Saturday, July 23, 2011

A, Pentecost 6 Proper 12 – 1 Kings 3:5-12, 16-28 “Wisdom from God”

Two prostitutes plying themselves to their whorish trade find themselves in a predicament. Both of them are tripped up in an obvious work hazard and give birth to babies. As was their practise the mothers slept and nursed their children in their beds. Unfortunately one of the mothers smothers her baby by accidentally rolling on it while she slept during the night. The next morning the two mothers awoke to find one child dead. Accusations fly that the mother of the dead child swapped the two children during the night and now both argue that she is the mother of the living child.

Being the only two in the house the prostitutes need someone to come and judge who is the mother and who is lying. There was no DNA test to show the maternal mother, only equal claims on the child. These two women needed a person who might hear the case and understand exactly what had happened. They needed a person who could hear not just the words from their mouths but also the thoughts and motives concealed within; one who truly understood, one who knew the truth of what was going on.

King Solomon was that man. In fact he was the king of Israel and highly respected by people near and far. Everyone who knew of his wisdom came into his courts for advice. From social misfits to the queen of Sheba, all came because of Solomon's ability to discern between right and wrong. He was blessed with wisdom; with the ability to hear and understand just what was going on.

So how did Solomon decide which mother was the true mother of the living child and who was the mother who had rolled on her child and smothered it. Solomon's wisdom put the mothers to the test and he called the living child to be sawn in two and half given to each woman. One mother thought it was a reasonable idea, but, in a bid to preserve the life of her child, the other mother pleaded Solomon to give her baby to the other woman to spare its life. Solomon's wisdom led him to make a seemingly foolish decree that would allow him to simply hear and understand the truth of the situation. The true mother in her desperation to preserve the life of her flesh and blood ultimately winning out and Solomon returned the child to her.

From where did this wisdom come? How is it that Solomon knew to use such deadly words to find the true mother? We are told when all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, …they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings 3:28 ESV) Solomon had wisdom from God.

We have heard in text that Solomon was a weak man. When Solomon first became king he said to God, And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. (1 Kings 3:7 ESV) Solomon was weak; he was immature and hadn't developed the ability to govern what his father had left him. Solomon was not a baby or a toddler; in fact he was probably about twenty years old when he took up his father's leadership. But he knew he needed to suckle on the wisdom and experience of someone else if he was going to survive as king and lead the enormous kingdom of Israel.

Solomon was a weak man, his immaturity led him to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places originally built to worship Baal. But in his weakness and immaturity God still came to Solomon, even after he offered a thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon's high place. God appeared in a dream and said, Ask for whatever you want me to give you. Aware of his short fallings Solomon asks, Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (NIV) Discernment—the ability to distinguish or judge correctly—to be able to truly hear and understand without being led astray by coloured words or by his own wayward heart. This is what he asked for, and this is what God gave to him.

God gave Solomon wisdom and in this wisdom Solomon leaves the high place at Gibeon and returns to Jerusalem going to the Ark of the Covenant, the earthly footstool of God, and burns offerings to God. Solomon then went on to build the temple of the Lord, to house the Ark of the Covenant, in Jerusalem. He built God's earthly dwelling on the plot of land that King David bought, the threshing floor of Araunah.

Unfortunately Solomon lost his wisdom in latter days. He lost sight of God and the understanding that only God could give. He became a whore to his wives and their Gods, and built altars and high places for them. His discerning heart was severed from its source; when he turned his back on God the wisdom also went. His seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines became the centre of his attention and without God and the wisdom he gave, Solomon's weakness ruled his life once again. He gave up his God given, God glorifying judgement, and turned to judgement without the wisdom of God.

God calls us to be discerning in all we do. But if Solomon in all of his wisdom can lose it, how is it that you and I might retain the wisdom God has gifted us with in our lives?

Like Solomon we are weak in our sinfulness, we are not able to get ourselves out of our predicament. But God came to us while we were still sinners and gives us wisdom and maturity. In fact the most mature person is one who has no need to take the wisdom of God and colour it with worldly understanding. The most faithful person is surely a young baby at baptism, lying in the arms of Jesus, trusting completely in his gift of eternal life. Unfortunately as we grow we learn to become weak and immature and chase after the things of this world. And then it takes a life time for us to recognise and surrender to the maturity and wisdom of God which was placed in us at baptism.

So how does God affirm and reaffirm that maturity he places in us at baptism, even though we continually seek to dilute it with the immaturity of our worldly thinking? And how is it that God allows you and me to become wise and discerning, first of ourselves and then of others? So that the maturity of God allows us to have faith like that of a child, and to follow God like a little child follows its daddy? And so we can lovingly encourage others to hang onto the wisdom God has given them?

Solomon's wisdom came from God, and our wisdom, to hear and understand with the heart of God-like compassion, comes from Jesus Christ alone. Unlike Solomon, Jesus didn't just receive the wisdom of God; he is the wisdom of God. Solomon was merely a custodian of the wisdom and so too were the Pharisees and the scribes, the teachers of the law, in Jesus' day. Their understanding and ability was incomplete and far from perfect, whereas Jesus is perfect in discerning just what you and I need, so much so that in complete wisdom he was crucified, buried, and raised for you and me. He knows you and understands you perfectly; he hears exactly what you need. He knows your inner most thoughts—your misery, your joy, your suffering, your secret sins—he knows your human plight. In Jesus you find the perfection of wisdom, not Solomon in his earthly kingdom but rather the King of kings in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. When Jesus spoke—he spoke not like a scribe, a teacher of the Law, a secretary of the Word—he spoke with authority and wisdom as God the Son, the Word of God living as a human amongst humanity. Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God, and he speaks as the King of Heaven, here on earth as a man to you.

Jesus is the wisdom of God and he lives in us right from our baptism. Some grow and bury Jesus under a whole heap of garbage in their lives, gathering around them many gods just as Solomon gathered and worshipped his wives and concubines. But no matter how much garbage you have in your life, and we all have our favourite whorish activities, Jesus is still there in you living his wisdom. His perfect wisdom is hidden in you and in his perfect wisdom he intercedes on our behalf before our Father in Heaven together with the Holy Spirit. And these two members of the Trinity take our prayers and present them to, Abba, God our Father, as a pleasing aroma even while we struggle to surrender and lie in the arms of God with the maturity of a little child, confident in faith that we will receive for what we ask and for what we need.

How can we be confident that this all happens for us? The word of God promises us if God is for us who can be against us! Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. That is: nothing will separate us from his wisdom in our lives and his Kingdom in eternity. There is not one thing in this life that anyone can do to sever the promise God makes to you in Christ Jesus; there is nothing anyone can do to sever God from the wisdom found in his Word, written and incarnate.

You have been predestined to be God's child, hear his word, his promise, and joyfully receive the child-like maturity and wisdom he places in you, which leads you and calls you to his Kingdom. Jesus lives in you, wisdom lives in you, the King of Heaven lives in you; this wisdom has predestined and called you by his word to be a part of his kingdom forever. Amen.