August 19, 2009

Proper 15B - Wed Homily

Solomon, has the weight of the world on his shoulders. At the age of twenty he finds himself King of Israel, God's chosen people, over and above even his older brother Adonijah. To make matters worse, King David in his final speech, spoken to Solomon twice said to his son, "you are a wise man." I don't know about you, but at 20 I was far from wise. Sure I knew everything, but wisdom, wisdom only comes when one realizes what one does not know.

And so, with the weight of God's chosen people and three years of challenges to his throne AND his own father's notion of his own wisdom on his shoulders, Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifice to the Lord. The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream, and invites him to ask for whatever he'd like. In the midst of his dream, you can almost hear Solomon's desperation. He doesn't ask for fame or fortune or many wives or strong sons because, I think, he can't even think about that yet. All he can hear are his Father's words, "you are a wise man." And if the last three years have taught him anything it is that wisdom will serve him and his people well in the years to come.

"You dealt most graciously with Your servant my father David, because he walked before You in faithfulness and righteousness and in integrity of heart. You have continued this great kindness to him by giving him a son to occupy his throne, as is now the case. And now, O Lord my God, you have made Your servant king in place of my father David; but I am a young lad, with no experience in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of the people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. Grant, then, Your servant an understanding mind to judge Your people, to distinguish between good and bad; for who can judge this vast people of Yours?"

Can you hear it? Can you hear the longing in his voice, the strain, the hope? Solomon desperately wants the words of his father to be true. He wants to live up to the expectations of the great King David. And so, in an earnest plea for himself, and I believe for the best for God's people Israel, Solomon prays for an understanding mind, a listening heart, the knowledge of the will of God.

And God, true to form, grants him his request. This story is followed immediately by the famous story of Solomon's wisdom in the case of two prostitutes claiming motherhood of one baby. In the years that follow, Solomon is given the gift of building the Temple of God, something that his Father had hoped for, but had never been allowed to do. For many years, Solomon's reign lives up to his Hebrew name, Shlomo, from Shalom meaning peace.

As the years pass, however, Solomon's wisdom will diminish as his lust for foreign women increased. He will fail to rightly understand good from bad. He will worship foreign gods. He will grieve the Lord. And ultimately Shalom will be replaced by war.

Solomon's earnest prayer, his years of prosperity, and then, ultimately and unfortunately, his "failure, remind us that a human being is neither the origin nor the prime example of wisdom. Instead, when we think of wisdom and seek after it, we should not look to the man Solomon, but rather to the one to whom he prays, the Lord God Almighty."

We need not look far away for the key to that wisdom. God might not be entering our dreams to offer us anything we want, but as the Psalmist tells us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." In this case fear is more awe and reverence than it is terror. Wisdom comes from the understanding that God is God and I am not. Wisdom comes from the knowledge that God has fulfilled his promises in the past, and will continue to do so. Wisdom comes from the realization that God is in control so I don't have to be.

When Solomon looked to the Lord as his source of wisdom, his kingdom flourished, his name was revered, and his riches were beyond number. When Solomon looked to himself as his source of wisdom he succumb to the temptress of lust, greed, envy and pride. May Solomon be our guidepost this day as we seek understanding minds, listening hearts, and wisdom that only comes from the Lord God Almighty. Amen.

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