Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Just Ruler Has Wisdom, Empathy, and Discernment

As we saw last week, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:7-14; 4.29-32) epitomized the wise ruler who serves his family, people, and Lord. In addition to being king, and overseer of the Lord’s house who built His temple, Solomon also had to be judge over his people, deciding various disputes.

Scripture shows us one of his just decisions (1 Kings 3:16-28), demonstrating his wisdom, empathy, and discernment. Wisdom indicates not only book knowledge, but an emotional response to that knowledge leading to proper action.  There are three characters in the courtroom scene described: Solomon as judge, a harlot as plaintiff, and a second harlot as defendant.

The first harlot to plead her case says that she lives in the same house with the second harlot, that she recently gave birth to a son, and that the second harlot also gave birth to a son three days later. She accuses the second woman of rolling over on top of her newborn so that the infant died, taking the plaintiff’s live infant, and placing her own dead baby in the plaintiff’s arms while she was asleep. 

Essentially, she claims the defendant is guilty of negligence, kidnapping, and deception. She says she realized what had happened when she tried to nurse the child, found that he was dead, and did not recognize him as the son she had delivered.  But the defendant not only denies these charges, but says that the reverse is true, implying that the first woman is the one who is guilty of these three crimes.

The first harlot says that the living child is her son; the second harlot argues that the living child is instead her son; and Solomon summarizes the case by repeating that they each claim to be the mother of the surviving infant. What is Solomon to do with this classic case of “she said, she said?”

Knowledge of the facts is of limited help in this case, for there were no witnesses, no evidence (presumably the women were not of different race or distinguishing features that would indicate one to be the biological mother of the living child, and this was way before the days of DNA testing!), and contradictory testimony. Instead, Solomon must rely on discernment, accurately judging the character, veracity, and motivation of each woman. To do this, he must use empathy, placing himself in the sandals of the true mother, and how she would react to protect her child.

So he performs an acid test, seemingly resorting to extreme measures. He commands that a sword be given him and threatens to cut the child in two, to give half to each woman. In so doing he discerned the true motivation of each woman, for the biological mother would not allow her child to be harmed, for his welfare was far more important than her desire to raise him. But the other woman, motivated by grief for her dead son, envy of the woman whose child survived, and bitterness against the whole situation, was willing to have the child slain rather than let the true mother have him.

The true mother, whose emotions yearned to save her son, begged Solomon not to kill the infant, but to give him to the lying woman. In contrast, the liar said “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” (v. 26). Solomon rightfully discerned that the woman who begged to save the child’s life was his true mother, commanded that the child not be harmed, and ordered that she be given the living child.

Interestingly, Scripture does not reveal whether it was the plaintiff or the defendant who was the true mother, perhaps because how or if we go about seeking conflict resolution is less important than the truth of the situation and our heart regarding it. In response to Solomon’s wise decision, Israel spread the news throughout the nation, realized that God had granted him true wisdom, and feared his judgment.

Solomon is therefore not only a wise ruler, but a just judge, and as we see in other chapters, the architect of God’s house. In some ways this foreshadows Jesus Christ’s multiple roles as King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) and Righteous Judge (Psalm 9:8; 58:11; 67:4;) in His second coming, and Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) Who sits at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69).

As Solomon built God’s temple according to His instructions (1 Kings 5), even now Jesus is designing mansions in His Father’s house (John 14:2) for each of His children! Unlike Solomon, however, who was subject to the curse of sin common to every man since Adam’s fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Jesus is without sin, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent!

Praise God that all who have trusted in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) need not fear His second coming as King and Judge, for the Priest is also the Perfect Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:9-14) Who has reconciled sinful man (2 Corinthians 5:18) and Holy God! In the meantime, may we be blessed with His wisdom, knowledge and understanding! (Proverbs 2:6; 9:10; Isaiah 11:2)

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Wise Ruler Serves His Family, People, and Lord

When we think of wisdom, King Solomon first comes to mind, for Scripture says he was the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:7-14; 4.29-32). His heritage was marked by peace after strife in his birth, his kingdom, and his building of the Lord’s house, for he was the son of King David, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) who nonetheless suffered the consequences of sin.

David’s lust for Bathsheba led to the sins of adultery, deception as he tried to arrange circumstances so that Bathsheba’s husband Uriah would think he was the father of David and Bathsheba’s unborn child, and ultimately murder, as he conspired to have Uriah killed in battle (2 Samuel 11).

God’s judgment for these sins included the death of the child who was conceived in adultery (2 Samuel 12:14-23), ongoing family feuds in the house of David, and continued wars. Because of this blood on David’s hands, God did not allow him to build His temple, although He commanded Him to provide all the needed materials (1 Chronicles 28).

In His mercy, love and grace, God had given David and Bathsheba another child, Solomon, after the child conceived in adultery had died (2 Samuel 12:24). Many years later, when David was about to die, Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah plotted to usurp Solomon’s right to David’s throne. Nathan the prophet warned David of Adonijah’s plan, David promised Bathsheba that Solomon would reign, and Bathsheba bowed before David in deepest gratitude (1 Kings 1:5-31).

David ordered three of his most faithful men: Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to accompany Solomon to Gihon, anoint him with oil, and proclaim him to be king. In response, the people prayed to God to save King Solomon, they piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy (1 Kings 1:32-40).

When Adonijah realized that Solomon was king, he feared for his life, but Solomon responded with wisdom. He showed fairness by promising Adonijah’s safety if he proved himself worthy; justice by pledging that Adonijah would die if he acted with wickedness; and mercy by allowing him to return home when he bowed before Solomon (1 Kings 1:50-53).

On his death bed, David imparted words of wisdom to Solomon, asking him to be strong, to prove himself to be a man, and to keep the charge of the Lord. This involved walking in His ways; keeping His statutes (commandments, judgments, and testimonies); and following Him in truth, with all his heart and soul. In return, as God had promised in the law of Moses, Solomon would prosper in all that he did, and wherever he went, and his seed line would continue on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 2::1-4).

David also called upon Solomon to settle the score of the ongoing battle with his enemies, to reward those who had been faithful, and to secure his own position on the throne of Israel. All of these Solomon did with power and justice and without hesitation (1 Kings 2:5-46). His building campaign was threefold: his own house, the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem (1 Kings 3:1). In so doing, he was a wise ruler, showing balance in his priorities, initiatives, and resources. While providing for himself and his family, he did not neglect the safety of his people or service to His God.

Solomon loved the Lord, walked in God’s statutes that David had honored, and sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings to God on the altar at Gibeon. There God appeared to him in a dream and invited him to ask for what he wanted God to give him. Solomon began by remembering God’s mercy to David, as well as His kindness and faithfulness to allow his son to rule over Israel, for David had walked before God in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart (1 Kings 3:3-6).

Next Solomon responded to God in humility, acknowledging that God had made him king, and referring to himself as God’s servant, as a little child, and as not knowing how to go out or come in. His desire was to serve his subjects, not lord it over them, for they were God’s people which He had chosen, a great nation, and a vast multitude that could not be numbered. He therefore asked God for an understanding heart to judge His people, with wisdom to discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:7-9).

God was pleased by Solomon’s request, for many would have instead asked God for long life, riches, or destruction of their enemies. Instead, Solomon prayed to God for wisdom, and God answered that prayer beyond his wildest dreams by making him the wisest man who ever lived! God gave him a wise and understanding heart; so that he was wiser than anyone who lived before him, and so that none who lived after him could rival his wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-12).

As Jesus Himself said, if we first seek the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, then He will give  us all other blessings (Matthew 6:33). Until we are saved by faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we cannot experience the wealth of blessing we have as God’s children (1 John 3:1), joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are then seated in heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3), and promised abundant life here and now (John 10:10) and eternal life with Him and our loved ones in Him (John 3:16).

Solomon is a great example of seeking God and His will for our life first, and then receiving a multitude of other blessings. God not only answered his prayer for wisdom to serve God and His people, but He also gave him riches, honor and excellence above all kings (1 Kings 3:13).

Then God added a conditional promise: if Solomon would walk in His ways, and keep His statutes and commandments, as his father had done, He would lengthen his life. Upon awakening, Solomon went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered sacrifices to God. These included burnt offerings, peace offerings, and a feast for all his servants, showing his desire to honor and serve God and his people, as well as his household (1 Kings 3:14-15).

If we study history, we will learn that like King Solomon, the wise ruler of any nation, past, present or future, serves his people and their God, and not only his interests. Whether or not we are in positions of leadership, if we seek God first, He will be found by us (1 Chronicles 28:9; Acts 17:27), He will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19), and He will use us to fulfill the amazing plan He has for our life (Jeremiah 29:11).

But there is a warning in King Solomon’s story. To finish strong in the faith, we need to grow continually in Godly wisdom, as we shall see in subsequent posts!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
No Ordinary Blog Hop