It's week 10, and we've finally started into the stories of the kings.
"Be wholly devoted..."
King Solomon has been crowned, the incredible Temple has been built, and the spectating Israelites "went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to David His servant and to Israel His people" (1 Kings 8:66b). At last, after their centuries of slavery and decades in the wilderness and long years of growing pains as a nation, it feels like Israel has found rest in her Promised Land.
And it's here, at the pinnacle of their prosperity, that we heard God issue a prophetic warning.
I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, "You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel."
But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, "Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?"
1 Kings 9:3b-8
It seems odd in a way that God brings all this up when His people are doing so well. Yet we know from many past biblical incidents (and even from our own personal experiences and national history, if we're paying attention) that prosperity is the most effective lullaby to put humanity's spiritual compass to sleep. This moment of triumph, standing high on the mountaintop of spiritual euphoria, can bring us the closest we've ever been to God - as well as the most endangered we've ever been of falling.
Solomon himself has just been kneeling before the altar of the Lord in the presence of God, charging the Israelites to continue to "be wholly devoted" to His word. He is on the mountaintop. In awe. The closest to God that he's ever been.
But - as we'll soon read, as we continue in the challenge - he falls.
It's not that he completely loses his balance and simply pitches over the edge to the valley below in one horrifying catastrophe. No - he merely loses his footing a little here, slips a little there. Takes a shortcut, despite the warning signs, that becomes unstable and hazardous. And compromise by compromise, he brings himself and eventually the whole nation of Israel to the rock-bottom of the valley floor.
"Be wholly devoted," he had said - though he chose to trust in forbidden foreign marriage contracts for national security rather than the divine protection of the God of Israel; though he passively allowed his wives to remain in their pagan worship practices; though he actively brought their idols and gods into God's holy land in express defiance of the Law.
Just like that, the one who might have gone down in history with greater acclaim than his father David has the throne wrenched out of his hand. Yes, he is remembered for his wisdom (which we'll spend this whole week reading) and his riches and the building of the Temple, but at the same time he is irrevocably recorded as the seed of Israel's great shame. The nation will never get completely out from under this backbreaking weight of idolatrous sin until God sends the Assyrians and Babylonians to displace them from their land yet again.
"Be wholly devoted."
Be wholly devoted - or lose all the fruit you have labored for ("I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them").
Be wholly devoted - or lose your intimacy with God ("The house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight").
Be wholly devoted - or lose your testimony to the lost world ("So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples").
God will not compete with my idols or coexist with my sin. I must choose my side and be wholly devoted to one or the other - there is no "mostly devoted" or "partially devoted." The word devote itself precludes such an idea. It is all or nothing. And when I attempt to walk in between, I'm personally responsible for profaning the name of the Lord.
May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers. . . . so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else. Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.
1 Kings 8:57-58, 60-61
Proverbs: God of Prudence
Total read time: 1.75 hours
Ecclesiastes: God of Purpose
Total read time: 30 minutes
Song of Songs: God of Passion
Total read time: 20 minutes