Dangerous Applause (Deuteronomy 17; 2 Chronicles 9)

Deuteronomy 17:16-20 – Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, “You shall never return that way again.” And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

2 Chronicles 9:5-7 – And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”

2 Chronicles 9:13 – Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold,

2 Chronicles 9:17-19 – The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with pure gold. The throne had six steps and a footstool of gold, which were attached to the throne, and on each side of the seat were arm rests and two lions standing beside the arm rests, while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. Nothing like it was ever made for any kingdom.

2 Chronicles 9:25-28 – And Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And he ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. And horses were imported for Solomon from Egypt and from all lands.

Second Chronicles 9 contains in it an account that I see as a major downfall in King Solomon’s reign. The Queen of Sheba came to Solomon, and asked him hard questions to find out if the accounts of his wisdom were true. When she met him and saw his kingdom, she was overwhelmed. She gushed with praise for Solomon and his wealth, and it appears that the flattery that she bestowed upon King Solomon had on him a major impact.

It is immediately after the flattery that Solomon received from the Queen of Sheba that we have the chronicler write for us about Solomon’s wealth and some of the extravagant ways that he lived. Above, I have cut out just a few of the verses that tell of Solomon’s flashing of his wealth, and his breaking of God’s law in the process. First, look at the gold and silver. Solomon received a tribute of 666 talents of gold annually. This is an extreme amount of gold, and I can not help but notice the ugly number attached to it. Also, Solomon made silver so common that no one even valued it. These are in direct violation of the commands in Deuteronomy 17.

In Deuteronomy, the law charged the King to write down his own copy of the law, and to not elevate himself above his brothers. However, Solomon made a throne for himself the like of which the Bible says never existed in any other kingdom. It was an ivory throne overlaid with gold. This is a guy who is propping himself up at an extreme level.

Also, Deuteronomy called Israelite kings not to amass horses from Egypt. Solomon did exactly what he was commanded not to do.

And, let us remember that the text of Deuteronomy 17 also forbids kings of Israel from taking many wives for themselves. The Queen of Sheba, however, declared Solomon’s “wives” to be blessed. We know from other passages that Solomon had nearly a thousand women as either wives or concubines.

With all that said, I want to take for us two lessons that we can follow. The first is obvious: obey the commands of God. Solomon started ignoring the law of God, and we know from reading the history of Israel that this did not turn out well. By the time of Solomon’s death, the kingdom was ready to split apart, as it did shortly after Solomon’s unwise son took the throne. Whenever you disobey the commands of God, for whatever reason that you can come up with, you put yourself in certain danger. Solomon lived against the commands of God, and it hurt him, his family, and the entire nation.

And the other thing I want you to notice is the need that we have to be very careful about how seriously we take the flattery and compliments of other people. Solomon heard the words of the Queen of Sheba, and it honestly looks as though, from that point forward, he began to think far too highly of himself. The more often you allow anyone to tell you or even hint to you that you are great, the more likely you will come to believing them. The fact is, we ought not allow ourselves to start believing our own press clippings. We must not allow ourselves to treasure the kind words of others. We can not allow ourselves to believe what others say about our greatness. We are all the same, sinners in desperate need of the grace of God. That is what we must believe about ourselves.

I once heard a pastor who was applauded at a conference tell those who applauded him, “I don’t need much of that.” The pastor was telling the people that too much applause is a temptation for a leader to become too full of himself, too confident, too selfish, too arrogant. Solomon even wrote proverbs for his children telling them this truth. But sadly, Solomon did not take his own advice. He reveled in the applause and accolades of others, and his heart turned inward instead of Godward. Let us not make the same mistake.

Dear Lord, I thank you for your word and its honesty. I thank you that you record for us some of the mistakes of your people so that we can learn from them. I pray that you will help me to treasure and follow your word above all things. I also pray that you will help me never to seek the applause and accolades of others. Help me to be conscious that I do not need too much applause. Help me to have a heart that is turned Godward instead of inward. Help me to live for your glory, and not for my own.