The Little Foxes.
“Solomon had four thousand stalls for his chariot horses and twelve thousand horses.” – 1 Kings 4:26 NLT
A quick read through chapters three and four of 1 Kings and you immediately see a picture of success and blessing. Solomon is not king of Israel. He has inherited a powerful and secure kingdom from his father David. He is enjoying an unprecedented period of peace. He is blessed with tremendous wealth and unparalleled wisdom. Both gifts from God. His kingdom is the envy of other nations who send their dignitaries to investigate first-hand if all that they hear about Israel is true. When it comes to wisdom, Solomon was without peer. He was an author and composer. He was a botanist, biologist, herpetologist, ichthyologist, zoologist, and ornithologist. He was powerful, erudite and one of the most influential leaders in the known world. He seemed to have everything going for himself, including the blessing of God. But in this glowing picture of success there is a dark mark, a flaw. It is small and seemingly insignificant. But it’s there. Solomon had a love affair with “stuff.” He was enamored with material things and all the trappings of success and power that came with his position. He was obsessed with knowing. Intelligence and learning were like an addiction to him. And when we come to the book of Ecclesiastes, we’ll discover just how much all this accumulation of wealth and wisdom ended up meaning to him.
But you catch a glimpse of what is to come in one small verse nestled within these two chapters. It simply states that Solomon had 4,000 stalls in which he maintained and cared for 12,000 chariot horses. Wow! That’s some stable. Just another example of Solomon’s vast wealth. But there’s more. It’s also a not-so-subtle reminder of Solomon’s struggle with the trappings of his position. You see, Solomon knew better. He would have known that God had warned His people that when they choose a king for themselves, there was going to be stipulations and requirements. God’s king would rule according to a different set of standards. While the people would demand a king like all the other nations, God was going to make sure that the man to lead His people would march to a different drummer and lead according to a separate set of standards. All the way back in the book of Deuteronomy, God had communicated His terms:
“You will soon arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, and you will conquer it and settle there. Then you may begin to think, ‘We ought to have a king like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure that you select as king the man the LORD your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite, not a foreigner. The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself, and he must never send his people to Egypt to buy horses there, for the LORD has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will lead him away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate vast amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself. – Deuteronomy 17:14-17 NLT
We read later in 1 Kings 11 that “Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The LORD had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations, because the women they married would lead them to worship their gods. Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And sure enough, they led his heart away from the LORD” (1 Kings 11:1-3 NLT). Solomon had wives and lots of them. He had horses by the thousands, and his wealth was immeasurable. Now it can be argued that Solomon’s wealth was give to him by God. Yet even the blessings of God can become stumbling blocks if we lose sight of their intent or allow them to take significance over the one who gave them. Solomon’s wealth would become an obsession. His wisdom would leave him with more questions than answers. His wives would turn him away from the very one who had given him all he enjoyed.
There is a little saying or proverb that Solomon wrote. It speaks of the very problem Solomon would experience as a result of his tendency to ignore the commands of God. It’s found in the Songs of Solomon and reads, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NIV). This saying speaks of the little things that sneak in and destroy what is of real value. They are subtle and seemingly insignificant, but if left unattended, they can wreak destruction. It’s the small areas of disobedience, the little sins that can do so much harm if left unconfessed and unaddressed. Like small foxes in a vineyard, they will end up doing harm that cannot be repaired. Solomon had it all. His kingdom was fruitful and flourishing, but he had allowed the “little foxes” of disobedience and compromise to infiltrate his vineyard. And the effects would be serious. No amount of wealth or wisdom can replace willing submission to the commands of God. Compromise is subtle and creeps in slowly, causing us to cut corners spiritually and water down our commitments to God. It happened to Solomon and it can happen to us. Even the blessings of God can end up turning us from God – unless we continually remember the one from whom the blessings come.
Father, keep me more in love with You than with Your blessings. Continually convict me when I stray from the path You have established for me as Your child. Keep me in Your Word and give me the strength and determination to obey it. Open my eyes so that I might see the “little foxes” that lurk in my life, ready to destroy what You have blessed me with. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men