There’s an advantage, in a sense, of having legalistic tendencies. By seeing all the stuff that shouldn’t be, you appreciate more the grace of God that is. Case in point? The opening verses of 1Kings 3.
Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD. Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.
(1Kings 3:1-3 ESV)
Solomon marries an Egyptian. Smart strategically, perhaps, but forbidden under the law. Bad on him. Then, the people are sacrificing at high places. Less than ideal to say the least. Sure, the ark of the covenant hasn’t yet found a permanent home since Shiloh was destroyed, but hey, no excuses. Strike two. Cherry on top? Solomon’s sacrificing and making his offerings at the high places, as well. Outrageous! Strike three. You’re outta there!
But maybe not. Read what else God breathes out in these verses, Pete.
Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father . . .
Missteps in the flesh do not necessarily mean out and out misdirection in the heart. And God looks on the heart (1Sam. 16:7). We know that’s the case as we read further in 1Kings 3. God provides opportunity for the heart of Solomon to be laid bare as He appears to the young king in a dream and says to him, “Ask what I shall give you” (3:5).
God doesn’t appear to him in a dream to judge his marriage of military convenience, though it’s wrong. He doesn’t inflict Solomon with nightmares for not technically offering in the way offerings should be done. Instead, knowing that Solomon really does love Him, and sincerely wants to walk in His ways, God appears to this stumbler in the faith and says, in effect, “Let me grace you. Show me your heart.”
It’s not that God overlooks Solomon’s sin. In fact, God Himself, through His Son, will pay the price for that sin with His own offering. The once for all offering of the promised Deliverer on a Roman cross centuries in the future, so that God could justly “pass over the sins that were previously committed” (Rom. 3:23-25). And to be sure, Solomon’s habitual sin will find him out. What begins as one foreign wife will multiply to 100’s of foreign wives who eventually turn Solomon’s heart away from the Lord (1Ki. 11:1-4). But at this time, in this place, despite being tripped up in wayward ways, Solomon loved the LORD and really did want to walk in His ways.
So, rather than being tossed out of the game for three strikes, He is granted His hearts desire because of grace. Grace for the good of Solomon. But ultimately, grace for the glory of God. God’s purposes would be accomplished through Solomon, in a sense, despite Solomon.
Truth is, my legalistic tendency comes when I sit in a balcony watching Solomon’s story through a magnifying glass as arbiter of righteousness. But when I get off my high horse and enter Solomon’s story, putting away my magnifying glass and viewing him more as a mirror, then I’m probably in a position to process things more accurately.
I am Solomon. No, not a king. Not gonna be one of the wisest men ever. But a lover of God, a seeker of his statutes, yet prone to failures of the flesh. Yet, even more, a recipient of sanctifying grace by a longsuffering, loving God. The Father determined to complete the work He has begun in me, and wants to do through me, sometimes in spite of me (Php. 1:6).
To be sure, I need to confess and repent of my sin as God, in His kindness, continues to reveal my sin. But praise God it’s not three strikes and your out! Instead, I rest in the assurance that through the finished work of the cross, just as Solomon was, I’m still in the game.
By His grace. For His glory.