Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a personal visit from God? So that you could see Him? What kind of impact would it have on you?
I don’t actually know how it would impact me, and I suspect that if I tried to describe the potential impact I might be mistaken. I do think that it should affect me greatly. Some who have had some kind of encounter with God, or at least a clearly providential intervention, promise to serve Him with everything they have and are until the end of life. Whether they actually do may be a different matter.
There are incidents recorded in the Bible in which people had some sort of meeting with God. What was seen is not necessarily recorded, but there seems to have been a manifestation with a clear impression that it is God with Whom that person was meeting. And how they responded is not always what we might expect.
One of these happened in 1 Kings 11:9 involving King Solomon. You may remember that Solomon was the son of King David. Solomon’s reign was characterized by peace with other nations, by wisdom God had given him, and by great prosperity and wealth.
This is our verse from the Christian Standard Bible: “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.”
All the translations really give the same message with only slight alterations here and there. The only grammatical clause I wish to address is the middle of the verse. More literally from the Hebrew it should read something like: “because his heart had stretched out away from with the LORD, the God of Israel.” The verb rendered above “turned out” actually means to stretch out, and with the prepositions that follow reads more strictly as I have given it.
The picture presented is that Solomon didn’t just walk away from God. It wasn’t that blatant. You can see Him walking in God’s way, but then because of the various influences at play in his life he began stretching in a different direction. It was subtle, but the result over time was just as dramatic as if he had simply turned another direction.
It is even a bit stronger than that. The Hebrew indicates that he was “with” God in some sense, and he pulled away from that.
That would be serious enough, but then we are told at the end of the verse that God had appeared to him twice. Not just that God had appeared to him, with the possible effects we can imagine, but that He had appeared to him twice! It should have made a double impression, but it clearly did not.
If you read on, you discover the problem. It was that God had told Solomon not to follow other gods, and then that’s exactly what Solomon did. After having privileged appearances from God, he did exactly what God told him not to do. It seems like a problem.
It was a problem, and a large one at that. Actually God had forewarned about that, too. Because of Solomon’s disobedience God would take the kingdom away from him. God would graciously let Solomon live out his days, and the consequences would take place later.
One man’s disobedience had far-reaching consequences. After Solomon died, the kingdom split: his son received one major tribe (with another thrown in so that kingdom is often considered to be two tribes), and 10 tribes formed another kingdom with one of Solomon’s servants as its king. That split has never been fully resolved, though it will be some day through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a principle appearing in the Bible in various ways and various places: it is that the greater one’s privilege is, the greater one’s responsibility is. Solomon had a great privilege — we could say a double privilege even, and he walked away from it with disastrous results.
We should learn from a negative example as well as from a positive one. You may not have visually seen God, but you do have the privilege of hearing and reading His word, the Bible. It tells us of Jesus Christ and his offer of salvation. Are you taking advantage of the privilege you have?