Many of the stone monuments in that part of Japan, while not having exactly the message of the one at Aneyoshi, warn of the dangers of tsunamis. Unfortunately, local scholars say, all too often the warnings go unheeded. With the huge economic growth Japan has experienced since World War II people have ignored the danger of tsunamis and towns have grown ever closer to the coast. Towns which once were situated on higher ground farther inland gradually moved closer to the water. Though often for different reasons, what has happened here also happens there. Proximity to the ocean becomes prime real estate. People either forgot or disregarded the warnings that past generations of Japanese people set up. They moved closer to the water, and they died there. The result, as we all know, has been tragic.
I suppose it is because I know how the story goes that I feel this, but even as I read of those early years of Solomon’s life and reign there is a sense of foreboding. There is almost a tragic inevitability about what follows. Chapter 11 opens with the statement, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.” The word “however” tells you this is a hinge on which Solomon’s life turned. Up to this point it had all been positive. He did what God told him to do, he pursued the right things and was highly successful. Then comes “however.” Solomon read the message on the stone monument then turned away and said, “That’s dumb. I know better. I’ll build my house wherever I feel like.” 1 Kings 11:2 says of the foreign women Solomon loved, “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.”
Solomon was a smart guy. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Unfortunately he started to believe his own press clippings. He decided he was smarter than God. He didn’t have to pay attention to the warning message that he had been given. God had warned that if he married those women they would “surely” turn his heart away from the one true God. Sure enough, the tsunami came and wiped him out. Verse 4 says his wives “turned his heart after other gods and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” The son of the king who was a man “after God’s own heart” failed to heed the message on the stone. Verse 6 says “Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” And of course, he reaped the consequences just as God warned.
In a recent conversation with a bright, successful young Christian I got this sense that this individual is looking at the stone and saying, “Nah, I don’t think I have to pay attention to that. I’m going to build my house in the place that makes sense to me.” The stone of God’s Word has been set up for all to see, but this person, while not in outright rebellion, is pretty sure as he looks at the message that he knows better. Solomon’s problem was that he looked around and saw what everybody else did. Other kings took lots of wives from other nations not only to satisfy their desires but to establish political alliances. Everybody did it and it seemed to work. Solomon decided that what everybody did and everybody thought made more sense than God’s absurdly narrow way. “Marry only one woman? Get real! Only marry Israeli women? How bigoted can you be? There’s nothing wrong with those Ammonite women. In fact they are lovely. Yeah, God’s idea is old fashioned. It just doesn’t make sense. It makes him seem hateful toward other people.”
There is a significant tendency in our society today for Christians to neglect the message on the stone. It is so easy to adopt the thinking of our world and to view what God’s Word says as archaic and irrelevant. It needs to be understood in terms of our modern culture, which is another way of saying rejected in favor of the current groupthink. I need to remember that the stone has been there a long time and was set up for a reason. I need to not just read its message but to listen. Failure to do so will surely result in another disaster, this one in my own life. There’s a message here for me, a message to pay attention when God speaks. I want to never forget the lesson of the stone monument, and I pray that many in our culture who are now starting to ignore the message in favor of the world’s “wisdom” will wake up before it is too late.