King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods;’ Solomon clung to these in love. Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’
What is marriage? It is a covenant relationship, it is a promise to love, cherish, work through problems and stick together until one of you dies. This is what we aim for when, and if, we get married. At its best, marriage is a fair and equal partnership, a union blessed by God, where both parties commit to one another, try to live well together, building each other up, encouraging the other, supporting and loving one’s spouse.
It doesn’t always work out that way; sometimes one partner changes and the other doesn’t; sometimes one struggles and the other cannot, or will not, cope with it, sometimes the power balance shifts and, instead of an equal partnership, it becomes a destructive relationship and abuse – either physical or emotional – occurs. The thing about any faithful, committed relationship is that it requires effort; it is equal, positive and both work at it.
Solomon’s marriages make our efforts look quite tame. Imagine trying to even remember all the names of so many women!! The issue was that the women Solomon surrounded himself with turned his head, distracted him and took him away from his calling to be a faithful follower of God and so he lost sight of his own faith.
God wants the best for the world. God created everything, and everyone, and calls us to be followers and believers. It isn’t a one way relationship: we have to respond to God’s call, we have to seek to learn more about God and grow in faith, we have to make an effort.
In relationships we are called to be faithful and commit. What turns our head? What takes us away from faithful and true relationships and from following Jesus?
Today, we give you thanks, gracious God, for positive relationships that we have had; for faithful relationships that have encouraged us, built us up, and brought us happiness. As we remember, we are reminded that relationships require effort and commitment; may we seek to be true and authentic and recommit ourselves to you, the God of love, who calls us and never lets us go. Amen.
The Rev’d Jenny Mills, Minister Newport Pagnell & West End Wolverton URCs and Convenor of the Children’s and Youth Work Committee.