I’m reading my way through 1 and 2 Kings in the Old Testament.
Solomon is granted wisdom from God, and it’s not too long before he gets to put this into practice….mediating in a disagreement over a child between two prostitute mothers.
The irony of it all! Solomon demonstrates his kingly wisdom, not in national strategy planning, or in skillfully brokering international relations but in the far less enviable task of settling a domestic dispute amongst two of society’s outcasts.
The story has a happy ending (mercifully). But it really could have gone so horribly wrong. One of the women had stolen the others’ baby. The culprit will not own up. Solomon threatens to kill the baby and divide it between the two women.
In these ancient times, perhaps good and bad people revealed themselves more consistently. Maybe all mothers loved their children with a sacrificial love and ‘would-be’ child abductors hadn’t yet mastered the art of fake.
‘The child’s needs are paramount’, I can hear today’s judges proclaim. Not even an idle threat to the safety of a child would be entertained in the interests of making a judgement between adults in our Civil Courts. But in those days it may have been different, the sword a blunt instrument in the hands of the powerful.
This story ends well. The child is restored to his rightful mother safe and sound. Phew! But do the ends justify the means?
I’m often drawn into the fine details of these ancient biblical stories, searching for insight and understanding in the lives of the great and the good – God’s chosen ones.
But God never intended me to read the bible and learn from Solomon’s wisdom. Reading the bible is a personal journey to understanding and knowing God himself.
I love Eugene Peterson’s preamble to the books of the Kings in his paraphrased version of the bible, “The Message“.
The benefit of reading these books (1 and 2 Kings) is enormous. To begin with, our understanding and experience of God’s sovereignty develop counter to all power based and piety based assumptions regarding God’s effective rule. We quit spinning our wheels on utopian projects and dreams.
Following that, we begin to realise that if God’s sovereignty is never cancelled out by the so deeply sin flawed leaders (‘Kings”) in both our culture and our church, we can quite cheerfully exult in God’s sovereignty as it is being exercised (though often silently and hiddenly) in all the circumstantial details of the actual person.
Eugene Peterson (The Message)
So I shift focus a little and begin to see God in this story.
A God who lovingly and painstakingly teaches wisdom in earthy, humble and uncelebrated human life to those who seek Him.
A God who defends the defenceless child.
A God whose judicious measure of wisdom is ‘just enough’ for the moment.
Hebrews 4:12 English Standard Version (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Centuries later, in our very civilised societies, we are still looking for wisdom; still searching out the lies and deceit of the human heart; still yearning for truth and justice.
So perhaps God’s wisdom is still needed after all, even today. Especially today.