The Bible contains numerous instances of foreshadowing, where an event occurs that shows a hint of what will come in the future. Right off the bat in the account of Solomon’s reign, we see this situation.
Solomon was the Lord’s anointed to continue as king over all Israel following the death of his father David. Other sons of David had tried to wrongly ascend to the throne, but each of their efforts was doomed to fail. Yet, isn’t it interesting, given that God is omniscient and knows the future, that He would raise Solomon to this position with the knowledge of how he would fail to honor the Lord?
The first verse in our reading today shows us where things will get off track for Solomon. In 1 Kings 3:1 we learn:
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.
What’s the problem with this, you may ask? Remember that Israel was a theocracy founded by Yahweh, whose intent was for His people to follow and worship only Him. Every other nation on the earth, Egypt included, was pagan. We saw this in the Exodus account with the various gods they revered, and how God acted against them – showing how useless they were. The Israelites coming out of Egypt had 400 years of history in this culture. That came out in their worship of the golden calf as they expressed their misguided need to see the god, i.e. the idol of the god, before which they bowed down.
There would have been few, if any, followers of Yahweh in Egypt at that time – Pharaoh and his daughter certainly among the pagans. By Solomon marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, he was setting himself up for trouble. You’ll recall that there were previous instances when the people of Israel mingled with those in the surrounding nations and were corrupted. Men, particularly, seemed vulnerable to this. When they took foreign wives who had foreign gods, they almost inevitably fell into the trap of worshiping the gods of their spouses. Yahewh might have been in the mix for them to also sacrifice to, but He was by no means exclusively their God when they strayed from Him. At the very best they expressed a syncretistic religious attitude, i.e. a merging of various gods to follow – Yahweh among them. At the worst, they rejected Yahweh completely in favor of these other gods.
For Solomon to make an alliance with Egypt and to bring this foreign princess into his house as his wife, he was asking for trouble. Despite this, God let him do it and was still willing to bless him immensely at the beginning of his reign as king.
There were other problems with both the people of Israel and Solomon himself that the text shows us. Consider 1 Kings 3:2:
The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.
What happened to the ark of the covenant that resided in the tent of meeting? David had brought this to Jerusalem. Shouldn’t the people have been taught to worship there in the actual presence of God in this place where He dwelt? Should it really have made a difference that there was no physical structure? God Himself had said to David that this wasn’t a problem with Him (2 Samuel 7:6-7).
Instead, where were the people sacrificing? At the high places. Why was this problematic? The high places were those at which the pagan gods required worship. The people may have been sacrificing to Yahweh, but given their history and the tradition of pagan cultures using high places for worship, how easy it would be to switch out a different god in place of the One true God!
Even Solomon at this point neglected the ark and the tent of meeting, as we see in 1 Kings 3:3:
Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.
Sure, Solomon loved the Lord, but to go to the high places for his sacrifices opened him up to corrupting influences. It simply wasn’t a good idea. Once more, however, despite the troubling signs, God’s intent toward Solomon was nothing but positive at the beginning of his reign. Solomon indeed loved God alone, and He responded by giving him the marvelous gift of great wisdom.
What can we today take away from this? It won’t be long before the text informs us that Solomon had more wives and concubines than we can possibly imagine. We learn in Ecclesiastes that in his wisdom he searched high and low for happiness, trying every physical pleasure known to man. During those years, he was no doubt far from God. Only at the end of his life as an old man did he finally realize how useless everything else was. He came to know after many years of wandering that only God Most High was worthy to be followed.
Our lesson is that when we try to mix worldly ideas with those given by God, because of the weakness of our frail human flesh, we will fail. The things of the world hold great power in their tempting allure to us. Our sinful nature is incredibly susceptible to them. When we open the door to the world, it happily comes in and corrupts us. Along with the world’s temptations, Satan may enter as well and help us along in our freefall away from God. The devil likes nothing better than this open door into our lives as he seeks to thwart God’s intent for us.
If we are to succeed in this Christian life and to truly walk in the righteousness of Christ, we must bar the door. We must shut out any possible means whereby the world or Satan can enter; when we don’t, our sin nature all too readily agrees with that which is contrary to what God wants for us.
Our mingling with the world should only be for the purpose of bringing the light of the Gospel. Jesus hung out with sinners; He didn’t live with them 24/7. How can we expect to live for the Lord if we’ve invited everything opposed to God to be our constant companion?
Do you want to live a righteous life? Kick out the world. Don’t invite Pharaoh’s daughter (or son) into your household. Refuse to worship in high places, i.e. to follow practices that the world in its foolish wisdom thinks are right.
How do we do this? How do we know what’s right and wrong? How do we live in the way that God intends? The only way I know of is to read the Word of God daily and to read it in its entirety year-by-year. Only by knowing God in this way can we truly live for Him, because then we can know His heart.