(A brief overview of the lesson, for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lessons. A video version is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3eASaR88Co&t=28s )
SAMPLE INTRODUCTION: Can you think of someone, in sports or political or religious history, who may have had a good career, but who did not FINISH well?
— Have you ever seen a team or an individual get a big lead in sports and then lose it? It happens all the time! One of my recent favorites was last year’s OU/Texas football game, where Texas jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, and everyone thought the game was over — but OU crawled back and scored the winning touchdown with THREE SECONDS left, to win 55-48! It’s not how you start, but how you finish! That’s why a lot of sports teams adopt as their motto “FINISH”! Don’t blow it at the end; FINISH!
— Politically I think of Richard Nixon, who had a great political career, but of course did not finish well, with Watergate.
— Sadly there are a number of examples of men who did not finish well spiritually, even recently in the Southern Baptist Convention: among them the SBC Executive Committee Director, who had a long career as a successful pastor, and whom I highly respected, but while at the Executive Committee it was found that he had a relationship with a woman outside of his marriage. It was sad to me that he did not finish well.
There are too many of these kinds of examples. Be careful not to take up the whole class discussing those. OR, depending on your group, it might be best for you just to share 1 or 2 instances like I just did, and then move on.
But however you do the introduction, then you could say: This morning our scripture passage deals with another national and spiritual leader who started well, but did not FINISH well: the SAME man we have looked at the past two weeks, King Solomon.
In context, in the first 2 lessons of this set we saw how Solomon followed his father David as King. He humbly asked God for wisdom; then he prayed a great prayer for the people and asked God to forgive when they asked for repentance. He got off to a seemingly great start. Then I Kings 10 had ended with the Queen of Sheba coming, and :27 says “silver was as common as stones” in Jerusalem. Things were going well. But sadly, things begin to change in Chapter 11:
11:1 begins: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women …”
And :2 says they were from “The nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with (lit., “go among”) them, nor shall they associate (“go among”) you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.”
— Here God had commanded Solomon (and Israel) not to marry from these nations, because they would turn their hearts from Him. They will influence you to do wrongly.
AN IMPORTANT POINT OF APPLICATION HERE: you are influenced by the people you fellowship with! Especially those you date/marry, but really ANYONE you have close fellowship with.
??? A question you can ask your class: What are some of people/groups can influence you (for better/worse?)
— marriage partner, as here
— boyfriends/girlfriends — how # times I have seen a person get saved, join a church, get serious about serving God, and (the devil I’m sure) brings a boy/girl friend into their life that drags them down, and away from the Lord. I know you/your class have seen this too.
— work associates
— school mates
— CHURCH people — can be for good/bad!
— certain relatives
— in this media age, could probably apply this to the people we “fellowship” with on tv: news reporters who are pouring their info into our lives; actors/actresses whom we may begin to idolize, imitate, become like them.
ALL of these we need to carefully watch: are they good/bad influences on us (our family).
Solomon’s wives/concubines turned his heart from God.
Any of these groups we just mentioned can do the same. Be careful who you fellowship with, lest they turn you from the Lord.
+x I Cor. 15:33 = “bad company corrupts good morals.”
Paul is speaking there of people who were questioning the resurrection, and making the Corinthians doubt. But it could be anything. The people you hang around with, will influence you. The wrong kind of people, WILL drag you down.
Once I saw someone use this illustration: have one person stand on a chair, with another person standing on the ground beside them. Have them grip hands: is it easier for the person on the chair to pull the person on the ground UP, or vice-versa. And of course, the answer is, it’s easier for the one on the ground to pull the higher one down.
You could TELL that – or depending on your group, you might DO IT as a “live” illustration (I know some of you are youth/college teachers; that might be good for your class) but either way it makes the point: it’s easy to get “dragged down” by the wrong kind of fellowship.
So you could ask your group: Is there anyone in your life right now, from any of these groups, who is “dragging you down” spiritually? An individual, or a group. The Lord may be telling you to stop or seriously curtail that relationship today, before it does you any more spiritual harm.
THEN :9-12 speak of the RESULTS of Solomon’s sin:
—First consequence: :9 “the LORD was angry with Solomon” — that’s the most damaging thing: it damaged his relationship with God. We can see all kinds of consequences that come from our sin, but THE most important that we need to see, is what it does to our relationship with GOD.
(By the way, :9 = “who had appeared to him twice” — he’d had SO many privileges and blessings from God; there was just no excuse.
God APPEARED TO HIM TWICE!! You’d think you’d never turn from Him after that! But he did … but there was no excuse for it, after all the privilege God had shown him.
But aren’t we the same today: how many privileges has God given so many of us: the availability of His word, the upbringing, the preachers and teachers we’ve had, SO many blessings — and yet we sin against Him? It is inexcusable!
:11 tells us a second consequence: “I will surely tear the Kingdom from you, and give it to your servant.” He lost the kingdom.
Interestingly, God says in :12-13 that He would mitigate this judgment in 2 ways:
1. He won’t do it in HIS days, for the sake of David
2. It won’t be ALL 12 tribes, but He’ll leave one (which will be Judah, and we’ll see the story of this next week)
But notice a couple of things:
— God is merciful, even in judgment. Many of us can testify that even as God judges/reprimands us, He is still good, still merciful, even in His judgment.
— sometimes the blessings WE enjoy, were not given on OUR behalf, but on behalf of someone who came before us.
FOR EX: here, Solomon did not lose the Kingdom in HIS days, but it wasn’t because HE earned it, but for DAVID’S sake.
A good question might be: how many of the blessings that WE enjoy: in our country, in our church, in our family, do we enjoy that we have, NOT because we “earned” them, but we are blessed of someone who came before us! A good — and humbling — thought!
:14-25 also tell us a 3rd consequence of Solomon’s sin: even during his lifetime, God raised up adversaries to him:
— :14 = Hadad the Edomite
— :23 = Rezon the son of Eliada in Damascus
— :26 Jeroboam, whom we will hear more of, and would take most of the Kingdom after Solomon’s death.
Well, this is quite a sad ending. It makes you think a lot. One of our church members asked me the other day “Do you think Solomon is in heaven?” He acted almost apologetic about asking it. But I said, Hey, I have been having some of the same thoughts!
??? One question that could lead to a good discussion in your class might be to toss out that question at some point: “Do you think Solomon is in heaven, and what reasons would you give one way or the other?”
One thing I’d be sure to emphasize in the discussion at least at some point, is that we are NOT saved by our “good works,” whatever they are. Solomon had all kinds of things on his “spiritual resume,” didn’t he? You could list them: He was King of Israel; God spoke to him in a dream; :9 = God appeared to him twice!; God answered his prayers; he saw the glory of God; he WROTE SCRIPTURE (can a man who wrote scripture be LOST?!!)
But this would be a good teaching time to emphasize: WE ARE NOT SAVED BY OUR WORKS — no matter WHAT they are. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. So no matter what “good works” your members have: (what are some of the best things you can do: taught classes, preached sermons, led people to the Lord, seen/performed miracles (remember Jesus said in Matthew 7, “we prophesied in Your name, cast out demons, performed many miracles” — but He said He would say to them, “Depart from Me, I never knew you; you who practice lawlessness.”)
So LITERALLY NO MATTER WHAT good works a person might have, up to and including preaching and miracles; it doesn’t guarantee your salvation. It doesn’t for us; and it doesn’t for Solomon.
Now he was in a different era than we are, biblically. When we get saved, the Holy Spirit seals us as His, and NOTHING can ever separate us from that. But he lived in a different era.
I think in the end I have to say, “the answer to that question is above my pay grade.”
We are not the Judge; God is the Judge. I just know I wouldn’t want to stand before God after willfully breaking His commandments and worshiping other gods. But it IS an interesting question — and it might give you a good opportunity to talk about the role of works in salvation with your group.
Here’s something else that might be useful to you, depending on your group:
Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and Ken McElrath report in their book The Ascent of a Leader (p. 14): “After having conducted extensive research, Dr. J. Robert Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, believes that more than 70 percent of leaders do not finish well. And he gave 6 reasons why, from his research.
— First, leaders who do not finish well lose their learning posture. They stop listening and growing.
— Second, the attractiveness of their character wanes.
— Third, they stop living by their convictions.
— Fourth, they fail to leave behind ultimate contributions.
— Fifth, they stop walking in an awareness of their influence and destiny.
— Finally, leaders who finish poorly lose their once vibrant relationship with God.”
I think the first and last of these are especially important: if we stop walking with God, stop learning and growing, then we stagnate, and when we stagnate, we will soon fall into temptation.
And that doesn’t just go for leaders, that goes for all of us! Keep walking with God daily in His word and prayer; keep growing spiritually; and don’t even start down the path to sin – any one disobedience can take you farther than you ever thought you’d go – just like Solomon! Who’d have thought that the man who had seen God twice, would end up worshiping other gods? But it can happen, one you start down the trail of disobedience. The key is: don’t start it! If there’s even a little sin in your life, turn back from it TODAY!
(I hope this text/outline has been helpful to you as you prepare. Remember there is a video version available to watch on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3eASaR88Co