Solomon can be one of the most inspiring examples in Scripture and yet, one of the most tragic. A monument of grace . . . born to David, the man after God’s own heart . . . born through Bathsheba, the mistress of David’s adultery and murder. A young man placed on the throne who seeks from God not long life, nor riches, nor fame — but wisdom to lead well. I have known many who have made Solomon’s prayer for wisdom their own . . . more than once, his prayer for wisdom has been mine. But read of how he finished his race in 1 Kings 11, and here too he is an example . . . a bad example . . . a warning concerning the danger of a heart turned away.
You don’t have to be read too closely to know what led to Solomon’s spiritual downfall. It’s repeated four times in the first nine verses of 1Kings 11.
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1Kings 11:4 ESV)
Solomon had a weakness for women . . . a bit of an understatement considering the king had 700 wives and 300 concubines (11:3). Beyond the number, and perhaps more importantly, most of them were “from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love.” (11:2). Solomon’s desire trumped God’s decree. His weakness won over God’s warning. As such, he ended up with a heart turned away.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m not in any danger of accumulating 700 wives. But are there other things that might lead to a heart turned away?
That word, “turned away,” is kind of interesting. It’s actually the same word I encountered a few days ago in Psalm 119:36 where the songwriter asks God to “incline” his heart toward His Word. “To turn” is actually the least common translation of that word — literally it means “to stretch out . . . to spread out” and then “to turn, incline, influence.” That’s what Solomon had, a stretched out heart . . . but, it would seem, spread too thin. The attractions and the distractions were many . . . the affections were multi-focused . . . and at the end of the day, his heart was turned away from the One he had once sought to serve and to please. At the end of the day, his heart was stretched too thin and his loyalty to the LORD waned. His heart was not wholly true to the LORD, literally it had no “Shalom.” His heart was not at peace with God . . . it had been spread out by other pursuits . . . 1,000 of them . . . and, as a result, it had turned away.
Solomon’s life is a sobering warning . . . to think of living as well as Solomon lived and then finishing as poorly as Solomon finished. And all for a “stretched-too-thin” heart. I don’t have to noodle too long to come up with a list of things that can distract me from my “first love” (Rev. 2:4). So many things can compete with my devotion to the One worthy of “first fruits” I have to give . . . worthy of my first energies . . . worthy of my first thoughts . . . worthy of my first allegiance. It may not be multiple wives, but how many other “mistresses” might exist in my life that can turn my heart away from the Lord? God warned Israel not to intermarry with the nations around them for it would certainly turn away their hearts . . . Paul put it a slightly different way, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2Tim. 2:4).
There are so many things to be entangled with in my world. Not all bad . . . in fact, very few, are “bad” when received with thanksgiving (1Tim. 4:4). But many, nonetheless, that can distract and displace. I need to constantly check my world of activities and pursuits and ask myself, “Are these things spreading my heart too thin? Are they turning it away? Are they eroding my loyalty to the things of God?” Good questions to ask, I think.
To be like Solomon . . . characterized by wisdom through the mind of Christ, by the power of the Spirit. To not be like Solomon . . . on guard against a heart turned away.
By His grace . . . for His glory.