The story of Solomon is a rather sad story. It is one of the disappointments in the Old Testament. Here is a man who came to the kingdom, evidently as a young man, maybe as young as 20 years old. He had great promise. He had great opportunity. Yet the record of Solomon is a record of disappointment.
I would presume, in my own personal study of the characters of the Old Testament, that Solomon may be the greatest disappointment of any character in all of the Bible.
I. His Progressing Sin.
Turn to the eleventh chapter. Solomon makes two great mistakes. He was a great king. He was a fine administrator. He divided the whole land up into 12 administrative districts. He was unbelievable at administrative skills. He was a tremendous leader in those areas. He built that magnificent permanent structure, the temple. It was about twice as large as the tabernacle. He organized and used 30,000 laborers. He got the cedars from Lebanon and they cut the stones in the quarries under Jerusalem so that there was not the sound of a hammer heard. They built that magnificent temple. Do you remember that great prayer that Solomon prayed? What a promising start. Then he made two mistakes.
Look at verse 1 of chapter 11. "But king Solomon loved many strange women." That started way back in chapter 3, verse 1. We are told that he married the daughter of Pharaoh of Egypt. Can you imagine the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt on the throne of God's people? That was an early sign that there were some problems in Solomon.
I think it is the case that many of these marriages were political in nature. But when you study other places in the life of Solomon, there is also indication that immorality was certainly a factor. We are told in this eleventh chapter, verse 3, "He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines." That's a thousand women. Some of you old boys are saying you can't keep one woman happy, how could you ever keep a thousand happy. Imagine how it was in the palace when all the inlaws came in to see them.
His immorality! We could speak volumes about the immorality in America. The sexual perversion in America. Back in the 60s I was a young preacher. They declared that we were in the days of sexual freedom. The new morality had burst upon us in America. The great day of sexual liberation in America! What has it brought us? It has brought us to a day when now, someone has said it well, "America has struck sex o'clock." We seem, as a nation, to be obsessed with sex.
Solomon, the leader, set the pace. His example brought great immorality in the kingdom.
The second mistake is indicated in the last part of verse 3. "And his wives turned away his heart." Notice in verse 4 where his heart was turned. "For it came to pass when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods." Verses 5, 6 and 7 tell you about all of these gods. All of these women brought gods with them and they turned old Solomon's heart away from the Lord God to all of these other gods. I'm sure it was all done under the name of tolerance. "Oh, all these gods are just as good as any body else's gods. We are all worshiping the same God. Isn't it great! Isn't it wonderful!" It brought idolatry into the very heart of the nation of the people of God.
That's not all. His mistakes led to his misery. Look in the latter part of the eleventh chapter and you will see that God begins to stir up adversaries for Solomon. Verse 14, "the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad." Verse 23, "And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon." Verse 26, "And Jeroboam." God raised up these adversaries and in the latter years of his kingdom all he had was misery. You will notice it says in this same chapter in verse 29 that Jeroboam goes out. The prophet Ahijah takes his new garment and tears it into twelve pieces in verse 30. He is basically saying that the kingdom is going to be torn into twelve pieces. He is predicting the renting, the tearing of the kingdom.
Solomon's promising start! Solomon's progressing sin.To get to the next division I have to go to another book in the Bible. When you come to the end of the eleventh chapter, look at what it says in verse 41. "And the rest of the acts of Solomon and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?" Verse 42 says that he reigned for forty years. Verse 43 says, "And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead." That's all it says. But you really have to go to another book to get the final chapter in his life.
The final chapter in Solomon's life is,
II. Solomon's Pervading Sadness.
Solomon wrote three books in our Bible. He wrote the Song of Solomon. It's a book about love. He wrote that book, evidently, when he was a young man and in love. He wrote the book of Proverbs, evidently, in the mature years of his life when he was filled with the wisdom of God. But he wrote a third book. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. When he was an old man, he had come down to the end of his reign in his life. He had turned to immorality and idolatry. Now he is just waiting to die and explain to God a wasted life.
Turn to Ecclesiastes. I have preached an entire series of messages on Ecclesiastes. I would encourage you, if you are really interested in it, to get those messages. I think there are about ten of them. Ecclesiastes is one of the fascinating books of the Bible. It's one of the saddest books of the Bible and yet it really prepares for evangelism. The book of Ecclesiastes is a book which tells you what life is like under the sun, when you have no relationship with things above the sun, with the things of heaven.
There is an old Danish fable I tell in that series on Ecclesiastes. It's about a spider that came down from a single thread from the top of the barn. From that single thread the spider attached itself to a corner of the barn and began to weave a web. That big, magnificent web caught all the insects that came through and provided a feast for that spider. That spider became very fat and prosperous as it ate on the insects that it caught in its web.
Then one day the spider forgot the purpose of that single thread that led into the darkness of the attic above. In a moment that spider reached and clipped that single thread and when it did, the spider's whole world came crushing down. That is exactly what happened to Solomon.
Solomon had a relationship with God. He had a vital connection with heaven. He was living for things above, not things below. But he clipped that relationship between himself and God and began to live under the sun and when he did his whole world came crashing down.
When you read Ecclesiastes, look at what he says in verses 1 and 2. "The words of the preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem." That's Solomon. Here it is. "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun." You will find that phrase, under the sun, occurring all through the book of Ecclesiastes. You will find as you read through Ecclesiastes that there is a ghost that haunts Solomon all through the book. It is the ghost of death that is hounding and haunting him.
Solomon is an old man now and in the book of Ecclesiastes he tells you all the things he tried to be happy. It's the same thing people try today. He tried learning. Look at verse 17 of chapter 1. "And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."
He was the wisest man who ever lived. He was a learned man. He was an expert in many fields of knowledge. He wrote 3,000 proverbs. He wrote 1005 songs. He was brilliant. He tried learning, but he found out that you can have a full head and an empty heart.
I'm not knocking education, kids. Get all you can get. I encourage our kids to go on and get a doctor's degree. Just go on and get it all. Some of them have taken me up on that and have done it. Get everything you can get. But always keep in mind that mere study and mere accumulation of learning won't make you a happy person.
Sometimes the man who is sweeping the steps at the university is happier than the PhD professor who walks up those steps to the class. The Bible says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." There is no premium on ignorance.
I heard about a guy who prayed, "Lord, I thank you for my ignorance and I pray you'll make me ignoranter." Somebody said that was one prayer that was answered before it was prayed. But some people are educated beyond their intelligence. But just learning is not going to make you a happy person.
Then he tried laughter. Look at chapter 2, verse 1. "I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure, and behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad, and of mirth, What doeth it?"
If you had gone by Solomon's palace on a night you would have heard that palace rocking with wild music. You would have seen people stumbling in and out in their drunken stupor with their glasses and their cocktails. You would have heard the loud laughing and the pleasure.
It would be just like Jacksonville on a Friday night. Solomon looked at all this pleasure and said, "it's mad." People talk about being pleasure mad. Dear one, if you think that "Thank God it's Friday" is all there is to pleasure in life, you have missed the point of life. If you think all you have to do to have joy in your life is to have a big party and live it up, you've misunderstood the whole point of living.
Psalms 16, verse 11 says, "In thy presence there are pleasures forevermore." You will never find real pleasure until you find in a relationship with God.
He not only tried that but he also tried luxury. In verse 4 he said, "I made me great works, I builded me houses... I planted me vineyards.... I made me gardens and orchards... I made me pools of water... I got me servants and maidens.... I gathered me also silver and gold...." They estimated his annual income to be about 20 million dollars a year. That would buy a lot of yogurt, wouldn't it?
You want to be the richest person who ever lived? Some of the most miserable people in the world are some of the wealthiest people in the world. Luxury is not going to make you happy. If you think you can just get a bigger car and a bigger house and a bigger bank account that you are going to be happy? No. That's not going to make you happy. The Bible says there are true riches. Jesus said what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul. There are riches of the soul.
He tried lust. Look at the end of verse 8. He talks about the delights of the sons of men. They say that's a reference to sexual pleasures. That didn't make him happy. We wonder if Solomon ever came back to the Lord. I really think he did. I think that's one of the reasons why we have the book of Ecclesiastes. I think what you have here is Solomon's personal testimony. You come to one final area.
Turn to the twelfth chapter, verse 1. He gives the final answer. "Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth." He finally saw that the real answer to having joy in life is the Lord. I hope old Solomon came back to the Lord in his latter years. We really don't know. We don't have a lot about his death. About all we know is that he left a son who was a bigger fool than he was. He left a nation that was split right down the middle. Whether he came back to the Lord or not, I want to show you something in Matthew 12. I want to close with verse 42. These are the words of Jesus. "The queen of the south shall rise up in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it. For she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and behold a greater than Solomon is here."
I'm here to tell you tonight that a greater than Solomon is here. He is greater in wisdom. In Jesus are hid all of the treasures of wisdom. He is greater in wealth. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He can enrich your life unbelievably. He is greater in work. Solomon built a temple. Jesus has gone to prepare a wonderful home in heaven for all of you who know Him as your Savior.
Let's bow our heads in prayer.