Transcribed from the sermon preached July 30, 2017
The Reverend Max Lynn, Pastor
Scripture Readings: I Kings 2:5-12, Romans 8:26-39
Game of Thrones is the #1 watched TV series in the world. Well, if political intrigue of royal families is interesting, have I got a book for you! There is some irony to the notion of Solomon’s Wisdom. His father David is the one who organizes the twelve tribes from the ground up. David rises up from a shepherd to a mercenary to a great political leader. People agree to unite behind him. He establishes a state religion which, while it justifies his power, calls him and his people to God’s justice and liberation. Solomon grows up in David’s new privileged household and learns well. God asks him for what he wants, and Solomon asks for wisdom. And since he was so humble to ask for the wisdom to govern, God gave him wisdom and riches and power. But power corrupts wisdom. The lesson: Be careful. Our smarts and success can be a dangerous thing.
I think we should take a deeper look at Solomon’s life and context. Solomon took advantage of the privilege of being a prince in the kingdom his father built, used his education, financial and political connections to take it to a whole other level. David’s kingdom was a tribal alliance. They worshipped God in a tent. Solomon not only built the temple, but many palaces and cities for his very large family. It took Solomon seven years to build God’s house, thirteen years to build his own house. Solomon had 700 wives, 300 concubines. Many of these marriages were political alliances with foreign leaders he did favors for. Like giving and then building cities. He departed from David’s strategy of tribal militia in favor of a massive arms buildup, which added heavily to the people’s tax. Solomon had 1400 chariots and 12000 horses along with a standing infantry and mercenaries. He had so many horses that he had to build cities for them. Of course he needed financial help for all those projects. In exchange for material assistance of Hiram, for instance, the King of Tyre, Solomon had to give up twenty cities. The dwellers of these cities converted quickly from Israelites to Sidonians. Even under Solomon, the borders of Israel are fluid.
For all of this building Solomon used slave labor. People started to rise up against him. Jeroboam, an able manager of Solomon’s slave labor became a threat and had to flee to Egypt. He returned when Solomon died. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam took over, the people asked for a break from harsh slave labor, but Rehoboam, proclaiming that he had a bigger than you-know-what than his father, increased it. So ten of the tribes, all but Judah and Benjamin flipped out, had a revolution and stoned Rehoboam’s task master to death. Rehoboam had to retreat to Jerusalem. Jeroboam, back from Egypt, became the new ruler of the ten tribes, and built his capital at Shechem. He added holy sites there, at Bethel and elsewhere. So that was it. Forty years for David and forty for Solomon. Over 3,000 years and plus of history, Israel held a united land with semi-defined border for 80 years.(Coote, Robert and Mary P. Power, Politics and the Making of the Bible. Fortress Press. 1990. P. 35, 36)
What is the lesson for the wise? It seems that the desire to prove ourselves to keep and gain more luxury can easily lead to an overextension of resources and the loss of good will of the people. Solomon has the wisdom to organize a state in a much more complex manner than his father David. On the other hand, he exacts such a cost on the people, and sets himself up with so many luxuries, so many foreign women and business deals that he loses all God has given him.
David’s grandson, Solomon’s son Rehoboam grows up in privilege and inherits little of the wisdom it took to gain that privilege. His arrogance, lack of empathy and hedonism lead to the loss of the bulk of his father’s kingdom. There is a lesson here for leaders and parents, and anyone who is blessed with the wisdom gifts and timing to grow a business and be successful.
Remember the hunger and humility when you first start out: the desire to do it right, to please God. Sometimes God has to shake us up to get us back to that wisdom place from which our good life comes. Wisdom may be helped with age and experience but so is comfortable cynicism.
We can thank God if our children do not have to go without. But they should be taught the values of kindness, truthfulness and hard work. Kids should not go without challenge or grow up thinking they deserve what they have while those who are born with less privilege deserve to be treated as less.
Maybe you are asking yourself what does this history of kings have to do with me? Well, as Solomon inherited his father’s kingdom and took it to a whole different level, so Jesus, also a descendant of David took it to a whole different level.
Jesus bypasses privilege inherited through royal blood line and takes it back to the very spirit of God, the source of all life and wisdom. And just as a prince is predestined to be a prince whether he is wise or not, whether he steps in and answers the call to be a good king or not, so each of us is gifted with the inheritance of the spirit in the family of God.
Maybe you are here and you are still clueless. Life is difficult and complex. We are not sure what is going to happen, much less how to fix it or do well. Paul tells us the Spirit is here to help us. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.27
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
He does not say that God causes all things to happen. It is not necessarily God’s will that a fool becomes king, or that a child be born with a terminal illness, or that someone suffer evil such as crucifixion. But in the grand scheme of things, we are to have faith that no matter what happens, we have a calling, a purpose to live out. And our living out that purpose is a part of God’s larger plan. And we may not always see the details of that plan, or know how we can make it happen, but the Spirit is there to help us nonetheless. In fact we have been predestined; and here again this does not mean everything that happens is predetermined, but that our purpose, our calling that we would come to follow God is predestined. This is what we are born for. God’s call to us, God’s love for us, God’s grace for us is predestined. Neither we nor anyone else can change that. We are free to go whichever way, the way of the fool or the way of the wise. But that doesn’t change God’s love or God’s call for us. We are invited to step into it. God’s love, God’s call to us, was, is and will be.
Our larger purpose is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus – whose single minded pursuit of love and grace never wavered. And we are not qualified or disqualified from answering that calling now by anything up to this point. We are not accepted to this calling because of our resume. We do not have to justify ourselves, to make a case that we deserve to answer this call. The call just calls us; it is predestined. We can’t stop it. Jesus calls and Jesus justifies. We just answer the call, and the Spirit will fill in the blanks.
The love of Christ is predestined, and noting can change that. There are all sorts of things that may happen to us. We don’t know what they are, and they may not be God’s will. But God’s love shown through Christ is God’s will, and this is predestined. And it cannot be changed. Who will separate us from the love Christ? Will a racist Uber driver? A bitter boss or the president’s tweet? Our preexisting condition, whether we identify as male or female? Perhaps a wall can stop that predestined love? No, our purpose is set, and our purpose is to live into the love God has for us, and to share that love, as Christ did for others. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.