Sometimes Success Isn’t

Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen… 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen… the king made made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone (1 Kings 10:26–27).

You’d think the narrator is describing a successful king. But he’s not. He’s describing a failure. How do we know? God’s earlier law:

The king must not acquire many horses for himself… nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold (Deut 17:16–17).

God’s law prohibited kings from stockpiling horses, chariots, silver, and gold. Why? Because kings were always tempted to trust military strength and financial security instead of God.

Woe to those who… rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! (Isaiah 31:1).

When the narrator of 1 Kings describes Solomon’s power, wealth, and success, we’re tempted to assume it’s all God’s blessing. Especially because God promised Solomon these very things after Solomon made wisdom his one prayer.

I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor… And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments… then I will lengthen your days (1 Kings 3:13–14).

But there’s a big difference between God giving Solomon power and wealth (which God did) and Solomon amassing these things for himself (which Solomon did). Notice that God didn’t just promise Solomon “riches and honor.” God also told Solomon to “walk in my ways.”

“Walking in God’s ways” as an Israelite king would include not collecting horses, chariots, silver, or gold for himself. Yet Solomon, despite this apparent early success, was already eroding the foundations of his own kingdom.

Sometimes success isn’t, and God’s word is the only way you’ll know.