Solomon started off strong, but then gave in to political and marriage pressures to worship other gods. Now, The LORD is taking away the kingdom of Israel from Solomon…mostly.
But I will leave him one tribe for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. For Solomon has abandoned Me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed My ways and done what is pleasing in My sight. He has not obeyed My decrees and regulations as David his father did. (1 Kings 11:32-33 NLT)
This is a particularly confusing area for our understanding of God. Some teachers focus on the clear contrast between right and wrong, holiness and sin. They make it clear that sin is rebellion against God and that all rebellion is punishable by death. The wages of sin is death.
Other teachers will focus on God’s love, telling us that love conquers all. They will tell us that God clearly does not want to put us to death and so God will always let us off the hood when we rebel. God may threaten death, but God will not ultimately give us death for our sin. God’s love will win.
The tough part about these two extremes is that there are Scriptural stories that seem to fit with each view. We can point out places like the flood in Noah’s day, Sodom and Gomorrah, and many places in Israel’s history to verify that right is right, wrong is wrong, and that sin is punished with death.
Other stories, though, seem to point to God’s love, mercy, and grace. Think about Jonah’s frustration with The LORD when the Ninevites didn’t get what they deserved. Even the story we are reading now seems to match this second picture: Solomon is not put to death. His father, David, was not put to death either when he failed with Bathsheba. What’s going on then? Which view is correct? The answer is…both…sort of.
You see, God really does have a design in mind for our lives. That’s what I often refer to as A Garden Walk. God wants to walk together with us as we live a life filled with purpose and living in harmony with other people who are made in the image of God. When we go against this design we end up fighting God, hurting people, or both. This rebellion needs to be stopped in order for all people to experience A Garden Walk. God calls us to repent (turn around) and stop the hurtful behavior because God wants us all to experience A Garden Walk. God works in us, giving us the warnings and the time to turn back to God before turning us over to the ultimate punishment for our actions: death.
The Lord isn't really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9 NLT)
Right really is right. Wrong really is wrong. God’s design really is God’s design and rebellion against God will really be punished with death. God doesn’t want to punish us, though. God wants us to see the error of our ways, return home, and walk together with God.
How about you? Do you see the picture? Does it help you to see what The LORD wants for you? Does it help you see where The LORD wants you to turn back to God? Do you see how The LORD works in us?