Solomon, David’s son by way of Bathsheba (not his first wife), came to the throne under less than ideal circumstances. As David lay dying, his fourth-born son Adonijah, decided to establish himself as the new king. The number 4 in Scripture symbolizes the earth. Coincidence? While Adonijah is celebrating—without the consent of Nathan the prophet and the priests, let alone his father—a counter plot is hatched to ensure that Solomon is anointed king as David had promised his mother. As you might expect, there was a lot of palace intrigue and deceit, which ended up with Adonijah losing his head—literally.
As we read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, we get a mixed picture. A highpoint is recorded in I Kings 3:4-14, when God appears to the new king in a dream and asks him what He should give him. Solomon asks for wisdom, which pleases God because it comes from the humble heart of a servant king. God gives Solomon much wisdom as requested, with a healthy heaping of wealth and blessings.
So what’s the problem? We get the first hint in the first verse of 1 Kings. We learn that Solomon has made a treaty with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to marry his daughter. The Egyptians worship other gods. Marrying a heathen is forbidden by the Law. Plus, she is one of many wives, another habit picked up from the ungodly people groups in the region. He brings his new wife to the City of David (Jerusalem), where he is busy building the Temple according to David’s plans. Since the Temple isn’t ready yet, the people take it upon themselves to sacrifice “at the high places.” Verse 3 is telling: “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.”
The majority of these high places in the land were pagan altars that had not been destroyed as God had instructed. Even though the Temple was not yet built, we can assume that the tent that David had established to house the Ark of the Covenant was still available. Going to the high places was another example of “blending in” with the ungodly peoples around them.
Although Solomon was world-renowned for his wisdom and prosperity, we get a glimpse of his divided heart in the book of Ecclesiastes. It opens with a hopeless lament: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.”
Later in the first chapter, Solomon hits the nail on the head. “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.”
It is the age-old story of each new generation thinking that they are the enlightened ones who will finally get it right, only to find their “progress” falls short as well. We could call this the Lament of the Fallen Nature. But those who sing it would probably balk at that title, for they don’t see how they have fallen prey to the Deceiver. They have eyes that do not see.
The chapter finally closes with Solomon’s admission of his ambition. “I communed with my heart, saying, ‘Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.’ And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.”
It’s a telling admission of what happens when we compromise with the world and have a divided heart.
That’s the sad part of Solomon’s journey. The good part is recorded in the following book known as the Song of Solomon. Just as the historical saga of Esther foreshadows the heavenly calling of the Church, this book foreshadows the love relationship of Jesus Christ the Groom and His Church, the Bride. We even get a sneak peak of the rapture when Solomon’s girl is whisked away in a chariot to meet her Beloved.
The Chronos Lesson: Much of the book of Proverbs is a collection of the godly wisdom Solomon gained along the way. The theme is found in Prov. 4:7. “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” Later in verse 23 Solomon gives us the key to getting wisdom and understanding. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23, NIV).
He isn’t talking about your physical heart, but your inner being. It includes your spirit, which is your core being—the real you. And it includes your soul—your mind and thoughts, your emotions, and your will. If you are born again, your spirit has been made new. But not your soul—not yet, anyways. That happens when we are raptured and changed in a twinkling of an eye. For now, we are told to renew our minds (soul) with the truths of God’s Word.
That is what Solomon meant when He said to guard your heart. Other translations say to keep your heart. The reason this is so important is because what you store in your inner heart determines your outer life experiences. The word “keep” means to protect and maintain your heart in union with what is true in your spirit. The heart is designed to obey your spirit, but the heart can be subtly deceived and besieged because it is not yet made new.
The New Covenant equivalent is found in Phil. 4:4-9. Paul is speaking to believers surrounded by an ungodly society. Keeping your heart set on the Word staves off anxiety and panic attacks. It keeps us settled so that we are not rattled by what we see in the world. It releases joy because we know who wins in the end, and that we get to play a part in that victory. The key to this keeping and guarding is what occupies our thoughts and imagination. For as Solomon learned: what you focus on determines how your life goes.
In our tech-heavy culture, there are many, many ways to be distracted. So it is especially crucial that we guard our hearts. It’s the same wise advise that Jesus offered when He taught us to be watchful regarding the Day of His coming.
So let’s encourage one another as Paul encouraged the Church at Colossae: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 26-7). We have one major advantage that Solomon did not have. We have the Holy Spirit within us to empower us to do this very thing! We don’t have to settle for the vanities of hopelessness.