Sunday, 22 May 2016
My Story in God's Story ~ King Solomon and Wisdom
Pastor Adam shows us how King Solomon's humbling wisdom made him a man after Jesus' own heart.

5.22.16 My Story in God’s Story ~ King Solomon ~ 1 Kings 3:1-15

Our friend the Rev. Dr. Professor Rebekah Eklund was in town last weekend.  She is a New Testament professor in Baltimore and as we were talking about her job she mentioned that the hardest part was writing a good test.  That she was always struggling to find a way to ask the right question of her students.  It had to be a really good question.  A question that did more than make them spit back all the answers, but a question that integrated all the answers into solving a new problem.

Because it would be easy for her to write an easy test.  Like she, the New Testament professor, could simply ask students what did Jesus say in John 3:16?  And what are the differences between the four gospels?  Or even how does Paul’s theology develop from his earliest letters to his last?  Those are fine questions.  But at the end of the day they don’t really mean anything.

So here are some better questions.  What does Jesus say in John 3:16 and how would our current presidential candidates engage Jesus’ teaching here?  Ahh…now that is an interesting question to explore.  It takes John 3:16 and puts it right smack dab in the center of conversations that we are all having today.  But at the same time, it allows us to think of those conversations in a whole new way.  Because I bet not a one of you has yet tried to answer that question when it comes to our presidential candidates.  I would love it if some of you would try.  Send me an email this coming week answering the question of what does Jesus say in John 3:16 and how would our current presidential candidates engage Jesus’ teaching here.

Do you feel the difference in the questions?  The first kind of question is just designed to see if you know what John 3:16 says.  Okay.  Many students and many a Christian can spit back the answer.  But how does this information that you have get applied to everyday life?  Now that is a good question.

Today I am going to try to get at the heart of that question by asking about what wisdom is.  Actually, I’m going to give you the answer right now.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the right information at the right time.  There now you know the answer.  But that is not the deeper question is it?  I don’t want you to be able to spit back to me a definition of wisdom.  I want you to become wise people.  I want you to apply your knowledge at the right moment.  I want you to know wisdom not on paper, but in your life.

To do that I need a good question.  A question that gets at more than just information, but instead forms us as human beings.  A question that gets us and makes us think about life and faith and how to apply it in a whole new way.

Today we are going to explore wisdom with words, but I pray that you would take these words and apply them, because that is truly the only way to understand and become wise, it is by going out there and doing it!

Today we are going to take a look at the most famous wisdom story in the Bible.  The story of King Solomon who gets to ask from God anything he wants.  And he famously, asks for wisdom.  And God gives him wisdom, along with wealth, power, and long life.  But did you know that you too can have the wisdom of Solomon?  That this is not a story about some super wise guy that none of us will ever be like.  Nope.  Instead this is a story about how all of us can receive this wisdom from God, if we know how to ask.  I’m not making this up!  You too can receive wisdom from God.  The Bible tells us so.  James chapter 1 verse 5 says, 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

So let’s dare to ask God for wisdom this morning.  Let’s pray.

Be Thou our Vision, O Lord of our hearts, naught be all else to us save that thou art, thou our best thought, by day or by night.  Waking or sleeping, thy presence, our light.  Amen.

So as you are reading through the Old Testament you might find that some things get repeated.  Some ideas, some words, and even concepts get repeated.  Now for those of us who are already avid readers, this might seem like a bit of a boring way to write a story or explain something.  And for those of us who tend to understand something the first time it is given, this also might seem a bit pedantic and we struggle to read something we just read a little bit ago.  But, my friends, when you do this you are missing the point.  The way the Old Testament works is whenever something is repeated, you are supposed to pay more attention to it not skim it over it.  When something is repeated, it means it is really important, and it also means that you most likely missed some kind of deeper meaning the first time around.  When something is repeated you are supposed to raise your eyebrows and start looking even more.

Same is true with our story today of Solomon.  There is a word that is repeated a lot.  Which means, raise your eyebrows and pay attention.  The word is Sha-al which is the Hebrew word for ask.  Ask, ask ask ask ask.  It shows up all over this text.  It seems that we should be paying attention to what is asked here in this story.  That maybe what is being asked for is not as simple as it first seemed, that we need to dive deeper into what all this asking is all about.

So as we start our story for today we find King Solomon in need of some help.  He is already King of Israel, but he is young, perhaps not yet quite aware of all the ways of the world.  He has wealth, he has power, he has women, he is creating political alliances, he is doing alright by himself, but he knows he lacks one thing that women, wealth, power, and political alliances can’t give him.  He knows that he needs to be able to relate to and help the people.  You know the normal everyday kind of people.  Like you know, like you and me kind of people.

You see his father didn’t need this kind of help.  King Solomon’s father was King David, remember him?  Slayer of Goliath, friend to prince Jonathan, man after God’s own heart.  But King David didn’t start out as King David.  He started out as a shepherd boy.  Just a normal everyday Hebrew child who tended sheep for his family.  But not Solomon.  Solomon grew up in the palace.  He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He grew up lacking nothing and certainly never having to hang out with sheep, unless he wanted to.  He was royalty since birth, and as such, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with the everyday common problems of the commoners.

And so Solomon asks God, he Sha-als God for an understanding heart.  Which is a very Hebrew way of asking for what we would call wisdom.  But more than this, he asks for wisdom from God on how to judge and rule over people that he doesn’t understand.  People that are his subjects, but not at all royalty or privileged like him.  And so Solomon’s wisdom here, is Solomon asking to be humbled.  Solomon asking to be understandingly compassionate toward people who don’t think or live like he does.  Solomon is asking God to help him to cross barriers here, he is crossing the royalty/peasant barrier, he is crossing class barriers, he is asking God to help him speak the language and understand the mindset of people who were not raised like he was.

And God is so impressed with this, that God not only grants Solomon a wise and understanding heart, but also all the other things that Solomon could have asked for.  Now this is where it gets interesting.  Because God starts using the word Sha-al over and over again.  God wants us to see how well Solomon chose here.  God wants us to pay attention to what is going on by repeating this Hebrew word over and over again.  And so what does God say?  Listen again, and pay attention to what God wants us to hear.

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice,12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

Did you hear that?

The Lord was like, “Oh man!  Check out this Solomon!  Do you know what he asked for?  Wisdom!  Check this dude out.  Do you know what he didn’t ask for?  Wealth.  Did you hear that he had the magic genie lamp granting him a wish, and you know what he didn’t ask for?  Longevity.  He had me, God, right where everyone dreams they could have me, ready to give anything no question and no strings.  And you know what he DIDN’T ask for?  Death for his enemies.  This guy!  He is the bomb, this is just impressive, check out what he didn’t ask for and then check out what he did ask for!”

God is impressed.

God is bragging about Solomon.

God is a big fan of King Solomon at this point.  Because this move here, on Solomon’s part, this desire to understand the people who are beneath him, this desire to humble himself with the wisdom to administer justice to the commoner, is a move of downward mobility for Solomon.  And God is impressed because normally people don’t ask to move down, they ask for things that help them move up and up and up and climb higher and higher on whatever ladder we are climbing.  So if we were in Solomon’s place, I could have very well asked for money, or power, or long life, or whatever it would be to strengthen me, but Solomon doesn’t want that, Solomon wants humbling wisdom.  And God is impressed with what he asks for.  You know who else asks for this?

Jesus.

If King David was a man after God’s own heart.  Here, at least for a moment, King Solomon is a man after Jesus’ own heart.

Jesus too was willing to humble himself to become like us, the common people, leave his heavenly throne room, and become our shepherd.

King Solomon’s move here, his Sha-al, what he asks of God, is so in line with the heart of Jesus that God just can’t help but gush over him as if he is gushing over his own son.

Now hear me on this.  King Solomon is NOT Jesus.  King Solomon will make some huge mistakes during his reign.  But so did his father David.  King Solomon might be granted wisdom and an understanding heart by God, but that does not mean he used his wisdom and understanding heart all the time.  BUT none of that takes away the fact that King Solomon is a man after Jesus’ own heart.  Asking for the humble wisdom to care for and guide, administer justice and be with the people who are not royalty like he is.

Amazing isn’t it?

And so God gives Solomon this humbling wisdom.  And immediately it is put to the test.  Solomon has two mothers brought before him and one has just lost her baby the other still has hers, but there is a dispute over who lost her baby and who didn’t.   And he has to decide which one is the real mother.  I’m not going to tell you how he does it because I want you to read it in 1 Kings 3 beginning in verse 16.  What I am going to say is that the people heard about Solomon’s wisdom and they were in awe.  They were in awe at how he spoke with these mothers.  They were in awe that he could see through to the real heart of their issue.  They were in awe about how he administered justice.

You know the people of Israel are not too often in awe as to how someone speaks and teaches.  It really won’t be until Jesus comes that the crowds will be in awe as he speaks and teaches his wisdom.  King Solomon really is a man after Jesus’ own heart.

Which is amazing.  But the wise question would be:  So what does this mean for us?

It means that if you too dare to pray the prayer of Solomon.  A prayer for humbling wisdom to reach out and care for those who are not like you, then you also better be ready to immediately put that wisdom into practice.  For that is where wisdom really gets its power and awe, not when it is kept to ourselves, but when we use it to change the world around us, care for the people who live in our neighborhood, break down barriers of people who are not like us, and when we do this.  We too will people after Jesus’ own heart.

And when you do, God will gush over you and be so proud of you.  God will be like, “Oh look at those First Covenanters!  You know what they could be doing, you know what they could have asked for?  But they didn’t, these people asked for wise and understanding hearts to reach out and care for their neighbors, their city and their world.”

I want God to gush like that over you and me.

And so let us go and put our humbling wisdom into practice.

And when you do, remember that God loves you, and I love you too.  Amen.

 

 

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