Rodger McDaniel is the Pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church
in Cheyenne. This is an excerpt from Sunday’s sermon.
Our journey through the Old Testament continues. We’ve traveled through the Pentateuch, the first five books of our Bible, and then the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1st and 2nd Samuel, the stories of Creation, the Flood, Abraham and the other patriarchs, Joseph, Moses and the escape from Egypt into the Wilderness and on into the promised land. We’ve witnessed Israel’s struggle to figure out how to rule itself. When Moses couldn’t do it alone, God sent a succession of judges whose sons proved so corrupt the people demanded a king and got what they asked for. Saul to David and on now to Solomon as the first book of Kings opens.
1st Kings begins with the death of David and the enthronement of his son Solomon. Solomon is the last to rule over the United Kingdom. After Solomon there will be a long chain of kings who divide the people and the kingdom.
As we begin David is so old and frail he cannot stay warm. David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. The King’s servants apparently cannot find blankets so they look instead for a young virgin to let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord may be warm. They find Abishag the Shumanite to tend to the King. The writers are careful to let us know that while she warmed David, they did not have sex.
But the elderly King has more troubles than just body temperature. Adonijah, his son prepared presumptuously to take his father’s throne. But the Queen and the prophet Nathan persuade David he had promised Bathsheba their son Solomon would be the heir. Solomon becomes king (vv. 11-14).
David’s final words are an interesting mix. He charges Solomon to remain faithful to the Lord, and then instructing him to take revenge on those who had been disloyal to David (vv. 5-9). Even on his deathbed, David proves a complex mixture of faithful servant and ruthless avenger. Solomon proves to be David’s match – a complex alignment of ruthlessness and faithfulness. One day faithful, the next flawed.
Early in his kingship, Solomon meets God in a dream. Solomon is given a choice of anything. He begins noting the Lord’s faithfulness and asks only for wisdom to govern the people with understanding and justice (3:7-9).
The Lord, pleased he had asked for wisdom to rule rather than wealth, grants his request (v. 12). Indeed Solomon’s request reveals the very quality God seeks. The Lord also promises the wealth and honor and long life for which Solomon did not ask. God’s promise is conditional. It all depends on whether Solomon will ‘walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments’. It is not so much whether Solomon will observe religious rituals but how he lives as a human being and rules as a king. We’ve already seen how Solomon’s father, David, struggled with that very issue. Now like father, like son, Solomon will continue that struggle.
In spite of the foibles and the sinfulness of the Lord’s people, the call for loyalty to the Lord and genuine wisdom, the demand to ‘walk in the Lord’s ways’, never ceases. We glimpse the full nature of God’s grace even as we are aware of our human failings.
Solomon, like his father, like you and me… is a complex character much like the church itself. Throughout the ages, on its best days, Christianity has done extraordinary good but on its worst days, evil has been done in God’s name. We would do well to think of ourselves and others holistically… the whole person, the whole institution—the glory as well as the flaws…to think not of Solomon or ourselves or even the church as having a single dimension. We are all so much more complex.
The world is so much more complex, a mixture of good and bad. None of us can be defined by our best days and none of us should be defined either by our worst.