Coming to know God, having God breathe on you is like flipping the lights on in a darkened room. Right away, instantly, you can see, clearly, what needs to be done. But Solomon was, ultimately, more in love with Nikki than he was with God. Thus gifted with unparalleled wisdom, Solomon’s first move out of the box was to deny God by choosing to keep this girl, even though we must conclude, by virtue of the text, that he knew, for a fact, his was a union which God condemned.
I mean absolutely no offense to anyone, but I have to wonder why
anyone would name their church “King Solomon.” A cursory Google
search turns up hundreds of King Solomons, mostly Baptist
churches around the country. I’m willing to be educated about
this, but “King Solomon” is a terrible name for a church. The
biblical figure of Solomon invokes themes of wisdom and
prosperity, but Solomon’s overall purpose for us is a cautionary
tale. Virtues have limitations and Solomon’s story does not end
well. Conservative Christianity has all but condemned former
super-evangelist Ted Haggard to hell. I don’t know any group of
Christians willing to name their church Ted Haggard Baptist
Church. But this is precisely what you are doing when you
emblazon the name of Solomon on your door. None of us can say
with any certainty whether or not God has condemned Ted Haggard,
but the record is clear on Solomon: in I Kings Chapter 11 God
clearly and unambiguously condemns Solomon, who ultimately comes
to trust his own wisdom moreso than God’s instructions.
Solomon’s love for his wives—most especially his foreign-born,
pagan-god-worshipping wives—outstrips his love for God. Solomon
ends up building temples to pagan deities and observing their
practices, behavior God explicitly condemns. Somebody please
explain to me: why are we naming churches after this guy? Well,
pastor, the church is 127 years old and that’s what they named
it. We need to stop perpetuating ignorance simply because that’s
what we’ve always done. We need to grow, to learn, to enlighten
ourselves. And, once our eyes are opened, we need to act.
Calling a church—a church—“King Solomon” is both foolish
and ignorant. It insults God Who, unlike us, does not turn a
blind eye and deaf ear to those who deny His holiness. Churches
should ideally exist within the New Testament of God’s love and
not get dug in to echoes of the very things Jesus Christ
sacrificed everything to free us of.
In Chapter three of I Kings, Solomon, in an epic demonstration of humility and submission, asks God for wisdom to rule God’s people effectively. God is moved by Solomon’s genuine desire not only to serve God but to serve God effectively, and grants Solomon’s request, making Solomon, ultimately, the wisest man who ever lived. We should want to serve God but, more than that, we should want our service to be effective. My prayer is not that these words reach a bunch of people, but that they reach even one person effectively. That they impact someone or get someone thinking about their relationship with God in a new light.
Unfortunately, before Solomon asks for wisdom, at the beginning of that same chapter, he enters into a strategic alliance with Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, an alliance which is sealed by Solomon taking what appears to be his first wife. The bible does not name her, but she is speculated to be the daughter of Pharaoh Shoshenq I and her name may have been Nicaule, which is what I’ll call her here so I don’t have to keep typing “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” The narrative doesn’t deal much with Nikki, we don’t know her age or her personality or, frankly, much at all about her. She is, essentially, a plot device, the fork in the road for Solomon who, by all accounts, fell madly in love with this girl. I imagine she was, as most virgins were, quite young, likely a teenager, and thus likely given to typical teenage traits: the unparalleled hypnotism of emergent female sexuality matched to the undisciplined lack of reason, accountability and impulse control of a child. This is, essentially, we they call it “jail bait.”
This is entirely speculative on my part, but, my takeaway from Solomon 3 is this girl Nikki made it in under the wire: Solomon married her before God’s gift of wisdom was bestowed upon him. This likely explains why she alone is set apart and held in extremely high esteem. Although the text does not give her a proper name, the bible refers to her repeatedly, while grouping all the other wives as a single reference. The other wives shared luxurious quarters but Solomon built Nikki her own palace. Marrying her violated God’s prohibition against marrying outsiders [SCR], but Solomon did what most of us do, make a half-baked bargain with ourselves and call it honoring God. He kept Nikki out of sacred places, places where the Arc of the Covenant had been, places where God had made Himself known. I’d guess most people around him saw that as a noble gesture, but the fact is Solomon blasphemed God when he married this girl in the first place.
And this is what we do: compromise our commitment to God, make these little deals with our Christianity, with our relationship to Jesus Christ. I know preachers who whore all week long but won’t have sex on a Saturday so they can repent and be “clean” to preach Sunday morning. This is an utterly ridiculous waste of time. God responds not to what we do or even what we say but to our motives, to what’s in our hearts. In our text, Nikki existed in a place where God should have reigned. Once God granted wisdom to Solomon, once Solomon became enlightened, it is my conclusion that Solomon immediately realized Nikki was a wrong move. Coming to know God, having God breathe on you is like flipping the lights on in a darkened room. Right away, instantly, you can see, clearly, what needs to be done. But Solomon was, ultimately, more in love with Nikki than he was with God. Thus, gifted with unparalleled wisdom, Solomon’s first move out of the box was to deny God by choosing to keep this girl, even though we must conclude, by virtue of the text, that he knew, for a fact, his was a union that God condemned.
That Which Is Already In Place
Many of us have done what Solomon did: make a bad choice before
God enlightened us. Finding the will to confront that choice, to
deal with it, is not easy. Oh, but I love him. New believers,
most especially, are confronted by the sheer weight of Things
Already In Place. Of spouses, of family and friends. Of habits.
Holding onto these things, these people and behaviors, once
you’ve learned God’s truth, compromises your relationship with
God right out of the box. Solomon’s choice, to put Nikki first,
was a selfish one. I believe, had he trusted God, confronted
that error, early on, his story might have ended better, and I’d
be less puzzled by Church Folk naming churches after him.
Integrity is not something you can play Let’s Make A Deal with. You either have integrity or you don’t. You lose your integrity the very minute you start compromising it. This is, for me, the empirical difference between Christians and Church Folk: to me, Church Folk are Christians who have compromised Christ. They are Christians who blaspheme God on Friday, but clean up their act on Saturday so they can roll in the aisles on Sunday only to demean their Christian witness again on Monday.
Christians, on the other hand, make an honest go of it. They’re not perfect by any stretch, but God honors our motives, our intent, our goals. Now that we’ve believed, we have to confront the choices we made. It’s a lot easier for some to just write a check, give money, than it is to give our relationships, our choices, over to God.
I’ve known wives who’ve gotten saved and find themselves stuck in a God-less home, with a husband and children who do not know God, who live their lives in ways that do not agree with Christian principals. She has become enlightened well after the fact, long after having made the decision to marry this man, to have these children. Does she leave? Of course not. But the odds are long against her. She will suddenly seem like an outsider in her own home. Teens who accept Christ are immediately returned to homes, to families, who do not know God. Do they leave? Run away?
From my experience, one of the areas we are weakest at is follow-up. We send these new believers back into their situations—unarmed and defenseless—to environments where they will be attacked and ostracized. Where they will feel enormous pressure to continue in ways not pleasing to God just to fit back in with their family and friends, with their co-workers. There is little or no prep work done with these new believers. There are, to my observation, precious few new believers. There are old believers coming back, and there are church hoppers joining and re-joining. People having an honest encounter with God, surrendering to God in an earnest and meaningful fashion, is increasingly rare. And these we just toss back into their environment with no armoring and no follow-up.
For all the good Solomon did, his insistence on keeping his pagan wife laid the groundwork for his ultimate downfall. Nikki was the foundation for the widening gap between Solomon and God. Solomon ultimately ended up with hundreds of pagan wives, each one a gross violation of explicit instructions from God. None that the bible suggests Solomon had much investment in, but these girls and women ultimately influenced Solomon more than God because Solomon, I believe, could no longer hear God. He had compromised himself into radio silence. Into doubt. Into paranoia. The Song of Solomon, which many scholars believe Solomon wrote about Nikki, worships flesh, glorifies this person Solomon married in defiance of God. We like to treat Song of Songs as a benign tribute to marriage, but, in this theory, Song of Songs mostly illustrates how utterly lost Solomon ultimately became. His investment was in this girl. His obsession was over her, his devotion was to pleasing her.
So what do we do? Hammering your spouse with your newfound Christianity is a really bad idea. At the same time, God *hates* divorce, and it sounds harsh and unreasonable to suggest families break up because one of its members found Christ. The most efficient path, I believe, would be to invite your pastor to a family meeting. To break bread together and allow the pastor to articulate the new experience you are going through and engage your spouse and children in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way. She is a new creature. This is what you can expect from her. She will always be your mom, always be your wife. Here’s what she will need from you. Youth who accept Christ are especially in need of this kind of gentle encounter. How many of our pastors do this?
If it’s not a spouse but a Boo, that’s a relationship you need to turn over to God. Absent the legal, financial and moral restraints of marriage, a fundamental shift in your relationship will occur. The active engagement suggested above is a good place to start, but the new babe in Christ is easily led astray by strong emotional bonds which present immediate conflicts. She may not be strong enough to give her relationship to God, but she can pray for him, pray for his salvation, pray for the strength and courage to follow Christ no matter what he does.
There is no record of Solomon considering, even momentarily, giving up Nikki in order to please God or of his witnessing to her in an effort to lead her to God. In fact, the opposite happened. Being hooked up with a non believer creates a strong undertow that is difficult to resist. Sisters attracted to “roughnecks” are kidding themselves. These brothers are lost, period. And the gravity of their denial of God will pull you under. Solomon, the wisest and most blessed king in the history of the nation of Israel, ended his days king over nothing, a pitiful buffoon wasting his time honoring pagan gods. We should learn from his example. We should not name churches after him. And we should pray, daily, for the strength and courage to honor God, in every aspect of our lives, as we follow Christ.
Christopher J. Priest
20 November 2011
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