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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Deception of the Heart (1 Kings 11)

    When we look back and remember Solomon, we remember two main things about him: first, that he was the wealthiest and likely wisest man in history; and two, that he went very wrong. So what happened? How did Solomon go bad, what went wrong? Well, that’s what we’ll be looking at through 1 Kings 11 this morning. We’ll look at the path Solomon took where he forgot to use the great wisdom he had been given and forgot his love for the Lord. We’ll also look at what we can learn about the path Solomon took and how we can keep from following that same path.
    As I said, today I’m going to be in 1 Kings 11. Solomon, as we saw last week through 1 Kings 10 and the visit of the queen of Sheba, Solomon had become very famous. His name was known throughout the whole world, and we saw last week that people came from foreign nations everywhere to seek the wisdom of the Lord given to Solomon. Foreign kings sent emissaries with gifts of gold and wealth to thank Solomon for the wisdom he shared with them. This is the state in life Solomon was in when 1 Kings 11 opens. You can see this in your bulletins this morning, that Solomon’s cycle starts with his fame.
    Let’s look at 1 Kings 11:1, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,” and then look at verse 3, “He had seven hundred wives, who were princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.”
    This is the next step in Solomon’s cycle, the next step on his path away from God. His fame had brought him to the knowledge of many foreign kings and queens, and many times, when those foreign rulers would send wealth to Solomon to seek his wisdom, they would also send a wife. A marriage alliance between two kingdoms was pretty common in ancient times, and that marriage alliance would help peaceful relations between the two countries, in addition to assuring trade between the two nations. Marriage alliances were often very beneficial, especially to nations that were smaller and not as wealthy as other nations. Solomon was rolling in the dough, right? He was known world-wide for his wealth, so you can probably imagine that he had many offers from foreign nations for marriage alliances.
    We’re going to pause there for a moment, and look at Deuteronomy 17:17. This passage in Deuteronomy is about the kings that God would appoint over Israel and the commands of the Lord that these kings should follow. “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart does not turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.”
    Obviously there’s a problem here. Solomon would have no doubt known this command, but for whatever reason, he decided that he could justify breaking God’s command here and he acquired many wives for himself, and wealth on top of that.
    What we start to see here with this first step on Solomon’s path away from the Lord, is that Solomon had a desire in his heart. Many desires actually. He had a desire to continue to accumulate wealth; he had a desire to have good foreign relations with other nations; we’re told that he loved these foreign women. Now, these desires are fairly normal desires. Perhaps we even recognize them in ourselves: the desire to have financial security; the desire to be at peace with those around us, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers; and the desire to love. These are pretty normal and common human desires.
    Fulfilling these desires aren’t in of themselves bad things either, except when the fulfillment of one of these desires of the heart is in disobedience to God’s commands. That’s what we find here with Solomon. The desires of his heart, namely wealth and his love of foreign women, were against what God had set as commands for how the kings of Israel were to live.
    What we see Solomon doing though, is justifying his disobedience. With his multiple marriages…well, that was good foreign policy, right? These foreign women…well, he loved them so, what could he do? All the wealth he received from these marriage arrangements…well, it would be rude to refuse a gift, wouldn’t it?
    His justifications don’t end there, either. It wasn’t just the marriage alliances in addition to his fame and wealth. As he married foreign woman after foreign woman, they each made requests of him. Look at 1 Kings 11:7-8, “Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abhorrent idol of Moab, on the mountain that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abhorrent idol of the sons of Ammon. He also did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.”
    Each of his foreign wives would have come with her own pagan and false gods and goddesses she would want to worship. The request made by his many wives was that their dear husband Solomon should build a temple or monument of some sort to these foreign gods so his wives could worship their gods in their new home. Now, to any other king, that would be a reasonable and hospitable request. By fulfilling it, Solomon would show the foreign nations he had marriage alliances with that he respected them and honored the alliance. It would show his wives that he was willing to be a hospitable host and a good husband.
    But, then there’s Exodus 34:12-16, “Be careful that you do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their memorial stones, and cut down their Asherim—for you shall not worship any other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God— otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they would prostitute themselves with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might prostitute themselves with their gods and cause your sons also to prostitute themselves with their gods.”
    God’s Word expressly forbade building altars, temples, or any sort of monument to foreign gods. They were supposed to be smashed and destroyed. God didn’t want any hint of idolatry in the nation. He certainly wouldn’t have okayed the king of Israel building temples and high places to foreign gods. But Solomon wanted to be a hospitable husband. His heart’s desire was to make his wives happy, to do whatever he could to please them. Again, not a bad desire entirely, it’s not bad to want to please your spouse, but for Solomon, fulfilling it went against God’s word.
    The next step on Solomon’s path away from the Lord is this desire of his to be hospitable to his wives. Out of this desire, he justified the building of a high place, that’s a place of worship, for the god Chemosh of Moab. Chemosh was a major god, and his followers sometimes demanded human sacrifice to secure his favor. The mountain to the east of Jerusalem where the high place for Chemosh was built was none other than the Mount of Olives. A significant place in the New Testament in the ministry of Jesus. It was where Jesus stood as He wept over Jerusalem. It was where He spent much time preaching and teaching. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, which is where He spent some of His last hours, praying and weeping for what was about to come as He faced suffering and crucifixion.
    Because of Solomon’s decision to give into the desires of his heart and build a high place for a foreign abomination, the Mount of Olives for a time became known as the Mount of Corruption. On this same mountain he also built a place of worship for Molech, the god of the Ammonites. Molech was known for requiring child sacrifices from his followers. Mount of Corruption, indeed. And we’re told that Solomon built such high places for the gods of all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and sacrifice to their gods.
    The final step in Solomon’s cycle, his path away from God was to begin to worship the idols and false gods of his foreign wives. 1 Kings 11:4-6, “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away to follow other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been. For Solomon became a follower of Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom the abhorrent idol of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as his father David had done.”
    Now, I can’t say which desire of Solomon’s heart this might have been. I have a hard time thinking of any desire of the heart that would lead him to worship these false gods. I can understand to some degree the desire for wealth and prosperity, the desire to have peace with others, the desire for love, the desire to please your spouse. Those desires of the heart I can understand, and I can see how you might be tempted to justify following through with those desires, even at the expense of disobeying God. I don’t understand the desire that might lead you to worship gods that would demand human sacrifices, child sacrifices!
    The only possible conclusion I could come to was that by giving into the earlier, more seemingly benign desires of his heart, Solomon became desensitized to how bad his actions had become. And that right there, is the true danger here.
    The deception of the heart always starts off small. We can find ways of justifying just about any decision we want to make, if we look hard enough. At first it might be the justification to hold back on our tithe, just a little bit because we’re struggling that month. Or the justification to just go ahead and watch that popular movie or tv show because no one will know. Or the justification to speak rudely and unkindly to someone you don’t know online just because they don’t know you. Or the justification to enter into a relationship with someone who isn’t a believer because we really like them and we can convert them before it gets too serious. Or the justification of an extreme action just because it wasn’t as bad as something someone else did.
    We can get really good at justifying our thoughts and actions, can’t we? It’s all too easy! But the thing that we see from Solomon is that any justification of what our heart desires is a deception. Why? Well, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us why, “The HEART is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
    I only have a few blanks for you in your bulletins this morning, and this is the first one: HEART. The heart is more deceitful than all else, it is desperately sick! We can’t understand why it wants what it wants, but we do know this: we can’t just go around justifying the deceptions of our hearts because they are often wrong.
    The heart can be twisted to believe anything, to justify anything, to want anything, even if it is the most abhorrent and horrible thing we can possibly think of! The heart is capable of incredible deceptions that lead to unfathomable evil. Solomon’s heart deceptions led him to justify actions that led to the downfall of his nation!
    What guard is there to this deception that leads to evil? What can we possibly do to prevent justifying things that shouldn’t be justified? There’s a simple answer, Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the THOUGHTS and INTENTIONS of the heart.”
    There are your last two bulletin blanks. The word of God is able to judge the THOUGHTS and INTENTIONS of the heart. That is the only cure for the heart’s deception that leads to justifying things that God has not asked, things that God does not approve of.
    If we want to avoid the same path as Solomon, we must take up the serious task of becoming students of the word of God. We must spend time with Him in His word each and every day, multiple times a day if the circumstances call for it. We must read it, and meditate on it. We must memorize it and know it. We must study it in depth and allow its truth to lead us to conviction, repentance, and change. Not because the book in of itself holds any power or is special on its own, but because the God who spoke it into existence does hold the power and His word is the only way He has given us to know Him! It is He who is speaking through these words. They are life to us! They will feed us, sustain us, challenge us, grow us, and guard us, even from ourselves. Every desire of our hearts should be checked against the word of God to see if it holds up to His truth. If it doesn’t, it’s time to let that desire go.

1. Are there areas in your life, actions, or thoughts when you’re tempted to justify what your heart wants instead of allowing the Word to lead?

2. What does the Word say about those areas, actions, and thoughts? Do an in-depth study to get a full view of what the Bible says.

3. Read Proverbs 4:20-27 about guarding the heart. What are some practical steps you can take from this passage to help guard your heart?

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