Rev. Dan Haugh
Please read: 1 Kings 3: 3-14 and Ephesians 5: 15-20
The first reading picks up at this early stage in Solomon’s career. We read that he loved the Lord and did walk in his ways as David did. In a dream the Lord appeared to Solomon and asked him “What can I give you?” Let us pause for a moment and reflect on that. How would you answer that question if God appeared to you? Would you ask for health, for riches, for fame? world peace? For Answers....??? Perhaps on this particular day we would all ask for the same exact thing...an air conditioner!
Solomon responds to this gracious offer by acknowledging his need. Here is a great leader; a world conquerer in a vast position of power confessing that apart from God’s providence and provision he would be nowhere and a nobody. He confesses, “I do not know what I am doing I am only a little child and I have an enormous task ahead of me.”
Socrates aptly stated, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Solomon was only twenty years of age when he took the throne. Though young and inexperienced, his prayer for wisdom early in his reign set him apart. His prayer and wish was for God to grant him an understanding mind to govern his people, to make wise decisions and for God’s help to discern between good and evil.
This pleased the Lord and so God granted this to Solomon. Not only did God grant his request, he gave even more saying, “I will give you everything that you did not ask for. No king shall compare to you.” Now we know this to be true and that in the height of his reign, Solomon had amassed more riches than any other king in that time and had secured his empire in safety. Solomon became the wisest king Israel would ever know as well as the richest and most productive king in the nations’s history.
He maintained strong armies while forming diplomatic ties with many nations surrounding him, gaining control of major trade routes and increasing his wealth, all of which made him the most revered ruler in that part of the world. He even excelled intellectually, spending time cataloging plant and animal life and authored three thousand proverbs and over one thousand songs.
Early in his life Solomon embodied the much later statement of Jesus, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you.” However, Solomon’s single-minded focus on God and his spiritual leadership of the nation began to wane as he became increasingly engaged with his various building projects, his wealth, his notoriety and his relationship with hundreds of foreign wives.
His success became too much for him and Solomon’s passions overwhelmed his commitment to the one true God. Any love he first had for God was nearly smothered by all of his competing earthy loves. Solomon made choices about wealth, productivity,and companionship that put him in compromising positions. He placed himself in situations in which he could no longer love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.
Read on in this story and you will discover that Solomon’s life and reign ended without any of the sense of glory in which it began. Years of family strife, warfare and depression finally taught Solomon about true wisdom as he wrote in Ecclesiastes, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Solomon’s story is all too common. He was not the first or the last to let his passions eclipse his love for God. Comfort often breeds contempt. How easy it is to focus on the gifts and no longer remember the Giver. We can begin to think we are responsible for our successes; we made smart and good decisions. Like Solomon we can forget our vows and our first love and start to love our accomplishments more, making compromising sacrifices to secure and increase them.
Scriptures have much to say about the difference between living as a fool and living wisely. In one of his many wisdom sayings found in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes these words: “So I decided to compare wisdom and folly, and anyone else would come to the same conclusions I did. Wisdom is of more value than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise person sees, while the fool is blind.”
The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in our second reading today. In his epistle to the church in Ephesus he reminds them and us today that as followers of Christ we too once lived in darkness, living foolishly. But Christ has redeemed us, made us alive and new and has given us the Spirit of light and truth. So often we live as though still blind, making decisions that hurt ourselves and loved ones, making decisions without weighing the consequences. Scriptures declare that no longer must we live as we once did. We have been set free from the old restraints and clasps of folly. In Christ we have been enlightened and we must live, or rather proactively “walk” day by day not as unwise but in wisdom. This is a call to look carefully how we walk; be careful about the life we lead and this is found in seeking to know, understand and to do the will of God.
Rather than engaging in remedies the world may advocate and generally ones that leave us with regrets, followers of Christ know a better way of rising above the depression and joyless monotony of life. We are to keep our lives open to be filled constantly and repeatedly with the Holy Spirit.
This is not intended to happen in isolation though. God has blessed us with a community to help discern His will in our lives and, when necessary, to help us refocus and recalibrate our priorities. This is why we gather here, even on a oppressing hot day in the middle of August.
Living wisely is found in discerning God’s will for our lives...understanding what is the best path we should follow. What priorities should become the hallmarks of our lives. As the prophet Micah answers, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” So let us continue to meet and worship together. Let us make the most of each and every day we have. Let us help one another to understand what the will of the Lord is for our lives and our community here in Paris.
Hymn writer Clara H. Scott writes these powerful words of wisdom
“Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
May this spiritual song by sung in our hearts and lived out in our lives together as we give thanks at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.