When we hear the word “infidelity” it is an extramarital affair sort of thing that comes to mind. But the word has more generic meanings. The word “fidelis” in its Latin root means “faith” or “trust”. Hence we have the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps of Semper Fidelis, or Semper Fi, which means “always faithful.”
And we much now hear the word “infidel,” most often associated with the view that Islamic extremists have toward those who are outside their true faith in the teaching they espouse from their holy book.
But some of the same elements that cause a person to drift away from faithfulness to a marriage covenant or loyalty to any commitment are the constituent parts of how a person drifts from an initial good and healthy relationship with God. It could involve taking things for granted, or disappointment that things are not going as well as hoped. There could be an attraction to other people or interests that seem to be more exciting and immediately fulfilling.
And this is what happened to Solomon over time. The biblical narrative that lists success after success, blessing after blessing, takes a sudden turn in chapter 11 of 1 Kings …
11:1 – King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
9 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
That is a lot of wives to try to please. Forgive me if I seem to go psychoanalyst on you here, but I do see Solomon as someone who liked to please others. I understand this from the inside-out. For those of us who don’t like to disappoint anyone, it is an impossible task to please everyone, especially those who have systemic belief and core values differences.
And over time, Solomon’s many foreign wives apparently wore him down. This accumulation was not a part of what God gave him at the beginning. This was his own collection. God really did not want Israel intermarrying, the very reason being what happened with Solomon. His heart softened. He drifted a little bit here and there. He built places for them to worship, even to such gods as Molech – particularly detestable because of the infant sacrifices that were a part of this association. To get to that point, clearly Solomon had drifted a long way from the point of beginning and the first dream and communication with God.
All relationships in the material world need occasional evaluations that recall the beginning point and fidelity to that point. Businesses have purpose statements, and a good company will occasionally review the current state of affairs with the overall purpose. A good marriage needs regular devotion and introspective analysis as to the total fidelity with the covenant promises made on the day it was initiated. And so likewise the nature of our genuine, core-level, heartfelt commitment to relationship with God needs regular evaluation and renewal for it to take us from a good beginning to a great finish.
That is what we want – a good finish. As Paul said of his desire to finish well, “I want to know Christ—yes … I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
You can’t do that if you let yourself drift. So don’t drift! Press on.