Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 28, 2012

The Successful Failure

Sometimes it comes suddenly like an explosion. Driving on the highway at high speeds when you hear a powerful bang and find it is all you can do to keep the car from veering into a ditch. You’ve had a blowout and they are  dangerous and  can even be deadly.

Then there is a different kind of problem; the slow leak. The tire picked up a nail and miles later it gradually becomes evident there is a problem and brings the journey to a hault.

The fall of a great leader can come in different ways. It can be sudden and explosive like a blowout or a slow leak that eventually brings the fall of the leader. Either way the downfall of a great leader is tragic. For Solomon his failure came gradually like a slow leak.

There was no doubt that Solomon was a leader who had everything needed to make a lasting impact for Israel as a great leader.  Instead he was a total wash out. The kingdom was torn away from him and permanently divided.

Spiritually there was a slow leak that ruined him. Solomon became a casualty. Solomon’s infatuation for women turned his heart toward idols and separated him from God.

Solomon became more distant from God as he grew older and finally the bottom dropped out. Solomon disobeyed God and married women from nations expressly forbidden. These wives brought idolatry into Solomon’s life and the nation Israel.

1 Kings 11:1-13

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

By many measures Solomon was successful even in some ways the most successful man that ever lived. Putting his inheritance in today’s dollars he inherited millions maybe even billions.

He had political power and was about to step up to the plate as king of Israel in its golden age. His father king David extended Israel’s boundaries and subdued their enemies. When Solomon took the throne it was a time of peace, prosperity and popularity for the king of Israel.

Solomon had the advantage of a deeply spiritual father. And when God offered to give Solomon anything he would request Solomon had the insight to ask for wisdom. His name is synonomous with wisdom because Solomon became the wisest man of all.

His accomplishments are numerous. He was an expert businessman and politician. He built the temple, palace, cities, roads fortresses, stables, navy fleet, merchant fleet an army of 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. Solomon was over commanders who commanded thousands.

Revenue was 25,000 tons of gold annually in addition to an import export business.  He made 200 large shields of pure gold to put in the temple. His throne was ivory inlaid with gold. Kings would come from far and wide to seek him because of his wisdom. His fame was far reaching. Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom that any other king.      

Solomon was a great success and yet he was an utter failure. Where did Solomon go wrong? 1 Kings 3:1 Solomon married pharaoh’s daughter. He was spiritually punctured and kept losing air through his life. Solomon compromised on God’s standard of holiness.

Solomon’s one thousand women drew his heart from God. He had 700 wives and 300 mistresses (concubines).  The wives led Solomon down a path of blatant idolatry. Idolatry is broader than statue worship but idolatry is anything that competes in our lives with loyalty to God. When something in our lives becomes a higher priority than God then this is idolatry. It was the lifeless idols of his wives religion that carried Solomon away.

Solomon began his leadership in humility, but he left himself open. Prosperity can bring downfall.  Solomon failed miserably in his duty to God. Solomon could have been the greatest leader of all times. When we fail God consequences follow. We can learn that from Solomon’s father David and it is a lesson repeated over and over.

Solomon inherited a kingdom of peace. His name even means peace. But he sowed disorder and reaped discord. Adversaries were raised up. David’s old enemies were revived from the ashes.

There was trouble from within too for Solomon. One of his officials Jeroboam rebelled against the king. Ultimately Jeroboam’s rebellion resulted in a division that remained throughout the period of the kings.  The nation followed Solomon’s leadership they were quickly drawn into idol worship.

We need to prevent the spiritual failure of Solomon in our own lives. I had a bicycle tire that was made of Kevlar – the material of bullet proof vests. It is difficult to get a puncture or blowout with a bullet proof tire. How can you put a puncture resistant lining in your spiritual life?

We need to be diligent because moral failure like the one of Solomon is not limited to the high profile leader. Every Sunday school teacher or disciple study leader could have a tragic fall that hurts those they care most about. There are some measures we can put in place to keep our walk with Christ strong.  

1.   Stay accountable – Get yourself plugged into a church and start serving. A fire can be burning bright but if a log rolls out of the fire it will grow cold and fizzle out away from the blaze of the fire. Along with a good fellowship comes accountability. Small groups are especially good for accountability. I have kept an accountability partner and asking questions of each other about our relationship with God is a healthy discipline.

2.    The Word– The old saying is true, the Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible. Read the Bible and have regular time reading and listening to God’s Word.  For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

3. Prayer – Spend time with God in prayer. If your day is hemmed in with prayer, it is less likely to come unraveled. Billy    Graham said, To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees. It can also be said that prayer get the individual leader back on his feet and keeps him on the right path and away from the path of failure.

4. Confession– Solomon never came under the piercing conviction of his sin like his father David. Solomon never had any equivalent of David’s Psalm 51. Against you and against you only have I sinned David poured out to God.

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. Luke 11:31

If Solomon “the wisest of all” could be shipwrecked it could happen to anyone. We need to recognize our vulnerability to the fiery darts of Satan.  Whenever a Christian leader fails the effects are devastating. Only Jesus can restore the damage done by Solomon’s lust and adultery.

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