during Solomon's reign the Lord had appeared to him with words of
approval and counsel--in the night vision at Gibeon, when the promise of
wisdom, riches, and honor was accompanied by an admonition to remain
humble and obedient; and after the dedication of the temple, when once
more the Lord exhorted him to faithfulness. Plain were the admonitions,
wonderful the promises, given to Solomon; yet of him who in
circumstances, in character, and in life seemed abundantly fitted to
heed the charge and meet the expectation of Heaven, it is recorded: "He
kept not that which the Lord commanded." "His heart was turned from the
Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded
him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods." I
Kings 11:9, 10. And so complete was his apostasy, so hardened his heart
in transgression, that his case seemed well-nigh hopeless.
From the joy
of divine communion, Solomon turned to find satisfaction in the
pleasures of sense. Of this experience he says:
"I made me
great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me
gardens and orchards: . . . I got me servants and maidens: . . . I
gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and
of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the
delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all
sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me
in Jerusalem. . . .
whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my
heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor. . . . Then I
looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that
I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit,
and there was no profit under the sun.
"And I turned
myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do
that cometh after the king? even that which hath been already done. . .
. I hated life. . . . Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under
the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:4-18.
By his own
bitter experience, Solomon learned the emptiness of a life that seeks in
earthly things its highest good. He erected altars to heathen gods, only
to learn how vain is their promise of rest to the spirit. Gloomy and
soul-harassing thoughts troubled him night and day. For him there was no
longer any joy of life or peace of mind, and the future was dark with
Lord forsook him not. By messages of reproof and by severe judgments, He
sought to arouse the king to a realization of the sinfulness of his
course. He removed His protecting care and permitted adversaries to
harass and weaken the kingdom. "The Lord stirred up an adversary unto
Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. . . . And God stirred him up another
adversary, Rezon, . . . captain over a band," who "abhorred Israel, and
reigned over Syria. And Jeroboam, . . . Solomon's servant," "a mighty
man of valor," "even he lifted up his hand against the king." I Kings
At last the
Lord, through a prophet, delivered to Solomon the startling message:
"Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept My covenant
and My statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the
kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in
thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend
it out of the hand of thy son." Verses 11, 12.
from a dream by this sentence of judgment pronounced against him and his
house, Solomon with quickened conscience began to see his folly in its
true light. Chastened in spirit, with mind and body enfeebled, he turned
wearied and thirsting from earth's broken cisterns, to drink once more
at the fountain of life. For him at last the discipline of suffering had
accomplished its work. Long had he been harassed by the fear of utter
ruin because of inability to turn from folly; but now he discerned in
the message given him a ray of hope. God had not utterly cut him off,
but stood ready to deliver him from a bondage more cruel
grave, and from which he had had no power to free himself.
Solomon acknowledged the power and the loving-kindness of the One who is
"higher than the highest" (Ecclesiastes 5:8); in penitence he began to
retrace his steps toward the exalted plane of purity and holiness from
whence he had fallen so far. He could never hope to escape the blasting
results of sin, he could never free his mind from all remembrance of the
self-indulgent course he had been pursuing, but he would endeavor
earnestly to dissuade others from following after folly. He would humbly
confess the error of his ways and lift his voice in warning lest others
be lost irretrievably because of the influences for evil he had been
setting in operation.
penitent does not put his past sins from his remembrance. He does not,
as soon as he has obtained peace, grow unconcerned in regard to the
mistakes he has made. He thinks of those who have been led into evil by
his course, and tries in every possible way to lead them back into the
true path. The clearer the light that he has entered into, the stronger
is his desire to set the feet of others in the right way. He does not
gloss over his wayward course, making his wrong a light thing, but lifts
the danger signal, that others may take warning.
acknowledged that "the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and
madness is in their heart." Ecclesiastes 9:3. And again he declared,
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,
therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged,
I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before
Him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong
his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."
By the spirit
of inspiration the king recorded for after generations the history of
his wasted years with their lessons of warning. And thus, although the
seed of his sowing was reaped by his people in harvests of evil, his
life-work was not wholly lost. With meekness and lowliness Solomon in
his later years "taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed,
and sought out, and set in order
proverbs." He "sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was
written was upright, even words of truth." "The words of the wise are as
goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are
given from one shepherd. And further, by these, my son, be admonished."
"Let us hear
the conclusion of the whole matter," he wrote: "Fear God, and keep His
commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring
every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good,
or whether it be evil." Verses 13, 14.
later writings reveal that as he realized more and still more the
wickedness of his course, he gave special attention to warning the youth
against falling into the errors that had led him to squander for nought
Heaven's choicest gifts. With sorrow and shame he confessed that in the
prime of manhood, when he should have found God his comfort, his
support, his life, he turned from the light of Heaven and the wisdom of
God, and put idolatry in the place of the worship of Jehovah. And now,
having learned through sad experience the folly of such a life, his
yearning desire was to save others from entering into the bitter
experience through which he had passed.
pathos he wrote concerning the privileges and responsibilities before
the youth in God's service:
light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the
sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him
remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh
is vanity. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart
in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in
the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God
will bring thee into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart,
and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity."
thy Creator in the days of thy youth,
While the evil days come not,
Nor the years draw nigh,
When thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
Or the light,
Or the moon,
Or the stars,
Be not darkened,
Nor the clouds return after the rain:
"In the day
when the keepers of the house shall tremble,
And the strong men shall bow themselves,
And the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets,
sound of the grinding is low,
And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird,
And all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
they shall be afraid of that which is high,
And fears shall be in the way,
almond tree shall flourish,
And the grasshopper shall be a burden,
And desire shall fail:
goeth to his long home,
And the mourners go about the streets:
"Or ever the
silver cord be loosed,
Or the golden bowl be broken,
Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the cistern.
the dust return to the earth
As it was:
And the spirit shall return unto God
Who gave it."
Not only to
the youth, but to those of mature years, and to those who are descending
the hill of life and facing the western sun, the life of Solomon is full
of warning. We see and hear of unsteadiness in youth, the young wavering
between right and wrong, and the current of evil passions proving too
strong for them. In those of maturer years, we do not look for this
unsteadiness and unfaithfulness; we expect the character to be
established, the principles firmly rooted. But this is not always so.
When Solomon should have been in character as a sturdy oak, he fell from
his steadfastness under the power of temptation. When his strength
should have been the firmest, he was found to be the weakest.
examples we should learn that in watchfulness and prayer is the only
safety for both young and old. Security does not lie in exalted position
and great privileges. One may for many years have enjoyed a genuine
Christian experience, but he is still exposed to Satan's attacks. In the
battle with inward sin and outward temptation, even the wise and
powerful Solomon was vanquished. His failure teaches us that, whatever a
man's intellectual qualities may be, and however faithfully he may have
served God in the past, he can never with safety trust in his own wisdom
generation and in every land the true foundation
for character building have been the same. The divine law, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, . . . and thy neighbor as
thyself," the great principle made manifest in the character and life of
our Saviour, is the only secure foundation, the only sure guide. Luke
10:27. "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and
strength of salvation," the wisdom and knowledge which God's word alone
can impart. Isaiah 33:6.
It is as true
now as when the words were spoken to Israel of obedience to His
commandments: "This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight
of the nations." Deuteronomy 4:6. Here is the only safeguard for
individual integrity, for the purity of the home, the well-being of
society, or the stability of the nation. Amidst all life's perplexities
and dangers and conflicting claims, the one safe and sure rule is to do
what God says. "The statutes of the Lord are right," and "he that doeth
these things shall never be moved." Psalms 19:8; 15:5.
heed the warning of Solomon's apostasy will shun the first approach of
those sins that overcame him. Only obedience to the requirements of
Heaven will keep man from apostasy. God has bestowed upon man great
light and many blessings; but unless this light and these blessings are
accepted, they are no security against disobedience and apostasy. When
those whom God has exalted to positions of high trust turn from Him to
human wisdom, their light becomes darkness. Their entrusted capabilities
become a snare.
conflict is ended, there will be those who will depart from God. Satan
will so shape circumstances that
are kept by divine power, they will almost imperceptibly weaken the
fortifications of the soul. We need to inquire at every step, "Is this
the way of the Lord?" So long as life shall last, there will be need of
guarding the affections and the passions with a firm purpose. Not one
moment can we be secure except as we rely upon God, the life hidden with
Christ. Watchfulness and prayer are the safeguards of purity.
All who enter
the City of God will enter through the strait gate--by agonizing effort;
for "there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth."
Revelation 21:27. But none who have fallen need give up to despair. Aged
men, once honored of God, may have defiled their souls, sacrificing
virtue on the altar of lust; but if they repent, forsake sin, and turn
to God, there is still hope for them. He who declares, "Be thou faithful
unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," also gives the
invitation, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon
him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Revelation 2:10;
Isaiah 55:7. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. "I will heal their
backsliding," He declares; "I will love them freely." Hosea 14:4.
repentance was sincere; but the harm that his example of evil-doing had
wrought could not be undone. During his apostasy there were in the
kingdom men who remained true to their trust, maintaining their purity
and loyalty. But many were led astray; and the forces of evil set in
operation by the introduction of idolatry and worldly practices could
not easily be stayed by the penitent king.
influence for good was greatly weakened. Many hesitated to place full
confidence in his leadership. Though the king confessed his sin and
wrote out for the benefit of after generations a record of his folly and
repentance, he could never hope entirely to destroy the baleful
influence of his wrong deeds. Emboldened by his apostasy, many continued
to do evil, and evil only. And in the downward course of many of the
rulers who followed him may be traced the sad influence of the
prostitution of his God-given powers.
anguish of bitter reflection on the evil of his course, Solomon was
constrained to declare, "Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one
sinner destroyeth much good." "There is an evil which I have seen under
the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: folly is set in
cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so
doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor."
Ecclesiastes 9:18, 10: 5, 6, 1.
many lessons taught by Solomon's life, none is more strongly emphasized
than the power of influence for good or for ill. However contracted may
be our sphere, we still exert an influence for weal or woe. Beyond our
knowledge or control, it tells upon others in blessing or cursing. It
may be heavy with the gloom of discontent and selfishness, or poisonous
with the deadly taint of some cherished sin; or it may be charged with
the life-giving power of faith, courage, and hope, and sweet with the
fragrance of love. But potent for good or for ill it will surely be.
influence should be a savor of death unto death is a fearful thought,
yet it is possible. One soul misled, forfeiting eternal bliss--who can
estimate the loss! And yet one rash act, one thoughtless word, on our
part may exert so deep an influence on the life of another that it will
prove the ruin of his soul. One blemish on the character may turn many
away from Christ.
As the seed
sown produces a harvest, and this in turn is sown, the harvest is
multiplied. In our relation to others, this law holds true. Every act,
every word, is a seed that will bear fruit. Every deed of thoughtful
kindness, of obedience, of self-denial, will reproduce itself in others,
and through them in still others. So every act of envy, malice, or
dissension is a seed that will spring up in a "root of bitterness"
whereby many shall be defiled. Hebrews 12:15. And how much larger number
will the "many" poison! Thus the sowing of good and evil goes on for
time and for eternity.