In his early manhood Solomon was noted for his deep piety and his fervent love of righteousness. When he became king, he found a great work ready for his hand, and he set about the task with a glad heart. To build a temple to Jehovah was his delight, and he threw into it his whole strength. His prayer at the dedication of the temple shows a deeply reverent and submissive spirit.
As the years went by he increased in riches and honor. His name became a synonym for wisdom. Many nations paid him tribute. But notwithstanding all these things, his heart held true to God. During these years he had, I suppose, no thought but that he should continue thus until the end, that he should live his life out as a true servant of Jehovah, and that his life's sun would go down in a blaze of glory. But alas! it was not so to be. We who know his history know the dark shadow that came over his life. We know how its radiance faded away into the night. We shall do well to analyze the things that led to his downfall.
There was no change in Jehovah. There was no change in Solomon's duty toward him. The change that led to the disaster was in Solomon himself. For political reasons Solomon married princesses of the royal houses round about him. These women were idolaters. Jehovah they regarded as only the national God of the Hebrews. They still clung to their old religions, and worshiped the gods of their nations. Their feelings and sentiments were all in favor of idolatrous worship. These influences Solomon withstood for a long time. His heart held true to God; but these influences kept on working. He was in daily contact with them, and little by little they gained a hold upon him; consequently we read, |It came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father| (1 Kings 11: 4). As a result, the man who had been so honored by God and who had so honored God became an idolater and put his Lord to an open shame and drew away into the same net of idolatry many of his people.
What a lesson there is in this for us! What a warning is there in his example! When young Christians marry sinners in these days, the final result is generally pretty much the same as it was with Solomon. But it is not only through such marriages that hearts are turned away from the Lord: there are many other things that will influence us likewise if we are not careful. We are strongly influenced by the actions of others. That influence is constantly working, whether we are conscious of it or not. In the life of Joash we see an example of the power of influence. He was brought up by Jehoiada, the high priest, who was a man that feared God; and as a result of the influence brought to bear upon the young king, he grew up to be a man who feared God, and who, during the lifetime of Jehoiada, did that which was right and good in the sight of the Lord. He was a good king as long as he had a good teacher and was under proper influence; but at last Jehoiada died, and other influences were brought to bear upon the king. He yielded to them; and instead of continuing to be a godly king, he became a wicked one. Thus, his life experience is parallel to that of Solomon. They were glorious in their youth and young manhood; but in their old days they dishonored their God and themselves, and in consequence their sun went down in darkness, and their lives were blighted and sullied.
With these two examples before us, we shall do well to give heed to the scripture that says, |Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.| When we are serving the Lord, it is natural for us to suppose that we shall go right on to the end. We do not think that we shall yield to any influence that will draw us away from the Lord. But alas, how many, like Solomon, are having their hearts turned away by the influences that are brought to bear upon them! Solomon himself said, |Keep thy heart with all diligence,| but he failed to do this. The silent and subtile workings of those evil influences wrought in his heart something that he did not know was taking place. He did not realize that he was being alienated from God; but presently his love had waxed cold, his zeal had abated. To him the God of Israel became only as one of the other gods.
There are influences brought to bear upon you each day and each hour, my brother, my sister. Do you know what these influences are? Do you know how they are working? Do you know what effect they are having upon your heart and your life? upon your thoughts and your soul's attitude? Are you diligently guarding yourself against every evil influence? Look into your life and see if there is any evil influence to which you have been gradually and unconsciously yielding. Has the world been getting closer to you through the years? Has it more attraction for you than it had in the days gone by? Do its pride and vanity, its frivolity and ungodliness, seem less obnoxious to you than it has heretofore? Does sin seem a lighter thing to you than it used to? Does the Word of God take less hold upon your conscience now than formerly? Is the voice of duty speaking in your soul in the same clear terms as before? and does it find your soul as ready to respond? Are the service and worship of God still so sweet and satisfying? Is it your delight to give of your substance for the spread of the gospel? or has covetousness, little by little, been working into your heart until it has taken root there? Do you love material things less or more than formerly? Is your consecration just as real and just as complete as it was?
If you are coming short in any of these things, what has been the influence that has worked to bring it about? Make a good, careful examination of the situation. If you have been drifting, beware lest your heart be entirely turned away from the Lord. Find out what influences are working. Watch and defend your heart against them; overcome their influences; counteract their powers; stand for God. It is only in this way that you can serve him to the end faithfully, and that you can be triumphant when the call comes for you to stand before his presence.