I have been reading 1 Kings and the story of Solomon. What’s interesting is that on one level Solomon’s kingdom is considered the peak of Israel’s history. He was the wisest man ever, accumulated wealth, brought together a nation who was fighting, and he built the Temple of God…
Underneath the surface, however, Solomon’s kingdom became the low point in Israel’s history. Israel enslaved people to build God’s temple, Solomon’s wealth was extravagant, he married 700 women and had 300 concubines in strategic alliances with other nations, he worshipped idols, and he built a home that was larger than the temple.
In fact, the building of the Temple–which seemed like a good idea–begins to erode the faith of the Israelites because their religion becomes static. God is domesticated into a building and has to wait passively for the people to show up. Like the marketplace, the shipyard, the residential neighborhood, God’s dwelling becomes just another dot on the city’s landscape.
For many of us, this is what our faith becomes. We encounter a living God, and in a desire to re-encounter (on our terms) we domesticate God. We want to house Him in something, so we can return to it on our time-schedule, like a genie in bottle. Either He dwells in a church building, or a mountain retreat, or a specific type of worship…and He just waits for us there.
Solomon’s reign reveals to us the danger of a static religion. It may build temporary success, but it leaves no lasting impact. By the very next generation after Solomon, the kingdom of Israel is split in half.
Israel experienced the natural lifecycle described by Jim Collins where innovation leads to success which leads to complacency and ultimately to decline. When we start to peak underneath the outward appearances of success, I think we will often find that good things go bad as we try to bottle that early success.