There are things I just love about October. I love that the trees. I just wonder how the leaves would know to change color and fall to the ground. I marvel at God’s attention to the details of His creation. I see flocks of birds migrating south for the winter. There is the cool crisp air of the Fall, sunny warm days and cool nights perfect for a bonfire, maybe an Indian summer like this weekend. Kids are excited about Halloween and trick-or-treating.
There are things I hate about October. I hate trying to hide my eyes from scary movie trailers before I catch a glimpse of some possessed character that will haunt me when I close my eyes. I also hate political ads. I like politics, but I’d rather watch a scary movie trailer than one more campaign ad.
Callis, Quinn, Davis, Rauner, Oberweis, Durbin…They are spending millions of dollars on ads for TV and radio. They all have a lot to say about each other with regard to money, how they are spending tax dollars, how they will affect Medicare and Medicaid, how their policy will affect your taxes, how much they make…it seems to be all about money. King Solomon didn’t have to run a campaign, but he knew governing a nation was about more than money. It required wisdom.
King Solomon was the second son born to King David and Bathsheba. You may remember from last week that David and Bathsheba’s first born son died as a baby. Solomon was their eldest living son of Bathsheba, but he was not the eldest living son of King David.
1 Kings tells us the stories about the kings of Israel after King David. Chapter 1 tells the story of the struggle for the throne when King David became ill. Adonijah was the eldest living son of King David and heir to the throne. When David became sick and near death, Adonijah assumed he would be named king. He gathered the priest Abiathar, held a feast, and announced that he would be king.
King David found out about this. He called together the prophet Nathan and the priest Zadok and some guy named Benaiah who was probably a commander of the army. They took Solomon to Gihon and anointed him as king at the age of 12. David blessed the newly anointed King Solomon with the reminder to follow in the ways of the Lord. David said in chapter 2 verses 2 – 3: “Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.”
Chapter 2 of 1 Kings tells us all that King Solomon has to do to protect his place on the throne from his brother, Adonijah, and his supporters. Then, we come to our reading today in Chapter 3, Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and the horrible story of a fight over a baby.
The story tells us that King Solomon had gone to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord. This was before the Temple was built so the people would go to the tent of meeting or the high places to offer sacrifices to God. There King Solomon is said to offer 1,000 burnt offerings. King Solomon has given much to God in offering then God comes to Solomon and offers to give to him.
Solomon doesn’t initiate this conversation. This is not a prayer, Father God we just ask. This is a dream in which God goes to Solomon and begins the conversation. God says, “Ask what I should give you.” God commands Solomon to ask the Lord for what he wants or needs.
King Solomon answers as a humble servant of God. He acknowledges that he is like a little child and doesn’t know what he is doing. King Solomon says, “Give your servant…an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” Solomon didn’t ask for riches or revenge; he asks for wisdom.
This pleases God and God gives Solomon everything he didn’t ask for. God tells Solomon that because he has first sought what he needs to be a discerning king for the sake of the people, he will also receive riches and honor and glory. AND, a long life. But, the gift of long life comes with a stipulation. Solomon must walk in the ways of the Lord, keep His statutes and commandments, just as Solomon’s father David had told him to.
Here’s the grace. The wisdom God gives Solomon is not for the sake of Solomon. The wisdom God gives Solomon is for the sake of the people. Wisdom is what Solomon knows he needs to carry out his vocation as king and serve as a person with authority so that the people can live a good life where they can thrive and know peace. In the matter of the 2 prostitutes, he has the wisdom he needs to adjudicate the case and do what is just for the baby.
Scripture tells us that 2 women come before King Solomon for judgment. The women are not named, but we know what they do. They were prostitutes. Women who had no wealth, no husband and no family to provide for them could become prostitutes to provide for themselves. They were very low on the social ladder and come to stand before the guy on the top rung of the ladder.
The 2 women quarreled over whose boy had died and whose son was living. King Solomon said, let’s divide up the boy so each of you can have half a son. One woman said, “no, I’d rather the boy live with her than die” while the other said “cut him in half.” King Solomon judged that the woman who wanted the boy to live was the true mother of the child so granted her custody of the boy.
Chapter 3 ends with the report that “all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.” Now, that’s a campaign. Judge wisely and all the nation will know. No need for print and social media. No need for TV and radio ads. All Israel knew that King Solomon was wise and just.
Wouldn’t it be great if all our politicians, all the world’s leaders, humbly asked for wisdom to govern the people?
King Solomon was known for his wisdom, not only in Israel, but around the world. Chapter 4 of 1 Kings tells us that he was wiser than anyone else in the world and his fame spread. People from all the nations came to hear his wisdom. King Solomon recorded his wisdom. The Bible tells us that he wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,000 songs. He is said to have written the Song of Songs of the Bible as a young man, the book of Proverbs as a middle-aged man and the book of Ecclesiastes as a bitter old man.
But, his wisdom didn’t guard him against the trappings of power, wealth and fame. He lived an opulent life. Chapter 4 verse 22 says the daily provisions for his palace was: 188 bushels of flour, 375 bushels of meal, 10 oxen, 20 cattle, 100 sheep, plus deer, gazelles, bucks and chickens. King Solomon (Chapter 11) was said to have among his wives 700 princesses and 300 concubines. And, he became rich off God’s wisdom. People from all over sought his wisdom (Chapter 10) and brought gifts, which he accepted!
For all of King Solomon’s short comings, he was a good leader. The Bible says that the nation of Israel knew peace and security under his reign. That’s really all a country and its people can hope for, peace and security. Thanks to the wisdom of God which guided King Solomon the nation of Israel was at peace with the neighboring nations.
Perhaps US politicians and world leaders could learn a little from King Solomon. King Solomon asked for wisdom for the sake of the people, not his own power and glory. King Solomon was humble and knew he couldn’t be a good leader without the help of God. If more of our politicians and leaders prayed for wisdom for the sake of the people they represent, govern, or rule, perhaps we too would know peace and security.
Crises like ISIS, Ebola, mass shootings, school shootings, terror attacks all of these could be dealt with if our leaders were guided by wisdom for the sake of the people. It is my belief that if politicians and world leaders all truly put the welfare of the people ahead of power, wealth, glory and greed our world would know a peace and security that we pray for but have little hope for.
So many of us are anxious about what is going on in the world. Rightly so. That’s why we turn to Scriptures like the book of Revelation. We want to know what the last day will be like hoping that that end is near so we can escape these troubling times. The Apostles, like John who wrote Revelation, all hoped and believed that the return of Christ would come in their lifetime; yet, thousands of years later, we are still waiting. It seems the world is getting closer and closer to self-destruction and we place our hope in Christ’s return.
Let’s place the same amount of hope in reconciliation. Let’s pray that our leaders will be humble and wise and be able to lead the nations to find a solution to our problems that honors and celebrates diversity, recognizes that there is an abundance to sustain all life, and that we are all equally and wonderfully created by God. Let’s pray our leaders have the wisdom of God as King Solomon did.