Backsliding in the Latter Years (2021)
Robert Wurtz II
For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1 Kings 11:4)
It is hard to imagine how the wisest man that ever lived, save our Lord Jesus Christ, could be deceived into serving other gods. Here is a man that when dedicating the Temple, saw the Fire fall from heaven to consume the sacrifices and the glory of God filling the house. He wrote the vast majority of the Proverbs and at one time was the most powerful man in the Middle East. But something happened. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.
Conventional wisdom would lend us to think that the youthful man turns against God, sows his wild oats, and returns to God when he is old. Not in this case. Disobeying God started to catch up with Solomon. Striving to give himself to all kinds of pleasures eventually took its toll. I suppose he woke up one day, and the glorious experience he once had in God was a distant memory. As the cliche goes, “out of sight- out of mind.”
For years he was caught up maxing out the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Solomon had it all in superabundance. God had warned the future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:17, Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. Although familiar with these and other verses, Solomon somehow began to carry himself as if he were above the Law of God. This is very dangerous.
It was once said that “the only person who could possibly defeat Napolean was Napolean.” Like so many “great” men of God who have fallen down the centuries, Solomon’s wisdom, riches, power, and popularity did not save him from the trappings of the flesh. Solomon was Solomon’s own worst enemy and the weapon of choice was women. He simply couldn’t leave them alone. Paul warned us to “flee fornication,” but many, like Solomon, run towards what they should run from. Why does this happen? What hope does anyone have if even great men like Solomon can fall in the faith? These questions are the focus of this entry.
Examples Unto Us
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11, Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come. Paul spends several verses leading up to this passage showing the people at Corinth that they were at risk of committing the same sins as did the Children of Israel. The reverend D.L. Burch used to say, “When you get out from under the hand of God, you don’t know what you are capable of.” Indeed, we are capable of doing anything that happened in the Old Testament. That would seem impossible for the Born Again, but theology gets real fuzzy when sin comes into the picture. All the charts and graphs seem to break down. Yet the warnings are clear, all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition.
Above the Law
What was true in our youth will be confirmed in our old age. Time doesn’t shield us from the harsh reality that we still live in a sinful world filled with devils plotting to take us out. The passing of sands in the hour-glass cannot assure us of continued faith and trust in God; we must go on working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart serving the Lord.
Leonard Ravenhill once said that the problem could be traced back to their devotional life for every person that he knew who backslid. I have witnessed it among young and old. The enemy works to interrupt our prayer life, scripture reading, and every other thing that edifies us. He wants to fill our lives with pastimes that steal our attention to God. It may get worse as we get older.
We never get too old to obey God. It’s not like our parents that we somehow reach an age to gain our autonomy and do what we wish. We are forever subject to God’s precepts and authority. If we ever get hardened and deceived by sin, we will soon believe we are above the laws of God. We can come to assume we can pick and choose what we have to obey. Solomon lived out this reality. The older he got, the more carnal he became, all the while maintaining his wisdom—a very sobering thing to consider.
One of the great dangers of gaining life experience is that many of them are very negative. Life experience can either be an asset or a detriment. How easy it is to become cynical. He easy it would be to become bitter. Why? Life has a way of hardening us. Pretty soon, nothing surprises us. Disappointments and disillusionments with people can lead to the notion that almost everyone is a hypocrite. You might be tempted to believe that they are all fakes and pretenders. Nothing works anymore- everything is doomed to failure. Pessimism can take over and rule the mind. This is Solomon in Ecclesiastes. It’s all just vanity and vexation of spirit. What’s the use? These are the kind of thoughts that can dominate the mind and sour us in this present evil world.
Keeping a Good Spirit
We have this passage in Hebrews 12:15, looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. It is a picture from Deut. 29:18 and a strong warning against the widespread destructiveness of sin. When a person gets a bad spirit and begins to grow cold in God, they are at risk of failing in the grace of God. The consequence? Not only they, but others can become defiled in the process.
No man or woman is an island. There is a sense in which we are all connected, and when one goes down, the others suffer too. The solution is prevention. We have to maintain a good spirit. No matter what happens in life, no matter how many disappointments, no matter how many people backslide, we have to keep on serving God.
We must humble ourselves before the Lord as a little child and allow God to reset the dials (as it were) and ensure we are ready to face each day fresh, not carrying over the baggage of yesterday. God gives grace to the humble but He resists the proud. We never grow too popular, rich, wise, or spiritual to humble ourselves and receive instruction or correction. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit daily, so we can finish this race “ready to be offered, having finished our course, having kept the faith.” To ignore these basic things is to invite judgment and a scandal that will destroy all the works of our hands — leaving behind a testimony of disillusionment.