A CAUTIONARY TALE: SOLOMON

A CAUTIONARY TALE: SOLOMON
A sermon based on 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
August 15, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.


God said to him, “Because you asked for [wisdom], and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or
for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do
according to you word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before
you and no one like you shall arise after you.” 1 Kings 3:11-12


It’s the middle of August, and at the Dakin household, it’s “the most wonderful time of the
year.” That’s because college football season’s kickoff is only a few weeks away. And being from
Alabama, y’all know that we are fans of the Crimson Tide. As you may remember from last season,
Alabama went undefeated against an all-SEC schedule on the way to winning the national
championship. And of course, hopes are high among their fans that they will be able to repeat as
champions again this season as well.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is known for bringing inspirational guest speakers in to address
the team. Prominent sports figures, business people, and the like are invited to speak to his team in the
hope of giving them the motivation to be successful as a football team and as young men in life. The first
practice of fall camp this year in Tuscaloosa was Friday, August 6. That evening, Coach Saban brought in
Alex Rodriguez to speak to the team.
I am sure that many of you recognize the name of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, as he is known, is now
retired, but he had a long and successful career playing baseball for the New York Yankees. During his
time as a player, he made it to the Major League Baseball All-Star game 14 times and was 3 times named
the American League’s Most Valuable Player. But in spite of all the achievements, awards and accolades
that he earned, he has only one World Series ring. At the core of Alex Rodriguez’s speech to the
Alabama team was his story about the Yankees winning the 2009 World Series…and how they failed to
make it past the playoffs the following year…
In discussing A-Rod’s speech later, Coach Saban remarked,
I think he did a great job of talking about being successful as a Yankee when they won the championship
in 2009 and how everything was so different in 2010 when they weren’t able to repeat, even though, in
his mind, they had a better team…He talked about [that] it wasn’t the distractions, it was the attractions.
That everybody got more attention. Everybody had more people pulling at them whether it was to speak
at banquets or whatever, so it made it much more difficult to focus on the things that you needed to
focus on to be the best player that you can be and to be the best teammate that you can be…It certainly
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fit our profile and our situation of where we are as a successful organization coming off a successful
year, and everybody understanding that what we did last year will have absolutely nothing to do with
how we perform and how we prepare this year…”1
What stood out to me in Coach Saban’s remarks is the line “It wasn’t the distractions, it was the
attractions.” That’s what derailed the Yankees’ hopes of repeating as Major League Baseball champs in

  1. And it seems to me that his words give us some insight into today’s scripture text from 1 Kings 3
    and of the life of King Solomon…
    Today’s passage is a story that occurs early in the reign of Solomon as king of a united Israel. It is
    a great story—one that inspires respect and admiration for Solomon. And it tells us something of the
    heart of Solomon—that he was someone who truly loved God and wanted to please God in all his
    actions. That is an attitude of the heart that we would all do well to imitate in our own lives…
    In the text, the Lord visits Solomon one night in a dream. And in that dream, God tells Solomon
    to ask for whatever he wishes—with the clear implication that God would grant his desire of his heart.
    [Side bar here: Let me ask you a question. If God were to visit you in a dream tonight, and if he
    were to ask what He could give you, what would your answer be? What would you ask for? Would it be
    for more money? For good health? For a better job? For better family relationships? What is it that you
    would desire from God? What would you ask for? It is a question that is worth taking some time to
    ponder, as the answer will probably reveal something important about who you are and something
    telling about your priorities. It also might provide some clues as to where you are in your spiritual
    journey. What one asks of God is a good indicator of the state of one’s heart…]
    Back to the text…In his conversation with God, Solomon replies that he wants God to give him
    the wisdom to lead the people. He says that he is young and inexperienced. He goes on to note that it is
    a great responsibility to lead God’s people. So he asks for understanding and discernment to do the job
    that has been entrusted to him.
    God was pleased with his answer. And so, God tells him that because he did not ask for any of
    the usual stuff like riches…or a long life…or his enemies to be eliminated, God said that he would not
    only give him the wisdom that he requested, but he would also give him riches and honor as well. God
    ends the conversation with this promise to Solomon: “If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes
    and my commandments, as your father David did, then I will lengthen your life.” This statement of God’s
    is something of a foreshadowing of things to come…
    God proved to be as good as his word. God gave Solomon the wisdom that he desired. This is
    evident in a story related in the next few verses. It is the story of how two women came before Solomon

1 www.al.com/alabamafootball/2021/08/alex-rodriguez-tells-alabama-cautionary-tale-of 2021-yankees.html
(Accessed August 9, 2021)
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and asked him to settle a difficult matter. Both of the women had children about the same time. But one
of the infants had died. During the night, the mother of the dead infant crept in to where the other
infant was and swapped out her dead child for the live one. Now both women were claiming the live
child as their own and asked Solomon to settle their dispute. It was a tough question. There were no
witnesses. There was no evidence. It was just one woman’s word against the other.
In a brilliant response, Solomon called for a sword. He gave the order for the child to be cut in
two, so that each of the women could have half. One of the women screamed, “No! Do not kill the child!
Let her have it!” The other one said, “Neither of us will get the child. Cut him in two.” Solomon wisely
discerned that it was the first woman—the one who wished to spare the child’s life—who was the true
mother of the child. So he awarded her custody of the infant…
This was merely the first example of the wisdom that God had granted to Solomon. His
reputation for wisdom and administering justice became widely known—not only throughout Israel, but
also in the surrounding territories. It is said that he spoke 3000 proverbs and composed one thousand
five songs.2
So great did his reputation grow that people came from all over the Ancient Near East to sit
at his feet and to learn from him.
Even the queen of Sheba—the ruling monarch of what is nowadays known as Ethiopia—came to
Jerusalem to marvel at Solomon’s wisdom and wealth. Upon her arrival, and after an audience with
Solomon, she exclaimed, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your
wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not
even half had been told to me…”
At the beginning of his reign, the Israel that Solomon ruled enjoyed a measure of peace. His
father, David, had been a great warrior-king, and under his forty year rule, Israel’s enemies had been
subdued. So Solomon turned his attention to other projects with which ancient kings often busied
themselves. If David had been a great warrior, then Solomon was a great builder.
Solomon built a magnificent Temple to the Lord in Jerusalem, using the most expensive and
richest materials that could be gathered. Then he built for himself a magnificent palace whose splendor
that eclipsed that of his father David. He also built a series of strong fortresses throughout the land in
order to maintain the borders and to keep the nation safe. And he became fabulously wealthy. During
his reign, it was said that silver in Jerusalem was as plentiful as stones laying on the ground—and that
cedar—considered to be the finest of building materials in the Ancient Near East—was a plentiful as
common sycamore trees.3
The wealth of King Solomon’s reign simply beggared belief…and yet…
There is a dark underside to the reign of King Solomon. It was not all wisdom and riches in his
life or in the kingdom…

2
1 Kings 4:32.
3
1 Kings 10:27.
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We get the first hint of the trouble that was to plague Solomon’s reign in the verses immediately
preceding today’s text in 1 Kings 3. Beginning in verse two, it reads, “The people were still sacrificing at
the high places4…Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father
David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” For all his devotion to
God, and for all of his obedient, godly character explicitly described in the Bible, Solomon had not been
able to rid himself of the temptation to worship other gods entirely. His inability to be done with
worshiping the false gods of the people seemed to dog him his entire life.
The Bible seems to indicate that his weakness concerning pagan gods got worse and worse for
Solomon as he grew older. In 1 Kings 11, we are told that “King Solomon loved many foreign
women…They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites not to intermarry. But
Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred
concubines…As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not
fully devoted to the Lord his God…”
[Another side bar here: In growing up in church, I would hear the word “concubine” from time
to time, but I do not ever remember anyone taking the time to explain exactly what a “concubine” was.
Maybe they didn’t know. Or maybe the subject was uncomfortable for them. Was that your experience
too? Well, I finally learned what the difference between a wife and a concubine was only a couple of
years ago. A “concubine” is a wife that was born a slave. Concubines had many of the same legal rights
as a wife who had been free-born, but there were some differences in what they were entitled to. I’m
not sure precisely what those differences were. From my research, I have learned that most scholars are
also somewhat fuzzy on that question. But it’s more than I knew before then…]
Solomon began his reign in a noble way by asking God for wisdom to rule the people. But during
his reign, there proved to be distractions and attractions that got Solomon off track. He eventually
strayed from being the man whom God wanted him to be. In fact, the Bible tells us that late in his life,
Solomon “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” because he built temples for the pagan gods that his wives
worshiped. The scriptures tell us that he even turned his own heart to worship those gods as well. How
far he had fallen from those early days! And yet there is no indication that he was even aware of what
was happening…that is, until it was too late…
1 Kings 11 tells us that God became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away
from him. the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and
decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to
one of your subordinates.” And that is exactly what happened. With the death of Solomon, the kingdom
of Israel was plunged into civil war and was split into two. Things would never be the same after the
reign of Solomon…

4
The “high places” indicates shrines and temples dedicated to pagan gods.
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In today’s text, God gave to Solomon a wisdom that was not of this earth. It was heaven-sent—it
came from above. The Lord also gave him riches and fame and honor beyond his wildest imagination.
And yet, for all of his God-given wisdom, Solomon was not wise at all in one respect. It was a fatal flaw
for him as a man and as a leader. He did not guard his heart. He did not take care to keep his dedication
to the Lord first and foremost in his life. Because he wasn’t paying attention to his spiritual health, other
things crept into his heart and life that took him away from God. And because he did not guard his
heart, everything unraveled in front of him…
What is worth noting is that Solomon knew better. It would be safe to say that he did not follow
his own advice. Much of the book of Proverbs is attributed to the sayings of Solomon. In Proverbs 4,
Solomon says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life…Do not swerve to the
right or left; keep your foot from evil…” (Verses 23, 27) Had Solomon been more vigilant in guarding his
heart, his life and legacy would have had a different outcome…
So it is with the follower of Jesus in the 21st Century. All of us are pulled in different directions in
our lives. Obligations of work, devotion to family, financial worries, our own desires and wishes—there
certainly is no shortage of distractions and attractions to keep the child of God from following the Lord
Jesus as well as he or she should. In all of our lives, there are plenty of things which clamor for our
attention and seek to shift our focus from following Jesus. Therefore the Christian must be ever vigilant
to make sure that he or she stays on track—is following the Savior—and doing what it is that God wants
them to do.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul gives us instructions to help is in the way to maintain our focus
on Jesus. In verses 6 and 7, he tells us that we are to not let our worries get the best of us, but to live
lives that are filled with prayer and thanksgiving to God. And as a result, he writes, “The peace of God,
which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Rest in God’s
peace, and thereby guard your heart. Listen to the gentle promptings of the indwelling Holy Spirit and
follow as the Spirit directs. If you do that, then you can avoid the mistakes of one of the wisest men who
ever lived…as you walk in the way of Jesus…
To God alone be the glory! Amen