The history of Solomon is an example of a man who had every blessing a person could want. As king of Israel for 40 years, he had power and fame. He had wealth beyond imagination. He had a discerning heart full of wisdom and understanding, making him wiser than the wisest men. He was a writer and composer, a scientist and a philosopher. He even penned Scripture, giving us the books of wisdom and poetry known as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
He had many accomplishments and building projects to his credit, but first and foremost, he constructed the temple in Jerusalem, fulfilling the lifelong dream of his father, David. When Solomon inaugurated the temple, God visited His people and graced them with His tangible presence, filling the temple with His glory so that the priests were unable to stand. Fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices that Solomon offered. And God wonderfully answered Solomon’s prayer, promising Solomon that His eyes would always be on Jerusalem, and on the House that Solomon had built in His Name, to answer the prayers of God’s children, and to heal their land.
What a rich example of the blessing and favor of God upon a man!
But there is more to the story of Solomon, for in his final days something is recorded that is both shocking and disturbing. Something we all must pay attention to. Please read the following account slowly and carefully.
“But King Solomon loved many foreign women… from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded.” (I Kings 11:1-10)
I don’t recall anyone talking about this in Sunday School. We don’t want to recall it. We want to remember Solomon as a wise, prosperous, God-fearing king who built the temple in Jerusalem. Of course, we want to focus on how blessed he was.
But the fact of the matter is that however well Solomon may have started out, and however well he may have lived for most of his life, Solomon did not finish well. He did not end his life on a good note. He ended poorly. He did not just make some mistakes towards the end of his life – he utterly, completely, and totally failed. He became an idol worshipper and a builder of idol temples.
May I say that all the accomplishments and blessings of a lifetime are worthless if you do not finish well. Running well is important, but finishing well is even more important. We can run poorly, walk, stumble, crawl, go in circles or make mistakes our whole life; but if we find the right path and finish well, that’s all that matters in the end. Paul refers to it as “finishing the race with joy” (Acts 20:24).
I have stated before, and I repeat: the majority of Christians today are not on track to finish well. They do not run well. In fact, they do not run or advance at all. They sit just inside the Narrow Gate, rejoicing in a future hope and a future salvation, relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge that they have passed through the Gate, so all is well. They are not walking the Path of Christ-centered spiritual growth and maturity. They are content to look backwards to what God was doing in their life twenty, thirty or forty years ago; to what God told them then, what God showed them then. They are nostalgic for the “good old days,” but have no present truth, no fresh clear vision that compels them to keep moving forward, no motivation or incentive to finish well – to finish with joy, to go out with a bang, to be full of fire right up until they take their final breath.
I don’t know when I will live my last day on earth. Neither do you. And I don’t know about you, but I do not want to get old and content and spiritually lazy, and take my relationship with God for granted like Solomon. The wisest, richest, most blessed man who ever lived ended up worshipping idols in his old age. Where will you be? Where will I be? Will we stay on the Path, or be distracted from the goal? I don’t want to spend my whole life teaching and praying and proclaiming the Kingdom of God, only to come to the end of my life and fall flat on my face the way Solomon did. Christ in us is better than that.
If you are middle-aged, or advanced in years, do not listen to the voices in your head telling you that you are no good, finished, all used up, no longer useful, no longer needed. That is a lie. Now, more than ever before, the Body of Christ needs your experience. Your insight. Your wisdom. Your counsel. Your perspective. And if nothing else, the Body of Christ needs your prayers and intercessions. You have a purpose to fulfill. Fulfill it. Finish well.
Do not be like so many others who fritter away the remaining years of their life on useless activities, pointless novels, or endless rounds of golf. If you are retired then enjoy the fruit of your labor, but don’t let down your guard. Don’t take a vacation from your spiritual stewardship. Don’t let your golden years be tarnished through carelessness and complacency. Don’t be like Solomon, the wise old fool, who had everything a man could ask for, but forgot about God in his old age.
No one is perfect. I do not believe that God expects sinless perfection from His people. We will make mistakes in spite of every good intention, and God’s grace is big enough to take our imperfections and impurities into account.
The point of this writing is not to examine God’s forgiveness (which is great), but to look at Solomon’s failure, make note of it, learn from it, and tuck it away for that time in our life when old age approaches – to ensure that we are not lulled to sleep, thinking that because we have walked with God for so many years, we can afford to become complacent.
And this word is also for those who are still young. Take advantage of the strength and passion of your youth. Follow hard after God and lay a good foundation for your later years. Don’t say you’ll do whatever you please now, and later on you’ll get serious. It seldom works out to be that way. Get committed now. Run well. Keep your eye on the goal.
In the end, Solomon wasn’t as wise as we thought. He threw away his most valuable possession: his friendship with God. If you and I, for all our other shortcomings, can keep our relationship with the Lord strong now, and all the way to the end, we will be in a much better place than Solomon was in his last days – a wise old fool who fell away from the truth.