The Warning of King Solomon's Life
In this segment, Pastor Ed Buch teaches about Solomon's fall from his relationship with the Lord, and how the pursuit of pleasure leads to a life void of godliness. (from Podcast Episode #454 - |Victory| Persevering with a Pure Heart)
Nate: Jesus tells us in Revelation 3 that He's coming soon, and that we should hold onto the things that we have, so that our crown won't be taken away from us. For those of us who persevere in the Mercy Life, there will be a crown of victory for us. But remember, living in victory implies that life is a battle: there are spiritual wars to be fought, and there are enemies to overcome. Pastor Ed Buch is with me in the studio now and Pastor Ed, I assume that most of our podcast listeners are people who are struggling with sexual sin. But we've been trying to gear these last few episodes to those people who have really taken this series seriously and have already made significant steps toward victory. What we want to do today is help people understand what it's going to take to finish well, and we're going to do that by looking at King Solomon's failures. When you look at King Solomon's life, what is one of the notable failures that we should be watching for in our own lives?
Pastor Ed: Well Nate, I think it's worth pointing out first of all that Solomon really did start well, I mean he started really well. It says right there in 1 Kings 3 that Solomon loved the Lord, and we sometimes forget that he loved the Lord. And then the Lord appeared to him and asked him what he wanted to receive. Solomon very humbly told the Lord that he was just like a little child who didn't know how to come out or go in and he wasn't up to the task of being king over so many people. So Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom, and it says the Lord was very pleased with Solomon's request and promised to make him the wisest man who had ever lived.
It’s apparent he started really well, but somewhere along the way things started to go awry for Solomon. By late in his life, he was worshiping pagan gods and had become extremely cynical and just miserably concluded that everything was vanity, just a grasping for the wind. One of the major reasons that I believe Solomon fell away from the Lord, was his pursuit of wealth. He had built the temple in the first seven and a half years of his reign, but then he spent the next thirteen years building his own palace. This palace complex was just the first of many of those kinds of building projects that were completed at Solomon's direction.
Solomon oversaw a vast commercial empire that would have made him like the Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett of his day. In fact, he would have had no peer, he would be like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and all those guys rolled into one. He had this big import business going on with horses and chariots from Egypt. He had fine jewelry, linens, rare spices, and exotic animals from all over the world. He decorated his palace with 500 gold shields, he ate from golden plates, drank from golden cup, and sat on a golden throne. Scripture literally says that Solomon made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones. In fact silver, it says later was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon.
None of us are likely to amass the kind of wealth that Solomon was able to accumulate, but our heart can be just as corrupt as Solomon's was in pursuing wealth. Many of us struggle with materialism and we have our focus on obtaining comforts and luxuries. We probably just think of it as like, I like nice things. But alongside that, many of us have this emphasis on vacations, and travel, or accumulating money towards our retirement. Those kinds of pursuits are able to have the same spiritual impact on us that Solomon's wealth had on him. They end up distracting us from our relationship with the Lord.
Nate: As you're talking about that, I'm thinking about some of the biblical warnings about that kind of thing. Jesus and the apostles are really direct with us—they told us that those things have the actual ability to draw our heart away from the Lord, and if we don't listen, we're going to fall. What do you think is another one of Solomon’s failures we should be wary of?
Pastor Ed: Without a doubt I think his biggest problem was giving himself over to the pursuit of pleasure. In Ecclesiastes 2 there is a description in Solomon's own words, where he's talking about his pursuit of pleasure. He describes planting vineyards, gardens, and orchards. Acquiring male and female servants, and great numbers of herds and flocks. And for entertainment, acquiring male and female singers, and musical instruments.
It just goes on and on talking about all this stuff, and at the end he literally confesses “whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure.” As if that weren't bad enough on top of all that, it appears that sexual pleasure really dominated Solomon's life, leading him to accumulate 700 wives and 300 concubines. This pursuit of pleasure didn't just distract Solomon like his pursuit of wealth did, Solomon's pursuit of pleasure led him completely astray. That is one of the things that the pursuit of pleasure will do for any of us, even today.
I think there are at least three things we really have to be aware of when it comes to pursuing pleasure. When it boils down to it, pleasure is a feeling, and when I make the pursuit of a feeling is one of the chief aims in my life, I've automatically elevated feelings into a dominant role in my life. Another thing pursuing pleasure does is keep the inward flow of our life focused on getting instead of giving. This is the very opposite of the way Jesus taught us to live. The third thing is that pleasure keeps our affection set on the things of this world. We're very focused on what we are possessing, accumulating, and experiencing here in this world. We simply cannot resist the pull of the world when pleasure and experiencing pleasure is so important to us.
When we look at Solomon’s life, we see a man who started his reign by consecrating the Temple of the Lord. But in the end he becomes a shameless idolater, because he didn't restrain his pursuit of pleasure. That kind of disobedience is inevitable for someone who lives like this. If we exalt pleasure more than godliness like Solomon, all of us will soon be willing to disobey even the clearest commands of the Lord in exchange for pleasure.
Nate: Man, what you’re saying is so good. I think for somebody who's listening to our podcast and has really repented of sexual sin, that's going to resonate. They're going to be able to say, “Yes, that's what my old life was like,” and now they're wanting to totally turn away from that kind of life. But what you’re also saying to them is that they still need to be on guard, because it's possible even now to go back to that kind of life. What is it that we need on the inside that will keep us from going back where we would just blatantly disobey even God's clearest commandments?
Pastor Ed: We definitely need a couple of things on the inside, and one of those things is lowliness. It's our pride that says things like, “Well I won't be like Solomon, you know, I would listen to those warnings from the Lord.” It's our pride that thinks we're somewhere we really aren't spiritually. It's our pride that thinks we know and even convinces us many times that we know better than God what's best for us. Our pride needs to be overcome and the lowliness of Christ needs to take its place.
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So that's one thing and clearly another thing is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who's going to prick our conscience or poke us with a little conviction when we're getting off track. He's also the one who brings the fruit of the spirit such as meekness, and the self-control that we need at work in our lives. We must keep our ears attuned to the Holy Spirit's voice inside of us, because He will guide us in the paths of righteousness if we let Him.
A final thing I’ll mention here Nate is that we need to learn to walk in repentance in our times of failure. There are going to be some failures. Hopefully we don’t go wild off the rails or something, but there are going to be some failures. And we need to quickly recognize those shortcomings, go to the cross, and repent of them there, and then immediately get back on track. Repentance needs to become a lifestyle for us, because unrepentant sin dulls our hearing quicker than anything else can. It makes it impossible after a while for us to even hear God's warnings, let alone receive them as God's loving warnings for us.
Nate: One thing I'm thinking about as you're talking about this, is the fallacy that says “As I mature in the Christian life, I should be able to handle more. The more mature I get, the more I should be able to do and indulge myself in and enjoy life.” But actually, when I hear mature believers talk, I hear them saying that they only deny themselves more as they grow spiritually, not less. And I heard you say recently in a meeting that a lot of people think that the Christian life should get easier as it goes along, but you said it will actually get harder and we should expect it to get harder. What did you mean by that?
Pastor Ed: What I meant by that was what you were just alluding to, I think, that as we advance in our Christian walk, our personal conviction should grow. So, things get a little tighter around us. I often use the example of music just to try and help people see what that looks like, because when I first came to the Lord, I was blatantly into secular music. And early on somewhere along the line I understood that was just not right anymore and I needed to get rid of that, so I hauled a bunch of it out to the dumpster and got rid of it. And there have been at least two other times over the years that I've carried music out to the dumpster and tossed it in, because over time I’ve just realized the things that seemed acceptable at first aren’t really feeding my spirit in the end. They were feeding my flesh. And for me, I just needed to get rid of them.
That sort of thing should be happening in our lives in lots of areas. The movies we watch, the books we read, the stuff we allow into our house, even catalogs and those sort of things. We need to constantly evaluate and tighten up boundaries as we become more and more consecrated to the Lord. The things that don't clearly have a positive impact on my spiritual life end up just needing to be cut off.
I think you also asked me what I meant by things getting harder, and there is another side to it that I'll just mention. In Galatians 6:9 for example, it says “Do not grow weary in doing good.” In other words, don't get tired, don't get discouraged, don't give up, but the reason we have this admonition in Scripture is because that's exactly what we're prone to do, just get tired and quit. We get tired of fighting our sin nature, tired of fighting our corrupt desires, and even tired of denying self. Especially when we look around and it seems like everybody else gets away with catering to their self-life.
So for those who have battled their way out of sexual addiction at some level, we’ve spent a lot of energy fighting to get to that place of victory. And once we feel we've achieved it, we're kind of prone to wanting to relax and rest on our laurels. But in order to maintain that victory, we actually have to keep on fighting and stay in that mode. The things that worked in the beginning will continue to work and carry us through to solidify that victory. We're all still vulnerable, but it's just like when the enemy tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Luke's Gospel. It says “He left him at the end of it for a more opportune time.” And for many of us, that opportune time is when we're tired and the enemy just wants to show up and really come at us in that season.
Nate: What would you say to someone who is not necessarily battling sexual sin, but they're just discouraged in general and are wanting to know how to endure?
Pastor Ed: I guess the short answer I have is that you just need a bigger God. Certainly, God is big enough to sustain you and He is big enough to bring all of us through to complete victory. We need to see Him that way, and we need to have our eyes fixed on Him instead of our circumstances, our difficulties, and our struggles. And if I think in particular about the audience you mentioned for today's episode, these guys who have fought through and in some degree, are experiencing victory, they just need to persevere.
I would like to share two things with this group, two areas where they need to endure. These areas are under severe attack and it is critical that we hold the line here. One of them is adhering to God's word as truth. In Colossians 2 we’re warned not to let anyone cheat us through vain, deceitful philosophies, the things that are rooted in the traditions of men, and the basic principles of this world. There are so many of those philosophies out there that have infiltrated the church, and when it comes to dealing with people's behavior or personal problems, we have this humanistic psychology that has literally supplanted the word of God as the truth. We have to remember it's the truth that sets us free, God's word is that truth, and the truth is going to win out. So, I want to tell them to do whatever they need to do to cling to God's word as their truth.
The second thing is they need to stay plugged into and connected to a vibrant body of believers. It's gotten very common and popular today to just attend church services online or other things of that nature. Hebrews 10:25 tells us straight out, don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together, and this should stand out all the more as we see the day of Christ’s return approaching. It seems to me that we're just not heeding this instruction.
We have people settling for church online, and even those who are attending church, they are not necessarily developing meaningful relationships or heart to heart connections with a body of believers. As things accelerate toward evil in these last days, we're going to need one another more and more. We're not going to make it on our own. There aren't going to be some ‘lone ranger Christians’ who survive. We need to press in with the Lord, continue to cling to his word as our truth, stay plugged into a healthy church, and trust the Lord to bring us through into victory.