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Author:Rev. Jack Moesker
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Church at Owen Sound
 Owen Sound, Ontario
 www.oschurch.ca
 
Title:The Lord upholds His covenant in His judgment of Solomon
Text:1 Kings 11:11-13 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2010-10
Added:2018-10-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 89:1,12

Psalm 51:1,4

Psalm 145:1,4,5

Psalm 48:1,3

Hymn 61:1,2

Read: 1 Kings 11:1-13

Text: 1 Kings 11:11-13

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jack Moesker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The word covenant is a word that is frequently used throughout the Bible. It denotes the relationship which the Lord has established between Himself and His people. We usually think positively about the covenant. It represents God’s promises to us, His love and faithfulness. He doesn’t just give up on us. In that respect the covenant is quite comforting and reassuring. If our relationship with God depended totally on us, it wouldn’t be very stable. But as it is, God’s loving kindness is great in the covenant.

However, there’s also another side to the covenant. It’s possible that God makes a covenant with people, gives them His everlasting promises, but those people keep turning their backs on God and His promises. Well, also then God keeps His covenant. But then He’s true to His covenant promise to forsake and punish those people who harden their hearts against Him and His love. Then God takes back the blessings of the covenant and they end up being subject to its curses. Then the covenant testifies against those people.

Solomon experienced that that’s how things go with the covenant too. He had been richly blessed in the covenant with God. But all the rich gifts he received went to his head. His name – Solomon, King of Peace – signified a calling. And the calling of the sons of David was to show something of the peace and glory of God’s kingship over His covenant people. But if they no longer saw that calling, what use was their kingship over God’s people? Then God could only take away the honour and wealth and peace of those kings. The Lord God can only take away the covenant blessings and implement His covenant threats.

I proclaim to you the text with this theme: The Lord upholds His covenant in His judgment of Solomon.

1. He removes the glory from David’s house.

2. Yet He continues with His plan for David’s house.

 

1. The Lord God takes the glory from David’s house.

In chapter 11 things take a dramatic turn in comparison to chapter 10. In chapter 10, you may know, Solomon was at the height of his fame and glory as king of Israel, and even the Queen of Sheba came all the way from the south to hear his wisdom and see his glory. And she and other kings brought rich gifts King Solomon in Jerusalem, gold and spices. And all because of the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. So in chapter 10 we see King Solomon in all his glory. In chapter 11 we see the same king with that glory tarnished. The young king who had been looked up to by his people and who was praised all over the known world for his wisdom had become an old fool.

And it’s incomprehensible from a political point of view that that king who had so much power and fame in the world at that time wasn’t able to peacefully hand the kingdom over to one of his sons. For later on in the chapter of our text we’re told how one rebellious servant manages to get 10 tribes to reject the authority of David’s royal house. Amazing, if you think about it, how after such a glorious time under King David and King Solomon! What went so wrong?

Well, congregation, we see what went wrong in our text. Solomon forsook the Lord God and His covenant and His statutes. That's why God allowed his kingship and the kingship of his son to cave in. For what happened? Solomon, like so many other kings in the ancient world, had acquired a harem of women for himself. A harem was a status symbol in those days. Other nations which submitted willingly or unwillingly to a king would offer such a king a royal princess for his collection, his harem. Those women would be offered up as a gift to appease a powerful king so that he would be favourable in trade and in military relations with those other nations and kings. We won’t go into what those women must have thought of that. They simply had to do what they were told. And you realize then that the more women a king had in his harem, the more he was looked up to or feared by others. And Solomon ended up competing with the kings of the surrounding nations.

And this is where Solomon’s kingship went off the rails, we could say. He began to boast about his power and wealth by marrying all those 700 women and taking on those 300 concubines. His heart was no longer loyal to the Lord his God but he gave his heart to his fame and to all those wives and concubines. He knew how God had created things in the beginning, how He had given Adam and Eve to each other and instituted marriage there as the union of one man and one woman. But along with totally ignoring God’s intention for the marriage covenant, Solomon fell into and even worse disregard for the Lord God’s covenant statutes. Along with all those women, Solomon also allowed quite a bit of their pagan culture and religion to be imported to Jerusalem. Those women brought along their own gods and to make them feel at home in Jerusalem, Solomon also made room for them to worship those gods. Of course, at first this mostly would have taken place behind closed doors in the women’s quarters. And Solomon most likely figured that that was OK. They needed to feel at home there in Jerusalem and it was part of their culture and tradition. However, over time those women wanted a bit more room for their worship of their own gods, and so he allowed them to have idols and altars for their gods in certain places in the palace. Ah, why not? 

But you know how it goes when the door is opened even a bit for false worship like that. It crept farther and farther out into Jerusalem until there were high places for those gods on hills around Jerusalem, even on the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem, in view of the temple of the Lord God! Oh, Solomon didn’t necessarily bring sacrifices to those gods. He only worshiped in the temple of the Lord. But he allowed those other gods to be worshiped around Jerusalem. And that’s the trouble. For the Lord God has always been clear about the fact that He doesn’t want to share His honour in the promised land with any other gods. He refuses to be just one of the gods worshiped and served in Jerusalem, one among many. Not even the greatest one among others. The very first commandment of God’s law is, You shall have no other gods before me, in my presence, in other words. Well, that commandment was blatantly being ignored by Solomon, the king of Israel who had the task to make sure God’s covenant law was being upheld!

Oh, you can imagine that King Solomon was praised as tolerant by the kings and people of neighbouring nations! King Solomon isn’t narrow-minded, but he's open-minded! But he gets no praise from the Lord, the God of Israel. No, the Lord seeks an undivided heart in His people, and especially in the king He set over His people. He alone was Israel’s God and redeemer and so they were not to have any other Gods before Him. And that’s why God was angry with Solomon. He couldn't be anything else but upset!

Just think, everything Solomon was and had came from God. But now he was using those gifts given by God to let other gods be worshiped and served in Israel! He couldn’t have upset God more. He lost the reason why God had appointed the house of David over His people, namely that David’s sons were to lead the people in worshiping and serving God exclusively. And the promise that went with that was that if they did that, Jerusalem would be a a city on a hill, a light to the world to which other nations would look up to. God’s righteousness and mercy would shine brightly in Jerusalem! Israel was to be a nation of priests for the Lord under the leadership of the priest-king of the house of David. Israel’s kings were to be the foreshadowing of the promised eternal Priest-King Jesus Christ, who would rule God’s people forever. And then Jerusalem would be a city to which all nations would come.  And they would be so impressed they’d throw aside their own gods and their idols and seek the God of Israel as their God too.

But what happened toward the end of Solomon’s reign? The very opposite of what the Lord God intended! The nations came to Jerusalem and found their own gods being worshiped there. They saw smoking altars around the city where sacrifices were being offered for the goddess Ashtoreth and the gods Chemosh and Molech. Do you see how great Solomon’s guilt was? All the gifts he had received from the Lord no longer advertised the grace and glory of the true God, the God of Israel. And his kingship which was intended to demonstrate the glory of God’s kingdom no longer demonstrated that and no longer foreshadowed the glory of the coming Son of David, Jesus Christ.

Congregation, it’s actually no different today. If Christ and His Word and His kingdom are no longer central to the church, it has no message for the world anymore either. No light shines out from it then. If the preaching and teaching of the church becomes culturally determined instead of Biblically determined, then the world may appreciate it, but it doesn’t mean a lot anymore. If the church doesn't worship God as He has commanded He wants to be worshiped in His Word, then the church doesn't radiate the greatness and glory of God in reverence anymore. If the members of a church don’t show a definite Christian lifestyle to the world but there’s a lot of conformity to the lifestyle of the unbelieving world, then the church doesn’t have any strength anymore. After all, the church of Christ has a unique message and purpose. Its message is about glorifying Christ’s Name and its purpose is to display to the world how free life is under His kingship, how good it is to belong to His people.

Well, that message and purpose were being undermined by King Solomon at the time of our text. He in fact broke the covenant with God. And therefore punishment had to follow. God is true to His promises, but also to His threats. He said to Solomon (vs. 11), I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. A painful judgment against the first son who succeeded King David. In spite of his power and wealth and honour! Solomon ended up being a lot like King Saul who David had replaced. Through the prophet Samuel God had told King Saul that he would tear the kingdom away from him and give it to someone who was better than him. That made it even more painful for Solomon. The other person God was going to give the kingdom would even be just one of Solomon’s servants, someone who was much less than him!

You realize from that, congregation, that God had actually made no real progress when He promised the kingship to David’s house. For that house of David, that house to which God gave so many promises and so many gifts, wasn’t able to govern God’s people as God wanted either. The kingship in Israel had actually become a big failure. From that time on things basically went downhill with the kingship over Israel. It went steadily from the high point of David and Solomon downhill to when Israel ended up in exile in Babylon. And that while God’s plan was to make His kingdom on earth greater and greater through the Kings of Israel until the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of David who would reign eternally. But the sad failure of Solomon’s kingship showed that that wasn’t possible. God’s Kingdom was too vulnerable in the hands of people, even God’s own people. If God’s Kingdom was to come to fullness through the efforts of people, it would never happen! But that brings us to the second part of the sermon:

2. Yet God continues with His plan for David’s house.  

God’s sentence against Solomon described in our text meant the end of the kingship of David’s house over the whole nation of Israel. You need to realize that that was a very far-reaching event. It’s easy to overlook the real meaning of that tearing of the kingdom because we’re quick to just follow the lineage of David’s house via the kings of Judah. We figure that as long as David’s house still reigned in Jerusalem, things were still fairly good. But we shouldn’t forget that the region over which David and Solomon had reigned reached far beyond the borders of Israel itself. The kingdom at that time was an international world power, and David and Solomon were respected all over the known world at that time. But what was left to the house of David after Solomon was just a small little sliver of land maybe around 100 kilometers wide by 50 kilometers long. The kingdom of Judah became a mini-state without much political clout at all.  

And it’s true that the Lord God didn’t say He was going to tear the whole kingdom out the hands of Solomon’s son, but would leave him with one tribe out of the 12. Later on, the tribe of Benjamin would join with that one tribe of Judah. However, the text emphasizes the number one. That's God’s judgment against Solomon’s unfaithfulness. His son would end up with only a single tribe at that time. Just a very small part of the original 12, in other words. A sliver.

Still, something was left for the house of David. And that’s what’s important for us to note too. Because of God’s judgment David’s house lost its original glory and honour. During Solomon’s reign the regions which were controlled outside the borders of Israel fell away. But during the reign of his son those other tribes would also be taken away. Basically, the whole nation. That's God’s judgment. If God had entrusted His kingdom to sinful people, even men after his own heart, nothing would have come of that kingdom. It would have disappeared because of people's unfaithfulness and God's just judgment against that. 

However, what a wonder! In His anger God also remembers His promise and His mercy. The house of David is allowed to keep one tribe. A remnant. As Isaiah described it, the tree of David’s house was chopped down, but a stump was allowed to remain. And a shoot would grow out of that stump in the future! Very small, but alive. Yes, the Lord God couldn’t continue with the house of David after Solomon. But He didn’t let His promise and plan for that house fail completely. A king out of David’s line would remain on the throne in Jerusalem. And that was a sign of hope yet in the midst of this sad and miserable affair of Solomon’s decline.

And the Lord God said that the tearing apart of the kingdom wouldn’t take place during Solomon’s reign yet. That wasn’t because He still wanted to spare Solomon a bit. No, He wanted to spare David’s name yet. After all, He had promised to David that the kingdom of one of his sons would be established forever. The promise of a glorious and eternal Prince of Peace was connected with David. He would be a son of David. And yes, the first son of David made a mess out of things and the name “son of David” lost a lot of its shine. But the Lord God wanted to make sure that that name “son of David” would retain some of its shine for His people. He wanted to keep alive the hope for the eternal King who was coming. And He also wanted the city of Jerusalem to retain some of its special symbolism as the city where He chose to let His Name dwell. He wanted the people to still keep in mind and heart the hope for the coming King of glory which He had connected with that city and with the house of David in it.

And in that we see that even though the punishment was severe, God’s grace is still greater than the power of sin. God doesn’t let His plans totally fail. No, He continued to work at the coming of the greatest son of David, Jesus Christ, and His eternal kingdom. Even throughout the failings of kings and people. Oh, if it had depended on people, that King and that kingdom would never have come at all. But God continued to work out His plan and purpose even when people failed! For we know that that Son of David has come. And He conquered sin and Satan on a cross outside Jerusalem. And He established a wondrous Kingdom which can never, ever fail, but which will endure forever. He reigns over all things now at God’s right hand until all His enemies are made a footstool under His feet. He is the King of righteousness and the Kingdom will never be torn out of His hands. He is almighty, and will certainly bring His kingdom to full and awesome glory. We can be sure of that, so sure! He’s working on that as we speak. All the kingdoms of the world will fall before Him and all the rulers bow before Him. And then those who believed in Him will be vindicated and will share in His glory forever. Let’s make sure then, congregation, that we always hope in and live for Christ the King, the Son of David! For God’s plan is coming to fulfillment! The King of kings is on the way!    

AMEN 

 

          

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jack Moesker, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Jack Moesker

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