Under David’s rule Israel prospered and enlarged its borders as a nation. Though fraught with unique tensions, fratricide, a military coup and the threat of civil war, David’s time on the throne was also marked by deep spiritual revival and the abiding presence of God over His people.
As David aged the tensions and dysfunctions of his family reared their ugly heads once more and in the face of yet another attempted coup David was forced to abdicate the throne in favour of his son Solomon. In many ways Solomon was a controversial candidate for the throne. He was not his father’s eldest son and David’s relationship with Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba was shrouded in scandal and shame.
But Solomon was David’s choice and He ascended to the throne with God’s blessing and approval. David understood God’s purpose for Israel as a nation. He also understood that in order for that purpose to be accomplished, in order for Israel to truly be a light to the nations around them both the king and people needed to commit to lives of absolute surrender to God’s will.
David understood that if Solomon was to be the kind of leader God wanted and the people needed he would need to be more than a warrior, statesman or sovereign; he would need to be a good man, a man committed to living a life of integrity.
David’s last words to Solomon reflect his vision for the type of ruler he wanted his son to be. A man who would be merciful, honourable and just. A man who would be committed to serving God. A man who, by the grace of God, would avoid the sins and mistakes that David had made.
“He that ruleth over men must be just” he said “ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain”
Throughout his reign one of David’s most enduring visions had been to build a temple for the Lord at Jerusalem. However the Lord denied him this privilege telling him that his son would be given the opportunity instead.
Since the exodus from Egypt, God had desired to dwell among him people. He wanted to pitch his tent beside their own and give them the opportunity to get to know Him and His ways. In Exodus 25:8 he said to Moses “and let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them”
He then went on to give Moses detailed blueprints for the tabernacle or dwelling place that he wanted them to build for him. It was a replica of the great sanctuary in heaven, his permanent dwelling place. Every aspect of the building was rich with meaning and spiritual significance, pointing the children of Israel to the plan of salvation and God’s desires for his people.
The sanctuary in the wilderness was a portable structure, constructed in such a way that it could be dismantled and transported over rough wilderness terrain without too much difficulty.
While the portable tabernacle worked well in the desert, once Israel was permanently established in Canaan a more permanent structure would have been desirable. But it was not something that ever popped up on the radar screen of any of the Judges that governed the people.
Israel was too busy stuck in a vicious cycle of apostasy, calamity and restoration for too many generations to count to really think about building a more permanent dwelling place for God. But during David’s reign the turmoil and upheaval ceased. There was peace, for the first time in, well, forever and it seemed like a good time to build something more permanent for the Lord.
Finally, during the reign of Solomon, this dream became a reality.
It took seven years to prepare the construction site and organize the materials. Solomon had the stones cut to precise dimensions at the quarries they were carved out of so that there would be no sound of hammers, axes, or iron tools used at the construction site.
Solomon’s desire to build the temple went far beyond obedience to his father’s vision. Just before his coronation, Solomon had his own experience with God. When God came to him in a dream at night and asked him what he wanted, Solomon begged for wisdom above anything else. Though he was a young man, full of promise from a privileged background he understood his need for God’s guidance and was fully prepared to lean hard on the arm of the Lord.
His personal consecration to God colored his construction of the temple. It defined the direction of the project.
When the temple was finally completed it was a magnificent structure, opulent and faithful to the original blueprints given to Moses. The temple was spacious and striking, constructed from massive polished stones, polished cedar, and burnished gold.
The temple was built on the peak of Mt. Moriah in honor of the great sacrifice that Abraham had been willing to make when he brought Isaac there as a sacrifice so many years before.
Once completed the temple was dedicated during the seventh month of the year, when people from all over the kingdom had gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. It was not only Israelites who gathered at the dedication but ambassadors from the great neighboring kingdoms were also present to witness the dedication of the magnificent building.
When the Ark of the Covenant which housed the ten commandments written by the very finger of God was transferred into the temple Solomon himself was part of the procession ensuring that the ceremony was given every ounce of weight and significance it deserved.
When the Ark was placed in the temple the visible presence of God in the form of a cloud filled the sanctuary. It was probably one of the most glorious events in the history of Israel as a nation.
Finally, Solomon knelt on a specially constructed platform and in the hearing of the entire congregation offered a dedicatory prayer to God. The prayer was a preface to the type of reign Solomon wanted to establish and the type of consecration he expected of his subjects. His prayer reflected his deep desire to serve God and honor his will in every aspect of his life as a monarch.
Solomon’s early reign reflected his desire. He was a man committed to walking in the ways of the Lord and God prospered his kingdom and enlarged it. Israel’s borders spread from the River Euphrates to Philistia and Egypt. He entertained ambassadors from the great power houses of the time; like Egypt, Ethiopia and Tyre. Israel prospered both economically and socially.
Unfortunately this era of prosperity was short lived. Solomon’s desire to obey God crumbled in the face of his desire for exotic women and political connections. He began to marry wives from surrounding nations who didn’t share his religious and spiritual convictions. Women who were both beautiful and well connected and who ultimately led him away from God by bringing with them their pagan deities and worship rituals.
Soon Solomon began constructing shrines to all these foreign gods in plain view of the temple he had dedicated to the Living God not that long ago. The small steps he took towards compromise led to a dark period of rebellion and sin, ending in deep depression. This depression is evident in his book Ecclesiastes, which, while being full of sound advice, is edged with a sense of despair and hopelessness.
But Solomon didn’t stay lost. He found his way back to God, albeit broken and scarred from his time in the wilderness of sin.
Looking at Solomon’s life couples us to ask a number of questions; how can someone who started out with so much promise have gone so completely off the rails? Where did it begin? How much influence do the people in our lives really have over our choices? Was his time in rebellion worth it? How and why did he make his way back to God?
Regardless of the answers you might dig up to those questions a single stark reality remains; Solomon bitterly repented the folly of his youth. With all his heart he wished he could go back and make different choices but by then it was too late, the damage was already done. If nothing else, Solomon’s life is a reminder of why it is important to make wise choices, especially when we’re young.