There may be no better illustration in our culture today to the fall of King Solomon than Joe Paterno. The former head football coach at Penn State University had it all. He had spent over 60 years at the same school, succeeding at the highest level possible in college football. He had won more games as a coach than anyone in the history of the game. And then the reports of child molestation by one of his former employees, Jerry Sandusky, surfaced. Within a few weeks, Paterno was fired. Two months later, he died.
When Paterno fell, he fell hard. And when Solomon fell, the kingdom came crashing down. In 1 Kings 11:1-8, we are told the issue that brought down the kingdom was not the fact that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It was, however, that these women subtly shifted his attention away from the one true God of Israel, to serve other gods. He was an idolater, which brought on series consequences.
First off, we are told that the Lord was angry with Solomon (vs. 9). Here we see the intersection between God's holiness and our sinfulness. The result of that combination is that God's anger must be poured out. God was angry with Solomon even though God had appeared to him two times instructing him on how to live.
I was struck by this, because I have heard so many people say it. "If only God would appear to me, then I would believe. Then I would follow Him." God appeared two times to Solomon and those incredible spiritual experiences did not stop him from walking away from God. So many people want the great experiences in the Christian life. People want the hype of the Super Bowl when the game is really won with the wind sprints six months earlier. The Christian life cannot be lived from one spiritual high to the next one. It has to be lived in the daily grind of getting into the Word, choosing to pray and repent of sins daily. It is picking up your cross daily and following Jesus.
The consequences of his sinful actions are that God is going to tear the kingdom of Israel apart. He is going to give ten tribes to a servant of his (which turns out to be Jeroboam), and then his son will get only one other tribe than their own tribe to rule. God does this by raising up several adversaries against Solomon. We are told about Hadad, the Edomite (I tend to think he is like this man), and Rezon, a leader of Syria. But the greatest adversary was Jeroboam, who was raised up from within the nation of Israel.
I was particularly struck with one aspect of the judgment from God. In the very unique account when the prophet Ahijah tells Jeroboam how it is going to happen (read vs. 29-32 for a very interesting story), we are told in vs. 33 that "they" followed after the false gods. For the entire story, we have been led to believe that God would bless the nation of Israel based upon the obedience of King Solomon. And now we get a glimpse into why Solomon's obedience was so important to God. The decisions of Solomon to walk away from God slowly led the people towards apostasy.
This should be a warning to all leaders. As Jesus said, a disciple is not above his teacher (Luke 6:40). The Christian should have a vested interest into the spiritual vitality of their leaders. Pray for them. Encourage them. And even confront them. If only someone would have had the courage to take Deuteronomy 6:14-15 to bear upon the life of King Solomon. How things could have been different.
If your leader starts to lead away from the Scriptures, and they respond wrongly when you bring the truth to bear upon their heart, then run. But if you run without bringing the Holy Word of God to bear upon their life, you are not helping anyone. Pastors will fail. Elders will sin. But they should both be known for their repentance.
But even in this sobering passage of Scripture, we see the grace of God. For the sake of David, he does not split the kingdom until after Solomon dies. He does give a portion of the kingdom to Solomon's son. He does even say that this split would not be eternal. As one commentator said, "the rays of hope flicker from behind the clouds of judgment" (Dale Ralph Davis). It should remind us that even though God's anger is being poured out on sin, there is hope for us to be saved. The death that Jesus died is enough to satisfy God's wrath once and for all. If only we trust in Him alone.