A Sermon for Proper 15
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Psalm 111, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58
We know the story of Solomon, who asks for an understanding heart and mind to govern God’s people. What we do not know, largely because the church excludes it from the lectionary readings, is the rest of the story. It is not pretty.
David’s selection of Solomon is full of intrigue. Adonijah, a half-brother, actually sort of usurps the throne and simply begins behaving like the king. Bathsheba and some court officials bring it to David’s attention, who, with a little persuasion, okay significant persuasion, anoints Solomon.
In fear and trembling Adonijah slips away. Sometime later, as David is dying, he gives Solomon specific instructions about consolidating his reign, and finishing off a few details David was not able to clear up. Adonijah, Joab, Shimei, are all put to death. Abiathar would have been, except that he carried Ark before David, and so he is banished. Having secured the kingdom from internal threats, Solomon turns to external threats. He immediately arranges to marry one of Pharaoh’s daughters. It’s a triumph for Solomon; however, it is contrary to Deuteronomy which warns Israel never to return to Egypt (Petersen and Beverly). God appears to Solomon in a dream while he is at Gibeon, to offer sacrifice. The only trouble is Gibeon, is known as one of the high places, where sacrifices are offered to other gods, including Baal. There is not yet a temple in Jerusalem; however, the Ark is there, and there are explicit rules regulating sacrifices, and Gibeon doesn’t meet the criteria (Harrelson).
Nonetheless, God appears to Solomon in a dream, and dreams are always a sign to pay attention. God asks what Solomon wants. Solomon recounts: how God was faithful to his father, who walked upright before God; how God has made him king; ; then Solomon asks for an understanding mind, or heart, to govern God’s people.
Solomon’s request is more than we tend to see. He begins by acknowledging, that he, as had his father, made a mess of things from time to time. We all know, David loved the Lord but did not always walk upright before the Lord. That is followed by the confession, that Solomon needs some help, he needs some guidance about how to be a good king. Finally, his request cast kingship as a servant of God (Nelson). He places his and the peoples’ relationship with God before anything else (Galvin).
God grants his request and promises him riches and honors no other king has ever had, nor ever will have. It took a while, but that promise has set off a never-ending series of stories and movies about King Solomon Mines. And like so much else in the bits of Solomon’s story we do not read, they also miss the point. If riches and wisdom are not the point what is?
The first clue is Solomon’s vision of David’s reign. He knew the reality of royal politics. He knew his father’s many missed steps. Yet he was drawn to the relationship between God and David; and between David and the prophets Nathan and Gad, who frequently told David truths he did not want to hear but was able to. David’s ability to hear the truth allows him to change his behavior. Solomon seems to have gleaned that relationships offer us the chance to grow and trust in God as we see God’s grace and mercy towards us through the care others have for us (Galvin).
Secondly, Solomon’s vision of kingship as a divine servanthood is not new. Remember Hammurabi, the author of the first written law, is depicted as receiving the king’s scepter from his god. This vision is lasting, the New Testament often states how governments, knowingly or nor not, are often, though imperfect, the instruments of God.
Finally, we know David was flawed. We know Solomon is flawed. Nonetheless, God, as promised, is present. Remember, despite Solomon’s choices to marry foreign royalty, to dillydally in building God’s Temple, and Jerusalem’s defenses, all of which put God’s people at risk, it is God who comes to Solomon, with an offer of a gift (Seow). The gift Solomon receives, the gift we receive, is not an every now and again wisdom, but wisdom incarnate (Hoezee). The heart and mind, the whole of Solomon meets the whole of God, who loves him and gives him the opportunity of redemption. It’s a bit of a precursor of when we receive the body and blood of Jesus, when the whole of us, heart, mind, soul, and strength, through Jesus, meets the whole of God who loves us, redeems us, and sustains us (Lose).
A final point. We are just like David and Solomon, the details differ, but we love God as much, and we, in our own ways, make just a big a mess as they did. Nonetheless, God stayed with David; God appears to Solomon, and God continues to be present to the imperfect love, … the sincere … inadequate response of mortals, with undeserved blessings, only to summon [us] yet again to love and to [follow] (Seow).
I wrote Friday a week ago, that we can stop the violence, not knowing that Saturday would be so terribly violent. I wrote this past Friday, fully aware of the dramatic dynamic police presence sweeping numerous dangerous people off the streets of Blytheville and our sister cities. As Tom Henry notes this police operation has created an opportunity for us to step up, to do the difficult relationship work that can transform Blytheville, Osceola, Mississippi County and perhaps be a model of change for the Delta (Henry).
We may not have the military prowess of David. We may not have the wisdom of Solomon. We do have the divine promise of nevertheless. God is with us, God will help us be wise, help us understand the divine will, has given us the Spirit, and we can sing, we can proclaim the transforming presence of God right here right now.
Ellingsen, Mark. Proper 15 OT 20 Cycle B. 16 8 2015. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/>.
Galvin, Garrett. Commentary on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. 16 8 2015.
Henry, Tom. “Blind Justus and the Vacuum.” Blytheville Courier News 12 8 2015. web.
Hoezee, Scott. Old Testament Lectionary Text is: 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14. 16 8 2015. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php>.
KESSELUS, KEN. Sermons that Work. 16 8 2015.
Lose, David. Pentecost 12 B: Meeting the Carnal God. 16 8 2015. <davidlose.net>.
Nelson, Richard. Interpretations: First and Second Kings. Ed. James Luther Mays, Patrick D. Miller and Paul J Achtemeier. Louisville: John Know Press, 1987.
Seow, Choon-Leong. New Interpreters’ Bible: First and Second Books of Kings. Ed. Leander Keck. Vol. 3. Abingdon Press, 1999. 12 vols.