Solomon’s Wisdom vs Solomon’s Heart

The daily mass reading for February 10th was 1 Kings 11:4-13. At this point Solomon “had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord”. He “did evil in the sight of the Lord” and did not follow the Lord “unreservedly”. So the Lord became angry with him “because his heart was turned away from the Lord”. And so the Lord told Solomon that he would lose his kingdom.

In reflecting on this I was struck by the wisest person in the world (Solomon) failing to follow God despite the fact that he had spoken to God on several occasions.

In 1 Kings 3:4-13 (Feb 5th’s first reading) we learn that Solomon asked God for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong” and God grants him “a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you”.

First, I found it remarkably sad that here was the wisest person to ever live and even he could not follow God properly.

Second, I found a little hope in that fact. If even the wisest person in the world struggled with remaining fully faithful to God then perhaps I shouldn’t feel so bad that I am incredibly flawed and fail miserably at following God perfectly.

I mean, I want to follow God perfectly but if/when I am honest with myself my heart is definitely torn between God and the things of this world. My challenges are many and they are akin to “idol worship” just by another name.

Third, I feel bad about the fact I fail at making God my #1 in life. I am wise enough to know that He should be my #1, but, like Solomon, I am weak and my heart can be easily turned from keeping Him #1. (“Would you mind God if I just keep doing this other thing and making it my #1? I still love you, but my heart is torn in two – between you and it. Sometimes it wins and I fail to recognize it or, worse, even care that you are a distant #2; an after-thought to my current focus.”)

My take away is this: Solomon was wise, but wisdom lives in the head. Love of God lives in the heart. You can be the wisest person in the world, but if your heart is not with God you can stray from Him.

In typing up this reflection I was actually surprised how many times “heart” was right there in the verses. I had thought “This head vs heart thing is a deep realization. People need to know about this!” and then I went to type it up and saw “heart”, “heart”, “heart” over and over again. And wow did I feel an idiot. (“Um, hello! Are you even paying attention??”)

God makes it plain as day that you must mind Him and keep your heart centered on Him for the heart is easily turned away from Him. We may not have wives that turn our hearts to strange gods like Solomon had, but we do have plenty of other things in this world that work against our heart and turn them to the strange gods of today. We worship them without realizing it is worship or worse we do realize it and don’t stop it.

Let us mind our hearts and be wise enough to keep them turned entirely and unreservedly towards the Lord. Amen.

When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods,
and his heart was not entirely with the LORD, his God,
as the heart of his father David had been.
By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians,
and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites,
Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD;
he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done.
Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab,
and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites,
on the hill opposite Jerusalem.
He did the same for all his foreign wives
who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
The LORD, therefore, became angry with Solomon,
because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel,
who had appeared to him twice
(for though the LORD had forbidden him 
this very act of following strange gods,
Solomon had not obeyed him).

So the LORD said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want,
and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes
which I enjoined on you,
I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant.
I will not do this during your lifetime, however,
for the sake of your father David;
it is your son whom I will deprive.
Nor will I take away the whole kingdom.
I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David
and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

1 Kgs 11:4-13

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