This morning we will conclude our in depth series entitled “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”. Over the past several months we have explored the history of Israel during the reigns of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. During this time, the 12 tribes of Israel were united as a single nation. Over the course of its 120-year existence, Israel rose from relative obscurity to worldwide prominence. But, as the expression goes, what goes up must come down…
In today’s final message, we will discover the chain of events that ultimately resulted in the splintering of Israel into 2 separate kingdoms. Despite all of his great success, Solomon’s choices during the closing years of his kingship spelled doom for the nation. This last message is called “Solomon’s Demise”.
I. SOLOMON’S SIN (1 Kings 11:1-8)
King Solomon had virtually everything in great abundance - including women. Many were of foreign descent and worshiped pagan gods. In addition to the Egyptian daughter of Pharaoh (for whom Solomon had built a house all her own), he also married Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women. In all, the king had 700 wives and 300 concubine. His love for them and desire to please them all eventually led Solomon to compromise his faith.
In his old age Solomon’s heart turned from God and his devotion to the LORD waned. He began to chase after false gods, including Ashtoreth (the goddess of the Sidonians) and Milcom (the idol of the Ammonites). Solomon built a high place on the mountain east of Jerusalem for Chemosh (the idol of Moab) and for Molech (the god of Ammon). He did this so that his foreign wives would have special places to burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods.
Solomon did not fully abandon his faith in Jehovah, the God of Israel. Rather, he simply incorporated the worship of additional gods into his religious practice. His all-inclusive faith was non-threatening and non-offensive to those he wished to appease. This approach is still prevalent today. Modern culture advocates that there are many roads to heaven, and many legitimate gods that can be served. Now you can call me old fashioned or narrow minded if you want to, but I will stand on the authority of the Bible which plainly states that there is only 1 true and living God - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All others are false gods or idols that should not be worshiped.
II. GOD’S ANGER (1 Kings 11:9-13)
God had personally appeared to Solomon twice - once in Gibeon during the early part of his reign to grant him wisdom and again several years later in Jerusalem after the palace had been completed. Despite these 2 previous appearances, Solomon had turned his heart away from the LORD and followed idols. God was justifiably furious.
As punishment for his idolatry and worshiping of false gods, the LORD told Solomon that He was going to tear the kingdom of Israel away from him and give it to his servant instead. However, because of His deep love for David, God said that He’d wait to take action until Solomon’s son became the new king. God added that the entire kingdom would not be lost, but that 1 of the tribes (actually it was 2 - Judah and Benjamin, though Benjamin was quite small) would remain. This provision was made for the sake of God’s covenant with David.
Solomon’s sin brought about God’s judgment and subsequently Israel was divided into 2 distinct kingdoms. Unfortunately, sin often causes the people of God to separate. Whether it be broken homes, split churches, or warring conventions, Christians have always had a problem with unity. We allow sin to divide us and turn our hearts against one another. Like Solomon, we chase after other gods and incur the LORD’s righteous judgment.
III. SOLOMON’S ADVERSARIES (1 Kings 11:14-40)
As Solomon drifted further away, the LORD raised up adversaries against him. Hadad was from the royal line of Edom. Decades earlier, when David’s military (under the command of Joab) routed and killed most of the Edomites, young Hadad was whisked away into Egypt. Just a boy at the time, Hadad grew up hating Israel. Pharoah showed favor to Hadad, and even allowed him to marry his sister-in-law. After David and Joab had both died, Hadad returned to Israel and became an enemy of Solomon’s.
Rezon was the son of Eliada. For some unknown reason, he apparently he deserted or perhaps fled from his king Hadadezer. After David’s army soundly defeated Hadadezer’s forces, Rezon formed his own band of marauders. He and his men lived in Damascus, where he reigned over Aram. Rezon and his men regularly raided and tormented the citizens of Israel.
The most notable of Solomon’s adversaries was Jeroboam. He was a member of the tribe of Ephraim, and a gifted servant of the king. Jeroboam was one of the leaders and overseers of Solomon’s forced laborers. One day a prophet named Ahijah approached Jeroboam and informed him that God planned to take the kingdom of Israel away from Solomon because of his sin. Ahijah prophesied that Jeroboam would become the new king of Israel, which would include only 10 of the original 12 tribes. When King Solomon heard this prophecy, he sought to execute Jeroboam. Fearing for his life, Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he remained until Solomon’s death.
IV. SOLOMON’S DEATH (1 Kings 11:41-43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31)
King Solomon reigned over the united kingdom of Israel for 40 years. He is remembered for his wisdom, wealth, power, and fame. Solomon completed numerous building projects and expanded the boundaries of Israel to their farthest reaches. Of course, the most important accomplishment of Solomon was the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. Many details of his life were preserved in the writings of Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo. After his death, Solomon was buried in Jerusalem. His son Rehoboam became the new king.
Following Solomon’s death, God’s warning and Ahijah's prophecy came true. 10 of the 12 tribes rejected Solomon’s son Rehoboam as king. Instead, they appointed Solomon’s former servant Jeroboam (who’d recently returned from Egypt) as their leader. These 10 tribes retained the name Israel and became known as the Northern Kingdom. Only 2 of the 12 tribes remained loyal to Rehoboam. They took on the name Judah and became known as the Southern Kingdom. In the centuries that followed, the children of God were divided into 2 distinct and separate nations.
At some future point, we will conduct an extensive study of the divided kingdom years. It was during this time that many of the well-known Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, lived and ministered. There were numerous kings, some of them good but most of them bad, who ruled over God’s people in both Israel and Judah. It promises to be a fascinating study and is something for us to look forward to. But for now… let’s wrap up our discussion of Israel’s united years.
One of the greatest dangers to our faith in God is earthly success and prosperity. When things are going well, we often lose sight of God and forget our need for Him. We begin to foolishly believe that we’ve got a handle on things ourselves and that we don’t really need the Lord’s help. When our dependence or reliance on God begins to fade, trouble is right around the corner - you can count own it.
Another danger to our faith is compromise. We must not cater to the gods of this world and/our assimilate pagan practices and traditions into Christianity. Doing so is an insult to God and invites His divine judgment upon us. I am not saying that Christians should always be rigid and inflexible, but rather that they should be uncompromising and unyielding as it pertains to the bedrock truths of the Bible.
Sin always leads to division. It separates people from God and makes salvation necessary. Jesus Christ bore the fullness of mankind’s sin on the cross, died to forgive it all, and rose from the grave to forever conquer death. As this series comes to an end, let me invite you to become united with God through a personal relationship with Jesus. Place your faith in Him today.