How does a person go from being the wisest man on the earth to a man buried neck deep in folly? How does a person move from being sensitive toward God to living a life of radical disobedience? The truth is nobody sets out to experience this kind of fall — least of all Solomon. If you had asked him early in his life and kingship, “Solomon, do you think you will stray from the path of wisdom and end up living like a fool?” he would have been shocked that you even asked. Yet that is exactly what happened.
Solomon’s life is a roadmap that we might call “the way to disaster”! His descent from the heights to the depths is heartbreaking. As we study Scripture, we can identify four distinct detours Solomon took that led him on this downward spiral. By looking closely at these mistakes, we can learn to avoid them and the high price that always comes with folly.
Detour 1: Allowing a Little Wiggle Room
The first step in Solomon’s downward spiral was to leave a little wiggle room in his commitment. It all began with areas of compromise that many people may have thought were not that important. In 1 Kings 3:3 we read: “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places” (emphasis added).
When we read the word “except,” we know Solomon is in trouble; we don’t even need to know what comes next. This word is a clear indicator that Solomon has decided to leave some wiggle room in his devotion. He will try to love God and be devoted, except for a few areas. The simple fact that he says “except” is a guarantee that he will be in deep water.
Detour 2: Assuming We Are the Exception to the RuleAt this point in the spiral, we don’t dispute God’s rules or disagree with them. In fact, we agree that they’re fine for most people. But we just think that we’re a little more mature and a little more sophisticated than others. We can handle it. We don’t have to follow God’s rules as closely as everybody else does. The problem with anything less than total obedience is that we’re the ones who get to choose what we will submit to and what “really doesn’t matter.” When this happens, we become our own king, our own god. This becomes a form of idolatry.
Detour 3: Failing to Deal with Predisposed WeaknessesWe all have them. But when we refuse to look at them and resist turning away from them, we are headed for trouble. Solomon was not particularly discriminating when it came to women. He seemed to love them all! Even when God gave clear commands about this, he kept right on marrying women who were forbidden. We must stop and wonder why he struggled so much in this area of his life. When we consider Solomon’s personal history, some clues begin to rise to the surface. Solomon had been exposed to sexual struggles his whole life. Reading through the Old Testament, we discover that David’s family had one of the most dysfunctional households around. Likely, Solomon’s problems stretched all the way to his father’s bedroom. The sins and weaknesses of his parents infected him and impacted him for a lifetime!
Detour 4: Ignoring CorrectionThe final step on the downward spiral — and a sure sign of looming disaster — is to ignore or to silence wise and loving correction. Such an individual is in a dangerous place. And when he or she has already followed the first three detours, sin has a way of deafening one’s ears so that hearing God’s voice is difficult. As Solomon grew older, he wandered further and further from God. God continued to call Solomon to a place of repentance, but Solomon continued to do things his own way.
Where might you see yourself heading down the path toward folly? Which of the four detours would you most likely “fall for”?