothing.
- He valued arguing above understanding.
Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18). He wanted to investigate every area of knowledge. There was no avenue of knowledge that he did not run down. But it did not lead to understanding, it led only to confusion.
The Bible talks of those with disposition when it says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools….” (Romans 1:21-23). That is a description of Solomon. He had been given such a great gift, BUT HE BEGAN TO TRUST THE GIFT INSTEAD OF THE GIVER. He began to rely on his own ability to understand rather than seek the knowledge, wisdom and revelation that comes from God.
He even broke the commandments of God, thinking he was somehow the exception to the rule. Old Testament law prohibited the king from multiplying three things: wives, horses and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).
- Solomon’s many wives were the daughters of neighboring kings and represented political alliances. These marriages led to dependence on his political allies rather than God.
- Horses represented chariots and cavalries and caused Solomon to lean on his military strength rather than God.
- Gold represented wealth and led Solomon to rely on what gold could do rather than what God could do.
Solomon broke all these rules, BECAUSE HE THOUGHT HE WAS TOO SMART TO FAIL. He thought he could handle it. But his wives weakened his love for God, his horses weakened his dependence on God and his gold weakened his desire for spiritual wealth. SOLOMON’S INTELLIGENCE CAUSED HIM TO THINK HE DID NOT NEED TO SEEK THE WISDOM THAT COMES FROM GOD.
So what does it mean to us, in a 21st Century Christians? Your weaknesses are the exaggeration of your strengths.
- Perhaps you are a go-getter. Your strength is that you can get more done in a day than most people can accomplish in a week. It is a great strength, but if it goes too far you may be so overly committed that you neglect your family or your own need for spiritual reflection. You may be so driven that you take no time for your relationship with God or others. You may try to push others to the same level that you are driven.
- Someone’s strength may be that they are very practical and have clear goals. The shadow side of that is that you carry it too far and forget people’s feelings in your attempts to arrive at those goals.
- Your strength may be your humor, but carried too far you fail to take even important things seriously. What is your strength?
- Are you financially astute? Does your strength become weakness as it leads you to base your security in money rather than God?
At the end of Solomon’s reign, he was not that successful at all! Why? SOLOMON WAS SO FULL OF HIMSELF…He ended up being remembered by the people of his time more for his manmade arrogance than for his God-given wisdom.
Doesn’t that happen to many of us? Don’t we forget sometimes that it is God who must get the glory and not ourselves?
Many times people will approach me and would say, “Oh pastor, that’s a good sermon, etc., etc.,” “I received the Lord after I hear you preach…” Other people would say, “Ah, that’s because of your dynamic preaching…your delivery! Your comic personality!” YEAH RIGHT!
The truth is that if I have any talent at all, it’s on loan from God. If people are coming to Christ, it’s not about me, but it’s about the power of the Holy Spirit that had worked in the hearts of those men and women…and He alone deserves all the glory.
And that goes for any of us, who are calling ourselves Christians
- The Sunday School class we teach is booming…. it’s God that gets the glory!
- The respect that others within the church body give us.. .it’s God that gets the glory!
- A successful Vacation Bible School, a booming this and that, a position of leadership…
- A successful business…3 times promoted in the middle of this year…an award, etc…
ALL GOD, ALL GOD, ALL GOD! IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD, AND NOT ABOUT US!
Because the truth is, He made our mouth. He gave us our abilities. He is the one who deserves the credit!
Don’t let your strength become a weakness. Don’t take it too far. DON’T FORGET YOUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD EVEN IN THE AREA OF YOUR STRENGTH.
Robert Fulghum reminds us that real wisdom is found in the simple lessons of life. He wrote in the Kansas City Times, “Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”
What Fulghum was saying was that you can make life too complicated. Real wisdom means loving God and loving others. That is pretty much it. My grandmother used to tell me not to get too smart for my own britches. That is still good advise.
My heartfelt thanks to Ptr. Rodney J. Buchanan for the wonderful insights he shared in his message about Solomon.