1 Kings 11-13

1 Kings 11-13…A divided heart.

The great nineteenth-century British preacher C. H. Spurgeon once said: “A stony heart may be turned to flesh, but turn a divided heart into whatsoever you please, so long as it is divided, all is ill. . . . A united heart is life to a man, but if the heart be cut in twain, in the highest, deepest, and most spiritual sense, he dies.”

No better words summarize Solomon’s downward turn recorded in these chapters. After all the praise, admiration, and grandeur of the first ten chapters, we now run into an ominous “however” in 1 Kings 11. By explicitly disobeying God’s commands about taking wives from the surrounding pagan regions, a slow change occurs. Solomon was turned “after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.”

In fact, the language of Scripture is carefully chosen. We read that Solomon “loved many foreign women,” and goes on to record that “Solomon held fast [literally “clung”] to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2). These are the same Hebrew words used in Deuteronomy to prescribe the loyalty a human should have toward God. Deuteronomy 11:22, for example, calls for us “to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, and to hold fast to him” (Deut. 6:5; 10:20).

Solomon did not simply wake up and decide out of the blue to do “evil in the eyes of the Lord” and build high places for foreign gods. Rather, his singular love for God was slowly replaced with other loves. A heart once devoted to the Lord had become a divided heart.

God’s response underscores this change in Solomon. His anger was precisely because Solomon’s heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel. Although there was an element of mercy in the judgment against Solomon, his failure to heed God’s explicit commands resulted in a divided heart and, eventually, a divided kingdom.

The idol of companionship is a dangerous one because it feels right to us. However, when we let our emotions drive our decision-making, ignoring God’s word and placing other people above Him, we deceive ourselves.

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1 Kings 8-10

1 Kings 8-10…God’s presence and character.

The dedication of God’s temple in these chapters is something like a ribbon-cutting event, with one notable distinction: the occupant of the building shows up and steals the show. Scripture tells us that Solomon gathered the leaders of Israel at Jerusalem to bring the ark of the covenant into the temple. In fact, the ark’s centrality is underscored by its eight references. This dedication party was ostensibly about the temple, but Scripture makes it clear that it was really about God’s presence. Lest the reader wonder about this emphasis, the centerpiece of the passage describes the climax: the priests withdrew, the cloud descended, and the glory of the Lord filled his temple. So overwhelming was God’s presence that the priests could not perform their service. As promised, God had come in glory to dwell with His people.

Of equal importance in this section is the focus on God’s character. Solomon’s speech to the assembly emphasized God’s fulfillment of His promises to David. Just as God had said that it would not be David, but David’s son, who would build the temple for my Name, so it had happened. Solomon summarized it simply, but accurately: “The Lord has kept the promise he made” (1 Kings 8:20). God does what He says He will do; that is the thrust of Solomon’s speech to Israel.

What promises of God do you struggle to believe? That He cares for you more than the sparrows (Matt. 6:26) and will turn all things to your spiritual good (Rom. 8:28)? That He will not abandon you (Heb. 13:5)? That He will one day come again in glory to claim His own (1 Thess. 4:13-18)? Take a hard, honest look at your own heart today to see where you might not be trusting in God’s word of promise. Ask Him for forgiveness and for the grace to start living with trust in His faithfulness.

1 Kings 5-7

1 Kings 5-7…Buildings

Architecture has played an important role in church history. After all, there are magnificent cathedrals and church buildings all around the world that have been built to the glory of God. No art form is neutral, for even the design of our church buildings says something about our regard for the Lord and His worship. In 1 Kings 5-7, we see the preparations for building the temple, and God has specific instructions for Solomon.

Throughout the Bible, God’s people dedicate certain places as fit for His special presence. From Bethel (Gen. 28:10–22) to the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9–27), Scripture is clear that our Creator sometimes chooses to make His presence felt more strongly in some locales than in others. This is not to deny the omnipresence of God, for there is indeed nowhere we can hide from Him (Ps. 139:7). What we are talking about when we consider sacred space is the Lord’s special presence, the location where His people experience particular blessings and enjoy the sweetest communion with Him. The same God who exists everywhere also meets with His children in special ways in specific locales, especially in the person of Jesus Christ.

When we gather to worship the Lord, it is essential to remember that we are coming into the presence of the most holy Creator who has nonetheless chosen to show great mercy to a particular people in the person of Christ Jesus. The architecture of our sanctuaries can help us remember this, but we are tasked to recall this fact no matter where we gather for worship. We do not worship the Lord lightly, but we adore the holy, majestic Creator.

1 Kings 1-4

1 Kings 1-4…The request for wisdom

These chapters record that well-known occasion on which Solomon asked the Lord for special wisdom to rule his kingdom. On the whole, 1 Kings 3 casts Solomon in a very positive light, although verses 1–3 contain some ominous signs for the future of Solomon’s kingdom. We read of how he made an alliance with the king of Egypt by marrying his daughter, which goes against the warning in Deuteronomy 17:16 that the Israelites not return to Egypt. Eventually, Solomon married hundreds of other foreign wives, and their pagan ways led him astray from the one, true God. This teaches us that any wisdom we receive from the Lord does us no good if we do not continue in it.

Solomon’s heart was divided in its loyalty toward God early in his reign as evidenced in his marriage to the Egyptian princess, but he still knew that he would not have a successful reign over Israel without special wisdom from on high. When the Lord gave him the opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted (1 Kings 3:4–5), Solomon could have asked selfishly for his own riches or fame but instead he humbled himself and selflessly asked for wisdom by which he could discern good from evil (vv. 6–8). As some commentators have noted, Solomon recognized that having the Law would not be enough to create the righteous kingdom God desired; rather, he needed the Lord to do a special work in his heart for this kingdom to come about. Pleased with Solomon, God gave him not only that for which he asked but also riches and many other blessings besides (vv. 9–15).

The whole incident is reminiscent of Matthew 6:33 wherein we are told to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and thus all of what we need will be added unto us. If we ask the Father for wisdom, that is, Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:24), we seek the kingdom and can be assured of His loving care.