Consider on the one hand what the temple represented: God's permanent residence. In the early days of Israel's history, upon their exodus from Egypt, God alluded to 'the place he would choose for his Name to dwell.' Not until David took Jerusalem and sought to build a sanctuary there did God again chime in on the subject.
"You are not to build a house for my Name," God told David, "because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name" (1 Ch 22.8-10).
Consider on the other hand that Solomon, neither David's firstborn nor his most fit son, had been loved by God from the time of his birth. The Lord sent word through the prophet saying as much (2 Sam 12.24-25).
David named Solomon his successor, charging him, "Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be resolute. Do the work." Talk about a call to ministry. It doesn't get much clearer than that.
Furthermore, having been told ahead of time that Solomon would build it, David provided every material resource for the temple, including blue prints and interior design specs. Never was such a construction project so ready to be undertaken (1 Ch 28-29).
And Solomon got the job done. The magnificent edifice went up in seven years (1 Ki 6.37-38). That's a lot of labor, full time and overtime. It took almost twice as long to create his own palace, not because his was so much grander but because it wasn't the ready-made, build-an-ancient-property kit as David's temple.
But here's the problem, the first warning I take away from Solomon.
He did not stop with the temple. He kept his countrymen building until the day he died (1Ki 12.3-4).
Why? Well, for a number of reasons, I suppose. One has to do with being king.
His job was to be the nation's interface with other nations. As the practice in those days was to make international alliances through marriage, Solomon married a lot of kings' daughters. 1 Ki 11.3 gives the fantastic number of 700 wives of royal birth. This was about politics, not sex. Nevertheless, "he held fast to them in love" and "his wives led him astray." Not to offend his allies by honoring his own God over theirs, the whole middle-eastern pantheon got houses of worship during Solomon's reign.
What was the matter with him, you ask. He didn't need these alliances. Hadn't God promised him peace and rest?
I know. It makes no sense that having known David's pure devotion to Yahweh, Solomon would go crazy not only making forbidden marriages, but fostering forbidden worship as well.
But I know how it started, and it's a lesson to us all that compromise is a slippery slope.
His downfall began with that first palace for his first wife, the daughter of Pharaoh. Now, marrying her was arguably the smartest political move he made. In so doing he secured the allegiance of Egypt, his most powerful neighbor. Solomon knew he was not the warrior his father had been.
And he had the right idea. Being foreign, she was not worthy to share common space with God's chosen. Unfortunately, that backfired when he then had to do the same for his other wives.
You see, Solomon adopted his foreign policy without reference to the Lord who had chosen him to be king. Did God not say to David that he would establish Solomon's throne forever and ever? Of course he did. Read it in 1 Ch 22.10.
For all the wisdom God had granted him to govern his people, how did Solomon miss the part about his own heart? Over and over God said, and David repeated, the sticking point for God's covenant: Keep his commands. Obey his statutes. Observe his precepts. Many times in many ways. Solomon should have known better.
Why didn't he? Because culturally this marriage-alliance thing made perfect sense, whereas the wisdom of God is often foolishness to men.
So what's the warning here? Beware of culture.
For me, I am tempted to look around and see what works for others. I want all the "How to Succeed" tips I can get. Yet I dare not accept even the most simple of them if they violate God's commands. This is tricky, I know. I am called to write a certain story, no more, no less. Here's hoping I have a good army commander should the enemy invade.
I also need to rely on the call of God to be sufficient guarantee of the work he has entrusted to me. This is difficult when I don't see in myself the strengths I believe are required. Like Solomon the non-warrior facing avaricious neighbors, I am out of my depth in the publishing milieu with authors, agents and editors who all seem to know what they're doing. And have the credentials and publications to prove it.
Either way, he failed, and his failure tore the kingdom apart.
In the end, I choose to trust God's call on my life. He knows what he's doing.