Sermon, Sunday August 19, 2018, Pentecost 13B, St Petri
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-1410 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned for forty years over Israel – seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’6 Solomon answered, ‘You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.7 ‘Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 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?’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 honour – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’
King David’s son to Bathsheba became king when he was nowhere near ready. That is often how it is in life; things come upon us for which we feel very under-qualified. Solomon was young, inexperienced among many in the palace who weren’t and who would not mind having the power the King had, and he was an illegitimate child, who had no family right to be king. Not a good place to be! He needed wisdom!
This week I asked a few people to describe what wisdom is. One said, “Knowing your limitations”. Others said wisdom is not just knowledge, but how you use the knowledge you have gained. Wisdom is accumulated understanding about living life from accumulated experience – especially your failures.
Wisdom seems to be linked with humility. Knowing who you are and valuing others contribution. Everyone said these only come from listening to God and others because the honour of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom starts with listening to others.
Young Solomon gets this opportunity to ask for anything he wants. He gets one wish that will be given by the Lord God himself. He’d better make it count!
He reminds me of three blokes on a deserted desert island…..
As the days slowly went by on their little island, these three men dreamed of what it would be like to be at home with their friends and family, to be back at their jobs doing the things they loved.
One day one of the men found a bottle that contained a genie. He opened the bottle and the genie announced that he would grant each of them one wish.
One of the men said, “Boy, I want to be back in the Barossa with my wife and kids.” POOF–he was gone.
The second man immediately said, “I want to be back in Adelaide with my fiancé” and again in a flash he was gone.
The third man was left all alone sitting on the sandy beach. He said, “Boy, it really is lonely with my friends gone. I sure wish they were back here with me again.
You would think that Solomon would ask for control and power over the situation and people. He needed the help. You might too at the moment.
Solomon would more need than $80M Lotto winning on offer last week. There was a Temple to run, a Palace to maintain, a military budget to meet, a public service to uphold and international relationships to sustain. Surely he would asked God for wealth and long-term prosperity.
With that he might have asked for the praise and high opinion of himself from others. He could have asked for high status in the world.
Maybe Solomon was like his counterparts over in Egypt who built those huge burial chambers in the shape of pyramids. I read once that the majority of us work hard to ensure that something will outlive us, be it a house, a farm, our children, a monument for something, a name on an awards board….
What are you asking for today for your challenges? What do you need from God? What would you do to get what you need. What are you doing to meet that need now?
Solomon decides. He asks.
Solomon asks for big ears; for special ears. Not like Mr Spock! No, he asked for inner ears; listening ears. Specially tuned ears like a cochlea implant – tuned not to only human sounds but God’s wise voice in them; God’s wise word leading; God’s promises given; God’s direction received.
The Hebrew puts it well. Solomon asks for a “listening heart”, or ‘discerning heart”.
If wisdom begins with honouring God and listening to him speak, then this was a good ask!
With a heart tuned into the Lord’s voice this young leader to be will have the essential gift that any of God’s people need to get through complex decisions, big moments, tough situations and times of doubt and fear – wisdom. A listening heart tuned into to God’s words all the time gives the ability to know what to do and when to do it or not do it – what to say and when to keep silent and for how long.
I want that gift too. Seems like all I need to do is ask for it. God seems pleased to give us new ears to hear him speaking so we are of great use to his kingdom. Maybe you should ask? Maybe you should ask the Spirit to tune you in to God’s Word anew so you can discern the good from the bad, the silly from the smart, the left from the right in what you are facing?
This gift of new ears seems to have served Solomon and his people very well …… for a while at least.
And that is an intriguing thing. Even this gift of listening heart and the wise decisions that came from it did not last for Solomon. Things did not go so well in the latter years. How come?
The writers tell us. I noticed for the first time that even with listening ears and a wise approach Solomon had a divided heart. Did you hear? “He was a good king, except that he worshipped on the high places”.
Worshipping anywhere else other than God’s designated one place of worship in Jerusalem was in direct conflict with the Lord’s expressed direction for him. Even though it seems that he sacrificed a thousand animals at Gibeon later on, and it seems to have been in thanks and praise to the Lord, not idols, it was still an act of disobedience to the Lord. It was a well- intentioned act but against the Lord’s direction to do all worship in Jerusalem. The Lord insisted on worship only at Jerusalem for a reason – to stamp out the use of idols and high altars of pagan gods in Israel. Only this would bring real and full life in God’s land for his people.
But here is the stunning thing I notice. Even though Solomon asked for the best thing it was still a big risk for the Lord to give it to him – and the lord still does! Even though Solomon would end up being quite unwise in many ways, the Lord still gave him the best gift and trusted him with it.
This tells me that this is our God. This is how he rolls. He gives the gift at great risk to himself and his name among the world’s people before we are ready or able to guarantee that we will use it well.
The ultimate gift and the biggest risk for God? I think of the Lord coming into our humanity, into our flesh; giving his Son, the Bread for life, his wisdom in human flesh, with no guarantee that we would take him in, treat him well.
We didn’t. We still don’t. We chew on plenty of other bread, like Solomon ended up doing. But the Lord still gave himself in full. he still gives himself now – in full.
I think of my baptism. The Lord buried my sin and raised me to life with no guarantee for him that I would ever respond in faith and love. I think of the Lord’s Supper. He gives himself for forgiveness and life with no guarantees that we will do much better this week.
Friend, you may be wishing for things. You may be longing for a fix to something or someone or yourself and you, as a baptised child of God in Christ may be going about this by outwardly worshipping the Lord but actually doing what you want the way you want.
Go to the Wisdom Jesus and his words on life. Ask for these ears to receive his words of life. Eat this bread of life. Worship at THE high place – Jesus. He is the altar and the bread and the place all in one. He is our wisdom. His voice gives us the way the truth and new life to live in joy.