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(1 Kings 11) If Only . . .

(1 Kings 11) If Only . . .

by Stephen Davey Ref: 1 Kings 11

We have observed the incredible rise and reign of Israel's most brilliant king, King Solomon. He seemed to have the 'Midas touch.' Everything he touched turned to gold. His kingdom prospered and his name became legendary. But it wasn't enough. All his houses and lands couldn't earn him a legacy that would stand the test of time . . . a legacy of Godliness.


If Only

Private Joseph Lockard and Lieutenant Kermit Tyler were on duty at their radar station; they would make the final decision among a series that would insure a coming disaster.  Lockhard was just about to go off duty when he saw the characteristic blip of an airplane begin to move across his radar screen.  He watched as more than 50 blips came into radar view.  He reported the sightings to Lieutenant Tyler, who assumed the blips represented American bombers returning from maneuvers in California.  He told Tyler to forget about it and then made his gravest error.  Instead of calling Major Kenneth Bergquiest to confirm his assumption, as normal procedure dictated, he and his men went off duty.  The problem, if you haven't guessed it by now, was the simple fact that those blips were not American bombers, but Japanese.  Lieutenant Tyler's decision would be the final decision made that would insure the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.  Magnificent, costly ships would be destroyed and men would lose their lives.

Over these last four weeks, we've observed the incredible rise and reign of Israel's most brilliant King.  He had the Midas touch - everthing he touched worked,  his kingdom prospered; his name grew into a living legend. . .but in many ways, he will end up like a magnificent ship under enemy fire - breaking apart and sinking in disgrace.

Before we get to that part of his biography, let's review for just a moment his achievements; they're summarized in II Chronicles 9:22.  So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.  23.  And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. 24.  And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. 

Solomon had it all - wealth, splendor, fame, adoration, a kingdom unified and powerful.   The Bible calls him the greatest King on earth.

Imagine, living life to the fullest - with every adventure a possibility - with every desire met - from racing stallions to collecting wild animals; from tasting exotic spices to testing the latest weapons - Solomon tried it all.

If you could experience one adventure what would it and time are no objects.   I want you to know, that I would love to, just one time, parachute out of a plane - I'd love to sky dive just one time: if my wife would only let me - and as long as I had three other emergency parachutes attached to my body.

There's a company called "Thrillseekers Unlimited"  out of Las Vegas, of course.  No, I didn't send off for a free brochure, trust me!  But I did read about what they call an "adrenalin vacation."  The owner Rick Hopkins promotes a week of skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, rock climbing for the "not-so-faint-of-heart."  One of his vacationers who chose bungee jumping as his adventure was a 100 year old man named S.L.Potter, from California - where else!  He bungee jumped for the first and last time at age 100, but his two children, ages 68 and 74 strongly opposed the leap.  Dad refused to listen and he actually, safely jumped from 200 feet.  After his jump, as he got off the cord, his first words were, "Give me back my teeth!"

I like that man!  I wondered where his wife was - she probably died years earlier of a heart attack . . . maybe she was the one holding his teeth.

Well, for the rest of us, we just read about adventure - it's safer in the lazy boy isn't it. . .it's just not as fun.


Well, in Solomon's day, there wasn't anything he couldn't try or have. . .he had the world by the tail.

Oscar Wilde penned, perhaps, the most fitting epitaph for Solomon - "In this world, there are only two tragedies.  One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

Now the Biblical record leaves it to no ones imagination as to how someone this great, and wise and magnificent could end up a total failure.

I invite your attention back to I Kings, chapter 11 where God uncovers for our benefit the downward spiral of King's Solomon's steps.  It's meant to warn us - this is God's record for us!

In Solomon's digression into spiritual collapse, his first (Step #1) was:

   He stubbornly ignored God's command - I Kings 11:1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the  daughter of Pharaoh; Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2. from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, "You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods." 

The command was clear - "Solomon, don't associate with them"

By the way, a similar warning of God to the New Testament Christian is also clear.  To associate with certain people is dangerous to your spiritual health!

The word associate could be understand as "developing a friendship with someone that ultimately gives them the unspoken permission or ability to influence you."

Listen to some of God's commands; in our overtolerant age, some of these may surprise you. . .

Don't associate with men or women who are unfaithful to their spouses (Ps. 50:18 - Asaph disciplined his readers for "associating with adulterers")

Don't associate with a gossip (Prov. 20:19)

Don't associate with an angry person or someone who has a bad temper, lest you learn his ways (Prov. 22:24)

Paul wrote in I Cor. 5:11.  I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous - how's that - don't develop associations with materialistic Christians - Paul goes on - "don't assosociate with an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler - not even to eat with such a one."

Paul wrote in II Thess. 3:14 not to associate with Christians who are openly disobeying scripture - "And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this

letter (II Thess.), take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame."

If Paul were living today, the majority of evangelical Christians would say, "Paul, you're too strict, too judgmental - you're a prude."

But Paul was right!  Don't give someone the permission or ability to influence you unless they are godly.  By the way, that goes for anything you allow into your life

FOR SOLOMON . . . don't marry foreign women!   That's exactly what Solomon did. . . but he ignored God's command

Step #2

   He foolishly rejected God's council - Notice the last part of  I Kings 11:2b.  "For they will surely turn your heart away after their gods."

Like a parent telling a child - now listen, if you touch the eye on the stove, you will get burned - don't, it's hot!

Notice the very last phrase of verse 2.  "Solomon held fast to these in love."  

"Held fast in love".  One commentator said, "He flaunted it.  He not only embraced them, he embraced them publicly.  He not only married them, he courted them in front fo the people of Israel.  The foreign women, coming in with their idolatrous and cultural polytheism, brought with them enough seduction to turn Solomon off spiritually.

He evidently didn't realize it at the time - but he was on a collision course with total bankruptcy - the blips were coming closer!

I had lunch this past week with a man from our church who flew an F4 - a fighter plane - during the Viet Nam war.  He flew nearly 200 combat missions during his many years with the air force.   He told me that one of the most serious challenges during his career was flying night missions.  When the sky was dark and there was no discernible horizon.  He explained to me that during a night mission it was possible to enter a state that's called Vertigo - when because of loss of visual ability;  the mind becomes disoriented with what's up or down or sideways.  It all seems the same. 

He told me of an incident where he was so intent on his mission that he failed to check his instrument panel for just a few moments.   It was in the dark of night, and while he thought he was flying straight ahead, he was actually flying at a steep descent.   With only seconds to spare, he looked at his instrument panel, recognized his error and even though he was hurtling earthward at 300 miles an hour, he was able to pull up just in time.   He came within 100 yards of hitting the ground.

POINT - He told me, the challenge of flying at night was that in order to avoid Vertigo's strange effects, you constantly had to obey the instrument panel even though your body and your brain told you something different.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when you are involved in sin, you can enter a spiritual Vertigo - a state where your body and your brain can justify, rationalize - you can sense peace with God and fellowman - you can be happier than ever were before. . .the truth is, you're flying in the darkness of night and you are hurtling toward a terrible crash.

Solomon himself wrote, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death."

The instrument panel is the Word; and it provides an objective, outside resources that God uses to keep us in flight - you remember our brief study of 2 Tim. 3:16 - The word is inspired and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for reproof, for instruction.

Solomon foolishly disregarded the instrument panel - he ignored God's inspired council. . .and, the text says, "He held fast to them in love".

Oh Lord, I love these women - I love my life - it's never been better - I'm going to hang on!

Notice verse 3.  And he had seven hundred wives - they were princesses (kings daughters), and three hundred concubines, (or as one little kid said, "300 cucumber vines" - just as well - for Solomon will become so tangled up that he will never cut free) and his wives turned his heart away.

the fatal crash occurs in his final step - He openly disregarded God's character - I Kings 11:4.  For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to teh Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  5.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.  6.  And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully as David his father had done  (can you imagine!  it gets worse!)  7.  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of thes ons of Ammon.  8.  Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

Do you know who Molech was?  This was the statue of iron whose belly was an open furnace.  The fire would be stoked in his belly and the entire statue would be glowing with heat.  His arms were fashioned outward and into those red hot arms infants would be lain as sacrifices to Molech.  The screams of the helpless infants would pierce the air and satisfy this monstrous false deity.

My friend, how incredible it is to read of a man like Solomon who was raised and tutored by Nathan the prophet, a man who built the temple of  God, a man who had wisdom - who penned the Books of Proverbs and Song of Solomon - look at him now - he's blind!  He's deaf - his conscience seared shut. 

 Solomon lived his midlife years turned off to God, which led to old-age open defiance.

He's building sanctuaries for idols - how could he fall so far?!  - by associating with women who slowly wore down his theological defenses and ate away at his Judaistic moral until look - just across the way from the golden temple of Yahweh, there on the mount of Olives is Solomon's monuments to the goddess of the Sidonians and to Molech.

What happened to Solomon . . . are there any clues?  Oh yes - take your Bibles and turn to Solomon's personal diary - it's the Book of Ecclesiastes, located next to the book of Solomon's Proverbs.

Ecclesiastes 2

Six times in five verses, the phrase, "for myself" is written:

2:4  I enlarged my works, I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself

   5a. I made gardens and parks for myself

   6a. I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate o forest of growing trees.

   8a. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces.  I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men - that is, in many concubines. 

Let's put it this way - young Solomon was dedicated to the Lord; middle aged Solomon was dedicated to himself; aged Solomon was dedicated to other gods.

Now I want you to notice the ramblings of a self-obsessed man. 

v. 9.  Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.  My wisdom also stood by me (notice this wasn't God's wisdom - this was his)  10.  And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them.  I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased becuase of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.  11.  Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold, all was vanity and stirving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

In other words, big deal!

Anyone wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.

You know, it's interesting that in his list of building projects in Ecclesiastes, he does not even mention what everyone considers his crowning achievement - what?  Building the temple.  he never mentions it.

I didn't tell you this previously because I didn't want to get off the subject of Solomon's positive contributions, but I will now.  I Kings informed us that it took Solomon 7 years to build the Temple to the glory of God.  But did you know that Solomon took 13 years to build his own palace - a house built to his own glory.

And now, you're looking at an empty old man who looks around his kingdom and at his harem and at his possession and at his power and says, "It's all empty!"

C.H.Macintosh wrote a century ago in his commentary - Genesis Notes

"Many a vessel has sailed out of harbor in gallant style with all it's canvass spread; amid cheering and shouting, and with many a promise of a first-rate passage; but alas!  Storms, waves, rocks and quicksands have changed the aspect of things; and the vessel that commenced with hope has ended in disaster."

The real tragedy is that Solomon could have spared himself the waste of his life. . .

If only Solomon had his own writings!

Proverbs 4:25 - Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

And what about all the other O.T. scripture - I want you to listen listen to a passage Solomon knew and had undoubtedly heard many times in his youth: while your listening, turn back to 2 Chron. 9.

I'm going to read from Moses' writings in Deuteronomy - writing's Solomon knew full well.

Deut. 17:14-17 

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live init, and you say, "I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,  15.  You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.  16.  Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, "You shall never again return that way."  17.  Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, let his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.

Now look with me at 2 Chron. 9:25. 

Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.  (imagine; Solomon owns so many horses and chariots that he build cities just to house them).  26.  And he was the ruler over all the kings from the Euphrates River even to the land of the Philistines, and as far as the border of Egypt.  27.  And the king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem, and made cedars as plentiful as sycamore trees that are in the lowland.  28.  And they were bringing horses for Solomon from Egypt and from all countries.

If only Solomon had listened!

If only Solomon had remembered. . . from his own writings:

   Proverbs 21:17 - He who loves pleasure will become a poor man.

   Proverbs 13:25 - The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the stomach of the wicked is never full.

   Proverbs 19:23 - The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied.

If only Solomon had obeyed. . .

    Proverbs 5:21 - His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his own sin.  he will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.

There are timeless lessons in Solomon's story - for all of us, in any generation, no matter how young or old you may be.

Lesson #1  The deterioration of any believer into a lifestyle of sin never occurs without warning,


Put it another way - Spiritual collapse never happens overnight; and it never happens without God being able to say, "I told you so!"

Imagine the warning of God through His word to be something like that light that flashes on your panel just under your dash when your gasoline supply is getting low. . .you notice it - momentarily panic. Imagine if someone sees that warning light come on and says to himself - I have probably 3,4 more gallons left. . .no sweat. . .but as he drives, frankly, that light irritates him - he pulls over and goes back to his trunk and pulls out a hammer - gets back into his car and proceeds to smash that little light - there. . .that fixed that . . . now I can drive as long as I please.

Uh, uh - he may have removed the reminder from his view, but in a few minutes, he's going to be stranded somewhere - he's going to be walking somewhere - YOU IGNORE THAT warning light - and you will suffer from the unchanging truth that you can't drive your car withought gasoline - even though we're all dumb enough to test that truth.

As that illustration relates to your walk, you never fall into a life of sin without ample warning - in fact there's really no such thing as falling into sin - you walk into it with your eyes wide open - you run toward sin - you leave your telephone number out so sin knows how to reach you; you call out for sin so it knows you're available.

I may start out small - just one date with a non-Christian, just one lunch with a married man;  just one bad check; just one sip or snort; just one magazine; just one shortcut here and another one there. . .don't ever say, once you're stranded spiritually or you are bankrupt morally - "It just happened so fast, I didn't have a chance."

Oh no!  This sermon alone, is just one more way God is flashing the warning light to you . . . can you see it?!

None of us fall in a moment - it is really more a slide past many different warning signs!

The second thing I believe we can learn from Solomon's collapse is this:

Lesson # 2  Making wise decisions today will not guarantee wise decisions will be made tomorrow.

You say, that's a little frightening - that makes me feel a little uncomfortable - well then, my job this morning is to make you feel uncomfortable.

One man said, "A preacher's job is to comfort the troubled; trouble the comfortable. . .so be it!

The way you can make wise decision, you remember, is to begin with the condition of your heart and keep your ears open to wise council, to the word of God, to the Spirit of God.


I read the unbelievable story taken from a news clipping - Bruce Rowlison was given an article that had been reported in a Santa Cruz, California area newspaper.  A newly retired couple had cashed in their stocks and bonds to purchase their dream motor home.  It had every bell and whistle imaginable - it was undoubtably the most luxurious thing that they owned.  One of the nice features on the motor home was the cruise control - they had never owned a vehicle with it before and the man was thrilled.  It was on their maiden voyage, as they were traveling up the West Coast, the husband became tired.  He asked his wife to drive while he went in the back to take a nap.  She slipped behind the wheel - he showed her where everything was - especially the cruise control.  He explained to her that when she hit a stretch of straight highway, the cruise control was especially helpful at keeping a steady pace.  He went to the back and fell asleep.  Sure enough, after a hour of straight highway driving, she finally decided to activate the cruise control.  She did, and then got up and walked back to the bathroom.  She thought cruise control was automatic pilot . . . or so she told the Highway Patrol after the accident - neither of them were hurt, but the motor home was totaled . . . what a ride that must have been.  

That's not only a true story, but a wonderful illustration of the Christian life - there's no such thing as automatic pilot - never!  Even when your spiritual life is cruisin' - you're advancing, making progress - that's not the time to slack off!

In other words, there is never a point in your life where you can coast - the New Testament is filled with exhortations to the believer to be alert - be on your guard - you don't coast to the finish line, Paul said, you run to it.  You can never say,  "I think I'll just put my Christian walk on cruise control and slip out the back"

It's interesting that because of Solomon's sin - and his final acts of rebellion by building pagan altars - the country of Israel will be profoundly affected.  In fact, the temple that Solomon built will be destroyed just a few years after his death; but those pagan altars that Solomon built will still be standing three hundred years later.  A King by the name of Josiah will finally destroy them.

Solomon had bought the lie - that it was possible to serve God half-heartedly - it was possible to have a golden temple and at the same time an altar to Molech . . .

Does that same deception occur today?!  Oh yes.  Perhaps one of the biggest lies of our day is that you can have it both ways. 

Pastor Ed Young writes it this way:  that you can be Executive of the Year and and Parent of the Year.  That you can love God and at the same time love the dollar bill;  that you can be intimate with Jesus Christ and at the same time be intimate with someone other than your spouse.  It is a dangerous deception.

The truth is, no matter what your age, we never outlive the dangerous undertow of temptation.

The final lesson is this:

Lesson #3  The time to walk with God is not yesterday, not tomorrow . . . or one day; the time to walk with God is today.

Alexander Maclaren wrote in his sermon on this very passage the words,




How do we avoid the "If onlys" at the end of our lives . . . at the end of 1995 . . . at the end of this coming week.

By asking Him to forgive you for not walking with Him yesterday - and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse your sin;

Some of you need to do that today!  This morning!  Your ship is in danger of disqualification - you're in danger of moral collapse.

You avoid the "If onlys" by not planning to walk with God only when tomorrow arrives - oh no, the way to avoid a life of "If onlys"  is to walk with God today.

If only Solomon had listened. . .remembered. . .obeyed.

I want to add one more "If only" to your notes . . .

If only Solomon had repented!

Do you know that nowhere in the record of scripture is there a reference to aged Solomon repenting.  After God promised to tear his kingdom away from his son, you would think that Solomon would repent in sackloth and ashes, but it's not found!

One commentator put David's life and Solomon's life on a graph.  David's looked like a roller coaster - intimacy - sin - repentance...

Solomon's looked like a sheer cliff - intimacy - sin.

Turn back to I Kings chapter 11. 

The final act of Solomon, recorded verse 40.  reveals him trying to kill Jereboam; God's anointed replacement.  I Kings 11:40. Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

Imagine, the last days of Solomon mirror the last days of King Saul.  He's trying to kill God's replacement for the throne - out of rage and jealousy and obstinance against God's command.

This is a tragic ending to such a great beginning.

Is there an "IF ONLY" attached to your life story right now - the good news is, since you're here right now, it's not too late to set the record straight. . .will you listen to God's Spirit, will you repent, will you remember. . .will you obey; or will you "hold fast to those things in love".

Dr. John Walvoord, the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary - visited us a few years ago - we were riding in the car, talking and he, an 80 year old Christian statesman, mused aloud and said, "I just want to finish well."  A brilliant theologian. . .a famous author. . .a respected statesman of the Christian faith wanted to finish well.

So do I - and so do you; we can!

If we will listen, remember, repent, obey . . . our vessels will come sailing into the port of heaven as gallantly as when we began.






"Solomon warns us that till the very end of life, failure is possible.  Solomon's ship went down when the voyage was nearly over.  He stands on the page of this history, a sad figure - a man that has had the reputation for wisdom and honour, who now shames the record of his life by a great splash of mud on the white page, near its end.  Solomon's unbridled and monstrous polygamy sapped his manhood and his principle, darkened his clear spirit, blinded his keen eye, and turned a youth of noble aspiration and a manhood of noble accomplishment into an old age without dignity, reverence, or calm.  All his wisdom was worth little since it could not gain control of himself.


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