Five Ways to Bring a Good Man Down
We tend to think of Solomon as the man who, though he was the wisest man in the world, fell because he was some kind of a sex addict. I mean, if you have 1,000 wives, that is some serious libido. How do you even keep up with the anniversaries and birthdays?
But there is a lot more going on in Solomon’s demise than just a lust for exotic women. In ancient times kings would marry daughters of other kings as a way of guaranteeing peace between the two countries. If you marry the daughter of a king, he is much less likely to attack you. In many monarchies, similar marriage arrangements are still practiced today.
In 1 Kings 11:3, the writer clarifies that 700 of Solomon’s 1,000 wives were “princesses,” meaning those unions were probably more about security than sex.
Making political alliances isn’t inherently evil. The problem for Solomon was that God had explicitly told Israel in Deuteronomy 17 not to do this. They didn’t need treaties with other nations for security, because God was their security.
But Solomon wasn’t satisfied with just the promises of God. He needed a little extra insurance—and that desire for security apart from God would turn out to be his downfall.
Solomon gradually grew attached to these women, and they turned his heart away from God. For most of his wives, Solomon built them their own palace, where they would build an altar to whatever god they had worshipped in their home country. Over time Solomon went from merely tolerating the existence of these idols to actively participating in the worship of them.
One of my favorite country music groups, Alabama, used to have a song that said, “You can’t bring a good man down.” Solomon’s life begs to differ, highlighting five ways you can bring a good man—even the world’s wisest man—down.
(By the way: Don’t let my phrasing throw you. These points are as applicable to women as they are to men.)
1. A good man is brought down by disbelief in God’s promises.
Like I said, Solomon’s first problem was not out-of-control sexual lust. His problem was that he didn’t trust God enough to fully rely on him. His core problem was unbelief.
That’s almost always the case with our sin. Peel back the layers of any sin, and you will find the seed of unbelief.
Whatever area of your life in which you are not fully obeying God is an area in which you are afraid of being let down and do not really trust him.
2. A good man is brought down by disregard of God’s Word.
Solomon disobeyed God’s command not to multiply wives, but there are a number of other biblical commands that Solomon ignored, too. For example, Deuteronomy 17 also prohibited the king from multiplying gold in his house, yet we read in 1 Kings that every year Solomon collected about 25 tons of gold for himself and that he had only gold articles in his house. That sounds like multiplying gold to me!
Solomon didn’t throw out all of God’s commands. He probably thought these commands were not that important. But the danger of sin is not in how wicked or immoral the act is. The danger is in losing the presence of the God you drive out through your sin.
When you reject God’s commands, no matter how small, you put yourself outside of his protection, and that one area becomes the area through which Satan injects poison into your life.
The danger of sin is not in how wicked or immoral the act is, but in losing the presence of the God you drive out through that sin.
3. A good man is brought down by disobedient friends.
Solomon grew so attached to his wives that “they turned his heart away” (1 Kings 11:3 CSB).
Probably the most important factor in determining whether you will make it all the way with Jesus is the people with whom you surround yourself.
Ironically, the one who talks about this the best in the Bible is Solomon: “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
One of my mentors in college told me, “For most things in your life, it is not the big dreams you dream but the small decisions you make.” There is probably no better application of that than friendships. It’s not the big things we dream about doing for God that determine our future but the friendships we choose in the present.
4. A good man is brought down by degrees, not all at once.
After all the talk of Solomon’s glory, wisdom, and devotion to God, the story of Solomon’s downfall in 1 Kings 11 feels like it comes out of nowhere. But it really doesn’t. If we go back to 1 Kings 3, we see that Solomon made an alliance with the king of Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. From the beginning, Solomon had sowed the seeds of his destruction in small compromises.
Now, in one sense, this is encouraging to me, because it means God can choose and bless me even though I’m messed up, too. But it also shows me that just because God blesses me doesn’t mean I can ignore small sins in my life.
Nothing is more dangerous in the Christian life than sleeper cells of sin that we haven’t dealt with. We may think they are fine, but if we tolerate them, it’s just a matter of time before they gain the power to bring us down.
5. A good man is brought down by deceptive overconfidence.
Solomon had had a life of nearly unbroken successes. He had unmistakable, world-renowned spiritual gifts. He had accomplished more than any other king in Israel ever had—and that made him lower his guard. Solomon bought into his own hype and assumed that his role as God’s chosen one meant that he was irreplaceable.
Few things destroy you faster than success, especially spiritual success, because it makes you forget how desperately you need grace.
John Newton said, “Growth in grace primarily means growth in the realization of your need for grace and in your dependence on it.”
You show me a Christian whose dependence on grace is not greater than when he started, and I’ll show you a Christian whose growth is artificial and fragile.
If you’re a Christian, God has given you greater riches and wisdom than Solomon ever possessed. Don’t throw them away by following in Solomon’s footsteps. Lean into God’s grace again today, because none of us should ever graduate from the school grace.