June 15, 2009
by Wayne Stiles
“There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be an exception to the rule.”
This quip seems especially true for exceptional individuals. Take Solomon for example. God told him, “I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you” (1 Kings 3:12, emphasis added). Talk about exceptional! And yet Solomon became the exception to his own wisdom.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh. . . . He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. . . . Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab. . . . Thus also he did for all his foreign wives. (1 Kings 11:1, 3, 7-8)
Hard to believe, isn’t it? Solomon literally wrote the book on wisdom and sexual purity, and yet he behaved so foolishly when it came time to remain pure. How could anybody so wise let himself become so corrupted? How could one who worshiped God ever get lured into idolatry? It started with two small compromises:
Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. . . . Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:1, 3, emphasis added)
“Solomon loved the Lord,” we’re told, “except . . .” Stop right there. Except what? “Except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” The Canaanites sacrificed on hilltops because they felt “high places” brought them closer to their gods. The Israelites adopted this practice in sacrificing to the Lord, although God’s Law forbade it. In addition, Solomon’s marriage to a nonbeliever bought national security for the price of a wedding—or so he thought. Small compromises, sure, but they opened a crack in Solomon’s heart that eventually divided it.
He should have seen it coming. Solomon’s poetry repeatedly revealed the wisdom of dealing with sin when it’s small (Proverbs 17:14; 24:33-34; Ecclesiastes 10:18; Song of Solomon 2:15). In other words, he should have foreseen the danger of the little sins—an Egyptian wife and high places—which would inevitably grow beyond what even Solomon could control. Even wisdom can’t think around the consequences of compromise. The crack that divided Solomon’s heart would ultimately divide his nation, destroy God’s temple, and deport the Jews from their land—and it all began with small sins ignored.
Now put yourself in the story. If the Bible recorded your walk with God, what exceptions would it reveal?
John loved the Lord, except he occasionally allowed himself to fantasize about other women.
Janet walked with Christ all her days, except she never married the man with whom she lived.
Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. However, his failure to deal with the tiny cracks in his heart produced a life of futility and spiritual devastation. We would be foolish to assume we stand in any less danger, and we deceive ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden, pet sins on the side. Many walk this road, but God wants more for us than the incessant cycle of confession and failure. He wants us to live beyond the futility the world seeks. He calls us to repentance—to change.
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
These Christians knew the Scriptures and walked with God. But Paul saw a crack in their hearts—something keeping them from growing to their potential. So he made the obstacle clear:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
So how can we begin to fill the cracks of a divided heart? For starters, we must recognize what we really seek in illicit pleasure is more relational than physical. God intends to meet both of these longings in marriage. But even a healthy relationship with a spouse is insufficient apart from a deepening, deliberate relationship with Christ.
This means more than your salvation experience. It means making your relationship with the Living God—not just your Bible reading—the priority of your life. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “No one can live without delight, and that is why a man deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures.” Solomon took a lifetime to discover this simple truth (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:13).
The transformation process God desires comes by choosing daily to offer our bodies as “a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), doggedly refusing to follow sin’s urgings (6:14), and relying on God’s Spirit for strength (8:2, 6). After losing his wife, one Christian man said he prayed in response to his desire for sexual intimacy: “Lord, I give you my sexuality. I will wait on You to meet these desires in Your time and in Your way. Help me to remain pure.”
We can have the wisdom of Solomon and still have cracks in our hearts. Solomon’s life reveals that sin tolerated becomes an idol embraced. If we do not seek God as the object of our ultimate delight, we will certainly substitute the pleasures of this world—and eventually sacrifice our purity for them. But God has called us to exchange the fleeting pleasure of little sins for something far better. And it’s a worthwhile trade, for moral purity is really the by-product of an even greater benefit God offers us—Himself.