There is always the desire among Christians to know God’s will. But I wonder if we have emphasized “knowing” God’s will at the expense of “doing” God’s will. There is a difference between knowing God’s will and actually doing it. It is one thing for a man or woman to know what God requires and another thing for that man or woman to actually do what the Lord requires. And this simple truth surfaces over and over again in Scriptures.
In 2 Chronicles 8, the many accomplishments of King Solomon are mentioned. Solomon built a house for himself and one for the Lord. Solomon rebuilt the cities that King Hiram had given him. He also built walls and gates for his other cities. He “built everything he desired in Jerusalem and Lebanon and throughout his entire realm” (2 Chron. 8:6). Moving to the religious sphere, he assigned priests to their duties, Levites to lead the people in praise, and gatekeepers to their gates by their divisions. But halfway through listing the many deeds of King Solomon, the writer notes that Solomon refused to allow his wife live in the house of David.
Ordinarily, the reason for his action could have been attributed to the fact that his wife was an Egyptian princess who could not live in a traditional Jewish house. Perhaps the housing arrangements that were common in Israel would have been new and strange to the daughter of Pharaoh. But these were not the reasons for Solomon’s action. Solomon said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy” (2 Chron. 8:11). In other words, my wife is unholy. The palace of my father David is holy ground because the ark of the LORD has been there, but my wife is unholy. And she can’t stand (or live) on holy ground.
While building a new palace for his wife (2 Chron. 8:11), King Solomon knew that he was sinning. He had sinned when he married the daughter of Pharaoh, and he continued sinning after marrying her. He knew he was acting contrary to God’s will. He knew that God had warned the sons of Israel about marrying women from certain nations, saying, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2). King Solomon knew this. But knowledge about God’s will is not the same as actual obedience to his will.
Despite knowing God’s will, Solomon “loved many foreign women along with the wife of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women” (1 Kings 11:1). And like many professing Christians today, Solomon had much knowledge but very little obedience. This same God had appeared to him in his dream and had told him to “walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked” (1 Kings 3:14). But, unlike his father David, Solomon “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done” (1 Kings 11:6).
King Solomon’s life teaches us that a life of disobedience can exist alongside the knowledge of God’s will. Understanding Christian doctrine and having the ability to explain theological concepts doesn’t automatically result in right living, and a head full of what the Bible says doesn’t always go with a life that is obedient. Of what value is much Bible reading and studying if there is no actual resolve to do as the Bible commands? The discipline of Bible study must be emphasized alongside that of actual obedience to the commands found within.
If we make a decision to read the Bible, let us also resolve to obey it. If we seek to know God’s will for our lives, we must be willing to obey. And our obedience should be complete. King Solomon didn’t totally disobey God on all counts. He built a magnificent temple and, on certain occasions, “followed the regulations of his father, David” (2 Chron. 8:14). But he chose to disobey other clear commands of God. He picked and chose which commands to obey.
Today, if that old question is asked: “What does the Lord require of you?” the response will remain: “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always” (Deuteronomy 10:12; 11:1). And in the words of Thomas Manton (1620–1677), Puritan clergyman and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, “If you would be blessed, you must have a sincere, constant, uniform obedience. The will of God must not only be known, but practiced!”
God still demands obedience from his people even today.