Sunday, July 16th's uplifting message “The King Who Had It All” by Rev. Toni Carmer continuing week 13 of a 31 week study of “The Story – The Bible as One Continuous Story of God and His People.”
The King Who Had It All
1 Kings 1:15-17, 29-31
First United Methodist Church, July 16, 2017
Pastor Toni L. Carmer
Research has shown (no, I've never actually tried it and don't intend to), that frogs will ignore the gradual increase in temperature when placed in a pot of lukewarm water that is brought to a boil, and will remain in the pot and literally cook to death. Of course, no prudent frog—who happens to be sitting on the counter of your kitchen while you're boiling water, or out in the woods next to your campfire—would ever consider jumping into the pot once it's reached its 212 degree F boiling point. But, if he starts out in that pot just thinking he's taking a nice relaxing bath, well, that's a different story.
That's kind of what happened to Solomon after he became the King of Israel. Solomon started out really strong—very wise, making good decisions—and then, he began making some compromises that didn't seem all that big a deal to him to begin with, but they were like the water growing hotter—and they led him into big trouble.
This week's reading tells us about that. In 1 Kings 1:13-11:13, and Chapter 13 of The Story we learn about this King who had it all.
Last week we remember how God made a promise to David: God promised that the Messiah would be descended from David. The Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah and sit on the throne of David.
So it makes complete sense, that when David dies, one of his sons will succeed him on the throne. But David has several wives (we won't go into that right now) and he has several sons. Who will it be?
Well, Adonijah decides it should be him. He is about 35 years old, David's 4th born, and quite possibly his oldest surviving son at the time. He declares himself king, gathers a few of the leaders of Israel, makes a sacrifice, and invites his brothers and all of the royal officials of Judah—except for his brother Solomon, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah, who was in charge of David's bodyguards—to his inaugural party.
Nathan hears what has happened and goes to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, who David has at one time indicated would follow him as king, and instructs her to inform David. As she is in the midst of that conversation with her husband, Nathan enters and confirms the story. David rallies the troops, gives instructions to anoint Solomon as king and it is done. The succession is announced and another party begins, with people shouting, pipes playing—scripture tells us that the ground shook with the sound.
Adonijah, who is still presiding at his own little inaugural party further down the Kidron Valley wonders what all the noise is about. A messenger informs them that Solomon has been made king…and everybody is pretty excited about it." Adonijah's guests quickly depart, not wanting to be identified as traitors, and Adonijah, in fear of his life, goes and takes hold of the horns of the altar, which was a way of seeking asylum—communicating that he was placing his destiny in God's hands.
When Solomon is informed of what his brother has done, he responds—"if he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; bit if evil is found in him, he will die."
For now, Adonijah goes in peace, but before long, he makes a request that Solomon recognizes as a subtle move for power, a step in claiming the crown once again. Solomon sends his chief bodyguard Benaiah out with his answer, and Adonijah and his inner circle—who had earlier conspired together—were no more.
We're told that the kingdom is now established in Solomon's hands
David had wanted to build a home for God, a place where the Ark of the Covenant would rest, but God told David that it would be his son who would accomplish this task. Solomon made many alliances with neighboring kings and kingdoms, and very skillfully acquired everything that would be needed. But until the temple was built, the people would sometimes offer sacrifices and burn incense on high places in worship. This act was troubling to God, because these were also places where pagan worship would be offered, and there would always be the possibility that these acts would be combined or confused in the hearts of the worshipers.
Solomon showed his love for God by following the ways of his father David, except that he also offered sacrifices and burned incense in these high places.
One night, when Solomon had gone to do this at Gibeon—the most important high place—he had a dream. In the dream God came to him and asked, whatever you want, I'll give it to you.
What would you ask for? Any possibility. Can you imagine?
Solomon, in his dream, gave thanks to God for the kindness that God had shown to his father David, and for placing his son upon the throne. And then Solomon acknowledged in humility—that he was but a child—with little knowledge to hold such responsibility of leading God's people. And so he asked God for a discerning heart to govern the people, and to be able to distinguish between right and wrong.
God was so pleased with Solomon's request—because he hadn't asked for such things as wealth or power or a long life, or the death of his enemies—that God granted his request, and gave him as well, wealth and honor: no one in Solomon's lifetime would be equal to him among kings. And, God told Solomon in his dream, if you walk in my ways and keep my decrees as your father did, you will live a long life.
Solomon returned to Jerusalem, offered sacrifices to God at the Ark of the Covenant, and then gave a feast for all his court.
Soon after this, Solomon has the opportunity to use his wisdom in a way that will demonstrate to his people that he has wisdom from God to administer justice. The story is in 1 Kings 3 and on page 177 of our books.
Two prostitutes come before the king. They live in the same building and both of them have babies just 3 days old. The first claims that the other lady accidently smothered her baby in the middle of the night and got up and switched babies. She now claims the alive baby is hers. Who is Solomon to believe? He wasn't there. He applies common sense and a discerning spirit. He orders one of his men to cut the live baby in half and give each woman an equal portion. One of the mothers says, "Ok, fine, let's do this." The other one says, "No, don't do that. Give the baby to her." Now Solomon knows who to hand the baby to.
In time, the temple is built, and it is amazing to read of its grandeur. Solomon also builds a palace, and it seems that all that he does is extravagant and over-flowing with the best of what he can possibly acquire. He forms alliances with many nations, he has trade agreements all around, and there is no want. Solomon isn't distracted by wars or other major conflicts and he is able to focus on the building, the trading, and he even writes down some of his words of wisdom—they're in our Bibles in the Book of Proverbs. The Story includes some examples of those in this week's reading, and we can see the practical knowledge that Solomon had and wanted to pass on to others.
But one of the ways that Solomon formed his alliances and made his trade agreements was by marrying the daughters of those with whom he would do business. If Pharaoh needed a bit of land and Solomon needed another bit of land, then Pharaoh would give his daughter in marriage…Solomon needed a lot of resources and there were lots of alliances and agreements to be made, and he ended up acquiring 700 wives and 300 concubines, which were basically legal mistresses. We've mentioned before that two wives is one too many. Well, I'd say that Solomon had about 999 wives too many. (I can't even imagine, and don't want to think about it).
Remember how God expressed concern about the people of Israel moving into various lands where the inhabitants engaged in pagan worship, as their beliefs would so often distort their worship of God? Solomon's many wives worshiped other gods, and in spite of his great wisdom, in time, his defenses came down. It was as though he was sitting in a pot of warm water, and before long—as he grew older, he wasn't so bothered by their beliefs, and he began to integrate them into his own. He would still worship the God of Israel, but he would worship other gods, as well.
Solomon crossed the line of faith, he violated the covenant that God had made with his father David...and God will respond, by dividing the nation of Israel.
It's an important word for us, isn't it?
We can think we're pretty smart. Have a lot of worldly knowledge…skills…friends… accomplishments. And we can still be deceived…we can too easily turn our heads from the things of God to the things of this world. It can happen so quietly that we hardly notice.
What might we do about that? Here are some possibilities: We can pray for wisdom, guidance; we can look for mentors and listen to them, learn from them and from their mistakes; we can find someone to be accountable to—who we share with and listen to…considering those places where perhaps we think we're sitting in a warm bath, but it's going to start boiling before long, and we're going to be in trouble.
At the end of his life, it seems that Solomon turned back to God. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 it reads, "So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commandments because this is what everyone must do."
We can do that. We can always turn back.
May this be the way of our lives, and may our lives in turning, be blessed. Amen.