So, let’s talk about King Solomon.
Solomon’s an ambiguous figure. Known for his wisdom and for being the guy that built the Temple in Jerusalem, he also sent his kingdom down a path that would result in division and idolatry. As track records go, he’s all over the place.
Frankly, he has no excuse for his failings. The fact is, Deuteronomy lays down some rules for kings , so obviously Israel’s monarchs would be eager to follow them, right? After all, they’re not that complicated. Any idiot should be able to follow rules like “The king must not have lots of horses, or buy them from Egypt”.
“He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.”
“He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”
This is the irony of Solomon’s story – early on he asks God for wisdom to run the kingdom, but while he recives this – historically it’s his USP – he still manages to mess up, and this is despite his initial faithfulness to God (he built the Temple, after all). His actions lead to the kingdom being ripped in two, with two royal lines made up of largely hopeless kings. Both monarchies, Israel and Judah end in disaster as the Jews are carted off in exile to Babylon, one of their great national catastrophes.
And effectively it’s all down to one man, the man renowned for his wisdom. That’s a sobering thought. He couldn’t blag a successful monarchy based on his talents; it all came down to where his heart was, and it wasn’t with God.
Now that’s a sobering thought. Deuteronomy warned against kings falling prey to power, sex and money, and yet it happened almost immediately. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised – it’s easy to trust in our own abilities or resources. Sometimes that’s hubris, sometimes its just the struggle with the way in which God’s plans are often invisible right up to the moment they unfold. Either way, there’s a need to trust in God, and the more responsibility and power you have, the greater that need for trust.
But then Solomon’s story is also one of compromise. He doesn’t have one or two big disasters like his father; rather he just seems to break the laws set down for kings almost by mistake. He falls in love easily, marries women from a different religion, and before we know it, he’s setting up altars to at least three other gods. I don’t actually think he did this on purpose, but somewhere along the line his moral compass has got out of whack.
Now that’s bad enough, but look at what he’s squandering. He’s been given a phenomenal gift of wisdom by God and yet he’s wasting it by going off the rails. The scary thing is, he’s still making a name for himself. The guy’s a celebrity, visited by dignitaries the world over, but he’s losing it, and all the wealth, power and fame in the world won’t save his kingdom. Jesus told a parable about wasting your talents by burying them in a hole in the ground; Solomon may as well have thrown his talents in the Mariana Trench.
So I guess the question is, are we squandering what God has given us?
And would we recognise it if we were?