And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. (1 Kings 11:6)
I have heard the lament of many good Christian parents who did all they knew to do to “bring [their children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) only to have them walk away from the faith as adults. This is nothing new, and the Bible offers examples from which we can take comfort.
Israel had no greater king than David. Although the Bible makes no effort to hide David’s imperfections, it does make one claim that defines David’s overall character. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). With all of his flaws, David’s greatest desire was to please God. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 43:1-3).
One would think that kind of love for God would be reflected in his children, but the record shows that David’s children did not share the same devotion. Amnon, David’s first-born son by Ahinoam’s (2 Samuel 3:2) loved (actually lusted after) his half-sister Tamar so much that he raped her (2 Samuel 13). Tamar was Absalom’s sister by Maacah. When Absalom (his name means “Father of Peace”) heard of Amnon’s deed, he waited for a time to see if his father, David would take any action. When that did not happen, Absalom acted on his own accord and had his older half-brother murdered. After two years of self-exile, he was allowed to return to Jerusalem, but David refused to see him. This caused Absalom to rebel against his father and incite a coup to overthrow the king. David fled for his life, and the rebellion was finally quelled with the slaying of Absalom, much to David’s regret. All of this illustrates the point that children do not automatically inherit the parent’s zeal for God. Some may blame David for being an inattentive father. Some may attempt to excuse him; after all, he had a kingdom to manage. But the Bible is clear, God holds every individual responsible for his own actions.
Another illustration of this truth shows up in David’s successor, Solomon, supposedly the wisest of all Israel’s kings. But a close inspection of the Biblical record reveals a different story. At the beginning, Solomon started out on the right track. On his ascendancy, David charged his son, “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself (1 Kings 2:2-3, emphasis mine). Early in his reign, Solomon honored his father’s admonition. “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father” (1 Kings 3:3) so much so that when God offered him anything he wished, he asked for wisdom to rule God’s people (1 Kings 3:5-13). God granted him not only wisdom, but wealth and fame.
Solomon used his God-given gifts to build the Temple, purportedly the envy of the known world. Solomon built up the kingdom and extended it borders, and God granted him peace throughout his realm. “So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (1 Kings 10:23-24, emphasis mine). However, not long after the Temple construction dust settled, Solomon’s love for God waned, replaced by a love for something else. “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love” (1 Kings 11:1-2. emphasis mine). These “strange” women were not of Israelite stock. Solomon violated God’s prohibition against marrying “foreign” women, not because God is “racist,” (He’s not; He created all nations of one blood- Acts 17:26), but for “religious” reasons. These women all worshiped demonic gods, and God knew they would negatively influence His people. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:4-5). What happened to Solomon? Did he not have a great example in his father David?
Yet, hope remains. Solomon is known for his many proverbs and sayings. It is said that Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs” (1 Kings 4:32), only a fraction of which survived as recorded in the Book of Proverbs. Near the end of his life, perhaps he regained some of his wisdom, which he tried to pass on to the son who would succeed him, Rehoboam. Proverbs 1-9 record Solomon’s words of advice to his son where he admonishes his son to seek “wisdom.” Imagine that! The Biblical record is clear that his son ignored his father’s counsel, which resulted in splitting the kingdom. That Solomon returned to his “first love” at the end of his life comes through in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “probably [written] in his old age, as he was looking back on the happy early years of his reign and regretting his tragic failures in his later years.” The tone seems rather pessimistic, which results from man’s quest to fill one’s life through material and/or sensual means. In the end, Solomon reveals the true source of joy and satisfaction. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Having experienced my own children walking away from God, I can only sympathize with those experiencing the same thing. I can relate to all the second guessing that goes on in the hearts and minds of such parents. They wonder where they failed, where they went wrong, what they could have done differently. Parents, regardless of the heartache we endure over our lost children, we must realize that God does not hold us responsible for the actions of our children after they are on their own. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20, emphasis mine). It works both ways. I have also known many good Christians that had wicked parents. God holds each individual responsible. We can only hope and pray that, like Solomon, one day they will see the vanity of their lives, and return to the God of their fathers. Only God can change the heart. Salvation is not passed on in the genes.
 Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2012), 985.
By Dr. James J.S. Johnson
- Perfect example in a well-known Christian family, the son of 2 very godly parents, Francis & Edith Schaeffer, is Franky Schaeffer, a vile & blasphemous apostate Christian-hater – total opposite of his parents; in fact, the true “heir” to the Schaeffer ministry is Fran & Edith’s son-in-law, Udo Middelmann — see www.theschaefferfoundation.com/bios_francis_a_schaeffer_foundation.php .
- A less famous example is a less-well-known (yet very godly) couple, Ian & Ginny McLaren, whose vile & blasphemous apostate son is emergent-church “prophet” Brian McLaren.
- But my 3rd post-script is the reverse – my own father was an apostate clergyman who spent huge amounts of energy denigrating the Holy Bible – yet, by God’s grace, I rejected his blasphemy.
No one can blame their parents, or get into Heaven on their parents’ coattails. God has no “grandchildren” – He is the Heavenly Father (not grandfather) of the redeemed; Satan is father of the lost.