Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Wise and Discerning Heart

A Wise and Discerning Heart
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:1-15

He was not your typical teenager.

O, he knew that someday it might come to this ... but with four older brothers, Solomon never really expected to succeed his father David as king. I mean what kid expects to grow up to be “King of the World?”

For 40 years, his father – known to everyone else as King David – had ruled the mid-eastern lands we read about in newspapers and watch the results of war about on television. The land from Egypt on the south to the Euphrates River on the north, from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the great Arabian deserts on the east.

David had ruled well after having grown up as a shepherd boy and later a musician in the palace of King Saul. He had made a name for himself when he had defeated the Philistine army, led by a giant named Goliath, without a sword in his hand. That day he had proclaimed: “You come against me with sword and spear..., but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty...” Yes, David had been the popular choice of the whole nation when God chose him to succeed King Saul. But now 40 years later at the age of 70, King David was old and nearing death.

Solomon was not the likely choice to succeed his father as king. He was the son born in his father’s later years. His mother, Bathsheba, was herself a reminder of his father’s human and sinful self. They had married only after an adulterous relationship that had resulted in the king having Bathsheba’s first husband killed in battle.

Yes, his father had sinned ... but he had also confessed his sin before God and repented. He had married Bathsheba and in time they had a son whom they named Solomon. They loved Solomon and God loved Solomon whose name means “loved by the Lord.” Solomon was special, loved by his parents and by God. Still, there were older brothers in line to become king.

But it was not to be – one brother died, a second brother was killed by still a third brother, Absolom, who in turn was killed in battle while leading a national rebellion against his own father. Even now, years later, as David is on his death bed, another son – Adonijah – puts himself forward saying, “I will be king.” But Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan go to King David and David proclaims that “Solomon ... shall be king after me, and he will sit in the throne in my place.”

And so it is that this unlikely teenager is anointed king to rule over all of Israel and Judah.

And when the time came for David to die (chapter 2), he gave a charge to Solomon his son:
“ strong, show yourself to be a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires....”

Then David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David ... so Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

Which brings us to our text in chapter 3. Note the first three things we learn about this new teenage king:

(1) First, he makes an allegiance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and marries his daughter.
Ok, maybe it was an arranged marriage to protect the nation’s southern boundary, but it is a step in the direction of making peace with the neighboring nation. What king is going to go to war against his daughter and son-in-law? If only we were as creative in peacemaking in the middle-east today!

(2) Second, Solomon set to work to finish building the Temple of the Lord.
For too many years there was no “place” – no Temple – for God’s people in the City of David. The people were leaving the city to worship and offer their sacrifices in the same high places used to worship other gods. Solomon sets out to finish God’s Temple as a place of worship within Jerusalem.

(3) And third, Solomon shows his love for the Lord by walking according to his statutes ... except, as the writer inserts, that because the Temple has not yet been finished, Solomon too, goes outside the city to worship. And it is on such a trip out-of-town to worship that God appears to Solomon during the night in a dream.

Remembering now that Solomon, while king, is still but a teenager; listen to the offer God makes to him: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

You and I might argue, why is God wasting such a wish on a king? He already had it all!
• He has grown up in the palace – in the lap of luxury
• He has married a princess.
• He has inherited a king’s riches.
• He has all power.
• He is healthy and has a lifetime of opportunity ahead of him.

Why doesn’t God offer to give me whatever I want, you might ask? I don’t know the answer to that ... may He has or maybe He will. God has, after all, given you Jesus ... what more could we ask for? (Pause)

But back to our story – back to Solomon’s response to God’s offer.

You have shown great kindness to my father...
You have continued this great kindness to ... his son ...
You have made me a servant king in place of my father...

BUT I am only a child ...
I do not know how to be a king ...
I do not know how to carry out my responsibilities over these your chosen people.

SO, give me a discerning heart to govern your people well ...
And the wisdom to distinguish between right and wrong... (Pause)
God says: “Ask me for whatever you want.” And Solomon asks for: Wisdom.
As I said earlier, Solomon was not your typical teenager.

Now what was it you were going to ask God for?

You were also going to ask for wisdom, right?
You were going to ask God to give wisdom to those who govern nations today –
a discerning heart full of wisdom to govern their people well and
to be able to distinguish between right and wrong, between good and evil,
between the ways of peace and the ways of increasing violence and war.
Wisdom for rulers to govern God’s people well.

God was pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom and a discerning heart.
So pleased was God that He granted to Solomon a wise and discerning heart,
such as no one before or after has known.
Moreover, God also promised Solomon what he had not requested –
Both riches and honor for his lifetime....
And, if Solomon would remain faithful to God, a long life as well! Wow!


And then Solomon woke up! And he realized it had been a dream.

Did you ever wake up too soon ... only to realize it was only a dream? You wanted to go back to sleep and finish the dream. You wanted the dream to be true. You wanted the life of your dreams to be real ... in the here and now!

And surely, if you had had Solomon’s dream ....

Do you ever dream you are talking with God?
Do you wish you would?
And if the God of your dreams offered you whatever you wanted ...
What do you dream of?

Scientists tell us that dreaming is a product of the brain and its activity. Dreams include events and feelings that the dreamer has experienced. Most dreams our related to events of the day before. Many experts also feel that they are related to deep wishes and fears of the dreamer.
Sigmund Freud suggested that dreams are the fulfillment of wishes, usually in disguised form.

While the function of dreaming is not completely understood, some believe that dreaming plays a role in restoring the brain’s ability to handle such tasks as focused attention, memory and learning.
[World Book Encyclopedia, “dreams”]

So maybe Solomon’s dream is not surprising.
In a special retreat outside the city to worship God, Solomon encounters God in a dream.
A young teen suddenly vaulted into an adult world, filled with awesome responsibility and an inner lack of confidence in his own abilities, makes an overwhelming wish – not for power or riches – but for wisdom.

To Solomon, God comes in a dream to restore the brain’s ability to handle the tasks before him that require focused attention, memory, and learning.

God grants Solomon wisdom and so much more. Solomon wakes up, filled with the sense of God’s presence. A presence that is not limited to a place (Temple), but a presence that is with him wherever he goes – even beyond the City of David and in places where others worship other gods. Solomon awakes to an understanding that the Lord is with him.

Then Solomon goes home, to Jerusalem, and stands before the ark of the Lord’s Covenant and gives first an offering to God and then a feast for the people – all symbolic of a renewed covenant with God.

In the story that immediately follows in 3:16-28, Solomon is tested and his wisdom is displayed with a wise and discerning heart so that the people hold their new, young king in awe because “they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”

Solomon was not your typical teenager ... but God used and empowered him to be a wise and discerning leader of God’s people.

May this same God bless you with wisdom
and empower you with a discerning heart
this day
As you become all that God expects you to be, as well. Amen.

Sermon by Herman Kauffman
LaPorte Church of the Brethren
August 20, 2006