Proper 15, Year B, RCL, Track 1
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Psalm 111, Ephesians 5:15-20
“When [King] David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son, Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.”[i] Then David died, or as our reading says, he “slept with his ancestors.” At this point, Solomon avenges his father. He kills or banishes the people who fought against or treated David poorly. Through much bloodshed, Solomon establishes his legacy as king. This is where our story really opens today; when God says to Solomon, “Ask what I should give you.”
A question like this is much like the preverbal three questions a genie might offer. It provokes deep thought as to what the consequences to our choice might be. This question or “dilemma might provoke a conversation within each of us. What is our greatest priority? What is our deepest desire?”[ii] If we had more time to ponder this question for ourselves, I think we may find “that this dilemma is a challenge to our faith, convictions, and core values, and it exposes our capacity for self-deception.”[iii] What choice we make will tell us a lot about who we really are.
Solomon ponders the question, but Solomon starts by acknowledging who is asking the questions. It is God, the one who had shown his father, steadfast love. And steadfast love for God is what David asked his son Solomon to have as he was dying. In Solomon’s pondering, he feels a bit inadequate. He says he is only a little child. He doesn’t feel mature enough for the task ahead of him. He may feel that his life will be cut short and he won’t see his old age. He says “I do not know how to go out or come in.” He is telling God that he doesn’t know how to lead an army against his enemies. And he has already found that the task ahead of him is overwhelming.
Solomon could ask for anything; for riches, for honor, for the life of his enemies. But instead, he looks deep into his faith and asks for what will honor his people and his God. He asks for “an understanding mind,” a discerning heart. “The challenge of the text, however, does not negate the comfort that is also communicated in the narrative. God offers wisdom to those who are receptive; God exalts those who are humble.”[iv]
Each of us is given gifts. We are blessed with something special and unique, something that we can use to spread God’s Word and to help the people of our community. From what I can tell, greed, hatred, violence are not gifts given by God. When we seek riches, honor, or even days added to our lives; I am quite certain that, thought they may comfort us now, they are only secondary to what is truly of primary importance. “Solomon loves and worships God and returns to a primal dependence upon God. Intricately interwoven [together] are the boundaries of his heart and the boundaries of his kingship, so that a seamless life of faith unfolds and brings God joy.” [v]
In the gifts that we are offed by God, we are given the same opportunities; to serve ourselves alone or to ourselves by serving God and each other. When we try to follow God and use our gifts wisely, I believe God adds to these gifts even more, building upon them just as he built upon the wisdom that Solomon already had. God also gave Solomon gifts that he didn’t ask for. He gave him both riches and honor for all his life. And he said, “If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.” Living your life following God does not mean God will give you riches or honor as he did for Solomon. But God does promise you, that by living your life following him through his son Jesus Christ, he will lengthen your life. Not necessarily your life here on Earth but your life to come; eternal life.
Our Collect of the Day wraps this idea up fairly well. “Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life.” Much like Solomon, we are acknowledging who God is in our lives and that he is the example we should follow. Then we asked, “Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life.”[vi] We prayed to accept and use these gifts, these free gifts of grace, not for our own purposes but to live in Christ’s footsteps, in godly love. When this happens, when we interweave our life of faith with our life in the world to the point that the boundaries are indistinguishable, I believe we are most fulfilled and experience the greatest joy of God
[i] 1 Kings 2:1-3 NRSV
[ii] Feasting on the Word Year B Supplements, Proper 15, 1 Kings 2:10-3:3-14
[iii] Feasting on the Word Year B Supplements, Proper 15, 1 Kings 2:10-3:3-14
[iv] Feasting on the Word Year B Supplements, Proper 15, 1 Kings 2:10-3:3-14
[v] Feasting on the Word Year B Supplements, Proper 15, 1 Kings 2:10-3:3-14
[vi] Collect of the Day