Monday, October 29, 2018

The Wisdom of Solomon

Beginning the Story

Every organization has a test. If you join a ball team or go out for the school play there are tryouts.

As we grow up and get involved in more and more this never ends. If you want to drive a car, pass the test, If you want to be a doctor you take the MCAT exams, want to be a lawyer, pass the bar, want to join the Masons, well, you have to memorize stuff for that and pass a test.
There are job interviews and performance reviews and even blind dates that we have to contend with.

There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a good thing. We are a culture that values skills. And we expect the people who do certain things to bring an appropriate level of knowledge – whether it is the surgeon cutting into us or the carpenter repairing our screen door.

The thing is – there is also this concept that we call the right thing for the wrong reasons. When someone says I want to be a doctor because I want to be rich, or I want to be a minister because I want people to listen to me, or I want to be married because I don't want to be alone, or I want kids because someone has to pay for my retirement… the whole thing falls apart.

When you are doing something for the wrong reasons it is usually obvious. We know when someone does not put their heart and soul into something – you can just feel it. On the other hand, we have probably all run into someone, be it a parent, waitress, or rocket engineer who obviously so loves what they do that everything they do just seems exceptional.

It is not a job – it is a calling. It is who they were meant to be. And because they embrace that – there is this magical way in which everything comes together.

Some of us discover this right away – I know a guy who wanted to be a cop when he was eight and is now the chief of police in the Miramichi. Some of us only discover our calling after we require from the work we did to pay a lifetime of bills.

Still – doing what you believe in and are passionate about is a goal worthy of working towards. Whether you call it destiny, purpose, a calling or fate – there is a way that we are supposed to be true to ourselves.

A Reading - 1 Kings 3:4-28

The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem where he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. He offered up burnt offerings and offerings of well-being and provided a feast for all his servants.

Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him  The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. Then this woman’s son died in the night because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.” So they argued before the king.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; while the other says, ‘Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” So the king said, “Bring me a sword,” and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.” But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—“Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!” The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.” Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.” 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.

The Story Unfolds

So this really might be Solomon’s interview for King. I see it as being a test – well if a test is part of a vision that you have in a dream…  And, well, if it is, Solomon passes with flying colours.
This is not an unfamiliar concept. Abraham is told to move across the country, Moses has to climb a mountain, and Jesus spends 40 days wrestling with his demons in the wilderness.
Are you prepared for what is coming? That is the root of what this is all about. It is not a bad idea, a leadership test to see if you are up to the challenge. But I think we have usually focused on what comes after rather than on how it all started.
So David dies and his son Solomon is going to be king anyway – but this is sort of a test to determine what kind of king he is going to be.
Cast your mind forward to the Jesus in the desert story I mentioned. Jesus is already baptized, he is already going to become a religious leader – but then he goes through a 40 day trial to determine what kind of leader he will be – are you going to use power, are you going to use God, are you going to use magic?
Well God comes to Solomon in the middle of the night and says, you are a king now, you can have whatever you want… and Solomon says, I am not sure I am going to be a good enough king, the type the people deserve, can you make me a better king?
It is such a good answer that he hits the jackpot and gets everything behind door number one, two and three! And he did not even know it was a test!
Which is often the way for us mere mortals wandering around in the dark down here on earth. Things happen every day that present us with choices – good or bad, help other people or focus on our own needs – these are choices that are often completely up to us to decide, but it is still a test, a test of character.
But then there is part two of this story – Solomon puts his new wisdom to the test in the famous test case for child custody. The so-called wisdom of Solomon is actually pretty harsh here and you are left wondering how far he would have gone to prove a point. But this will go down in the history of not only how to solve an argument – but the power of love.
He is not wrong – a mother’s love would be willing to sacrifice everything to keep their child safe. It is a wise way to solve the problem by looking deeply into who and what these women are. And luckily, it works.
Wisdom here is presented as knowing someone deeply – as understanding a person’s soul – and using that knowledge to solve the problem.
Solomon wants to do the best by his people, so he asks for wisdom, and the wisdom he receives is the wisdom of knowing people – of empathy – of understanding. A wisdom based on love. You might recall a very similar situation where Jesus is asked whether or not they should stone a woman and he says, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Exact same wisdom. Compassion and Empathy are used to help understand the person and solve the problem...

Ideas to Take With Us

Let’s assume life really is a test. Sort of. Or maybe a better way to put it is that life is a challenge which we are asked to overcome. There is a better way to do it and a harder way to do it. There really is.

There is a way to win at life and a way to lose at life.

But it has nothing to do with what the modern world keeps saying, you do not win through riches, fame, or any of that garbage – you win by becoming human. You win through love. You win by gaining the wisdom to understand that the game does not matter – the only thing that matters is the people playing the game.

You can have anything, God tells Solomon – and Solomon already has the wisdom to, ok, help me get better at the real purpose of life. And it is a good answer.

I think that is why we are here – at church – each week. Some part of us realizes that the meaning of life is deeper than we expect than we were taught at school and in our jobs – and we want to ask for that same wisdom – we are here to find it together.

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