His heart was perfect with the Lord
In those early days, Solomon and the people "sacrificed in high places" (1 Kings 3.2,3). This was connected with worship of the true God and not with idolatry, but God had told His people to offer burnt offerings "in the place which the Lord shall choose" (Deut 12.14). At Gibeon, which was a high place, Solomon offered "a thousand burnt offerings" (1 Kings 3.4). The tabernacle was there with the altar of burnt offering but the Ark of the Covenant was, at that time, at Jerusalem.
It was at Gibeon that God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, "Ask what I shall give thee" (1 Kings 3.5). Solomon showed commendable humility. He was conscious of his own inadequacy when, faced with the onerous task of ruling the nation, he asked God for needed wisdom (1 Kings 3.6-10). True wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord (Ps 111.10; Prov 9.10), and in James 1.5 we read, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally". God granted Solomon his request and gave him wisdom. God also promised Solomon riches and honour, and, as long as he obeyed His statutes and commandments, long life as well (1 Kings 3.11-14).
Solomon soon showed that God had given him a "wise and an understanding heart". He offered burnt offerings and peace offerings at Jerusalem, judged wisely, and was respected by the nation (1 Kings 3.12-28). Solomon and the nation became wealthy. There was peace and commercial prosperity. Solomon was famous, and when he was visited by the Queen of Sheba, who had heard of his fame, she exclaimed, "The half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard" (1 Kings 10.7). Solomon increased the size of the navy, which he used to boost imports, and he strengthened the army. He brought large numbers of horses from Egypt despite the fact that this was something which God had expressly forbidden (Deut 17.16; 1 Kings 10.28).
His heart was not perfect with the Lord
Solomon spent seven years building the Temple. He also built a house for himself and one for Pharaohs daughter. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon worshipped, offered sacrifices and prayed to God. God then appeared to Solomon a second time and promised to continue to bless and establish him and his descendants as long as they obeyed Gods commandments (1 Kings 9.1-9). At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon had said to the people, "Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments" (1 Kings 8.61), but when Solomon was old his wives turned away his own heart after other gods, and he built high places for them to be worshipped. This was a consequence of disobeying Gods commandments. He became more and more involved in idolatry, moral degradation, and evil (1 Kings 11.1-8). He no longer loved the Lord as once he did, and "his heart was not perfect with the Lord" (1 Kings 11.4). Solomon suffered for his sin, for God stirred up adversaries against him (1 Kings 11.9-43).
Success in worldly things in middle-life can, if it is allowed to, stifle spiritual growth and service. This decline can continue into old age when the habit of neglecting the things of the Lord and His service becomes deeply entrenched. Many of us who are believers have experienced periods of backsliding. We have not served the Lord consistently and constantly at all times from the day of our salvation. Not all can say, as did Paul the apostle, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4.7). However, if sins are confessed they will be forgiven (1 Jn 1.9). Recovery is possible through repentance, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and obedience to His revealed will. God is merciful and gracious and can restore the backslider. The repentant believer will experience the strengthening and development of his faith (2 Pet 1.5-11), together with increasing evidence in his life of those qualities, graces and characteristics which are the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23). The believer will be blessed and God glorified.
Solomon pursued an increasingly lavish life-style and built temples for the worship of idols. To make this possible, he imposed heavy taxes on the people and compelled them to work for him. The things he did contributed to the break-up of the kingdom after his death. Solomon was brought to the point where he declared that, having tried everything under the sun, all is "vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl 1.14; 2.11,17). Solomon had sought restlessly for pleasure, happiness and satisfaction, but he had looked in the wrong places. True happiness cannot be found when it is searched for as an end in itself. True happiness, peace, and satisfaction come to those who have been brought, by the grace of God, to salvation through faith in Gods altogether lovely Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Song 5.16; Eph 2.8), who said, "The queen of the south came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Mt 12.42). Those who are truly happy and enjoy the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Phil 4.7), are those who grow spiritually through feeding on the Word of God (1 Pet 2.2). They love God, obey the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit, and live lives which are separated from the world and to God (Ps 1.1-3).
There is a great deal we can learn from prayerful meditation on the life of Solomon. He was blessed by God and initially loved God and sought to serve Him. Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and most of the book of Proverbs, but he did not apply to his own life the wisdom and teaching contained in the works he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He lived in great splendour and luxury and yet, in all his glory, he was not arrayed like a lily of the field (Mt 6.28,29). His riches, lavish lifestyle, and disobedience to the will of God caused him to backslide, "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel". He was reproved by God but did not repent (1 Kings 11.9,10).
Solomons disobedience led to the worship of idols. An idol is anything which has first place in a believers heart and supplants the Lord Jesus Christ. John wrote "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 Jn 5.21). Solomons life and the changes he experienced bring to mind the admonition: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10.12).